The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, welcomed a delegation of PhD students from a special London College community to the Guildhall on Friday for a special reception.

It’s the first time that students from Goodenough College have visited the city as part of a wider cultural enrichment programme. Goodenough College is an educational charity providing award winning postgraduate student accommodation in the heart of London’s university district.

The College aims to provide a supportive community for over 700 international postgraduate and their families from over 80 different nations. It benefits students through a programme of intellectual, cultural and social activities that gives students access to an international network and nurtures a global outlook. 

12 students arrived in the city as part of a trip aimed promoting their understanding of N. Ireland, and in particular Derry, including its history and culture. While they are here the group are staying at St Columb’s Park House and visiting a number of local sites.

Welcoming the group to the City, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, said: “I am always delighted to welcome young people to Derry and to share some of our wonderful heritage and culture. We have a strong connection with the City of London in terms of promoting skills and education, and this was another opportunity to discuss our shared interests and the many benefits of living, learning and working here.

“The students really enjoyed their visit to the Guildhall, where they had the chance to ask questions about local politics, peace-building and how Derry has been positively transformed over the years. They were also impressed to learn more about the city’s development as a leading hub for research and innovation excellence particularly in the areas of AI, data, health, and industry 4.0 technologies.”

Travelling with the students are the Dean of the Goodenough College, Alan McCormack originally from N. Ireland, who is also chaplain to the Lord Mayor City of London and Catherine McGuinness (fellow of Goodenough College and former Policy Chair, City of London).

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, pictured with a delegation from Goodenough College, London, held in the Mayor's Parlour. Seated on her left is Alan McCormack (Dean, Goodenough College) and on right Catherine McGuinness CBE (Chair of the policy & resources committee, City of London Corporation). Standing on the right is Adam Goodall, Investment Project Officer, DCSDC. (Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, pictured with a delegation from Goodenough College, London, held in the Mayor’s Parlour. Seated on her left is Alan McCormack (Dean, Goodenough College) and on right Catherine McGuinness CBE (Chair of the policy & resources committee, City of London Corporation). Standing on the right is Adam Goodall, Investment Project Officer, DCSDC. (Photo – Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Invest Northern Ireland and the Department for the Economy have announced a £16.3 million investment in a new state of the art Artificial Intelligence Collaboration Centre (AICC), to be based at Ulster University in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast. 

Pictured (L-R) are Archie Clements, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and Enterprise, Queen’s University Belfast; Dónal Durkan, Executive Director of Strategy and Partnerships, Invest Northern Ireland; Professor Liam Maguire, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research, Ulster University; Keith Forster, Director of Innovation, Research and Enterprise, Department for the Economy.

The Centre will focus on increasing business awareness and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to boost competitiveness and productivity across all industries including logistics, finance, life-sciences, manufacturing and Agri-Tech. 

The AICC was formally launched at an event on Ulster University’s Belfast campus today. As well as speakers from both Universities and Invest Northern Ireland, attendees heard reflections from Brian Hills, Chief Executive of The Data Lab, on their journey to setting up a similar AI centre in Scotland. There was also a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges for AI adoption in Northern Ireland with contributions from Kainos, FinTrU, Analytics Engines, Whitespace and both Universities.

“We are in the midst of an AI driven revolution and through this investment we will harness the transformative power of AI, ensuring its potential is diffused and applied to a broad business base which will encourage economic growth and be of great benefit to our people and society.

“This collaborative project, with bases in Belfast and Derry, will serve as a hub for innovation, bringing together research expertise and industry professionals to collaborate on cutting-edge projects and solutions.

“The centre, the people who work there and the important work it will deliver will be an important contributor to my wider economic vision as we aim to raise productivity, promote regional balance, reduce carbon emissions and deliver good jobs.

“As part of today’s announcement, the Department has offered almost £2.5 million to support additional AI and Data Science postgraduate qualifications to be delivered by Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast to expand the capacity of our talent pipeline to meet industry need.”

Economy Minister: Conor Murphy

The AICC, with bases at Ulster University’s Belfast and Derry/Londonderry campuses and Queen’s, will also encourage greater industrial innovation and collaboration with academia to increase both local and FDI investment. The provision of additional training and professional qualifications in AI will also be delivered through both Universities.

