NIPA: Innovation and Skills

NIPA's own Northern Ireland Advanced Polymers Academy

The Advanced Polymers Academy is a "For-Industry-By-Industry" response in meeting industry's up-skilling and skills gaps needs - delivering open and in-company bespoke courses for new recruits, operators, technicians, engineers, sales & marketing and general staff.

The courses are specifically constructed, tailored and deliverd by Gerry McNally based on individual company and participant needs.

Gerry McNally also provides consultancy and advice on materials characterisation, processing, testing and troubleshooting based on his 40+ years of varied and extensive industrial and academic experiences.

R & D Support at Queen’s University

The Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC) in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Queens University, is widely regarded as being one of the foremost polymer processing centres in Europe, and boasts state of the art processing facilities particularly with regard to multilayer extrusion and rotational moulding.

The Centre successfully combines fundamental research with knowledge transfer to industry. Building on the long established processing expertise at QUB in rotational moulding and polymer extrusion and extending into injection moulding, blow moulding and thermoforming, the Polymer Processing Research Centre, PPRC was established in 1996 to carry out and support leading edge, industrially relevant, fundamental and applied R&D to improve industrial competitiveness. In 2002 the Medical Polymers Research Centre was established to provide a forum for collaborative research in the field of new polymeric materials, products and processes for the medical devices and drug delivery industries.

The range of services provided by the Centre includes:
• Consultancy process design and assessment
• Process troubleshooting
• Analytical services
• Co-development partnerships
• Education and Industrial training programmes

QUB also offer Knowledge Transfer Partnerships across their academic disciplines. The polymer sector in Northern Ireland have benefited from over 30 of these industry-graduate-company partnership programmes with the PPRC since its inception.

R & D Support at Belfast Metropolitan College

Belfast Met Composites provide:

Development Support:

  • Product & prototype manufacturing
  • Material selection
  • Process selection
  • Process optimisation
  • Design for manufacture
  • Manufacturing testing
  • Manufacturing troubleshooting

There are a number of programmes available to assist local businesses in developing products and services, some are eligible for support funding.


  • Composites Assistance for Business
  • How to Internally Vacuum Bag
  • Composites Introduction Course
  • Company Specific Apprentices Composites Training
  • Connected Composites Course

Composites are taught within a number of programmes in the College, from Diplomas to HNCs and even up to offering Masters level modules. Many courses can be offered on a part-time basis in conjunction with employers.

Knoledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) / Fusion Programme

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are projects whereby a local business hires a graduate (from any institution) that is mentored for 6-36 months by an academic in the relevant field (ie by the Composites Team at Belfast Met). The KTP covers the cost of the academic’s time and a considerable portion of the graduate’s salary. Fusion is a similar scheme through which Belfast Met can support comanies in the Republic of Ireland.

R & D Support at South Eastern Regional College (SERC)

SERC provides polymer apprenticeship programme training.  The course aims to develop practical skills and knowledge essential to work in the polymer industry. Subjects studied include:     • Polymer processing and related operations or performing engineering operations  • Polymer NVQ Level 3 units  • ICT and MIS in the polymer industry  • Introductory science for polymer technicians  • Mathematics and statistics for polymer technicians  • Health, safety and welfare  • Plastics processing  • Polymer science  • Quality assurance and control.

SERC will consider working with any companies looking for a polymer training provider or wishing to engage in R&D activities.

First Polymer Training (Ireland)

First Polymer Training (FPT) Skillnet, based in Athlone, operates as a training network for the  Plastics Industry in Ireland  and is funded under the Irish government's Skillnets initiative.

The aim of FPT Skillnet is to deliver training that is focused on the specific needs of the plastics industry and includes certification and development.

AIT - APT Gateway (Ireland)

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) is the higher education institution serving the midlands region of Ireland with 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
APT (Advanced Polymers Technology) Gateway is located at the Materials Research Institute at Athlone Institute of Technology. APT provides polymer technology solutions for companies in the medical, composite, recycling and pharmaceutical sectors.


The Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Engineering Centre and its associated and co-located Northern Ireland Advanced Engineering Competence Centre provide support to help bridge the gap ("valley of death") between University proof-of-concept bench research and industry uptake and commercial implementation and exploitation.

R & D Support at CAFRE - Loughry Campus

To select new, improved or more sustainable packaging technologies, it is essential to determine the likely performance characteristics of the packaging materials. The specialist facilities at Loughry’s Food Packaging Centre can assess a wide range of material and pack properties. In addition to material property determination, the Centre has the capability to evaluate performance characteristics both on line and throughout the supply chain. The laboratory is split into two areas, a transit testing facility and a material testing facility.

There is a strong synergistic relationship between packaging and food technology. Our modern food supply chains would not be possible without the sophisticated packaging available today. The protection and preservation provided by the packs reduce food damage and wastage and help ensure that safe products are delivered to consumers. The packaging also has to meet the marketing demands required in a competitive retail environment. The knowledge and skills necessary to manage the packaging function is an essential requirement for supervisors and managers within the food industry.

Loughry Campus, the food centre for the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) has a long history of training food technologists. The programmes place an emphasis on ensuring that students have the practical skills as well as the theoretical knowledge required by employers. To support practical learning the campus has a 4,000 m2 food manufacturing facility with state-of-the-art processing and packaging equipment for meat, dairy, bakery, brewing and fruit and vegetable processing. These facilities support the delivery of technology transfer programmes to food and drink processing companies, including start-up businesses.

The development of the packaging specialism at Loughry Campus has ensured that the technologists and managers have an understanding of packaging materials and process and will be well placed to provide leadership for their companies.

R & D Support at University of Ulster

The ECRE (Engineering Composites REsearch) Centre is a multi-disciplinary centre in the University of Ulster at Jordanstown whose primary function is to investigate the inter-relationships between materials, processing parameters and performance of polymers and composite materials.

Postgraduate Programmes offered within the School of Engineering include an MSc/PgDip in Advanced Composites and Polymers.

The centre, based at the University of Ulster Jordanstown has an impressive skills base drawing on expertise from the engineering and science backgrounds of the staff involved in the centre.

Sector Categories:
Injection Moulding, Thermosetts, Extrusion Compounding, Recycling

Market Sector Categories:
Construction, Food & Drinks Packaging, Aerospace, Utilities, Medical Devices