£42.4m funding boost for Northern Irish nanotechnology group

23 Jul 2021

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The Smart Nano NI consortium will use its new funding to accelerate nanotechnology research and develop smart manufacturing methods.

Northern Irish technology consortium Smart Nano NI has received £42.4m in funding to develop new nanotechnology related to medical devices, communication and data storage.

Seagate Technology leads Smart Nano NI in collaboration with seven other partners to form a so-called “corridor of expertise” from Derry to Belfast. The consortium of companies will use the funding to accelerate the development of prototypes and smart manufacturing methods.

Nanotechnology involves science and engineering at the scale of nanometres, often dealing with atoms and molecules. Smart Nano NI’s work in this area ranges from date centres and cloud computing to drug discovery.

It is aiming to deliver 100 prototypes through this funding and potentially create jobs in the region’s R&D ecosystem.

The funding was part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund. The purpose of this fund is to develop nanotechnology and manufacturing sectors while helping to scale up manufacturing capacity to create employment.

The expertise of Smart Nano NI also includes photonics, artificial intelligence and medical informatics. Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University are members of the group, along with imaging solutions company Cirdan and start-up Causeway Sensors.

“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,” said Dr Mark Gubbins of Smart Nano NI.

“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 total project value of the consortium is £63.9m after funding from other sources.

Gordon Lyons, Stormont’s economy minister, said: “I wish to congratulate and acknowledge the outstanding team behind this achievement.

“Securing this funding through UKRI Strength in Places is a major boost for our economy and our post-Covid recovery journey and is a testament to the power of collaboration and the calibre of Northern Ireland companies. It will create new commercial opportunities, will drive economic growth and help tackle productivity challenges, and invigorate our manufacturing sector.”

Sam Cox is a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news

editorial@siliconrepublic.com