May 2015 Press Releases

Queen’s University and Lowden Guitars make a harmonious business partnership

In the year that KTPs (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships) in the UK mark their 40th birthday, Queen’s University is celebrating with a KTP that’s hitting all the right notes.

The Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s has teamed up with world-famous brand George Lowden Guitars, based at Downpatrick, Co Down, to come up with new production methods for their premium product.

George Lowden Guitars is an internationally renowned, family-run Northern Ireland business that has been producing high-end, handcrafted acoustic instruments since the 1970s. With an average three-year waiting list, the bespoke brand counts top musicians like Eric Clapton, Gary Lightbody and Alex de Grassi among its repeat customers.

Queen’s University mechanical engineering graduate William Imrie is the KTP Associate for this latest partnership, with a brief to develop and implement more efficient manufacturing processes using new technologies, such as computer-aided design (CAD), without compromising on quality.

He said: “My role is about coming up with new ways to make the guitars, specifically looking at reducing repetitive, laborious and low-skill jobs to allow the craftsmen and women to focus on the more highly skilled aspects of guitar building. 

“One example is guitar bridges. Previously they were made using jigs and templates at manual machines. By using CAD software and a CNC machine I have been able to replicate the process, but in one tenth of the time. I am currently applying a similar process to the production of the fingerboards.

“This is my first job since graduating, but the opportunity is amazing. I am working in a world-famous company, making unique products, and I have access to a range of resources and support at Queen’s. I have been able to develop my technical capabilities and at the same time am building my knowledge of business and the commercial world.” 

KTPs are three-way partnerships between business, universities and a recent graduate and are grant-aided by government. Running for up to three years, they aim to boost productivity by allowing businesses easier access to academic expertise and the talent and skills in the graduate pool. As a result of government investment in KTPs during 2013-14, UK businesses look to benefit from a projected £211 million increase in annual profits, with over 450 new jobs created and 6,000 company staff trained.

Queen’s has run over 350 KTPs in the last 40 years, giving over 400 graduates a first step on the employment ladder. The university is currently ranked No 1 in the UK for participation in KTPs and has won 13 national awards for its involvement with the scheme. Earlier this year, Head of KTPs and Business Networks at Queen’s, Dr Mary Flynn received an MBE for services to higher education.

KTP Manager at Queen’s, Lorraine Marks said: “As we face into a period of austerity, the need for small and medium-sized businesses to up their game has never been more acute. Through the successful delivery of KTPs at Queen’s, the impact on the Northern Ireland economy has been enormous, enhancing the profitability of businesses as well as creating graduate jobs. It’s a win-win for everyone and demonstrates how Queen’s impacts on society and directly feeds into our local economy.”

For more information, contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy on 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen’s celebrates Northern-Irish dramatist Brian Friel this summer
Northern-Irish dramatist, Brian Friel

WHEN: Monday 24th – Thursday 27th August 2015

WHERE: Redcastle Hotel, Inishowen, Co Donegal

Queen’s will host a four-day Summer School dedicated to the work of the Northern-Irish dramatist, Brian Friel.

The School of Creative Arts at Queen’s in association with the Lughnasa International Friel Festival will celebrate the work of the playwright through delivering drama workshops, seminars, the annual Brian Friel Lecture as well as a bus-trip around ‘Ballybeg’ over four days this summer in Co Donegal.

A special event will focus on one of Friel’s most popular works, Dancing at Lughnasa, with a lecture-demonstration and workshop by David Bolger, Artistic Director of CoisCeim Dance Theatre, and the choreographer for both the original stage and film versions of the play, convened by Dr Aoife McGrath under the title ‘Moving Text’.

Keynote lectures will also be given by Professor Patrick Lonergan (NUI Galway) and Dr Mark Phelan (Queen’s University).

Workshops will also take place with themes including The Monologue Plays with Dr Mark Phelan, Performing Friel’s Women with Dr Brenda Winter-Palmer (a founder member of Charabanc Theatre Company and Replay Productions) and The Stagecraft of Brian Friel with David Grant (former Artistic Director of the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and Director of Education at Queen's School of Creative Arts).

