Belfast Telegraph

Cable: Ulster firms show way to lift UK out of gloom

By Margaret Canning

Business Secretary Vince Cable has called on Northern Ireland manufacturers to help pull Britain out of the economic doldrums.

The Liberal Democrat was at the opening of the new Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE) in east Belfast.

His Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Invest NI and plane maker Bombardier Aerospace funded the £6m research and development centre on Airport Road, which is jointly owned and operated by Queen's University and the University of Ulster.

Dr Cable praised the examples set by the centre - which will research the uses for lightweight composites in industry - and digital camera maker Andor, which is one of Northern Ireland's few listed companies.

"If Britain is going to succeed and get out of its current difficulties, it's going to happen through exports, business investment and particularly advanced manufacturing, and Belfast has got some really good examples.

"Quite apart from Bombardier, I visited Andor, a high-tech company which is benefiting from the fact that we have had a competitive exchange rate."

Dr Cable, whose reputation for outspoken comments led many to hope he would reveal Treasury intentions on whether to give corporation tax-setting powers to the Assembly, instead said he would await the outcome of the working group before making up his mind.

"There is a process looking at that," he said.

"There are pros and cons and we have to look at the practicalities of it. There is a working group at the moment thinking it through and looking at the feasibility of it.

"I don't have any preconceived thoughts. I'm waiting to see the evidence."

Dr Cable and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster opened the centre. She said it was "about maximising the benefits of the knowledge and skills that already exist in advanced material and composite technologies in Northern Ireland".

Sir George Quigley, chairman of Bombardier Aerospace company Shorts Bros plc, said the centre was a "tremendous development".

"People all over the world are talking about the need for a growth strategy to take over from the preoccupation with austerity measures. I think this centre is a prime example of a wonderful growth strategy," he added.

Sir George, a prominent supporter of a cut in corporation tax, claimed the Treasury was taking too long to make a decision on the subject.

"If they had made an early announcement then Invest NI would have had a powerful new incentive to encourage more global investors to look at Northern Ireland," he said.

Dr Cable also said other bosses at Ulster Bank parent the Royal Bank of Scotland should follow the example of its boss Stephen Hester, who waived his share bonus of £960,000.

"I hope they will see Hester's move as a good example and will follow it. But I think the context we need to bear in mind is that bankers' bonuses have drastically reduced in the last few years."


The amount invested in the new research and development facility