Queen’s University Belfast has taken a major step forward with its ambitious £200m plans to build three innovation centres, by appointing a design team for each of the three centres.
Arcadis has been appointed to work on the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), while Faithful and Gould has secured the contract for the Global Innovation Institute (GII), and Turner & Townsend will carry out work on the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH).
The £200m investment as part of the Belfast Region City Deal will see the UK government and Northern Ireland Executive provide £170m funding towards the three centres, while an additional £30m will be invested by the university and its partners.
Joanne Clague, registrar and chief operating officer, Queen’s University, said: “These projects, which build on areas of our research strength, are key to our local economy as they focus on collaborative university-industry R&D to harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive growth. Working in partnership with industry, government and healthcare organisations, the centres will drive momentum in fields including advanced manufacturing, clinical research and secure, connected digital technologies through impact-focussed innovation to create global impact where it truly matters.”
Public consultation for all three projects will take place over the next few months, with planning applications set to be lodged before the end of this year. GII’s facilities are expected to be open by early 2025, with AMIC completed in summer 2025 and iREACH fully operational early in 2026.
The £98m AMIC project, in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, will provide fresh capabilities for the NI Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE) and create a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art facility at Global Point in Newtownabbey, giving advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest technology, specialist equipment and expertise.
David Losty, director at Arcadis, said: “We are delighted to be working with Queen’s University on this exciting and important scheme, which will have a major impact on Northern Ireland’s engineering and technical skills to deliver inclusive economic growth. With the creation of new jobs in the area and the focus on research, this project truly exemplifies our ethos of improving quality of life and we are really pleased to be involved.”
GII, a £58m project, is aiming to transform Northern Ireland’s digital economy by substantially increasing both the volume and range of digital innovation taking place and developing skills to meet industry needs. Significantly expanding facilities at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) in the Titanic Quarter’s Innovation District, GII will use expertise in secure connected intelligence to tackle the ‘One Health’ agenda across agri-food and health and life sciences sectors, combined with a ground-breaking partnership approach to delivering scalable computing solutions.
Anthony McNeill, director at Faithful+Gould, said: “We are proud to be working with the university on this landmark and innovative project, which is at the cutting edge of digital innovation in Northern Ireland. We have assembled a first-class design team to ensure that this facility will stand the test of time and drive forward Queen’s University’s position in the digital sector in Northern Ireland and beyond.”
An investment of £52m will be made in iREACH, the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare, an NHS, industry, and research facility, on the Lisburn Road beside Belfast City Hospital, facilitating world-class clinical research to deliver better treatments to improve people’s health.
Kevin McNaull, associate director at Turner & Townsend, said: "This world-class iREACH innovation centre plays a key role in the wider regeneration plans for the region. While leading on project and cost management, BIM and health and safety advice, we have also formed a highly experienced, multi-disciplinary team comprising TODD Architects, Sheppard Robson and engineering experts, Arup. Our combined wealth of knowledge and expertise in the healthcare and life science sectors, as well as our digital led approach, will deliver a centre that will have a huge impact on the wider region and improve the lives of local people.”
The Belfast Region City Deal unlocks £1bn of transformative co-investment which will deliver more than 20 highly ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new jobs and help make the region a global investment destination over the next decade and beyond.