Please email David Grant on for further details or to book a place on the Summer School

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen's helps trial new treatment to extend life of cystic fibrosis patients

A ground-breaking new drug combination that could prolong the lives of cystic fibrosis patients, has been trialled by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT), were part of an international research team who showed that a combination of two drugs - Lumafactor and Ivacaftor – can improve lung function and reduce hospital treatments for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

The team carried out clinical trials in centres across the world with over 1,100 people who have the most common form of cystic fibrosis, F508del, a life limiting genetic disease which can affect the lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys.

The results of the combination drug trial showed:

- A reduction in the number of hospital courses of antibiotic treatment

- An improvement in patient’s breathing tests

- Improvements in patient’s weight and in quality of life

The combination treatment, which has been developed by Vertex, a pharmaceutical company based in Boston MA, is now undergoing assessment for approval and clinical use. Co-author of the research, Professor Stuart Elborn, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “These results represent a further major advance in finding treatments which correct the basic problem in cystic fibrosis and improve the lives of patients living with the condition.

“This is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s and the BHSCT to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of everyone in society.”

The international research team who carried out the study involved scientists from the UK, Ireland, the United States, Australia, Italy, France and Canada.

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on or 028 9097 5384.

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New Agri-Food Competence Centre launched at Queen’s

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell pictured with Professor Chris Elliott, Queen's University Belfast, Michael Bell, NIFDA and Alastair Hamilton, CEO Invest NI.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell has announced the establishment of a £6.7million Northern Ireland Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre (AFQCC).

Hosted at Queen’s University Belfast, the new Competence Centre will draw upon the research capabilities of Ulster University (UU), Queen’s University Belfast and the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). The centre’s primary focus will be on improving the international competitive position of the Northern Ireland Agri-food sector through innovation and co-operative research.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s said: “The establishment of this industry-academia research partnership is essential to help local companies keep up with the fierce competition they face on the world's global markets. The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University is very proud to host this centre and will work alongside our industry partners to drive innovation across the Agri-food sectors.”

Financing for the centre is made up of £5million of research and development assistance from Invest NI and a £1.7million investment from industry partners.

Making the announcement at Balmoral Show, Jonathan Bell said: “The Northern Ireland Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre is the fourth in an initial series of Competence Centres being funded by Invest NI and industry partners, which are designed to rapidly transform great research into commercial success.

“The Agri-food Sector ‘Going for Growth’ strategy sets out a vision for the Agri-food Industry and recognises that investment in research and development is a crucial component in the development of innovative products and in targeting export markets. This Competence Centre is vital to the success of that strategy.

“The Centre will provide a platform for companies which want to pursue research projects in areas such as packaging, shelf-life, waste minimisation and food security. Not only will it support the development of our local food industry to compete strongly in export markets, it will also build on the Agri-food knowledge and skills that already exist in Northern Ireland.

“I would encourage companies operating in the Agri-food sector to explore how this centre could benefit their business.”

Dr. David Dobbin, CBE, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association said: “NIFDA has been working for four years with Invest NI, and our partners to bring this centre to fruition. Minister Bell’s department is to be congratulated for their support which has been crucial in helping to provide companies with exciting opportunities to collaborate with expert researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast to help them develop high-quality products.

“This development will improve the competitiveness of Northern Ireland’s biggest Industry.”

For further information please contact the Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email


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World-class research at Queen’s receives £3.5 million in funding

World-class research at Queen’s University Belfast in areas such as energy, food security, computing, advanced materials and personalised medicine has received £3.5 million in funding.

The funding, announced by Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry will support successful Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme projects through theSFI-DEL Investigators Programme Partnership.

The Partnership supports collaborative projects involving universities from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in undertaking excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact society and the economy. The seven successful projects from Queen’s were selected following international competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists.

Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University, said: “We are delighted that seven research projects at Queen’s have received funding from the SFI-DEL Investigators Programme Partnership. This is a prestigious programme and this success reflects the high calibre of world-leading research being undertaken at Queen’s which is having a very real impact on the economy. 

