Invest NI’s Trade & Investment team hears how Mid and East Antrim is becoming the Cleantech hub for NI

Invest Northern Ireland’s overseas trade and investment team recently visited Mid and East Antrim as part of the organisation’s whistle-stop tour of Northern Ireland.  The visit provided the ideal opportunity for the team to build their business relationships with Mid and East Antrim and learn more about the area’s cleantech ambitions and the pioneering Hydrogen Training Academy.

During their visit, the team met with Council’s Economic Development team and key business representatives to hear the compelling proposition on offer in the Borough. Local ‘tech’ company PlotBox, shared how their innovative cloud-based software is changing the management of cemeteries, crematoria and soon to be funeral homes globally, and world-leading local bus manufacturer Wrightbus, showcased how the joint green energy approach with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on hydrogen skills training is helping to service an increasing global demand from public transport providers around the world.  Plotbox employ over 80 people and have ambitious growth plans to expand beyond 100 over the next year and Wrightbus has grown from 300 to 800 employees over the last 12 months, and is now leading the way in clean energy within the transportation sector.

Graham Whitehurst Chair of the Manufacturing Task Force commented, “This was a fantastic opportunity for the InvestNI overseas team to see first-hand how Mid and East Antrim is home to innovative, world-class companies and is a pioneer in cleantech and hydrogen energy.” He added “the Council are creating the right conditions and developing the right skills for indigenous and inward investor companies across all sectors to flourish.”

Mid and East Antrim as a region is benefiting from funding through the Belfast Region City Deal programme.  Plans include the regeneration of Carrickfergus, which will reposition and rebrand the town, placing it firmly on the map as an authentic tourism hub, part of the wider Belfast Story and at The Gobbins, a project to install an ingress structure linking the cliff top path with the coastal path to develop a looped walk, will be delivered.

Finally, the flagship i4C Innovation & Cleantech Centre will be constructed in Ballymena. The centre will include a range of accommodation types to attract investors including Grade A and co-working office space and to facilitate innovation activity for SMEs, including an Innovation Lab (iLAB) – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland which is an engineering led, fully-equipped workshop that focuses on commercialisation and skills training activity.  The first stage in the development of the centre was the pilot Hydrogen Training Academy, which is delivering training and upskilling for the cleantech sector.

Karen Hastings, Investment and Place Manager concluded “We hope that the visit from Invest NI to Mid and East Antrim will help deliver real economic benefits to the area, the team have had the opportunity to hear more about the Mid and East Antrim area, the innovative companies that are located in our region and the range of support available.”  Karen added “with an average turnaround for planning applications of less than 8 weeks and unique funding opportunities such as the Michelin Development Fund – which offers financial support through loans, as well as business expertise and advice to SMEs and grant support to foreign direct investors -the Mid and East Antrim area offers an attractive pro-business environment where businesses are supported and encouraged to grow”.

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