The North West Manufacturing & Engineering New Futures Network has been awarded £170,000 of support from Invest Northern Ireland’s Collaborative Growth Programme.
The network, led by Nuprint Technologies Ltd, is made up of engineering and manufacturing businesses in the Derry and Strabane area, who work with local further and higher education Institutes and Derry City and Strabane District Council to promote skills and employability in the industry.
It aims to establish the North West as a region of excellence for manufacturing and engineering, boasting the very best skills and innovation capability, as well as generating business opportunities for those involved and the wider NI economy.
The funding will allow the network to appoint an independent facilitator who will work with companies and stakeholders, and help the sector develop through access to a skilled pipeline of talent. They will also provide support for the sector to innovate and embrace research and development to future-proof businesses for global competitiveness.
The group previously carried out a Scoping Study, also supported through Invest NI’s Collaborative Growth Programme. This was to identify key future priorities, including how best to address shifting perceptions of manufacturing and engineering as a preferred career; options for up-skilling; and new pathways to career progression.
Welcoming the support from Invest NI, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, said: “This is fantastic news for Derry and Strabane where we have a serious skills deficit that Council is working closely with our partners in education and industry to address. Partnership is key to taking an effective and sustainable long-term approach to building and developing the Manufacturing and Engineering sector.
“We have a wealth of talent here in the North West, we need to help businesses tap into that talent pool and also create the opportunities for young people to develop the skills and experience required to enhance both their prospects and the future success of the industry. I welcome the plans to appoint a Facilitator who can now begin to deliver on the objectives set out by the Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Collaborative Network.”
Commenting on the funding secured, Paul Kirkpatrick, Chair of the Network, said: “The sector is a huge employer and vitally important as we move forward to rebuild the economy after the impact of Covid-19. This collaborative approach of the public-private sector working together will deliver employment opportunities across all skills levels and emerging opportunities through R&D and new product development.”
The Network is led by Nuprint Technologies Ltd and incorporates membership from Manufacturing and Engineering Companies in North West including Precision Processing Services, AE Global, Fleming Agri, Dupoint, Invista, Seagate, Terex, E&I, GES, Hunter Apparel, Derry Precision Tools, Fast Technologies, McColgans, O Neill’s, MIM Engineering, North West Medical Ltd & KES Group. As the Network develops, the intention is to add more members from the micro and SME sector.
Managing Director of Nuprint, Gavin Killeen, said: “I am delighted our application has come to fruition and I look forward to working with Paul, Invest NI and Derry City Strabane Council in driving forward our ambitions for the sector. In the wider context of the Derry City and Strabane transformational City Deal, one of the key projects includes the development of a Centre for Industrial Digitisation, Robotics and Automation which will support companies wanting to take advantage of the digital technologies which would help support the future growth and development of this sector. I am confident that by working together we can maximise the potential that exists on our doorstep.”
Invest NI’s Collaborative Growth Programme is aimed at SME-led networks, and provides support for groups to pursue innovative collaborative projects with the potential to increase business competitiveness. Des Gartland, North West Regional Manager at Invest NI, said: “We are delighted to support the Manufacturing & Engineering New Futures network through our Collaborative Growth Programme. The North West has a strong advanced manufacturing and engineering heritage and the sector plays a vital part in Northern Ireland’s economy.
“We are confident that collaboration is a key method of accelerating business growth. By working collectively, the network will have a strong focus on how best to attract, retain and engage a skilled workforce to enable businesses to grow and develop skills. It will assist in the digital transformation and contribute towards increasing the global competitiveness of the sector here in the North West and beyond.”
The network will also benefit from the input of a number of targeted stakeholder organisations. These include Manufacturing NI; SEC; Catalyst Inc.; Derry City & Strabane District Council; Invest NI; Sentinus; MATRIX, NWRC, UU & local schools.