US research and development partnership extended

Image caption,
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness are in Washington

Details have been revealed in Washington DC of an extended cross-border research and development partnership with the US.

The first and deputy first ministers are in the US to encourage businesses to invest in Northern Ireland.

The programme already focuses on projects involving nanotechnology, sensors, cystic fibrosis and diabetes.

It has been widened to include telecommunications and energy/sustainability.

New funding of £4.4m ($7m) for studying cystic fibrosis has also been announced.

It follows the announcement on Tuesday of about 60 high-calibre jobs created by the Dow Chemical Company and the Terex Corporation.

Aerospace firm Bombardier is expected to reveal plans on Wednesday to complete phase one of the east Belfast plant to manufacture wings for its C-Series jet.

'Stimulate innovation'

First Minister Peter Robinson welcomed the research and development partnership agreement signed with the National Science Foundation, an independent US government agency which promotes science and engineering.

"The R&D Partnership is helping to stimulate higher levels of innovation in Northern Ireland and accelerate both economic development and leading edge medical research," he said.

"This ongoing commitment to research collaboration with the US administration is a strong reflection of the close relationship between leading academics and the strategic importance of our ongoing relationship with the United States."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was confident it would eventually "lead to real economic benefits through the creation and exploitation of valuable new products, and to further vital improvements for society in terms of disease prevention and healthcare".

Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey, who is also in Washington DC, said his department had already invested £1.5m in the priority areas of nanotechnology and sensors over the next five years.

"In Northern Ireland, I believe we are extremely well placed to continue to make a strong contribution to the success of this strategically important international initiative through our two research intensive universities," he said.

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