The Ulster University team behind the Derry & Strabane City Deal are involved in Smart Nano NI - a Northern Ireland nano technology consortium which has just been awarded £42.4m to develop new technology for medical devices, communication and data storage.

Another game-changing opportunity

The funding, which has been awarded by the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund presents a game-changing opportunity for Northern Ireland’s nano technology and manufacturing sector and launches the necessary support to scale up capacity in device manufacturing, underpin and develop hundreds of jobs across the sector. The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources is £63.9m.

Smart Nano NI is led by data company Seagate Technology in collaboration with Ulster University, North West Regional College, Queen’s University Belfast, Analytics Engines, Causeway Sensors, Cirdan Imaging, Digital Catapult NI, and Yelo. The eight partners form a corridor of expertise from Derry~Londonderry to Belfast.

Complementing the City Deal

Professor Liam Maguire, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at Ulster University said:

“The Smart Nano NI Corridor will see us collaborate to develop advanced proto-typing and smart manufacturing methods which will further transform our capacity in high-growth sectors such as Life and Health Sciences. The development of a smart-nano corridor from Derry to Belfast will perfectly complement the ambitious developments planned by Ulster University and strategic partners as part of the Derry & Strabane City Deal and the Belfast Region City Deal. At Ulster University, we recognise that research and technology is a powerful catalyst for innovation which in turn, gives Northern Ireland the competitive edge on the global stage. Today, we are delighted to join with our fellow Consortium members to celebrate this wonderful achievement which will lead to economic growth in Northern Ireland.”

The ISRC’s work in the proposal aligns perfectly with the CARL (Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory) and CIDRA (Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation) City Deal proposals.

The specific areas of expertise which the ISRC team will bring to bear on the project relate to industrial digitalisation, in the context of data analytics, robotics and automation, for advanced process control, exploitation of data and productivity enhancements.

NI as a global leader for excellence in the field of nano technologies

Smart Nano NI’s Dr Mark Gubbins said: “We are delighted and honoured to secure this investment which will deliver significant benefits for the economic growth of the region and the “corridor” of businesses from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry ensuring a levelling up of shared opportunities. We can now advance Northern Ireland’s niche capability around smart nano manufacturing and world-leading knowledge in photonics to create a self-sustaining local industry. It allows us to capitalise on the combined expertise of our companies and the availability of trained researchers and resources across our academic institutions”.

The funding award was made after a highly competitive process with projects from across the UK. It will further consolidate Northern Ireland’s position as a global leader for excellence in the field of nano technologies as well as delivering a significant and lasting impact on our local economy.

The advanced manufacturing sector will benefit hugely from the nanotech expertise that will be developed by the Smart Nano NI Consortium. Sectors such as life and health sciences, fin-tech, media, energy, civic society, and public policy will also benefit from these developments. For example, photonics is a major growth area in life and health sciences and Northern Ireland has a cluster of emerging businesses in this rapidly developing sector.

The Smart Nano project will:

  • contribute to the Industrial Strategy, particularly in terms of R & D investment and the Grand Challenge of “putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution”;
  • supporting research in advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering, photonics
  • Assisting NI businesses to be more productive in crucial enabling technologies such as data analytics, robotics, automation, machine learning, advanced materials, advanced production techniques and photonics;
  • Assist the NI universities to further enhance research excellence
  • Provide a significant advance to the goal of bringing Industry 4.0 techniques to NI industry

For more information, visit & follow Smart Nano NI on Linkedin and Twitter.

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