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Queen’s University experts help deliver research for £40m Advanced Research and Engineering Centre

Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University are bringing together world class experts to deliver help deliver a research and engineering programme for the new £40million Advanced Research and Engineering Centre (ARC) in Northern Ireland.

Pictured at the launch (l-r) are: Professor Karen Rafferty, Head of School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast; Paul Terrington, Head of Consulting, PwC; Ian McConnell, Partner lead for PwC; Kevin Holland, CEO, Invest NI; Economy Minister, Paul Frew; William Revels, Director of Technology and Innovation for PwC Operate; Deborah Stevenson, Senior Manager, PwC; Professor Chris Nugent, Ulster University.

Economy Minister, Paul Frew has announced that one of the world’s largest professional services firms, PwC, is the new centre, which will create 771 new technology and operational jobs over the next five years. The new centre is part of PwC’s fastest-growing division, Operate, which is based in Belfast.

Through the project, Queen's University and Ulster University will develop joint research teams with an additional 38 roles. 

Positive impact

Professor Karen Rafferty, Head of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is leading the project at Queen’s. She commented: “ARC is a valuable partnership for Queen’s University as its goals align with our Research and Enterprise Strategy centring on making a positive impact in the world.

“At Queen’s, we are delighted to contribute research expertise in growth areas including data analytics, AI and cybersecurity, and are proud to train the leaders needed to drive digital innovation in Northern Ireland in partnership with Ulster University.”

She added: “ARC also complements the Belfast Regional City Deal, a £1 Billion investment in inclusive economic development in the Belfast Region, providing both economic and societal benefits for many in our community.”

World leader 

Welcoming the investment, the Minister said: “This significant investment by PwC is a vote of confidence in the talent of our local workforce and the success it has already achieved here. With almost £10million of support from Invest Northern Ireland towards the new centre, this investment will lead to the creation of almost 800 new jobs which will generate approximately £25million in additional annual salaries for our economy.

“The new Advanced Research and Engineering centre will drive future innovations in technology. It will enhance our reputation as a world leader in technology innovation and our capabilities in important research areas such as robotic process automation (RPA), workflow automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

“These are the areas highlighted in ‘10X Economy’ - our strategy for positioning Northern Ireland amongst the best small economies – as vital for lifting our economy onto the next level.”

The Minister added: “I’m also pleased that it will bring together Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University to develop joint research teams with an additional 38 roles to help deliver the centre’s research and engineering programme, showcasing once again the strong industry and academic collaboration that Northern Ireland has to offer.”

The centre will be located at PwC’s new headquarters in Merchant Square, Belfast and is set to open later in the summer. Recruitment for the Advanced Research and Engineering Centre, which will develop innovative technology and data assets to support clients, will begin immediately in the areas of software engineering and other technology roles.

Solving complex problems

Ian McConnell, Partner lead for PwC Operate, said basing the Advanced Research and Engineering Centre in Merchant Square places Northern Ireland at the heart of PwC’s future technology strategy: “Our goal is to turn amazing ideas into technology that’ll solve complex business problems into the next decade and beyond. We’re creating a team of engineers and technologists who’ll work within a bigger innovation ecosystem, including government, academia and business, to help our clients take giant leaps, rather than incremental steps.

“It’s a huge statement of confidence from PwC UK’s Executive Board in both the Operate business and our local talent. The strength of our people has already enabled us to turn Operate into PwC’s fastest-growing division and I’m very proud that this gives us the opportunity to create hundreds more highly skilled jobs in Northern Ireland.”

Invest NI has offered PwC over £9.8million of support to secure this significant investment in innovation for Northern Ireland. The support towards the new research centre will contribute towards 37 Research and Development projects in core technology areas such as RPA, Workflow Automation, AI and Data Analytics. It will also support the creation of 108 software and engineering roles. While not financially supporting the remaining 663 roles, Invest NI’s support helped leverage these additional jobs within PwC Operate in Belfast, and a further 38 university research posts. The jobs will be created over the next five years.

Key hub

Kevin Holland, Invest NI CEO, also welcomed the company investment: “We’ve been working with PwC since 2011 and, with our support, the local management have successfully positioned NI as a key hub for PwC UK, helping to grow its presence in Northern Ireland from 650 employees to over 2,500. I am delighted that we have been able to secure the company’s further growth ambitions in Northern Ireland, with the Research and Engineering centre as the latest outcome of our working relationship.

“PwC is an excellent example of a company recognising the importance of investing in research and development (R&D) and its people for future growth. Our R&D support will help it to develop new innovative products and ways of working, streamlining processes for its people and providing a unique competitive advantage. Our support towards new jobs will help to build a world-leading Research and Engineering team in the heart of Belfast, while also securing PwC’s commitment to recruit a significant number of additional roles that will generate significant economic impact for Northern Ireland.”

Invest NI’s support is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014–2020. Invest NI is committed to driving innovation in Northern Ireland and is a proud partner of Innovate NI, a Department for the Economy programme, helping local businesses innovate successfully.

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