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27th Nov 2012

£1.8m to help universities' EU research

Claire Craig

NEW jobs are being created as part of a £1.8m funding scheme towards research and development in Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster.

The DEL-DETI Higher Education EU Support Fund is aimed at helping organisations and businesses secure more funding from the EU for international research and development projects.

The funding is designed to help universities develop and implement a strategic approach to becoming more successful in the highly competitive and prestigious European research arena. In particular, the fund will support the creation of seven Northern Ireland Horizon 2020 Contact Points to be known as NICPs.

They will provide specialist advice and assistance to academics and businesses across areas of economic relevance to Northern Ireland and of priority to the European Commission.

This will include areas such as energy, advanced materials and transport technologies, information and communication technologies, and connected health. 

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, and Economy Minister, Arlene Foster, said the £1.8 million fund would be spread over the next three academic years. 

Dr Farry said: "The purpose of this new fund is to strengthen Northern Ireland's support structures for the seventh EU Framework Programme 'FP7' and its successor, Horizon 2020, in order to significantly increase our drawdown of European research funding.

"The decision by both our Departments to make available this substantial additional funding to the Northern Ireland universities recognises that, at present, they are best placed to achieve the largest proportion of that increase because of the focus of EU R&D and Innovation programmes on research excellence.  

"Furthermore, this decision also recognises that Queen's and the University of Ulster have a key role to play in helping to increase business engagement with Europe, working closely alongside the excellent Collaborative R&D Support Service provided by Invest NI."

The NICP network, which will be coordinated by DETI, will be supplemented by Invest NI which will assume the role of NICP for SMEs.Welcoming the announcement, Arlene Foster said: "This new initiative is an excellent example of joined-up Government between our two Departments. It reflects the long-term strategic approach we must adopt."

"Supporting our local companies and research organizations to be more successful in EU R&D funding programmes is of critical importance in building a more dynamic and innovative economy for Northern Ireland."

"This fund, combined with the work of Invest NI, will significantly enhance the support available to local organisations and will also ensure that Northern Ireland is better placed to succeed in Horizon 2020."

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