Foster announces funding for new Innovation Partnerships

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today announced details of a £630,000 collaboration project which will help local companies to exploit opportunities in the global marine energy sector.

The Minister made the announcement at a collaboration workshop event in Belfast jointly hosted by MATRIX, the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), and Invest Northern Ireland.

Supported by Invest NI, the Global Maritime Alliance (GMA) has been identified as the first Industry-led Innovation Community (IIC). It will bring together the unique skills and capabilities of local companies and universities so they can take advantage of opportunities in the emerging marine energy markets across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It will be led by one of Northern Ireland’s key players in the local renewable energy sector, Clifford McSpadden.

DETI has made £450,000 available to Invest NI via the Innovation Fund – including part finance from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support the creation of such networks. Invest NI has offered £246,530 of this to the Global Maritime Alliance.

DETI has also developed a new frontline support service for industry. It will work exclusively with collaborative networks and emerging Innovation Communities. This support service is staffed by secondees from the business sector.

Arlene Foster said: “Collaboration is an essential tool for local companies seeking to share skills and knowledge in order to enhance their competitiveness. Funding for such initiatives is necessary to ensure that valuable partnerships are created and developed which generate innovative communities that support economic growth.

“The objective of the GMA is to become the supplier of choice to global marine energy technology developers who are seeking support services, including technical research design and development, testing, engineering, logistics, manufacturing and operation and maintenance.

“The Global Maritime Alliance will bring together businesses already working in the marine energy sector as well as those who perhaps have not even realised the potential the industry holds for them. By sharing expertise, local companies will increasingly place themselves at the forefront of a dynamic and multi-billion pound international industry.”

The Minister added: “It is only a little over six months since I launched the Northern Ireland Executive’s response to MATRIX and a great deal has already been achieved. We will continue to listen to business to learn what needs to be done to encourage more and better business collaboration.”

Clifford McSpadden, GMA Chairman added: “The Global Maritime Alliance will utilise the exceptional geographical assets offered here and across the British Isles including significant wave and tidal energy resources, transportation networks, ports, testing facilities and cross-sector engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

“With no competitor in UK or Republic of Ireland offering such a coordinated approach to the global marine sector, the GMA will deliver a significant advantage to Northern Ireland companies.”