Derry City and Strabane District Council has announced another initiative to help local businesses navigate the current economic difficulties casued by COVID-19.

The 100 Day Consolidation Programme, which is part of Council’s ongoing Business Boost initiative, will provide businesses with their own set of cashflow projections for the next 100 days, that will highlight their short-term cash requirements over this period. This Programme is part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Jobs and Growth [2014 – 2020] Programme.

The programme will be delivered remotely and safely using modern technologies. This will allow business owners to participate fully, irrespective of whether they are working from home or from their normal workplace.There are 12 places available for the programme, and the schedule will involve two remote workshops with a step-by-step guide to building a 100 day cashflow projection model for your business, and engaging with key stakeholders like the bank manager, HMRC, customers, suppliers, utilities suppliers, staff etc.

There will also be two and a half days of bespoke remote mentoring for new Business Boost participants or one day of bespoke remote mentoring for previous/existing Business Boost participants to assist them to apply the key learning points to their own business.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle said the programme was an excellent opportunity for local businesses to seek guidance at a difficult time.

”I think what we are all looking for at this time is clarity, and that is obviously particularly important for our local business owners.The 100 Day Consolidation Programme will allow them to develop a clear picture of the extent to which they currently have working capital in their business.It will project with accuracy how the cash position of their business is likely to fluctuate over the next three critical months – and what implications that will have for their business in terms of its survival prospects – and, furthermore, businesses can then identify key steps that they can potentially take to free up cash over the next 100 days. Many small businesses owners have found themselves thrust unexpectedly into a tough position, and we want to help them address this difficult situation as best they can to get positive results for all involved.”

Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said:

“We want to ensure that businesses know what they need to do to optimise their cash position and to then actually take positive steps to make that happen. These businesses are the backbone of our District, and it’s important that they can develop as clear a picture as possible of what the immediate future will look like for them, so they can address and navigate any challenges that may arise.Council’s Business team are working around the clock to provide up-to-date advice, guidance and assistance, and this programme is a great opportunity for our local businesses to seek further direction.”

The Programme will be delivered by highly experienced business consultants who have worked with hundreds of businesses, ranging from micro enterprises to some of the largest companies in Northern Ireland.Eligible businesses must be based in the Derry City and Strabane Council area and employ less than 50 people.

To register, simply contact Jacqui at Full Circle – jacqui@fullcircle.eu.com to express an interest in the programme. The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Monday 15th April at 12pm. 

Derry City and Strabane District Council has this week launched a range of initiatives designed to support local businesses affected by the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. With new regulations that will see the closure of many local businesses coming into force today, Council is encouraging local companies to explore their options in terms of establishing an online presence and adapting to conditions as best they can to continue the delivery of products and services.

As well as a special Business Resilience Programme, a series of remote skills development workshops has been announced to give people the support and information they need. The series will comprise of 8-10 two hour workshops to be delivered remotely via Zoom, which will be open to all members of the business community in the City and District including past and present participants of the Business Boost Programme.

Focus areas include managing stress, gearing up to sell on YouTube, the impact of COVID19 on local business, and good leadership.Companies can also apply for a place on the Business Online Programme, part of the highly successful Business Boost Programme, now open to micro enterprises and SMEs across Derry and Strabane.

The programme will assist local companies in going digital. Keeping in mind the challenges presented by the current restrictions around social distancing in the workplace it’s more important than ever that businesses establish an effective online presence for both staff and customers. This programme will also be delivered remotely and safely, using all modern technologies.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, urged companies to sign up.

While I welcome these new restrictions on people’s movements, I appreciate that this will have a serious impact on local companies and their ability to do business,” she stressed.”As a Council we are putting in place as many measures as we can to support local businesses at this very difficult time. This new series of workshops will provide the latest information on digital technology and how businesses can take their products and services online and support staff working from home. I would really encourage businesses to find out more about what help is available.

Business Support Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Louise Breslin, said:

“With social distancing being a key factor for everyone – your staff, your customers and your suppliers – it’s vitally important that businesses introduce new ways of working.”These are uncertain times and we want to help businesses adapt in whatever ways they can, and both the workshops and the mentoring opportunities will provide the advice and expertise to help local companies get up and running online as quickly as possible.”

To register, simply contact Jacqui at Full Circle – jacqui@fullcircle.eu.com to express your interest in the workshops. The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Thursday 9 April @ 12noon.