“Our support of £13.8 million over the next 5 years is to increase business knowledge and adoption of AI technology. AI is one of the most important technological developments of the modern era and has the potential to deliver important benefits such as R&D excellence, skills development and increased competitiveness. With some 100 local companies already currently using AI technologies in their operations we have an excellent foundation to build upon our capabilities locally.

“As a region we are already recognised as an area of excellence in the realm of Big Data and data analytics. We now have the opportunity to make our mark in the AI arena and to realise the economic benefits that will come from adopting AI right across our business landscape to improve productivity, deliver good jobs, reduce costs and enhance sectoral competitive positioning.”

Dónal Durkan, Executive Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Invest NI,

“As an academic institution we are proud to be leading the way in cutting edge research relating to the application of AI in business settings. The AICC represents a new resource of 25 dedicated staff who will use their existing knowledge and expertise to inform, educate and empower businesses to adopt AI, as well as stimulating new research and innovation for the responsible adoption of AI.

“In partnership with Queen’s University Belfast we will deliver 390 funded Postgraduate AI qualifications and also classroom-based or online skills training to thousands of workers across Northern Ireland over the next five years. 

“The AICC looks forward to working in conjunction with industry to increase adoption of AI while simultaneously creating the AI workforce of the future through the development of new qualifications.” 

Professor Brian Meenan, the Ulster University AICC Principal Investigator,

“AI and machine learning are evolving at an amazing rate and major developments are occurring at a monthly level. It offers enormous potential to transform business operations, so university-industry interaction is vital to ensure effective and fruitful engagement. Queen’s academics can provide insights into productivity improvements and help create innovative solutions for challenging problems using state-of-the-art AI approaches.”

Professor Roger Woods, the Queen’s University Principal Investigator

A Unique cross-border location.

There’s no place like home. And there’s no location quite like Derry and Strabane, a unique cross-border region offering an ideal combination of city, coast and countryside.

Whether you’re returning home, or relocating here for the first time, a move to the North West can bring rewarding work opportunities and a life rich in culture, community and breathtaking scenery. The investment proposition here is equally as enticing, with the UK, Ireland and EU markets on your doorstep, and robust local and national support.

A cross-border hub

As the only cross-border city on the island, Derry has access to multiple markets, a highly skilled young workforce which is culturally literate in operating across two jurisdictions, and investment support available on both sides of the border.

Whether you’re relocating to the North West to grow your business here, work remotely, or join one of our leading local employers, you’ll find excellent superfast broadband availability across the region. We enjoy a 67-millisecond connection with the East Coast of the USA – among the fastest in Europe. As well as 97% superfast broadband coverage to facilitate remote working.

Work opportunities

You might be returning from university seeking a fulfilling graduate role. Maybe you’ve racked up years of experience, and are ready to take the next step in your corporate journey. Or perhaps you want to move back to the North West with your family, to enjoy our fantastic quality of life without compromising on career goals.

Whatever stage you’re at in your career, you’ll find job opportunities in a wide range of sectors here in Derry and Strabane – from award-winning local financial services and engineering firms, to innovative tech and life sciences companies, and major multinational brands.

Support for investors

If you’re looking to grow your business in the North West, Derry City and Strabane District Council can offer investment support, trade missions and connections with the City of London Corporation and international partners to assist and promote your venture.

Organisations such as Intertrade Ireland can help your business explore cross-border markets, while on a national level, Invest NI and IDA Ireland are also there to assist your venture.

The right balance

Quality of life here in the North West is one of the things we value most. It’s why a Sunday Times survey named “cool, credible and cheap” Derry as the best place to live in Northern Ireland.

Derry is a vibrant city – the fourth largest in Ireland – with a young population, a great primary, secondary and third level education system, and famously friendly people (we were ranked number one for community spirit in an NI poll). And of course, our award-winning restaurants and bars are ‘LegenDerry’.

A gateway for exploring

Derry and Strabane are also brilliantly located for enjoying the best the North West has to offer on both sides of the border, nestled where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route.

