Innovative research project brings industry focused R&D investment.

A ground-breaking trans-regional EU-funded programme has marked the mid-point of its four-year run by providing grants of more than €50,000 to four industry partners for exciting, innovative developments in their advanced manufacturing research projects.

The North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NW CAM) was established to link the best inventive academic capabilities of Northern Ireland, border regions of Ireland and the West coast of Scotland to help develop and deliver 15 world leading research projects that will solve industrial problems in the life and health science sector, alongside respected partners from industry.

These unique, collaborative research projects have the potential to deliver ingenious global products and processes that can be licensed throughout the world and span cutting edge advanced manufacturing technologies including nano-manufacturing, additive manufacturing, advanced polymer products and sustainable manufacturing.

The four-year programme will see €8.7m invested across four research partners and nine companies, with the projects led by investigators who are world leaders in their respective fields. These potentially game-changing projects are being delivered by 13 post-doctoral researchers and 13 PhD students that are creating innovative solutions for the challenges faced by their industry partners. The centre is funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme.

At a halfway point in the implementation of the project, four industry partners were allocated small grants of €57,000 for innovations after assessment by an independent panel. They included equipment to support the production of patient specific implants, testing instrument for improving patient diagnostics, simulation software for predicting 3D manufacturing and intelligent inks for electronic reading and tracking. 

Catalyst is the lead partner with research expertise being delivered by NW CAM academic partners Ulster University, University of Glasgow, IT Sligo and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Claire McCafferty Project Manager at Catalyst said: “The NW CAM project has been a big success, helping drive innovation and development in the advanced manufacturing sector, with industry and academic partners working in tandem to accelerate R&D strategy and solve complex problems in order to gain a competitive advantage in their individual markets.

“Pooling resources and expertise in this way has enabled our partners to produce a number of original prototypes which will, pending a successful trial period, be ready for market as soon as this year. We are very excited by the outcomes so far.”

A recent highlight of the project was the NW CAM Showcase breakfast event with keynote speaker, Dr Michael Ryan from Science Foundation Ireland, who talked about all Ireland collaboration opportunities and researcher development programmes that can connect research across the world. 

The event, hosted in Catalyst’s bespoke new design-thinking space in the Innovation Centre in Belfast, offered an insight to the various NW CAM projects and how they are progressing. It also provided an opportunity for industry experts and business leaders to exchange ideas and explore how collective research can help deliver outcomes that industry needs to continue to thrive.