Foster and Cable Officially Open £6million Research Centre for Northern Ireland


Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and UK Business Secretary Vince Cable today officially opened The Northern Ireland Advanced Composites & Engineering Centre (NIACE) on Airport Road, Belfast.

Funding to build the £6million centre was announced in February last year and included financing from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) through the Strategic Investment Fund, Invest Northern Ireland and Bombardier Aerospace.

Queen’s University and the University of Ulster co-own and operate the 3,700 sq m facility which was inspired by the work of MATRIX, in particular from its Advanced Materials and Advanced Engineering sub-panels.

Arlene Foster said: "This new industry-led centre is about maximising the benefits of the knowledge and skills that already exist in advanced material and composite technologies in Northern Ireland, and enhancing those capabilities to ensure that we stay at the forefront of the global advanced engineering sector. Today’s official opening marks an important step in promoting the concept of collaboration that will help shape advanced materials engineering research in the coming years, and I am confident that this is the beginning of a very fruitful venture for all involved.”

Vince Cable said: “The Northern Ireland Advanced Composites & Engineering Centre is the latest addition to a valuable network of composites research facilities throughout the UK. Each of these centres has its own area of expertise but a common objective to bring together leading academics with dynamic companies and help them with the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products.”

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr. Stephen Farry who attended the event, commented: “The new research centre highlights the strong collaboration between our universities and industry. Both Queen's University and the University of Ulster are demonstrating research excellence in a range of engineering, scientific and business disciplines. By working collectively with industry I believe this new centre will provide a strong foundation for sustained growth in the engineering and composites sectors.”

Michael Ryan, Vice-President and General Manager, Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast, said: “The NIACE centre is building on a legacy of engineering innovation in Northern Ireland, and we are looking forward to seeing our investment support pioneering collaborative research and development projects, which are vital if we are to develop new technologies and skills in our high value engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. This, in turn, will help Northern Ireland, and in particular our small and medium-sized companies, to move up the value chain, take advantage of new opportunities and compete on a global platform.”

Dr Scott King, NIACE Centre Manager, said: “This facility will provide the opportunity for different companies involved in advanced composites, materials and engineering within Northern Ireland to co-locate research activities and to engage in research that will bring about benefits to the sectors. There will be significant interaction between industrial and academic staff resulting in the rapid transfer of knowledge and skills and advancement of innovative technologies across a range of industries.”

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “As an aerospace engineer by background, I am especially pleased to see the vision for this advanced composites and advanced materials manufacturing centre become a reality. It will enable leading academics to work alongside colleagues from Bombardier and other Northern Ireland manufacturers interested in the development and application of advanced composites.

“As part of the UK network of advanced manufacturing centres, Queen’s and its partners in NIACE will ensure Northern Ireland remains at the vanguard of advanced engineering and composites research – a further and very direct means of supporting economic growth in Northern Ireland. I congratulate all involved.”

Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster added: “This centre is a further example of how university research and business development can go hand-in-hand. New advanced engineering concepts are leading to local and international composite-based applications and product development across a wide range of company sectors, from transport to energy. This in turn is providing new opportunities for our STEM and business based undergraduate and postgraduate students. The centre is very much welcomed by the University of Ulster and reflects our vision to be an economic driver for the region.”