New partnership boost for Mid and East Antrim students and employers

Northern Regional College and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have formally committed to a decade-long partnership of enhanced collaboration.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 6:23 pm

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will facilitate increased co-operation in mutual areas of entrepreneurship and innovation that are of the highest strategic priority to both organisations.

Led by a newly-formed joint Enterprise and Innovation Cooperation Steering Committee, the council and college will work together to create an enhanced enterprise and innovation ecosystem in the borough, developed around new key infrastructure such as the council-led i4C Innovation Centre at St Patrick’s in Ballymena and the new Northern Regional College campus at Farm Lodge in the town.

The partnership will be focused on a number of priority sectors, including advanced manufacturing, clean technologies and the digital and fintech sectors.

The Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston and Mel Higgins, chief operating officer, Northern Regional College.

The MOU, the partners noted, will facilitate increased access to technology, markets, skills and talents, and encourage increased cooperation on R&D activity with centres of excellence, clusters, research facilities, commercialisation hubs and businesses in areas of mutual interest.

The Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “Council is committed to doing everything we can to drive long-term and sustainable economic recovery and growth in Mid and East Antrim. Alongside economic initiatives such as the Belfast Region City Deal, innovative partnerships such as this MOU provide the opportunity to work with other stakeholders and partners towards a common vision for the Borough and wider Northern Ireland.

“We are proud to have Northern Regional College on our doorstep and recognise the rich pool of knowledge, talent and skills that are developed and nurtured there. This, when coupled with the expertise, experience and networks of council members and officers, provides an invaluable opportunity to collaborate and share best practice on how, collectively, we can support enterprise and innovation ecosystems in the borough.

“We look forward to building upon long-established links with the College in the coming years as it continues to develop its new, state-of-the-art campus at Farm Lodge in Ballymena.”

Northern Regional College’s Jenny Small, vice principal of performance and development, and Mel Higgins, chief operating officer, with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Alderman Robin Cherry, Alderman Audrey Wales, Nicola Rowles, head of economic development, the Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston and Councillor Timothy Gaston.

Mel Higgins, chief operating officer of Northern Regional College, commented: “The face of the business environment in Northern Ireland is rapidly evolving – particularly in terms of emerging sectors and industries, the evolution of new technologies and the roles that follow. With this, comes a heightened onus on the education sector to collaborate with local businesses and stakeholders to shape a future-proofed workforce.

“We see this MOU as an invaluable opportunity to build upon the important work we are doing already to engage with and listen to local industry so that we can advance our provision according to their future needs.

“With R&D, innovation and entrepreneurship at its very core, this MOU with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will ensure that our students and employers in the borough benefit from a range of skills and entrepreneurship initiatives in the coming years as we emerge from the pandemic and strive for economic growth.”

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