North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing delivers world-leading R&D projects

  • Sixteen world-leading R&D projects involving more than 50 university researchers and ten innovative companies have been successfully delivered as part of a unique collaborative cross border programme funded through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programme Body (SEUPB).

    The North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NWCAM) consortium gathered at Catalyst in Belfast yesterday to mark the completion of the project. Established in 2017, NWCAM created an Advanced Manufacturing virtual cluster focused on bringing new technologies to products and processes within the Life and Health Sciences sector.

    The focus of NWCAM was to increase levels of cross-border collaboration through research and innovation (R&I). The project set out to increase the number of Life and Health Sciences sector companies engaged in commercially driven, cross-border Advanced Manufacturing R&I and to further evolve the regional economy through the development of new products and/or processes within the Life and Health Sciences sector.

    Spanning Northern Ireland, the border regions of Ireland and the West coast of Scotland the cluster has enabled a collaboration which has been independently facilitated and led by Catalyst. NWCAM received €8.7m in funding through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by SEUPB.

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    The virtual cross-border centre brought applied research expertise and capabilities in Advanced Manufacturing from four world-class research institutions to start-ups, SMEs and multinationals in the Life and Health Sciences sector. The academic capabilities of the project were facilitated through Ulster University, Institute of Technology Sligo, University of Glasgow and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

    These academic institutions collaborated with ten industrial partners that co-designed the research projects: Abbott, Armstrong Medical, Axial3D, Causeway Sensors, Clyde Biosciences, Denroy, GSK, Leckey, Laser Prototypes Europe and Nuprint Technologies.

    The cluster provided companies the chance to be at the leading edge of research that benefited them the opportunity to improve their competitiveness and create job opportunities.

    The PhD students involved benefited from the cutting-edge methods they experienced first-hand while working alongside the industry partners, becoming skilled in high valued areas  such as 3D printing, injection moulding and laser modelling. Throughout the lifetime of the project a full range of PhD training was facilitated by Catalyst to prepare researchers with softer skills useful for their future careers. 

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    NWCAM provided opportunity for real research and development to be carried out and has had a number of notable successes. Involvement with the NWCAM led Armstrong Medical to commercialise an innovative respiratory breathing circuit for life support ventilation that was developed in collaboration with Ulster University. Expanding their range of breathing circuits allowed Armstrong Medical to rapidly respond to global demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight against COVID-19 became a trending theme amongst the consortium as a number of partners used their engineering or manufacturing skills to combat the virus. NWCAM also facilitated a £145,000 small grant investment to five selected industry partners to be able to build on their existing research and development projects, invest in the next stages of commercialisation and move their innovations closer to market.

    The NWCAM project is match-funded by both the Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

    Speaking about the project, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “The foundations built through this project support our vision for the decade of innovation. The project’s success is testament to the co-design and collaboration across academia, industry, and government, paving the way for projects of the future to build long-lasting change. Taking the fundamentals of the North West CAM project and adapting to incorporate the cluster focus will support my Department to achieve a culture of innovation that benefits everyone.”

    Source: Written from press release.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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