Business will benefit from QUB and South West College partnership – Farry

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry today welcomed the collaboration between South West College and Queen’s University Belfast which will enable local firms to become more competitive in the renewable energy sector.

The environmental research and innovation partnership is an agreement between the College’s InnoTech Centre and the QUESTOR Centre at Queen’s and will focus on Energy from Biomass with potential for expansion into other sectors. The agreement is a result of ongoing collaboration coordinated through the Department for Employment and Learning’s Connected Programme.

The Minister said: “I welcome the signing of this agreement which today formalises the on-going collaboration between the InnoTech Centre at South West College and QUESTOR. By pooling their resources both organisations will provide high quality technical services in a wide range of disciplines to support local companies and accelerate commercial exploitation of new ideas and processes.

“This collaboration was made possible by my Department’s ground-breaking Connected programme which enables companies to gain access to world-class expertise, technology and research from Northern Ireland’s Universities and Colleges, assisting them to boost their competitiveness, develop new products and increase market opportunities.

“My Department remains fully committed to encouraging such collaboration with the clear potential to derive real economic and environmental benefits to Northern Ireland.”

The partnership proposes the installation of new shared facilities, including the up-grading of existing laboratories at QUESTOR and further capitalisation of a full Scale Anaerobic Digestion Demonstration Facility located near Omagh, and the development of a dedicated test facility at the College’s Skills Centre in Enniskillen.

Malachy McAleer, South West College Director, said the collaboration would be a catalyst to accelerate economic development.

He said: “Innovation is critical for the continued growth of the renewable sector. Northern Irish companies in the clean and green sector require dedicated R&D support if we are to achieve ambitious targets for renewable energy and develop ideas into products, profit and jobs. This unique collaborative partnership brings together the expertise and resources of two centres of R&D excellence within the Higher and Further Educations sectors with distinct areas of economic development expertise. The combined knowledge of both can provide a coherent service capable of meeting industry needs and bridging a known technology transfer gap.”

Dr Wilson McGarel, Director of QUESTOR, said smart collaboration will help build and sustain competitiveness in a lucrative sector. He said: “The primary purpose of the proposed collaboration between the QUESTOR Centre and the InnoTech Centre is to bridge a technology transfer gap in Northern Ireland by providing focus, joint facilities and resources that can enhance and sustain the competitiveness of existing and emerging businesses in the renewable energy sector.”

“Northern Ireland is a small region and can only afford to invest shrewdly in support of key niche areas where companies can act quickly and compete globally if innovation is coordinated. Energy from Biomass is one of the key niche areas where smart investment can lead to significant growth, wealth creation and increased employment.”