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Local universities are ‘boiler-room for future economic growth’

Northern Ireland’s universities are fast-emerging as the boiler-room for new weightless industries as the local economy leaves its old low-wage/low-cost image behind, according to organisers of the NISP CONNECT £25k Awards.

The shortlist of the £25K Awards – sponsored this year by Bank of Ireland and in association with Invest NI – has been dominated by Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster. Of the 10 finalists, four are from QUB; four are from UU; one is a joint effort from QUB/UU; and one is a joint operation between QUB/Belfast Trust.

NISP CONNECT Director Steve Orr said: “Universities here are operating like national research labs – their activities are positioning Northern Ireland as a world-class centre for innovation and cementing the region as an attractive proposition for investment.

“Our awards are designed to find ‘the next big thing’ to come out of Northern Ireland’s research base – and from our shortlist we know that it’s coming from one of our universities.”

Ulster University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Norman Black said that the £25k awards were a “unique opportunity to showcase creativity, talent and innovative ideas”.

He added: “Our economic prospects are enhanced when we look outwards and celebrate the powerful collaboration between academia, business and government. The £25k Awards help to do this by focusing the minds of students and researchers. This year’s entries have been extremely impressive and I wish all the participant's every success.”

Queen’s University’s Pro- Vice Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates, Professor James McElnay said: “The complexity of the shortlist underpins a recent DEL survey which found that interaction between the two universities and their partners in local Government, generates considerable value and investment for the local economy*.

“We are very proud of the quality of our entrants – each of these ideas could have major economic and social outcomes in the lives of people who live far beyond our borders. Northern Ireland’s innate strengths of human talent and resourcefulness are alive and well.”

Mark Cunningham, Bank of Ireland Director, Business Banking, voiced his hope that the story of local innovation can inspire school children and young people who are going to university for the first time to be similarly creative and determined in realising their ambitions.

Graham Davis, Invest NI’s Director of Regional Economic Development, said: “Knowledge-intensive businesses are pivotal to the future success of the Northern Ireland economy. In today’s challenging economic environment, it is more important than ever that businesses here increase their focus on developing innovative products and services that can be exported.

“The high-quality of the participants in this year’s £25k Awards demonstrates the huge amount of creative talent that exists here. It is essential that the entrepreneurial skills in Northern Ireland are harnessed to support ground-breaking products and increase the number of local cutting-edge companies that can compete globally.”

The competition culminates with an awards evening which is to be held at the Pump-house, Northern Ireland Science Park, on September 25.

Publisher Contact Information:

Northern Ireland Science Park
028 90 393837

Company profile of Northern Ireland Science Park
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