Professor Alistair McIlhagger

Professor of Advanced Materials

School of Engineering

Belfast campus

Room BC-04-216,
2-24 York Street,
BT15 1AP,

Engineering Research

Professor of Advanced Materials

Professor Alistair McIlhagger


Alistair McIlhagger is a Professor of Advanced Materials in the School of Engineering and a member of the Engineering Research Institute (ERI). He is the leader of the Advanced Future Materials and Manufacturing Group (AFM2) and Director of the Engineering Composites Research Centre (ECRE) at Ulster University. Alistair’s research interests are focussed on the development of advanced manufacturing through composites, such as smart/functional nano-composites and novel composite textiles for aerospace, renewable and transport applications. He has been working on the design, development and subsequent manufacturing of advanced textile reinforcements for composite structures through a variety of research programmes including those funded by InnovateUK, EPSRC, TSB, EU and international industrial partners resulting in approximately £20M in funding and over 90 peer reviewed publications.

Alistair is one of the founding academics in the Northern Ireland Advanced Engineering Centre (NIACE) and has been the university representative on various management and steering boards. He also sat on the technical committee of the associated composites competence centre (NIAECC). He continues to be the Ulster academic lead supporting projects developed to enhance industries composite and polymer requirements and to create new areas of shared interest from a relatively low TRL level 4-6, whilst building on existing university fundamental research. He sits on the NICOM LLP board. NIACE is recognised as a key state of the art industry led innovation centre.

He is the Ulster Project lead for the Belfast Regional City Deal (BRCD) Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) (£87M total with QuB) being developed with Ulster’s interests in NIACE and advanced manufacturing at its core. He is the Ulster PI on a 2 year funded Interim Plan with the National Composites Centre (NCC) to provide support and additional staffing resource to NIACE. This is developing the operational aspects into a fully-functioning composites R&D centre, strategically aligned to the NCC and the broader HVMC.

His current research highlights include Artemis SIP £2.2M (overall £60M project) and as the overall academic PI on North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NWCAM) (total funding 8.5M euro ) which created an Advanced Manufacturing super cluster combining the collective and complimentary strengths of Ulster university, Glasgow University, Sligo Institute of Technology and Letterkenny Institute Technology. Recent activity in translating research skills sets within Ulster, have been with AFM2 and Hysafer - (Hydrogen Safety Engineering and research Centre). He was involved in the formation of the NI Hydrogen Pressure Vessels facilitated by ADS with recent research proposals in hydrogen infrastructure within Northern Ireland - Breakthrough Safety Technologies for Hydrogen Vessels (CI) – CASE, Northern Ireland Green Seas. Other project interests are around securing future materials supply chains (waste, recycled materials - circular economy) within Northern Ireland.

For over 10 years he has represented the university on the Aerospace, Defence, Security (ADS) Northern Ireland Council  and NATEP (National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme)/DETEP panel for aerospace/defence development. He has been a member of the EPSRC Peer review college, IOM3 Marketing and Meeting Committee (British Composites Society) and chaired the International Conference for Manufacturing Advanced Composites (ICMAC Belfast 2009, 2011), organising committee of ICCM23 Belfast, NWCAM 2021 Academic conference and ICMAC 2022 Edinburgh. He has developed and implemented the Bombardier Transformation Programme. He is a visiting Research Fellow at Glyndwr University and more recently Concordia University (Montreal).

He has held a number of positions within teaching and was the academic lead for industrial placement within the engineering school for approximately 5 years. With the challenge of COVID he was on the university placement working groups and assisted in the development and implementation of the CER (Civic and Economic Recovery) module, specifically around the engineering content for enhanced student engagement and learning experience. He was a member of CCEA QSAP Panel – Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment. Member of Subject Advisory Panel (2019-2021). Technology and Design, Environmental technology and Engineering and Manufacturing.
Alistair is a co-founder of Axis Composites, a university spin out company established to commercialise advanced preforming and associated technologies. His role has resulted in securing significant contracts across different sectors including aerospace, materials development and training (Horizon 2020, InnovateUK, NIAECC, private venture, etc.)

Alistair graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Biochemical Science and a PhD in polymer composite processing from Ulster University. He was appointed to a Lectureship at Ulster in 2005 and promoted to his current position in 2019.