International conference cements concrete networks

International collaboration combined with a commitment to innovation and links to academia, can generate success for local concrete producers.

That was the message from the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster as she addressed around 50 delegates from some of the world’s foremost concrete manufacturers at the Hilton Hotel, in Belfast, today.

The Minister was speaking on the final day of the International Prestressed Hollowcore Association (IPHA) Annual conference. Hosted by Toomebridge company Creagh Concrete Products Ltd, this it the first time the event has been held in Northern Ireland.

Prestressed hollowcore concrete is used to manufacture floor and wall panels with a wide range of applications, from residential to large-scale projects including school, hospitals and shopping centres.

Speaking at the event the Minister said: “This conference has brought together leading concrete producers from around the world to network with their counterparts, share knowledge and identify possible collaboration opportunities.

“Having undertaken research projects with both the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast, Creagh Concrete has embedded innovation into its operations and become a market leader in the field, generating over 60% of sales outside Northern Ireland.

“Invest NI can help companies develop these valuable links with academia and offers financial and advisory support to take forward research into new products and processes. This could prove crucial as the local concrete sector seeks to explore the very latest improvements to prestressed hollowcore technology, and make the most of its increasing use in construction projects around the UK and the Republic of Ireland.”

The Minister concluded: “This conference has welcomed companies from across the UK, Europe, South Africa and Australia. It has helped put concrete manufacturing in Northern Ireland firmly on the map and can only serve to enhance our international reputation in the sector.”

Seamus McKeague, Managing Director of Creagh Concrete and an IPHA board member, said: “Prestressed hollowcore concrete offers many advantages over other materials and IPHA works hard to promote the use of the technology in new building schemes. This is of great benefit to all member companies, particularly during the current economic downturn. Our ongoing relationship with Invest NI is also helping us weather these conditions and we hope to emerge in a good position to seize the opportunities that will arise from the recovery.”