Minister hails local high-tech composite materials capability

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has praised Northern Ireland’s composite materials sector for its innovation and significant contribution to economic success.

Arlene Foster was speaking at the 2009 International Conference for Manufacturing of Advanced Composites (ICMAC) in Belfast today. The two-day event, sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland and Bombardier Aerospace, is showcasing Northern Ireland’s strength and vibrancy in this high-tech niche sector, to an international audience.

Composite materials, such as carbon fibre, offer a high-strength, lightweight alternative to metals. These advantages are seeing composites become increasingly important to the aircraft, automotive, construction, medical and other manufacturing sectors.

Around 100 composite materials experts from local and international industry and academia are attending the event, which includes presentations and interactive workshops from leading figures in the field from USA, France, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Speaking at the event in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, the Minister said: “Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of research and innovation in composite materials for over 20 years. From an early stage, experts here recognised the significant global market opportunities that a viable, and often superior, alternative to traditional metals would present.

“Today, composites are a key element in major local manufacturing and design ventures, such as aerospace giant Bombardier and aircraft seating manufacturer BE Aerospace. Firms such as aerospace consultancy BASE and manufacturers, like Denroy Plastics, Creative Composites and MC Gill Europe Ltd, also have composites at the heart of their operations, all underpinned by our world-renowned university expertise.”

The Minister continued: “The fact that this conference has attracted some the world’s leading experts in the field is a measure of the high esteem in which Northern Ireland’s composites capability is held internationally. The event represents a valuable networking opportunity for both academics and companies, enabling them to strengthen relationships and share knowledge and ideas.

“This can only serve to enhance Northern Ireland’s already strong reputation in the area and encourage our companies, and our academic research base, to further build on their achievements to date.”

ICMAC 2009 has been organised by the British Composites Society, a division of the Institute of Minerals, Materials and Mining.