Technology Roadmap underlines need for innovation support in manufacturing

Developing new technologies and increasing cohesive support for innovation across all sectors of advanced manufacturing is vital for Northern Ireland to be more competitive on the global stage according to a report published today.

Group of men and one woman smiling together
Professor Paul Maropoulos, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMIC); Kara Bailie, Deputy Director, Belfast Region City Deal; Economy Minister Gordon Lyons; Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ian Greer; incoming AMIC CEO Sam Turner and John Irwin, Chair of the AMIC Industry Board.

The Strategic Technology Roadmap, launched today at Queen’s University, has been published following a detailed consultation on technology and skills needs for the next decade with over 100 leaders in advanced manufacturing on behalf of the £98m Belfast Region City Deal-funded Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC).

The Roadmap has identified key priorities for AMIC to improve Northern Ireland’s distinctive strengths in the area and outlines how it can support the region’s large, world-class companies as well as its agile innovation-ready SMEs.

It also advises that the Northern Ireland economy is dominated by small companies with limited innovation capability which could struggle to engage with technology unless supported in the development and application of key skills. These companies require significant local support to enable them to develop new technology, access innovation initiatives and engage with national support structures.

AMIC, delivered by Queen’s University in partnership with industry, will provide a specialised environment for advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering sectors to access the latest digital, automation and robotics technology supported by experienced engineers.

Its flagship building, the ‘Factory of the Future’ - a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art facility - will open at Global Point in Newtownabbey in 2025.

Consultation for the report was carried out by experts from the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing in partnership with representatives from the mechanical, electrical, aerospace, automation, food and drink processing, and composites sectors across Northern Ireland.

The launch of the report comes ahead of the first meeting of the AMIC Industry Board, chaired by John Irwin, Managing Director of Denroy, and includes leaders from 20 local companies. The Board will ensure that AMIC’s industry partners shape strategic decisions around technology priorities and capital equipment investment.

Professor Paul Maropoulos, AMIC Project Director, said: “We are working collaboratively with industry to ensure that AMIC, which will be Northern Ireland’s national centre for advanced manufacturing, will support companies to significantly accelerate levels of innovation.

“The Roadmap is a valuable document highlighting the needs of the local manufacturing sector for the next decade and will shape the decisions that we make around AMIC to ensure that it is a springboard for manufacturing in the region.”

Sam Turner, incoming CEO of AMIC, said: “Northern Ireland has world-leading manufacturing expertise in sectors including materials handling, aerospace, and life sciences, and has strong underpinning capabilities including photonics, digital, design and composites.

“Now is the time to look at the future technology and skills needs of the region and capitalise on areas of strength.

“There is a massive opportunity for AMIC to link at scale into UK-wide networks to support the manufacturing sector and through working in partnership with the newly formed Industry Board, we will deliver what is needed to reinvigorate Northern Ireland’s industrial potential.”

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “Advanced manufacturing and innovation are two of the key areas within my Department’s 10X Economic Vision which aim to deliver an economy which is ten times more innovative, more inclusive and more sustainable for the benefit of everyone.

“The City and Growth Deal investments provide the infrastructure to deliver new greener, more inclusive and more sustainable skills and jobs. At £98m, AMIC represents the single largest innovation investment in the Belfast Region City Deal and it is now great to see action and energy being applied to ensure that these significant investments impact on the manufacturing, innovation and digital needs of Northern Ireland.

“Industry support is crucial to ensure AMIC is pointed in the right direction. It will only be successful if it meets the needs of industry and so I am delighted that over 100 companies from across Northern Ireland covering the full range of the manufacturing and processing sectors, actively participated in the Strategic Technology Roadmap exercise.

“The launch today of the Strategic Technology Roadmap and the first meeting of the AMIC Industry Board represents an important milestone in the journey of AMIC. Hopefully this will invigorate and be the catalyst for further industrial engagement and support and I would like to wish the AMIC team all the best for the future.”

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said: “It's great to see Queen's working with partners to deliver this fantastic centre.

“Backed by £78.7m of UKG funding as part of the Belfast Region City Deal, this project will turbocharge innovation and further enhance NI's standing as a world leader in advanced manufacturing.

“The Roadmap and the engagement with industry that has informed it will provide insight into how the project can deliver maximum benefit to innovative industries across Northern Ireland."

John Irwin, Chair of the AMIC Industry Board, said: “Companies in the Northern Ireland advanced manufacturing sector are ready to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be presented by AMIC. 

“With cross-sectoral industry engagement and influence, AMIC will be the platform for delivering the innovation and competitiveness, fundamental to future growth of the advanced manufacturing sector”.

AMIC will build on 50 years of sustained innovation and industry support through the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC), the Polymers Processing Research Centre (PPRC) and the more recent university-industry partnership, the NI Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE), consolidating and enhancing existing facilities in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Read the report summary and full report here.


For more information contact Andrea Kennedy, Belfast Region City Deal Communications Manager,