The Minister said that the new Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technologies (ECIT) would pave the way for a future in which commercially focused innovation would determine economic success.

The project, a collaboration between academia and industry, is the single most significant investment in research and development infrastructure in Northern Ireland in recent times, and aims to build upon the expertise of the University’s internationally renowned School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the School of Computer Science at Queen’s University.

Invest Northern Ireland is supporting the project with an £8.3 million investment, together with support of £3.1 million from the Department for Employment and Learning and £26.4 million from Queen’s University.

“Invest Northern Ireland recognises the importance of innovation and knowledge as a source of economic growth, and the key influence that our universities can exercise on the economy. This new centre will capitalise on the world class research already undertaken at Queen’s University and provide a channel for more rapid commercialisation in the fields of electronics, communications and information technology,” said Ian Pearson.

“ECIT will build on the very strong links already existing between academia and industry, and will stimulate the restructuring of the economy by strengthening the science base and developing and exploiting new technologies,” he added.

Commenting on the announcement Professor Sir George Bain, Queen’s University Vice Chancellor, said: “Queen’s has had a history of excellence in research since its foundation and is currently at the forefront of developments in this advanced technological field. The establishment of ECIT will allow the translation of our research excellence into world-class marketable products and services.

“Vitally, ECIT will act as a catalyst for value added research projects and will be a major attraction to international companies.”

The overall aims of the ECIT project are to:

- stimulate world-class research and innovation;

- create opportunities for commercial exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights and know-how; incubate spin-out and spin-in start up companies; and

- develop a new generation of high technology engineers and entrepreneurs.

Speaking at the announcement ceremony Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland, said: “A competitive economy for the 21st century must be founded on top class research and development married to entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. The process of achieving economic advantage needs to be based on a proactive, collective responsibility that mobilises the concerted commitment of industry, government, the universities and the financial sector. ECIT is therefore a strategically important project which will produce a range of economic benefits.”

Franklin Adair, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Science Park, said: “I’m delighted that ECIT will be the flagship tenant in the Science Park. Such a prestigious tenant will firmly establish the Science Park as a community of entrepreneurial scientists.”

The announcement of the new Centre of Excellence follows the announcement in January of 16 other leading edge Research Centres based in local companies and the two universities. Work is expected to begin immediately on construction of the new centre, which will be located in the Northern Ireland Science Park in Titanic Quarter, Belfast.