Northern Ireland businesses will be able to apply for a slice of the 17.5 billion Euro funds being made available for research in the next five years through the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research and Technological Development. The Programme is to be launched during a major European Commission conference taking place in Brussels from 11 to 13 November.

By supporting collaborative research, the EU Framework Programme aims to strengthen the scientific and technological bases of industry and encourage international competitiveness, while promoting research to support EU policies.

Invest Northern Ireland will be helping local businesses and organisations access the research funds through its Innovation, Research & Technology Division and is also assisting 25 Northern Ireland delegates to attend the conference.

Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development Services in Invest NI says that Northern Ireland has a reputation for high quality research skills and that Invest NI has been active in helping researchers achieve their potential.

“With the support of Invest NI’s specialist services, Northern Ireland organisations increased by €2 million their slice of the European research funding during the 5th Framework Programme. In all 175 projects in both industry and the universities attracted funding. Some of these projects have been significant successes. For example, the Veterinary Research Laboratory’s sensor research in collaboration with a Swedish company has resulted in a new research-based inward investment, Xenosense, currently employing five people in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“The 6th Framework will offer the potential for Northern Ireland companies to participate in research in seven priority areas which range from food safety to aeronautics. It will also directly contribute to the creation of a ‘European Research Area’ by improving integration and co-ordination of research in Europe.”

Invest NI provides practical assistance to organisations seeking to access the EU Framework funding, by running awareness seminars and proposal writing workshops, and carrying out partner-searching and lobbying activities. Through its RTD Networking Programme it enables local companies and research organisations to access the latest technologies and research expertise from around the world and assists with the consortium-building process.

Said Tracy Meharg: “We have high hopes that earlier successes facilitated through the Programme can be replicated in this wave of funding. The European Framework research is all about excellence and our aim is to help researchers maximise the potential of their work by supporting their involvement in the Programme”.

The conference will be attended by 8000 delegates and offers an unequalled opportunity for networking and developing partnerships.