Fancy a sunset stroll after work, or a weekend adventure? You can reach a stunning Donegal beach within 20 minutes’ drive of Derry, and even head up to the North Coast for a surf. Or, in less than half an hour’s drive from Strabane town centre, you can be hiking through the breathtaking Sperrin Mountains.

Aoife Warren is a Partner with the global professional services firm EY. As part of EY Northern Ireland’s team, Aoife works with clients across Ireland, the UK, and globally. She is also involved in EY’s plans to establish a new North West hub, and create 1,000 new jobs across Northern Ireland in the next five years. Donegal-born Aoife graduated from Queens University Belfast with a Masters in Computer-Based Learning and lived and worked in the city for around 20 years before relocating to Derry with her family in 2021.

What can you tell us about the new EY hub in the North West?

It is really exciting that as part of our growth aspirations, we will seek to establish a regional hub in the North West to access the breadth of talent in the area.

I’m delighted to be working with Rob Heron, EY NI Managing Partner, on developing the strategy to grow our business in this region.

While EY has its roots in audit, tax, corporate finance and consulting services, over recent years it has expanded rapidly in response to growing client demand to include new offerings in areas such as technology and people advisory services, strategy, Artificial Intelligence and data analytics, among others. 

It is our intention to ensure some of these new roles are based in the North West and accessible to all talent in NI.

Why was the North West chosen?

This area was chosen for growth and development as a result of the untapped talent and highly skilled workforce. We are excited to leverage the diverse skillsets here as well as support new skills development through the Assured Skills Academy Programme run by the Department for the Economy.

We also recognise the broader collective focus between government, local councils and higher education, working together to continue to grow the North West region as a place to work and live.

The recent developments in infrastructure, connectivity, and education are attractive to a global firm like EY, establishing itself in the region.

What type of roles will EY be hiring for over the next five years?

As EY expands and develops its operations in Northern Ireland, we see growth opportunities in areas such as technology, data and analytics, people and advisory and risk as well as supporting the development of our core corporate financial and consulting services.

Globally, EY operates a hybrid working model, a model we will also adopt in the North West. We are currently looking at office space to support our ambition to establish our hub as soon as possible.

What does your role involve?

I am a Consulting Partner in EY Northern Ireland, and I work with teams and clients across Ireland, the UK and globally.

I support clients who are preparing for a significant business transaction, this involves helping companies establish or improve business processes.

I am also People Lead for our Northern Ireland operation, which involves continuously reviewing how we are attracting, developing and retaining the best people for our business.

What is an average day at work like for you?

We operate a hybrid working model, so when I’m working from home – early morning is generally spent getting my six and seven-year olds ready for school!

If I am not working from home, I will generally leave early to beat the traffic and get to Belfast by 8am. Once or twice per month I will fly to London directly from Derry Airport for client meetings. The days are spent in a mix of internal strategy and operations meetings, and client facing or business development meetings. And sometimes managing to grab a coffee or lunch with someone during the day.

What I love about my role is that I have the opportunity to work on big, complex and often global, transactions but yet still live in Derry/Londonderry close to my family and friends. I feel very privileged to be able to get the best of both worlds.

Why did you decide to return to the North West?

We loved living in Belfast but my husband is a proud Derry man and I’m from Donegal, so our decision to move ‘home’ was very much driven by wanting to be nearer to family. There are a multitude of other factors including the friendly people, the close-knit community, housing, and lifestyle. We just love this part of the world – the great outdoors, parks, and the beautiful beaches of Donegal. We can finish work and go to the beach with the kids in the evening – when we get the weather!

How do you spend your time off?

I like to meet up with my friends and walk the ‘two bridges’ followed by coffee and breakfast along the quay. As a family we love to explore all the woods, beaches and parks of Derry and Donegal. I love art and dabble a little bit with painting. I try to do weekend workshops with local Derry/Donegal artist Natasha Barr. She runs them from her studio in Quigley’s Point overlooking Lough Foyle – it’s a great way to de-stress and take time-out. 

What advice would you have for someone considering a move back to the North West?

I think anyone considering it should weigh up all the factors, do their research and determine when the timing is right for them…but ultimately for us it has been a very positive move.