“The research projects, which cover areas such as Energy, Food Security, Parallel Computing, Processing Technologies and Advanced Materials and Personalised Medicine, are further evidence of Queen’s commitment to research which advances knowledge and changes lives. I am delighted that Queen’s researchers have made such a strong showing in the early stages of this All-Island initiative, which opens up substantial future collaborative opportunities with Science Foundation Ireland.”

Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry, said: The SFI-DEL Investigators Programme Partnership is of significant benefit to Northern Ireland both economically and socially.  I welcome that seven projects involving Queen’s University collaborating as partners with research institutions in the Republic of Ireland have been successful in SFI’s prestigious Investigators Programme.

“My Department will be providing £3.5 million to support these ground breaking research projects in areas such as Energy, Sustainable Food Production and Processing, Parallel Computing, Processing Technologies and Advanced Materials and Personalised Medicine.

“These research collaborations will not only address fundamental research issues but will also strengthen cross border research alliances and help Northern Ireland to bring further success under Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.”

Dr Darrin Morrissey, Director of Programmes at SFI, said: “Peer reviewed by international experts, these research projects are of the highest standards for scientific excellence and have the potential to lead to new breakthroughs in areas such as wastewater treatment, fisheries management, personalized medicine, high performance computing and agriculture.  These collaborative research projects will strengthen cross-border research and provide a basis for leveraging alternative funding such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. It allows researchers across the island of Ireland to further their careers and build partnerships with leading industry partners who also benefit from access to some of the leading academic talent on this island.” 


Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University Belfast on or 02890975391.


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Queen's hosts UK's only exhibition of renowned Spanish poetry

Queen’s University Belfast is to host the UK’s only opportunity to see an internationally acclaimed exhibition on renowned Spanish Baroque poet, Luis de Góngora.

The School of Modern Languages at Queen’s will welcome the unique exhibition ‘Góngora: The Never-Fading Star’ to the university’s Naughton Gallery. The exhibition has previously been displayed in Spain’s Biblioteca Nacional, Argentina and the Dominican Republic.

The Never Fading Star is one of the most important exhibitions ever on early modern Spanish literature.  The invitation to host the event was extended by the Spanish Embassy and AC/E (Acción Cultural Española) in recognition of Queen’s research strengths in the Spanish Golden Age.

A collaborative international conference on the Spanish Golden Age entitled ‘Imaginary matters’ will accompany the launch of the exhibition.

The exhibition takes place from 15–31 May, in the Naughton Gallery, Lanyon Building, at Queen’s University Belfast. Find out more at:

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s Communications Office, on or 028 9097 5384.

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Queen’s University leading the way in pioneering, European cyber-security initiative
Professor Máire O’Neill

Queen’s University Belfast will be at the forefront of a major, new European push to combat increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks.

The Queen’s-led SAFEcrypto project will draw together cryptographers and other IT experts from Germany, France, Switzerland, Britain and Ireland to devise urgent security solutions capable of withstanding attack from the next generation of hackers.

The project will focus on an acute threat from emerging technologies including ‘quantum computers’ – capable of processing information many times faster than the silicon-based computers we use today.

The project, which will run for four years at a cost of €3.8million, will concentrate on three main areas: 

  • Protecting information passed via satellites
  • Protecting public-safety communications systems, eg those used by police, fire and ambulance services
  • Safeguarding the privacy of data collected by municipal authorities

Project lead Professor Máire O’Neill from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s said: “CSIT was among the first centres in the UK to be recognised as a centre of academic excellence in cyber-security research in 2012, and it is a natural progression for us to start working on a larger, pan-European stage. Horizon 2020 has given us the opportunity to form a project consortium which is a true partnership between industry and academia. This is yet another example of how Queen’s is making a difference and having a global impact on society.”

