Professor Norman Apsley OBE FREng recently retired from 18 years as founding Chief Executive of Catalyst Inc (formerly Northern Ireland Science Park), steering the organisation from idea to reality. The NI Science Park was a key first step to transform the near derelict H&W shipyard into the innovation district for Belfast. He had spent the previous two decades at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (now QinetiQ Malvern), where he had researched a wide variety of microwave and optical devices, publishing some 70 scientific papers and patents during his scientific career. He joined management in 1990, rising to Director Electronics and Site Director for the Malvern cluster in the then Defence Research and Evaluation Agency by 1995.
In 2011, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, just as he finished his term as Vice-President (Business and Innovation) of the Institute of Physics. He has been an active Enterprise Committee member from the beginning and continues to contribute to its various programmes as reviewer, mentor and on steering groups, most lately the SME Leaders’ Award.
Norman also supports the international work of the Academy. In 2018, he became Chair of the Academy’s Newton-funded project, Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF), which works in all 16 Newton Fund countries. Alongside in-country partners, LIF helps innovators with technology to tackle their country’s sustainable development goals launch startups. Over the past few years, LIf fellows have been built into a thousand strong, peer-to-peer support group across the world.
At home, Norman chairs the Local Economic Development Company serving South and East Antrim and consults occasionally for both public and private sector. In 2012, Norman was awarded an OBE for his contributions to science and economic development. In 2019, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Econ Sci) was conferred by Queens University Belfast. In the same year, he was awarded the Max Rainey Medal for service to the Polymer Industry of Northern Ireland. He is looking forward to Belfast becoming the first (of many) spokes to the Enterprise Hub.
"(Engineering) entrepreneurs are typically rich with ideas, energy and enthusiasm but cash poor. They cannot afford the quality help they need to find the right business model for their idea, discovery or invention. Pro Bono support from Fellows from their experience and from their “black books” helps speed the process and leads to increased innovation.”