Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey, David Whelan, Editor of agendaNi and Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons MLA.

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Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has provided an update on its plans for future growth and investment.

It includes the aim of making the area the cleantech hub for Northern Ireland.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, said that, despite everything that had happened over the past two years, the area will remain a “strong, vibrant, safe and inclusive community where people work together to improve the quality of life for all.”

He delivered the message at this year’s Northern Ireland Economic Conference, which is Northern Ireland’s premier economic analysis event, hosted by the council and held at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort.

He continued: 

“At a local level, growing the economy remains our number one priority. Innovation and diversification have played a key role in helping us seize the huge potential of the borough’s tourism, heritage and entrepreneurial sectors. 

“It is with this focus that we can continue to deliver employment, security and sustainability for our businesses and citizens now and for generations to come and ensure that Mid and East Antrim remains at the forefront of driving change.

“By promoting investment, innovation and skills development, as well as the redevelopment and repurposing of our town centres, our solutions-based approach will help facilitate economic and social growth.”

Outlining recent successes, the Mayor pointed to its traditional association with the manufacturing sector.

“After experiencing a series of economic shocks and a high number of job losses, we set up the Manufacturing Task Force, an industry-led collaboration seeking to address head-on the key issues facing companies in this sector.

“It has since proven itself to be highly productive and helped us focus on the needs of industry at a grassroots level and work together to drive change,” he explained.

Building on this, one of the council’s most ambitious plans lies in the cleantech sector.

Funded through the Belfast Region City Deal, the proposed i4C Innovation & Cleantech Centre will provide a platform for enhanced SME support around open innovation, commercialisation and the acceleration and adoption of clean technologies across Northern Ireland.

Additionally, over £700,000 has already been secured for a new Hydrogen Training Academy, based in Ballymena. This first-of-its-kind project will enable and develop a dynamic, skilled workforce that can take full advantage of the hydrogen economy and wider cleantech sector opportunities.

It will be driven by a public-private partnership that includes Council, Northern Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and the University of Birmingham. 

A consortium of key industry players already involved includes Wrightbus, Energia, Translink, Firmus and EPUK, with opportunities for other partners to come on-board as the project develops.

The Mayor continued: “Through this revolutionary Hydrogen Training Academy, our borough will continue to build upon its reputation as a centre of excellence in hydrogen, delivering a range of crucial entry-level introductory training for industry across a number of sectors, including energy, transport, gas, manufacturing and engineering.

“Bringing these elements together, along with the strengths and assets already existing across the borough including Wrightbus with its world-leading revolutionary zero-emission buses, our plan is to make Mid and East Antrim the cleantech hub for Northern Ireland and deliver a better and greener future for all.

“Through educating local businesses on cleantech and digitisation opportunities, ultimately, this will help level up our local economy as a ‘green’ economic region.”