The Programmes are part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Jobs and Growth [2014 – 2020] Programme.Ends​

LIMERICK-based tech firm Deveire has set up a new software development centre in Derry’s Ebrington Square, as it looks to guarantee access to the UK markets post-Brexit. The Irish web solutions company has said it expects to create 15 new jobs at the site over the next three years. Invest NI has offered the firm £97,500 in support.

Set up over 10 years ago, the company specialises in building web solutions for enterprises and large organisations looking to use the latest technologies for their digital presence.

Deveire has delivered platforms that power the systems behind over 50 globally-renowned companies including Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Amazon and the Special Olympics. It has also developed National Geographic’s and Hallmark’s video platforms.

Welcoming the company to Northern Ireland, Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business, Invest Northern Ireland, said: “Deveire’s decision to locate its new centre in the North West is based on the many advantages this region has to offer international companies, particularly in the software and technology industry.

“With our support for 15 new jobs, the company will be able to build upon its innovative ambitions and expand in new markets. The new centre will also create economic benefit for the local economy, with £582,000 of additional annual salaries.”

Invest NI is offering the company £97,500 to support the creation of the new jobs.

Cathal Murtagh, Chief Operating Officer of Deveire, said: “When we began the process of expanding our team, we were eager to create a base where we had access to a strong talent pool of software developers; we believe Londonderry is the right place to find the talent we need.

“Also, as a part of our Brexit strategy, the Londonderry office gives us access to the UK markets. Invest NI’s support has been invaluable, helping us to build a team whose innovative expertise will allow us to develop new products and grow and explore success in global markets.

“Our Software Development Centre will focus on advanced computing and innovative technical approaches, to build next generation application solutions. It will have a strong focus on culture and people, through our working environment, but this will also be a key objective of our software solutions. Our aim is to create software that meets the users’ needs to allow for seamless experiences that are personal to a user, allowing people to reach their full potential.” The company’s new centre will be based in Ebrington Square, Londonderry

Pictured (L-R) are Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business, Invest NI, with Cathal Murtagh, Chief Operating Officer, Deveire.

On 28th Jan 2020, 7 students and 2 teachers from the Changchun City, Jilin Province, China traveled to the Derry City and Strabane Region to learn more about our culture; education techniques and to improve their English language skills.

International Language Students from Changchun City, Jilin Province, China, meet with the Mayor of Derry City & Strabane District Council

Working in partnership with the Mandarin Speakers Association in Derry, a number of students traveled to Derry to undertake an intensive English Language course and learn more about our culture.  This year’s students from the city of Changchun/Jilin Province spent 3 weeks in the city undertaking lessons at both Ulster University and North West Regional College. The students and staff also integrated into 2 primary schools (The Model Primary School & Oakgrove Integrated Primary School) during their time in the city and hosted the Mandarin Speakers Association Chinese New Year Celebration in Ulster University on 26/01/20.

These students then returned to China and act as informal ambassadors for our city. The visit of the international students takes place annually and is part of Derry City and Strabane Council’s ongoing international engagement in China.

On 17th Jan 2020, The Princess Royal visited Ulster University’s Magee campus to officially open the new state-of-the-art Spatial Computing and Neurotechnology Innovation Hub (SCANi-hub).

The Princess Royal officially opens the new state-of-the-art Spatial Computing and Neurotechnology Innovation Hub (SCANi-hub).

The SCANi-hub uses cutting edge technology to determine the body and brain’s responses to stress, fatigue, achievement, awareness, error and threats in complex training and performance assessment scenarios simulated in virtual environments. Established by Professor Damien Coyle and Dr Karl McCreadie at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre, the new SCANi-hub will also build on award-winning neurotechnology research at the centre enabling research and education in the next wave of human-computer and human-machine interaction for able-bodied and physically impaired people.

The Princess Royal officially opened the facility which contains multiple mobile wearable EEG headsets, functional near-infrared spectroscopy brain imaging, an advanced car/flight simulator and various new AR and VR spatial computing technologies, vibrotactile stimulation suits and ultrasonic haptic interfaces. Further technologies include those that enable walking in virtual environments (virtual treadmills) as well as a state-of-the-art Smartglass façade to adapt the room for various experimental situations and public engagement activities.

The tour of the Magee campus continued with the Princess Royal meeting with staff and students including Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine to discuss how the Graduate Entry Medical School at Magee will provide medical training to help address the skills and workforce challenges felt by the health care sector in Northern Ireland. Nursing students and recent graduates were commended by the Princess Royal for their work in their local communities and the tour concluded with a visit to view the £1.3 million Magee library transformation.