Professor O’Neill, who was awarded a UK Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in 2014 and who is a former British Female Inventor of the Year (2007), added: “Organisations are steadily increasing the level of spending on encryption products to protect their intellectual property and to maintain the privacy of customer details and personal information. It is estimated that 25% of enterprises globally operate an internal public key encryption infrastructure (PKI). We believe these present day PKI systems will become vulnerable to attack by a new form of very powerful quantum computers in the near future.”

SAFEcrypto represents the first major project to be co-ordinated in Northern Ireland using funding from Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever developed. The NI Assembly has set a target of winning €145 million from the Horizon programme between now and 2020.

Queen’s University is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities, and has recently been placed in the Top Ten in the UK for research intensity in the Research Excellence Framework assessment. In this exercise, 93% of the research conducted by CSIT academics was adjudged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.


For further information, contact Una Bradley on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy on 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen’s among top UK universities for female representation in STEMM subjects

Queen’s University Belfast is once again at the forefront of gender equality practices in the UK after the latest round of Athena SWAN awards.

Queen’s has retained its institutional Athena SWAN silver award, making it one of only five UK universities to hold an institutional silver.

Separately, two schools within Queen’s – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science – have had their Athena SWAN departmental silver awards renewed. In total, Queen’s now holds 11 SWAN departmental awards, two gold and nine silver.

The Athena SWAN Charter was introduced in 2005 to advance the representation of women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) and to improve career progression for female academics. Queen’s was one of the founding members of and first signatories to the charter. The awards are now managed by the Equality Challenge Unit, which seeks to promote equality in Higher Education throughout the UK. Over 100 universities subscribe to the Athena SWAN charter.

Director of Queen’s Gender Initiative, Professor Yvonne Galligan said: “Queen’s has more SWAN awards and more awards at silver level than any other institution in the UK. There is no doubt that Queen’s is a UK leader in this area and it’s yet another example of how Queen’s is not only very good in terms of its research, high calibre of academics and teaching, but how it’s making an impact on wider society.”

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Professor Tom Millar said: “The University’s capacity to attract and retain excellent scientists – women and men – helps Northern Ireland to create an internationally competitive research base. These SWAN awards signal that Queen’s is firmly committed to ensuring that women scientists and engineers can have fulfilling careers in their chosen fields. This is national recognition for the University’s work in promoting gender diversity in academic leadership to the benefit of science and society.”

Paul Browne, Equal Opportunities Manager at Queen’s, said: “This award is testament to the hard work and commitment of staff across the University to securing greater gender equality at Queen’s, which is now among the leading universities in the UK in terms of advancing the careers of women in science.”

For further information, contact Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 028 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy on 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email



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Queen’s scientist honoured nationally for work on horsemeat scandal
Queen’s scientist honoured nationally for work on horsemeat scandal

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, has received a BBC 2015 Food & Farming Award, for being a ‘Food Game Changer 2015’.  

The award is presented to someone who in the past 12 months has used their work to give fresh insights into the food people eat and changed the status quo by prompting national debate and fresh thinking on how food is sourced and sold.

Professor Elliott undertook a major review for the UK government in response to the horsemeat scandal which examined ways to prevent food fraud incidents from happening in the future. It also investigated how to improve the culture of the UK’s food supply chain, looking at ways to help industry take responsibility for the traceability of products and to ensure consumers understand where their food comes from. 

All of the recommendations in the Elliott review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks were accepted by the government, including the establishment of a new Food Crime Unit.

Commenting on his awardProfessor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: I'm delighted to receive this award from the BBC. Throughout my UK food review communicating what went wrong with our very complex food supply systems in the UK to the public was very important to me. Working with the media and BBC in particular was of enormous help in this effort.”  

“This is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society.”

Sheila Dillon, Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme and founder of the BBC Food and Farming Awards, said: ‘A game changer is someone who’s taught us something about the food business through their research or campaigning, and this award was created to recognise people who have delivered that kind of outstanding work in the last 12 months. We have spent hours going through the work of academics, writers and food experts of every description and the important work of Professor Chris Elliott really stood out to us’.

For further info about the Food Game Changer 2015’ award, go to:

Media inquiries to Zara McBrearty, Queen’s Communications Office, on or 028 9097 5292

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