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Local nano technology leaders in race to secure major investment for Northern Ireland

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A Northern Ireland nano technology consortium has been awarded seed corn funding of £50,000 to develop a bid to compete for a share of a £236 million fund with projects from across the UK.

The funding, which will take the consortium to the next stage of the competitive process, has been awarded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund, which is aimed at driving economic growth in specific areas of the UK and enhancing local collaborations involving research and innovation.

The Smart Nano-Manufacturing Corridor Consortium (SmartNano NI) is in a race to develop game-changing advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods to deliver new technologies. These methods will have applications across medical research, data storage, and data analysis as well growing innovation and scale-up capacity in device manufacturing.

The Consortium is led by data company Seagate Technology Ireland in collaboration with six other leading local companies and educational partners Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, and the North West Regional College.

SmartNano NI’s bid leader, Dr Mark Gubbins said: “This is a significant and exciting opportunity to secure funding which would establish Northern Ireland’s niche capability around smart nano manufacturing and world-leading knowledge in photonics to create a self-sustaining local industry. It will deliver significant benefits for the economic growth of the region and the “corridor” of businesses from Belfast to Londonderry ensures a levelling up of shared opportunities. We look forward to developing detailed project plans for the next phase of the funding grant application”.

SmartNano NI member Professor Robert Bowman added: “Northern Ireland’s local manufacturing and digital sectors have an outstanding reputation and track record of success. Investment is vital if we are to capitalise on the potential for this collaboration. The big enabling factor is the combined expertise of our companies and the availability of trained researchers and resources across our academic institutions. Funding for the project has the potential to put Northern Ireland on the global map for excellence in this field, delivering a significant and lasting impact on our local economy.“

Brian Dolaghan, Invest Northern Ireland’s Executive Director, Business & Sector Development said: “Securing this funding through UKRI Strength in Places is excellent news and a testament to the power of collaboration and the calibre of Northern Ireland companies. Success in the next bid, would go a long way to creating new commercial opportunities, will drive economic growth, and help tackle productivity challenges, in line with wider government policy.”

UK Research & Innovation’s lead on the Strength in Places Fund, David Sweeney, said:

 “Strength in Places is a flagship fund for UKRI. We welcome the focus of the government’s R&D Roadmap in unlocking economic opportunities around the local economy in more places around the UK. I am delighted with the range of bids funded across the UK in the second wave of Strength in Places that will foster the local ecosystems to support innovation and sustained growth and strengthen collaboration between industry and our world-class research base.”

If successful, the consortium will secure funding to establish a unique Northern Ireland cluster of expertise in this field. The collaboration will establish a centre of excellence with wide-reaching benefits for the technology sector and provide opportunities for knowledge transfer enabling advances in the Life and Health Sciences as well as exploiting the potential of photonics and nanotech in other high-growth sectors across the whole of the UK.

The Smart Nano-Manufacturing Corridor Consortium (SmartNano NI) members are Analytics Engines, Causeway Sensors, Cirdan, Digital Catapult NI, North West Regional College, Queen’s University Belfast, Seagate Technology, Ulster University, and Yelo.

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