Yorkshire trip provides insight for Newtownabbey councillors

Representatives from Antrim and Newtownabbey Council have been given a unique and valuable insight into a world-leading research and manufacturing centre in England as plans for the creation of a state-of-the-art facility in the borough continue.

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 local authority will contribute £10m to the ambitious £98m project, with further contributions from Queen’s University, Ulster University, the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive.

Kieran O’Connell (Senior Planning Officer), Michael McKenna (Head of Investment and Business Development), Cllr Michael Goodman, Ben Morgan (AMRC Research Director), Prof Paul Maropoulos (Director of AMIC), David Robinson (Head of BRCD Financial Management QUB), Richard Scaife (AMRC Regional Development Director), Ald Stephen Ross, Cllr Billy Webb MBE JP, Ald Mark Cosgrove and Majella McAllister (Director of Economic Development and Planning).

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 3,000 high value jobs for the region.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ald 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’, Ald Mark Cosgrove added: “We will certainly be looking to the AMRC project for inspiration as we work towards making the AMIC a reality.

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“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 years. We are well on track to achieve our investment target and create over 2,000 new jobs by 2025.”