Design teams announced for new £200m City Deal Innovation Centres

Queen’s University has taken a major step forward with plans to build three Innovation Centres, with an investment of £200m, as part of the Belfast Region City Deal.

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 10:16 am

The University has appointed a design team for each of the three centres it will lead on in areas including advanced manufacturing, clinical research, and secure, connected digital technologies.

As part of the Belfast Region City Deal, the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive are providing £170m funding towards three Queen’s-led Centres - the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), the Global Innovation Institute (GII) and the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH), while an additional £30m will be invested by the University and its partners.

Arcadis, Faithful+Gould and Turner & Townsend have won the contracts to provide project management and design and construction services for the innovation centres, which will all be operational by 2026.

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Arcadis has been appointed to work on the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), while Faithful and Gould has secured the contract for the Global Innovation Institute (GII) and Turner & Townsend will carry out work on the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH).

Highlighting the ‘major step forward in the plans to open cutting-edge facilities’, Damien Toner, director of estates, said: “The appointment of the design teams for each of the three Queen’s-led Innovation Centre marks a major step forward in our plans to open cutting-edge facilities under the Innovation Pillar of the Belfast Region City Deal.

“It’s an exciting time for the projects, which represent a total investment of over £200m from City Deal, the University and its partners.

“These are the most ambitious building projects we’ve overseen in recent years.”

Joanne Clague, registrar and chief operating officer, Queen’s University, explained: “These projects, which build on areas of our research strength, are key to our local economy as they focus on collaborative university-industry R&D to harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive growth.

“Working in partnership with industry, government and healthcare organisations, the centres will drive momentum in fields including advanced manufacturing, clinical research and secure, connected digital technologies through impact-focussed innovation to create global impact where it truly matters.”

Praising the ‘progress being made by Queen’s and of the appointment of design teams’, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, added: “The Belfast Region City Deal can be a catalyst for innovation and prosperity for Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted to learn of the progress being made by Queen’s and of the appointment of design teams for the three Innovation Centres.

“The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre will be a fantastic example of our higher education institutions collaborating with industry to unlock innovation and apply learnings to solve real-world challenges.

“AMIC, alongside the two other City Deal-funded projects that Queen’s is leading on, the Global Innovation Institute (GII) and the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH), will link at scale into UK networks, helping to step up Northern Ireland’s innovation, skills and digital capabilities to deliver inclusive economic growth.

“This approach will deliver benefits for wider society, including job opportunities in the economy of the future, and aligns well with my Department’s 10X Economic Vision for a decade of innovation and growth.”

Public consultation for all three projects will take place over the next few months, with planning applications set to be lodged before the end of this year.

GII’s facilities are expected to be open by early 2025, with AMIC completed in summer 2025 and iREACH fully operational early in 2026.

The £98m AMIC project, in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, will provide fresh capabilities for the NI Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE) and create a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art facility at Global Point in Newtownabbey, giving advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest technology, specialist equipment and expertise.

The ‘Factory of the Future’ will be AMIC’s flagship facility and will become Northern Ireland’s national centre for advanced manufacturing, significantly accelerating levels of innovation and collaboration between industry and researchers.

David Losty, director at Arcadis, continued: “We are delighted to be working with Queen’s University on this exciting and important scheme, which will have a major impact on Northern Ireland’s engineering and technical skills to deliver inclusive economic growth.

“With the creation of new jobs in the area and the focus on research, this project truly exemplifies our ethos of improving quality of life and we are really pleased to be involved.”

GII, a £58m project, is aiming to transform Northern Ireland’s digital economy by substantially increasing both the volume and range of digital innovation taking place and developing skills to meet industry needs.

Significantly expanding facilities at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) in the Titanic Quarter’s Innovation District, GII will use expertise in secure connected intelligence to tackle the ‘One Health’ agenda across agri-food and health and life sciences sectors, combined with a ground-breaking partnership approach to delivering scalable computing solutions.

Anthony McNeill, director at Faithful+Gould, explained: “We are proud to be working with the University on this landmark and innovative project, which is at the cutting edge of digital innovation in Northern Ireland.

“We have assembled a first-class design team to ensure that this facility will stand the test of time and drive forward Queen’s University’s position in the digital sector in Northern Ireland and beyond.”

An investment of £52m will be made in iREACH, the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare, an NHS, industry, and research facility, on the Lisburn Road beside Belfast City Hospital, facilitating world-class clinical research to deliver better treatments to improve people’s health.

The response to Covid-19 has showcased the clear link between research and better outcomes for patients and the NHS and iREACH will build on this, providing an environment where Northern Ireland’s ability to test new drugs, medical-technology, care pathways and societal interventions will be transformed.

Kevin McNaull, associate director at Turner & Townsend, concluded: “This world-class iREACH innovation centre plays a key role in the wider regeneration plans for the region.

“While leading on project and cost management, BIM and health and safety advice, we have also formed a highly experienced, multi-disciplinary team comprising TODD Architects, Sheppard Robson and engineering experts, Arup.

“Our combined wealth of knowledge and expertise in the healthcare and life science sectors, as well as our digital led approach, will deliver a centre that will have a huge impact on the wider region and improve the lives of local people.”

The Belfast Region City Deal unlocks £1billion of transformative co-investment which will deliver more than 20 highly ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new, and better, jobs and help make the region a global investment destination over the next decade and beyond.