Ulster University has today unveiled a brand new Research and Innovation strategy which aims to focus its contribution to global challenges such as climate change, inequality and social deprivation and ensure its research aligns to societal needs – both locally, here on the Island of Ireland and on a global scale.

Five new strategic research themes have been established to enable the University to carry out world-class research that has a transformative impact on societies: challenging inequality and division; building the sustainable world; accelerating data futures; transforming health; and inspiring creativity and innovation.

As well as setting out these new research themes, the new strategy aims to focus on the people behind the research: to develop the researchers and research community, increasing the excellence, intensity and value of research and impact.

It also lays out plans to develop and promote an open, diverse, supportive and sustainable research culture, which fosters increased collaboration between researchers and industry or sectoral partners. It promises to invest in partnerships and on infrastructure to ensure research can thrive.

This Research Strategy builds on the University’s already significant research success – it is in the 10% of UK universities for research impact, 97% of its research has been deemed as having ‘outstanding or very considerable impacts in reach and significance’ and 80% of its research outputs have been deemed ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (Research Excellence Framework 2021).

Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew said: “Linking to The University Strategy: People, Place and Partnership; the Research Strategy seeks to unlock the University’s collective potential to deliver Sustainable Futures for All. Research and innovation remain at the heart of the strategic direction of the University, founded on the core values: Collaboration, Enhancing Potential, Inclusion and Integrity. 

“Our last research strategy from 2017-22 delivered unprecedented growth in our research and innovation performance. Building on this work and the University’s highest ever performance in the Research Excellence Framework 2021, we are excited to continue to advance our vision for research excellence.”

Professor Liam Maguire, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research added: “People are at the heart of this University, so the strategy is focused on the development of Ulster University’s research community and culture, providing a supportive environment for all our researchers and investing in the infrastructure to optimise research. 

“Co-developed with over 300 staff and post PhD researchers at Ulster University, our strategy focuses on four strategic research goals: to conduct world-class research that has a transformative impact on societies locally and globally, to develop our researchers and our research community, increasing the excellence, intensity and value of our research and impact; to develop and promote an open, diverse, supportive and sustainable research culture, promoting cooperation and collaboration between researchers and partners; and to place research and innovation at the heart of Ulster’s strategic direction, investing in partnerships and the infrastructure upon which research can thrive.”

Tim Brundle, Director of Research and Impact at Ulster University spoke of the research community of the future that the new strategy will enable: “We are committed to developing the very best and most sustainable research culture, fostering cooperation and collaboration between researchers and our partners and nurturing interdisciplinary between research groups.

“Our desired research environment will be one in which people and ideas move freely, co-creating innovation and opportunity, shortening the distance between insight and value creation in society. This approach will be essential to Ulster’s programme of City and Growth Deals, in our response to the climate crisis and to global grand challenges. 

“We are building a research and innovation environment that is open and supportive of our researchers, our partnerships and our focus on transformative impact locally and globally.”

About the five strategic research themes:

Challenging inequality and division: Ulster’s multi-disciplinary research will help shape our world for the better by informing social, economic and political thinking and decision-making to create an equal, cohesive, safe and sustainable society. One such example includes the ‘Every Voice Matters! Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland’ report from Ulster University which uncovered eye-watering levels of violence against women in NI and was commissioned by The Executive Office and launched by the Head of the Civil Service, Jayne Brady. This report was commissioned to inform an important strategy: the ‘End Violence Against Women and Girls’ strategy, which is currently out to consultation.

Building the sustainable world: The University’s research-led approach to understanding the environment will enable us to inform colleagues, communities, policy-makers and businesses on ways we can make the best use of our resources and tackle major societal challenges such as climate change, energy, food and water security; social inclusion and deprivation. We will research and develop new technologies and solutions to build the sustainable world. We’re already contributing to major Governmental projects: we are part of a consortium creating a new £21.3million national research hub to decarbonise the UK’s maritime sector, we are part of another group which is shaping eco-friendly waste management culture through design and we have just mapped, for the very first time, changes to Northern Ireland’s coastline over 190 years as a result of coastal erosion and advancement. This work will shape policy and decision making for sustainable coastal and waste management and for sectoral decarbonisation.

