An expanded engineering innovation centre is to be established at Queen’s University in partnership with Wrights Group bus manufacturers.
The facility will be named after one of the company’s founders, Dr William Wright.
Wrights Group has invested £300,000 in the centre – a figure matched by the Belfast university. Queen’s said £6 million could be invested in the centre in the future.
The key aim of the facility within Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is to promote research and advanced engineering to facilitate the creation and development of technologies suitable for today’s bus industry.
This year marks the Wrights Group’s 70th birthday.
The university said the name of the centre recognised Dr Wright’s contribution to industry in Northern Ireland and his “relentless drive” in the promotion and development of innovation and new technology to reduce fossil fuel use and environmentally harmful emissions.
Currently housed in temporary accommodation, a new permanent premises for the centre has been identified within the Queen’s campus and is scheduled to open in the summer of next year.
Seven staff are already working on a range of research projects linked to the bus industry, including drive cycle modelling, thermal modelling, vibration-related fatigue and life-cycle analysis, with focus on issues such as cost of manufacturing, maintenance and operation.
Steering- and suspension-based research and development are also to be undertaken.
Dr Wright CBE founded the original company with his father in 1946 and next year he will celebrate his 90th birthday.
“We have a long established relationship with Queen’s University and are pleased to be involved in the further expansion of the technology centre,” he said. “This is a new and exciting facility that will continue to stimulate fresh thinking and encourage innovation.
“At Wrightbus we believe our ‘special relationship’ with Queen’s University sets us apart from many other manufacturers within our industry.”
Queen’s vice-chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “We are delighted and honoured to name our technology centre after Dr Wright, a well-respected figure in the Northern Ireland business community and the global bus industry. Queen’s partnership with Wrightbus is one of our longest standing. Together we are leading the way in the development of some of the world’s most advanced hybrid engines.”