Wrightbus founder's name set to be dropped from QUB research centre

Sir William Wright (centre) attending the launch of the centre named in his honour in 2016 with former economy minister Simon Hamilton (left) and the late Professor Patrick Johnston, former Vice-Chancellor at Queen's University.

WRIGHTBUS founder William Wright’s name is set to be dropped from an engineering centre at Queen’s University in Belfast, it’s understood.

The Sir William Wright Technology Centre, or W-Tech Centre, was launched in November 2016 as a joint venture with the Ballymena-based manufacturer to research and develop modern bus technology.

Based in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering on the Malone Road, the Wrights Group initially invested £300,000.

At the time of the launch, Queen’s University said up to £6 million could eventually be invested.

But the collapse of the Ballymena bus maker in 2019 left a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the W-Tech venture.

It is now getting a new lease of life courtesy of new Wrightbus owner Jo Bamford, who has invested heavily in the Ballymena operation since buying it out of administration in October 2019.

It’s understood that English businessman, whose grandfather launched the JCB empire, signed a fresh contract with Queen’s University earlier this year which involved renaming the facility the Bamford Technology and Engineering Research Centre.

The legal change is expected to be followed with a new marketing rebrand later this year, where William Wright’s name will be dropped completely.

It’s unclear whether ‘W-Tech’ will still be incorporated into the new title.

Queen’s University confirmed on Thursday that the centre is to receive £1.2m funding as part of Jo Bamford’s drive to explore new hydrogen technology for buses.

The money is part of an £11.2m grant from the UK Government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), awarded to Wrightbus earlier this year to develop and manufacture low-cost hydrogen fuel cell technology for buses.

Queen’s said yesterday that the funding would create high value research jobs, technologies.

Longer term, the university said the project will lead to the development of a Centre of Excellence in Zero-Emissions Hydrogen Technology in Ballymena.

Dr Juliana Early from the W-Tech Research Centre, said: “At Queen’s we are delighted to be kick-starting this new project and collaborating with key industry partners to develop innovative and crucial global transport solutions.

“The funding from the APC allows us to take forward research which will ultimately help reduce emissions but it will also give our economy a welcome boost in terms of funding and jobs.

“Within the W-Tech Research Centre, we are essentially training the next generation of experts to develop single and double deck hydrogen bus technologies, and this is critical in responding to the growing calls for our society to move towards a net-zero future.

“This project places Queen’s University and Northern Ireland in a very strong position to become a market leader in the hydrogen sector.”

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