Accelerating data futures: Technological innovation is revolutionising the ways in which societies function at all levels with digital prediction and data insights transforming decision-making in all sectors, for example, in food, health, art & heritage, industry, energy and finance. We are already leading major AI research projects as part of a network established by the Alan Turing Institute to build and share knowledge around digital twin research, we hosted a major AI summit where we and international experts explored the future of AI for the education sector and we partner with KAINOS, hosting an AI Research Centre on our Belfast campus.

Transforming health: Ulster’s multidisciplinary researchers have a combined aim of improving lives on a global scale as well as informing major policy changes. They are making new discoveries and using new innovative materials, methods and technologies to provide cutting-edge solutions to make a real-world impact on health in the wider context of communities and society. For example, researchers are working to improve dementia diagnosis and on novel treatments for Alzheimer’s and on drug-gene testing to alleviate healthcare waiting times, through personalised medicine. There are also research projects into multiple other long-term conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, blood cancers, vision, neurodegenerative disorders and arthritis.

Inspiring creativity and innovation: The University’s creative and artistic research spans a variety of disciplines and stretches beyond time-honoured research methods, incorporating practice-based research and the digital tools which enable us to better understand and adapt to our rapidly changing environment. Studio Ulster is one such example: a large-scale virtual production campus at Belfast Harbour Studios which will host a state-of-the-art research and development facility to help drive the next generation of visual effects technologies that will revolutionise the UK’s film, TV and performing arts industries.

To find out more, visit:

Local technology consortium Smart Nano NI, formed to further the development of smart manufacturing in Northern Ireland, has today launched the largest 5G testbed in Northern Ireland in Derry-Londonderry, marking a significant step in a five-year plan to accelerate smart manufacturing in the country. 

Led by consortium partner Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, the 5G testbed is the organisation’s latest innovation activity to bolster economic growth and investment opportunity in Northern Ireland. The investment by the Smart Nano NI consortium will create a valuable, open access facility and provide expert technical support to local start-ups and businesses through the Digital Catapult Smart Nano Accelerator Programme.

The ground-breaking testbed facilities will be delivered by the global IT and business consulting services firm CGI, in partnership with Digital Catapult Northern Ireland. The cutting-edge 5G and 4G private network is a first-of-its-kind smart manufacturing and education setting in Northern Ireland, providing access to the latest network technologies including 5G and NarrowBand-Internet of Things (NB-IoT), and will be instrumental in upskilling the next generation of innovators and experts across the country. 

William Revels, Managing Director at Digital Catapult Northern Ireland, said, “This is an exciting milestone for the project as we bring access to the latest 5G technology to both industry and academia and enable businesses to take advantage of the substantial market opportunities offered by 5G. Derry-Londonderry will be the ninth 5G testbed in Digital Catapult’s nationwide network and we’ve seen the opportunities that can be opened up from providing the equipment and in turn de-risking innovation.” 

RELATED: Smart Nano NI launches Smart Manufacturing accelerator programme to empower Northern Ireland manufacturers

The development of these facilities follows CGI’s opening of a new delivery centre in Northern Ireland as part of its commitment to developing skills and talent in the region. Volkan Pakoglu, Director Consulting Services at CGI, added, “The integration of this new 5G platform will demonstrate the value of creating mobile private networks within business by taking full advantage of the power, performance, and connectivity of 5G. We are committed to working together with Smart Nano NI and its partners to support and facilitate innovation, sustainable solutions and use technology for good.” 

The smart education site at the Industry 4.0 Centre in the Northwest Regional College’s Springtown Campus, will give both students and industry access to test and explore new use cases of the 5G private network, while the manufacturing site, hosted at Seagate’s manufacturing facility, will give businesses the opportunity to test the technology in a live manufacturing setting.

Dr Fergal Tuffy, Business Support Centre Manager at North West Regional College, said, “We are delighted to have the 5G testbed installed at our Springtown Campus, adding to our automation and robotics equipment at the Industry 4.0 Centre. This exciting collaboration will allow us to support students and businesses to gain skills and knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities that these cutting-edge technologies present.”

