President Sir Jim McDonald (front left) and Irish Academy President Tom Leahy (front right) en route from Belfast to Dublin for talks on tackling climate change
Royal Academy of Engineering president, Sir Jim McDonald, has completed a two-day tour of Northern Ireland (NI) and Ireland this week with Tom Leahy, president of the Irish Academy of Engineering, to promote their shared mission to promote engineering and to nurture the engineering innovation skills that both Academies see as crucial to economic recovery.
The visit started in Belfast on 14 October with Sir Jim officially opening the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub in Ormeau Baths, celebrating a successful first year, during which it has supported four new NI-based entrepreneurs to set up and grow their operations.
The Academy hopes that the Belfast hub will be the first of several regional enterprise hubs, creating a local community of engineering entrepreneurs and embedding them within regional innovation ecosystems across the UK. It builds on the success of the Taylor Centre at the Academy’s London base, which has helped the Enterprise Hub support more than 230 entrepreneurs since it was established six years ago — they have collectively raised over £350 million in follow-on funding.
Sir Jim McDonald said: “Across the island of Ireland, there is huge strength in engineering innovation in a wide variety of industries and disciplines. With a total population smaller than London, or San Francisco’s Bay Area, it rivals both for scale and breadth of research strength and business innovation. It makes sense for research entrepreneurs from the South to consider collaboration with Northern Ireland’s formidable industrial strengths in aerospace and materials.
“Just as innovators from the north can benefit more from proximity to the major industrial facilities and prowess in ICT, pharmaceuticals and the biosciences south of the border, I hope that the Enterprise Hub Belfast inspires and connects the next generation of innovators across the island of Ireland, and between all of our islands.”
Joined by Dr Bryan Keating CBE, co-chair of the NI Women in STEM Steering Group, Sir Jim McDonald has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NI Department for the Economy, formalising an agreement between the organisations to work together to deliver an engineering talent programme in Northern Ireland, inspired by the Academy’s Welsh Valleys Engineering Education Project.
The MoU was officially signed at an event yesterday marking the relaunch of Belfast’s Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE) as an Innovation R&D Centre partnership comprising Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and the National Composites Centre. The partnership works closely with Spirit AeroSystems and a wide range of NI companies on R&D, skills and technology development.
Sir Jim and Mr Leahy travelled to Dublin on the Enterprise Train service, using the opportunity to learn about Translink’s Climate Positive Strategy and provide insights from the Royal Academy’s policy and engagement “Engineering Zero” campaign, in the run up to COP26
Chris Conway, Translink Group chief executive, said: “We are accelerating our actions to decarbonise public transport to become net zero by 2040. This was a great opportunity to meet with the two presidents to collaborate and learn more about the exciting engineering strategies and solutions helping to create a sustainable future for our planet.
“Translink has already launched zero-emission hydrogen buses and will next spring add a further 100 electric and hydrogen buses to the fleet. It is certainly a very exciting time to be part of the transport and engineering sectors as we work together on these ambitious zero-emission solutions that will make a massive positive impact on climate change. We look forward to our continued collaboration as we work to build a better world for all of us.”
On 15 October the two presidents met with Michael D Higgins, the president of Ireland, to discuss the role of engineering innovation in responding to global crises, including climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.