Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council representatives have been given a unique and valuable insight into a world-leading research and manufacturing centre in Great Britain, as plans for the creation of a state-of-the-art facility in the Borough continue apace.
The Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (AMIC) will see the creation of a ‘Factory of the Future’ at Global Point Business Park in Newtownabbey. Led by Queen’s University, the AMIC project will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, offering advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest technology, specialist equipment and expertise.
As partners in the Belfast Region City Deal, the Council will contribute £10m to the ambitious £98m project, with further contributions from Queen’s University, Ulster University, the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive.
To learn from other experiences of industry-research collaborations, a delegation of officers and elected members from the Council and its project partners at Queen’s embarked on a best practice visit to the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
A research hub located at the heart of a cluster of industry giants such as Boeing, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as many smaller firms, the AMRC works with advanced manufacturing companies of any size around the world.
Since its inception over 20 years ago on the site of a former coalfield in South Yorkshire, the AMRC has spurred on over £350m of investment and created over 3000 high value jobs for the region.
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Alderman Stephen Ross said:
“Our visit to the AMRC was hugely enlightening and allowed us to gain invaluable knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that could present themselves down the line as we embark on the AMIC project.
“We were truly impressed by the scale of what has been accomplished. What was once a barren, brownfield site is now a thriving centre of innovation that is home to industry heavyweights and attracts some of the sector’s best and brightest researchers.
“The AMRC has been transformative for the surrounding area, drawing in a wave of investment, job creation and over 1,000 new homes. It has also invested heavily in apprenticeships, with a state-of–the art training centre providing incredible opportunities for budding engineers.”
Chair of the Council’s ‘Our Prosperity Outcome Delivery Group’, Alderman Mark Cosgrove added:
“We will certainly be looking to the AMRC project for inspiration as we work towards making the AMIC a reality. The Council and our partners at Queen’s University believe AMIC could one day bring similar benefits to Northern Ireland.
“The AMIC project is a key part of our overall strategy to attract over £1billion of investment to Antrim and Newtownabbey in the next few 2-3 years. We are well on track to achieve our investment target and create over 2000 new jobs by 2025.”
The Council will be working closely with the local and regional supply chain businesses to ensure that they can both contribute to and benefit from AMIC and boost the local economy. It is anticipated that up to 1,500 jobs will be created over the life of the project.
AMIC Director, Professor Paul Maropoulos of Queen’s University Belfast, said:
“The joint visit of Council and AMIC to AMRC was very useful as it showcased the positive impact to the manufacturing sector and the economic growth and regeneration of the Sheffield region from creating an advanced manufacturing facility.
"It is important that we work in partnership with the AMRC and the other High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) Centres, to ensure that AMIC’s development benefits from the operating experience and capabilities available within the UK’s HVMC network.
“Our ambition is to establish AMIC as a beacon of advanced manufacturing excellence in Northern Ireland, working together with HVMC Centres in the UK as well as establishing international collaborations and partnerships.”
Global Point, owned by Invest NI, is set to become Antrim and Newtownabbey’s premier business location. RLC already operates successfully on the site, and is soon to be joined by Sensata Technologies, who are advancing the development of their new state of the art R&D headquarters, representing an investment of £16.5m and accommodating 450-500 employees.
Ardagh Metal Packaging has also announced their decision to locate a new 58,000 square metre can manufacturing plant at the site, with an investment of 200 million dollars.
These major investments demonstrate Antrim and Newtownabbey’s track record as a strategic investment location and will serve to create a world-class cluster for advanced manufacturing.