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|Marian Murphy from Magherafelt is a first year Clean Technology student.|
Engineering students are opting for the University of Ulster's new Clean Technology course because of the excellent job prospects opening up for graduates who can contribute to this growing multi-billion dollar industry sector.
This year, Ulster became the first university in the UK or Ireland to offer a dedicated Clean Technology BEng Hons.
"Interest in our Clean Technology programme has been fantastic," said course director, Dr Tony Byrne.
Clean Technology is a term used to describe knowledge-based products or services that improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency, while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste or pollution.
Fifteen students have signed up for the four-year course based at Ulster's Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC) in the School of Engineering at Jordanstown.
The classmates agreed that future job prospects were at the forefront when deciding which degree course to sign up to.
Phil Hall, from Ballyclare, said: "I think it's a more modern course, we going to need Clean Technology in the future, eventually fossil fuels will be replaced and we will need an alternative.
Marian Murphy from Magherafelt added: "Companies will want to save money and save energy and hopefully that's where we will come in."
Clean Technology or ‘Cleantech' is attracting billions or dollars of investment and carries the hopes of a low-polluting and sustainable future explained Dr Byrne.
"Global issues like climate, demand and supply of fossil fuels and access to clean water demand innovative solutions. Providing these technological advances brings the opportunity for increased growth.
"Northern Ireland historically had a heavy engineering economy, like ship building. Now we're moving towards a knowledge-based high-tech engineering economy. Large manufacturing facilities in the future may not physically be based here but a lot of the design and technology development will take place here.
"We will need engineers with the necessary knowledge and skills to support and develop this high-tech knowledge based industry.
"The focus of this course will be advanced materials and nanotechnology - making new materials that are smarter, stronger, lighter and cheaper. These materials will support developments in clean technology.
"For example, some people have predicted a hydrogen economy where, in the future, cars run on hydrogen fuel cells instead of petrol, so we need to come up with nanomaterials that decrease the cost of fuel cells but increase the efficiency.
"Clean Technology should not be confused with green technology that was popularised in the 1970s and 1980s. Green technology generally costs companies money but if it's done in a smart way it should save them money and also reduce pollution - that's Clean Technology.
"Governments and companies across the global are embracing Clean Technology. A recent survey of global Venture Capital Investment firms, undertaken by Deloitte, found that about half of American, UK and Israeli investors expect to increase their investments in Cleantech, while in Asia Pacific and Europe that figure rises to about 70 per cent."
Students on this new course will benefit from world class nanomaterial research that is taking place in Ulster's Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Research Institute.
"This new degree is a great example of how research and teaching can be integrated in order to develop the global engineers of the future, thus following some of the key recommendations of the DETI Northern Ireland Science and Industry Panel, Matrix" said Professor James McLaughlin, Director of the Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials Research Institute.
"Students nowadays are more astute in relation to the global situation and they want to be empowered with the skills to make a difference for a sustainable future."
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