Northern Ireland news

Magee team to lead ‘game-changing' £50 million UK data project

Ulster University is the lead partner in a new £50 million data innovation project for manufacturers.

A NEW £50 million data innovation project will be led by a team at Ulster University's Magee campus, the UK government has announced.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub will help small and medium sized manufacturing firms increase their productivity and competitiveness by capturing and utilising their data.

Ulster University is the lead partner in a consortium of a dozen UK organisations and businesses that includes the University of Cambridge and Manufacturing NI.

The UK government expects that up to 10,000 manufacturers will eventually benefit from the hub, supporting an estimated 13,000 jobs.

The project has been funded by £20m from the UK government-backed 'Made Smarter Innovation Programme', along with £30 million from business co-investment.

Describing it as “absolutely game-changing”, Ulster University's head of strategic partnerships, Peter Devine, said a pilot programme will initially run in the north before being scaled up across the UK.

“Companies in Northern Ireland will be the first to benefit from the support,” he said.

“It underscores our excellence in that we were able to pull together a consortium from across the UK and lead it.”

Mr Devine said the hub will align with the innovation projects already being developed as part of the Derry and Strabane City Deal.

“It's a really big achievement from Northern Ireland to lead on such a significant project of UK national importance,” he said.

“We don't often do it, but when we do, we should celebrate it.”

The hub will host an online manufacturing data exchange platform that will enable companies to submit their manufacturing data and receive recommendations in return, helping to improve their products and processes.

A £5 million fund will then provide companies with grants to make further improvements in areas of critical importance to their business.

Ulster University's Pro Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Liam Maguire said it will be “transformative” in driving industry competitiveness.

“At Ulster University, we have a strong track record of collaboration; using our research and technology to act as a catalyst for change, innovation and positive economic, social and environmental impact.

“Made Smarter is another important project in the broader realisation of the Derry and Strabane City Deal agenda, further enhancing the attractiveness of investment and driving economic growth.”

The announcement comes as Queen's University confirmed its new £58m Global Innovation Institute (GII) will open in 2025.

Originally announced as part of the Belfast Region City Deal, the institute is an expansion of Queen's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) and will house more than 550 experts at its Titanic Quarter site.

The university said it will be “a nexus” for co-innovation between researchers and industry in data security, connectivity and analytics.

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