Welcoming The Princess Royal back to the Magee campus, Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon commented:

It is with a great sense of pride that we welcome The Princess Royal today to the Magee campus to officially open the SCANi-hub and meet with our students and staff who are making a significant contribution to the health service and healthcare locally, nationally and internationally. Building on our world-class infrastructure and pioneering scientific research at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre, the SCAN-i hub will equip the next generation of graduates and researchers with the skills and knowledge to merge bio-inspired computing and AI and SCAN technologies to address many research and industry led challenges that help define how humans interact with technology in the future.

SCANi-hub is funded by the Department for the Economy through the Higher Education Research Capital Fund.

A new £1m cycling and walking route is to be constructed in Strabane.

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee approved the project on Thursday.

The project will see the district connected with Buncrana, Lifford and Muff

It will involve a 3.5km route connecting the A5, Derry Road, Canal Basin, River Mourne Flood Wall and Strabane Retail Park.

The project is being funded by Stormont departments, the Irish government and the Special EU Programmes Body.

Jonathan Henderson, Programme Manager for the North West Greenway Network, said it is “fantastic that planning has now been approved”.

“Council will now proceed to appoint a construction company with the aim of completing the project this year.”

The council says the project is a ‘key aspect’ of the Strabane-Lifford greenway which will help connect the district with Buncrana, Lifford and Muff in County Donegal.

Councillor Christopher Jackson, chair of the council’s planning committee said: “The completed project will offer cyclists and walkers a wider, safer and more user friendly experience and can play a key role in encouraging the public to get out into the fresh air and reap the health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity.”

There is a growing sense of optimism among Derry City fans after Declan Devine’s return to the Brandywell hot seat yielded a fourth place League of Ireland Premier Division finish last month and with it European football for 2020.

The club were at one of their lowest ever ebbs when the former goalkeeper returned for a second spell in charge at the end of the 2018 season having narrowly avoided relegation with an eighth place finish in the ten team league.

With a limited budget, the persuasive Creggan man made some shrewd pre-season signings including UCD midfielder Greg Slockett and the return of Ramelton man Barry McNamee.

They were expected to struggle though following Aaron McEneff’s switch to Shamrock Rovers and the departure of long term custodian and club captain Gerard Doherty.

The new look side rallied however and, playing a high tempo brand of possession football, they got their fight back, conceding just 34 goals in 36 games and netting 56 with striker Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe bagging 34 goals in 34 games.

The lure of bigger wages from clubs south of the border, and indeed the Irish League, means it has been a losing battle to keep the best local players at the club and it is hard to see them challenging for a league title until they can offer local talent a competitive remuneration.

Last month’s FAI Cup Final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk was a case in point where North West players McEneff, Danny Lafferty, Michael Duffy and Georgie Kelly all had pivitol roles.

What City can offer however is a proven gateway for younger players to move to full time football in England and Scotland and the chance to emulate the likes of James McClean, Stephen McLaughlin and Ronan Curtis.

With participation numbers strong in the Youth Leagues of Derry and Donegal and Devine’s experience in nurturing emerging young talent, a higher league position and a group stage win in Europe is within their grasp in 2020.

We’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of some of the finest things to enjoy in Derry and Strabane this festive season. Whether you’re returning from overseas or based here, we’ve got Christmas wrapped up for you.

To buy

Made Here – You’ll find beautiful creations from some of the district’s most innovative designers in Made Here on Shipquay Street, Derry-Londonderry, including In Chlomo, from Strabane’s Chloe McColgan.

Velveteen Handmade – Rachel Kelly’s beautiful embroideries – from storybook-inspired pictures to appliqued cotton purses – make excellent Christmas gifts. View her pieces at the Craft Village’s Walled City Crafters.

Little Acorns Bookstore – Jenni Doherty’s independent book shop in Derry-Londonderry’s Society Street is a treasure trove of new and old books. You’ll also find local arts and crafts, literary gifts and must-have Derry Girls mugs.

To eat

With Love Recipes – Overindulged this festive season? Strabane woman Sharron McCormick’s range of guilt-free desserts, sauces and more are a delicious, healthier way to continue the celebrations.

