Construction starts on Factory of the Future

Published:  12 June, 2024

Construction has started on a state-of-the-art Factory of the Future at Global Point in Newtownabbey led by Queen’s University Belfast, which is key to an exciting future for advanced manufacturing in Northern Ireland.

US Special Envoy to NI for Economic Affairs Joe Kennedy III joined Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Ian Greer and Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Neil Kelly on a site visit along with key representatives from industry, government and academia, who are driving forward the ambitious project.

They marked a major milestone for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) through a £100m investment, expected to create up to 1,500 jobs across Northern Ireland, contribute £1bn to the economy and train 300 apprentices by 2050.

The Factory of the Future is being delivered in partnership with industry, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Ulster University as part of a wider £230m transformational programme of innovation led by Queen’s and supported by the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive through Belfast Region City Deal. Almost £80m of funding for AMIC has come from the City Deal.

Due to open in 2026, the 10,000m² open access manufacturing and engineering innovation centre with capacity for 150 staff, is being built by Henry Brothers. It’s set to reinvigorate local industrial potential and address the future technology and skills challenges faced by the region’s manufacturing sector.

AMIC will provide a specialised environment for advanced manufacturing, materials, and engineering sectors to access the latest digital, automation and robotics technology, supported by experienced engineers and underpinned by academic excellence.

Following a recent recruitment campaign AMIC has grown its team of experienced engineers and support staff to over 50, to increase delivery of digitalisation and innovation projects for local manufacturing companies across a range of sectors.

This work builds on more than 55 years of Queen's delivering industry-focused innovation through the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC), Polymers Processing Research Centre (PPRC) and Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE).

The innovation centre recently received Full Business Case approval from government, signalling confidence that AMIC can deliver on time and to budget following a rigorous specialist and peer-reviewed process.

US Special Envoy to NI for Economic Affairs Joe Kennedy III said: “It is critically important, not just for the innovation that this site is going to help incubate and produce, but for the long-term economic development of this entire region.

“Manufacturing obviously has a long history in Northern Ireland. This next generation of manufacturing is going to power world innovation and create solutions to problems that we don't know how to solve yet.

"It’s incredibly exciting for me to see the work that is being done on the site, and to know that the future of Northern Ireland is connected to its past and looks incredibly bright and prosperous going forward.”

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Ian Greer said: “It’s wonderful to mark this major milestone for AMIC starting construction at the state-of-the-art Factory of the Future. This is a tangible mark of progress which leads the way to an exciting future for manufacturing in Northern Ireland.

“We are harnessing huge opportunities through collaboration with industry, government and communities through AMIC and our two other transformational Queen’s-led innovation centres, Momentum One Zero and iREACH Health, as part of a £230m programme which will bring lasting economic and social benefits to the people of Northern Ireland and beyond.”

Sam Turner, CEO of AMIC, said: “AMIC is already live and supporting economic growth and prosperity for Northern IreIand by creating high quality jobs and increasing inward investment through high value manufacturing innovation clusters. With core capabilities in digitalising manufacturing, smart design, sustainable polymers and composites, and smart nanotech we are working with local businesses across the region to address technology and skills challenges.

“It’s fantastic to see construction start on the Factory of the Future which will enable us to further drive industrial transformation, paving the way for future technologies and competing globally with a more sustainable focus.”

Economy Minister Conor Murphy said: “I welcome this next stage in the development of AMIC’s Factory of the Future. This investment in innovation aligns with the key priorities I have set out in my economic vision as it will help to boost productivity and deliver good jobs in the Advanced Manufacturing sector for the region. The Factory of the Future will also create real opportunities to drive sustainable economic growth and build upon the thriving innovation centre led by Queen’s University.”

John Irwin, Chair of AMIC’s Industry Board, which is comprised of leaders from over 20 local companies, said: “The manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland is hugely excited about the opportunities AMIC provides. The innovation centre will offer increased support to them to compete globally through access to cutting-edge technology, expertise and skills development and will support the creation of many manufacturing jobs across Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland is home to a diverse range of companies - from small start-ups through to SMEs and large multi-nationals - and each can benefit from the technology and collaboration opportunities that AMIC will provide.”

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Neil Kelly commented: “The sod-cutting marks a significant milestone as we propel forward with the development of the AMIC’s Factory of the Future at Global Point, Newtownabbey. The Council’s £10m commitment underscores its support for economic growth and job creation for our Borough and beyond.”

Kara Bailie, deputy director of strategic programmes at Queen’s joins councillor Neil Kelly, mayor of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, Joe Kennedy, US special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs, Professor Sir Ian Greer, Queen’s vice-chancellor, Sam Turner, AMIC CEO and John Irwin, CEO of Kiverco and chair of AMIC Industry Board

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