Top European Official Meets Transport Sector Experts

A top European Commission official has commended the collaborative partnerships between industry and academia in the local aerospace and automotive sectors, and encouraged them to further exploit their R&D potential to maintain global competitiveness.

Dr András Siegler, Director for Transport in the Research Directorate General of the European Commission, was here on a visit facilitated by Invest Northern Ireland to highlight the importance of ongoing R&D in transport manufacturing. During his visit to Northern Ireland Dr Siegler also highlighted the funding and support available through the European Union for research programmes.

Dr Siegler visited local companies that are renowned for innovative and world-leading products in transport, including Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast and Wrightbus of Ballymena. Academic experts from both Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster also met Dr Siegler to discuss the importance of collaboration between industry and academia in transport R&D and illustrate some of their latest projects.

Speaking after his extensive programme of meetings, Dr Siegler said: “I attended a very successful event in Brussels in January commemorating a century of Northern Ireland aerospace innovation and was impressed by the high level of engineering and research excellence that clearly exists here.

“I have now seen at first hand that many Northern Ireland companies are at the cutting edge of transport research. The aerospace and automotive sectors are diverse and buoyant, boasting companies of all sizes which have attained a globally recognised reputation for developing pioneering technologies. The sectors also contribute significantly to Northern Ireland’s economy, not least thanks to their commitment to innovation and seeking out new international opportunities.

Dr Siegler added: “I am also pleased to have visited Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, both of which contribute invaluably to the development and integration into industry of leading edge technologies and practices, such as composite materials and advanced aerodynamic design.

“I commend Northern Ireland on its heritage of innovation in transport, of which it is rightly proud, and on its current position in what are challenging global markets in these sectors. But I believe companies here could perform even better and the key to this is to continue to build on the strong R&D infrastructure which exists. The recent Barroso Taskforce report on Northern Ireland by the European Commission highlighted the EU initiatives which could help achieve this.”

Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, said: “Northern Ireland companies can substantially increase their level of productivity by increasing their commitment to R&D and identifying new products and processes. This in turn can open up commercial opportunities which might not otherwise be available.

“Invest NI can help local companies to ramp up their R&D activities and can also advise on how to access funding and support from the European Union. I would thank Dr Siegler for taking the time to come here to highlight the support available and to see at first hand the expertise in the transport sector here.”