The eyes of the global motoring industry were focused on Northern Ireland yesterday during the launch of a revolutionary new product for testing catalytic converters.
A former director of Ford Motors in America heralded the groundbreaking launch of the ‘Labcat’ as having major appeal for the industry worldwide.
Rose Mary Stalker, originally from Belfast, joined Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and a host of top motoring experts at the launch of the Labcat in Londonderry yesterday.
The device, created by Catagen, enables car manufacturers to test catalytic converters without the need to have the engine of a vehicle running.
Its launch yesterday was broadcast via the internet to leading car companies and industry experts across the world.
Queen’s graduate Ms Stalker, who has also worked with Boeing and Rolls Royce and is currently an executive director of the NI Science Park and group operations director for McMulllan Motors, said: “This product is a breakthrough and will be the new standard in catalyst testing.
“It provides savings in energy and also provides more capacity and flexibility for the automotive companies to do more bespoke testing and scientific testing.
“”The automotive industry is built on innovation and Labcat is a significant and welcome development. I am sure that it will find international success.”
Minister Foster described Catagen as a “Northern Ireland success story” that followed a great tradition of local manufacturing excellence in the industry.
“Catagen is now part of Northern Ireland’s automotive sector which is employing over 5,000 people and exports worth £2bn,” she said.
“Labcat represents a step change in the testing of catalytic converters and as such has huge global potential.”
Funding for the research and commercialisation of Labcat was provided under Invest NI’s Proof of Concept scheme which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Dr Andrew Woods, Catagen’s chief executive and man who developed the Labcat along with Professor Roy Douglas, branded their product “revolutionary”.
He said the company “is very excited about the level of interest it is generating throughout the automotive industry”.
Catagen is investing £112,000 in marketing its products, which include two larger machines along the same design, with Invest NI offering support of £44,800 to the company.
Using Labcat to test catalytic converters is 85% cheaper to operate than traditional methods and represents a 98% reduction in C02 emission from testing and an 80% reduction in energy input.
The product was developed by Catagen Ltd, a spin-out from Queen’s University, and manufactured by FAST Technologies Ltd in Derry’s Skeoge Industrial Estate.