Dart Mountain Cheese – Julie and Kevin Hickey’s award-winning range of artisan cheeses are handcrafted in the Sperrins and include the Banagher Bold local ale washed cheese and the creamy, flavoursome Sperrin Blue.

Grainola Goddess granola – Made using upcycled spent grain from the Walled City Brewery, Grainola Goddess’ delectable range includes Bountiful Berry (with dried cranberries, apricots and cherries), Scrumptious Spice, and Gorgeous Gluten Free.

Ukulele Chocolate – This Derry-based chocolate, from husband and wife team Donal and Sinead, is organic, melt-in-the-mouth, and oh so moreish. Even better, it’s made from sustainable, planet-friendly ingredients. Guilt-free chocolate… What’s not to love?

To drink

Foyster – This creamy new oyster stout showcases our native, sought after, Lough Foyle Irish Flat Oyster. A collaboration between the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network’s Walled City Brewery and Sippy Fest, it uses leftover oyster shells to make a delicious, old-style stout with a hint of saltiness.

Quiet Man Irish Whiskey – This award-winning, Derry-Londonderry based craft whiskey is expertly distilled in small batches and the ideal tipple to relax with on a cold winter’s night.

Rough Brothers – This handmade beer is brewed in Derry-Londonderry and the product range includes pale ale and red ale. You can also try its specially created Mekong Street Beer at Mekong Street Food (and a Beer 57, for Pyke ‘N’ Pommes, is also in the pipeline).

To do

Christmas Winterland Markets – Soak up the atmosphere, meet artisan traders selling local arts and crafts, taste seasonal delights and relax over a mulled wine at these markets in Derry-Londonderry’s Guildhall Square. Dec 12th to Dec 15th.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime – Enjoy the classic fairytale with some modern local twists – and plenty of gags for the grown-ups – at the Millennium Forum from December 4th to 29th.

The Snowman and Other Christmas favourites – Join the Allegri choirs and the recently formed Orchestra North West symphony orchestra as they present The Snowman and a host of Christmas classics. The Guildhall, December 15th.

Far and Wild Adventures – Treat yourself or an adventurous loved one to a moonlight kayak tour, archery, a foodie cycling tour, boom board adventure or urban mountain biking with Derry-Londonderry’s Far and Wild Adventures. Gift vouchers are also available.

Christmas Day dips – Feeling brave? Why not unpeel yourself from the sofa (and get out of Christmas dinner duties) and take part in one of the Christmas Day charity swims taking place on beaches around the North West.

A Women in Tech-themed event and startup pitching competition have been announced as part of the upcoming Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week 2020.

The 5th March event, hosted by leading startup community and platform Startacus, will focus on the wider themes of diversity and inclusion, and aims to inspire and motivate attendees through discussions, key-note speakers, workshops, a women in tech startup pitch competition and an evening social and networking event.

The pitch competition will invite shortlisted female-led tech startups from across Ireland to the stage to pitch their businesses to a panel of industry leaders and enterprise experts. The overall winner will be announced at the evening social event and the winning startup will receive a prize package.

Alastair Cameron, Startacus co-founder, said: “As well as inspiring and empowering attendees, we see this as a great opportunity to showcase innovative startups in the local area, bring standout keynote speakers to the city, and in turn encourage more people to embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys.”

Enterprise Week 2020 runs from 2nd March to 6th March. For full programme details, go to www.derrystrabane.com/enterpriseweek

If you are interested in getting involved or sponsoring the Women in Tech event, please contact Alastair@startacus.net

North West Regional College (NWRC) has secured a huge €1.6 million of Erasmus+ funding, giving staff and students opportunities to study and work across Europe during the next 24 months.

The funding will be used for staff and students from many of the college’s curriculum areas to travel to partner countries including Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy and even Reunion Island, and undertake training and development programmes designed around specific curriculum, entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation and creativity.

Staff will also participate in strategic partnership projects collaborating on innovative practices for vocational training and education with a number of key European partners.

Bronagh Fikri, NWRC European and International Projects Officer, said the college was also pleased to announce its success in obtaining the Erasmus+ VET Mobility Charter. Currently held by just 14 organisations in the UK, the charter is awarded to organisations with a track record in organising and delivering high-quality mobility projects.

The €1.6 funding boost was revealed at a special event celebrating the success of the college’s Erasmus+ training mobilities and collaborations across European networks in 2018/2019.

During the event, students who have taken part in a range of different mobilities across the world received awards recognising their various achievements.