Businesses To Benefit From Major Innovation Initiative

South West College today unveiled a major new initiative providing businesses with technology and know-how to help reverse economic decline and power a new period of growth in the region.

Funded by the Department of Employment and Learning, the InnoTech Centre is Northern Ireland’s first inter-disciplinary business and mentoring support centre, set up to move innovative ideas on sustainability, engineering, design, electronics and software closer to commercial gain.

Speaking at the launch of the Centre at the South West College in Dungannon, Dr Aideen McGinley, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Employment and Learning, said the Centre would act as a catalyst to help turn the region’s ideas into profit and jobs:

“This is a kick-start to help the whole of the South West beat the effects of recession.  By taking advantage of the area’s talent, skills and engineering ability the Centre can accelerate business growth and bolster confidence in a region well-known for industry innovation.

“Practical advice and help will be crucial in helping firms to survive and thrive in challenging times.  The outstanding support, mentoring and commitment here will enable local businesses to rapidly develop ideas and take products to market – in ways that will benefit the whole of Northern Ireland,” she said.

The InnoTech Centre, officially launched by Sean Gallagher, star of hit RTÉ series ‘Dragons’ Den’, is the only dedicated facility on the island of Ireland to provide advice, training and support for the fast-growing renewable energy sector.

South West College Director, Victor Refaussé, said the InnoTech Centre would build on the area’s strong engineering and construction experience:

“We aim to provide a gateway for businesses to access national and international markets and investment. Working in partnership with local industry, we will make sure that firms can crystallise their ideas effectively by capitalising on our technology, skills and staff,” he said.

“The InnoTech Centre is already off to a promising start.   The volume of enquiries from businesses has been unprecedented and even at this early stage, more than 80 percent of enquires are being developed into tangible industrial projects.”

Expanding on existing areas of specialism within South West College, the InnoTech Centre provides a new focus in the emerging skills areas of environmental sustainability, engineering, product design and prototyping.

Operating as a ‘skills centre’ for the wind engineering sector, it has trained more than 140 wind energy experts on the island of Ireland.  More than one quarter of the industrial R&D projects underway focus on renewable energies.

“Renewable energy is a long term priority for this centre and for Northern Ireland. As the UK and Ireland’s only dedicated and training unit for wind turbine installers, the college has an opportunity to position the South West as a global leader in sustainable research,” said Victor Refaussé.

For further information please contact:

The InnoTech Centre at innotechcentre@swc.ac.uk or Tel 028 82 255223

Additional quotes:

Launching the InnoTech Centre Sean Gallagher, star of hit RTÉ series Dragons’ Den and CEO of Smarthomes, said:

“I know a great business opportunity when it comes along and know that InnoTech could have saved me a lot of time and hard work when I started out.

“The world-class technical knowledge and resources available here provide a fast-track way for companies keen to develop innovative ideas into firm business projects.   This is a ground-breaking scheme that puts companies and individuals in a position where they can compete internationally and succeed against the very best.”