As part of today’s announcement, Digital Catapult have also launched an open call for the latest Smart Nano Accelerator Programme, giving businesses access to the 5G testbed for the first time. The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge is inviting innovative Northern Ireland start-ups and SMEs to join the programme and submit ideas for new technology solutions to solve manufacturing challenges.

Following the completion of the programme, the participating Northern Ireland-based companies will have the opportunity to compete for a £75,000 grant from Techstart Ventures to continue to develop their business idea. Funded through Techstart’s Proof of Concept Grant Fund, this pre-commercial grant awarding fund supports entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland with grants to explore the viability and commercial potential of an innovative concept. 

Kathleen Garrett from Techstart Ventures said, “We are delighted to have partnered with Digital Catapult, Seagate and the Smart Nano NI consortium on this Manufacturing Innovation Challenge. We look forward to seeing the innovations develop through the accelerator programme and have no doubt that some exciting businesses will be formed during this process with the support & guidance of the accelerator and the £75k grant funding from ourselves.”

Jason Wiggins, Programme Manager for Smart Nano NI, added: “The combined investment in infrastructure, the Smart Nano Accelerator programme and the Techstart competition creates a supportive environment for companies to develop and test new technologies. This collaboration will deliver new business resources to Northern Ireland and will drive growth and innovation across many sectors”.

After a hugely successful year at City of Derry Airport in 2023, the Airport is starting 2024 on a high following Ryanair’s announcement that the airline will be operating a new year round service from the Gateway of the Northwest to Birmingham twice weekly from April 2024.

Steve Frazer, Managing Director at City of Derry Airport, expressed his delight on the new Birmingham service: “We are thrilled to expand our route map with Ryanair and provide a much-needed service for our local catchment area across Derry City and Strabane, the Causeway Coast and Glens, Donegal and beyond.

“A direct connection to Birmingham has been in demand for a number of years, particularly for those commuting to work, study or visit family and friends, and we are delighted that Ryanair will be taking to the skies to provide this.”

Mr. Frazer added: “As part of our long-term commitment to support and develop the Northwest economy and tourism sector, we hope this new service will help bring new inbound investment opportunities and a new tourism market from the UK midlands area into the Walled City and surrounding areas.”

This news follows the launch of new international connectivity to 119 destinations across 56 countries from City of Derry Airport via London Heathrow, with increased frequency from January 2024, the release of Travel Solutions summer holidays to Faro and Palma for 2024, the take-off of Joe Walsh Tours summer pilgrimages to Lourdes, and a sold-out Topflight school ski programme to Verona which is taking to the skies for the first time this month, marking a new era for the Airport.

The new Ryanair service between City of Derry Airport and Birmingham will commence from April 2024, and flights are available to book now via the Ryanair website.

Visit for more information.

Members of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership met at the An Grianan Hotel in Burt Co. Donegal this week for a winter plenary session to celebrate and raise awareness of the hugely important work of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, the North West Development Group and the North West Development Fund.

This high-level meeting was held between senior Government officials from both the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government and civic leaders and partners and officials from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council.

A key element of the meeting was the launch of the North West Tertiary Education Cluster’s Memorandum of Understanding, showcasing the important vision of further and higher level education provision in the North West. This unique and innovative partnership between ATU, Ulster University, the NWRC and Donegal ETB assists with the growth of third level education places across the region. It emanates from the strong cross border working relationship over the years and the excellent work done to develop each institution’s capacities to achieve their respective missions through enhanced cooperation.

Members attending the meeting received a comprehensive overview on the achievements of the North West Strategic Partnership and the positive impact it has on the North West City Region.

There also was a series of detailed discussions by panels made up of key partners and representatives. Among the topics discussed were the Territorial co-operation of the North West City Region; Infrastructure and spatial growth and how to achieve Net Zero by 2045 and the potential of green growth with the Regional Energy Agency Investment Concept.

Delegates were also given the opportunity to hear at first-hand about the joint cross border Colmcille Arts and Culture Project from Donegal County Council project officer, Deirdre Harte.

The North West Strategic Growth Partnership is a unique structure that was first established in 2016 through the North South Ministerial Council, to provide support and discussion to the North West City Region.

Jointly led by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council, and chaired by the two Mayors, the meeting is supported by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD). The Partnership is established in conjunction with and supported by The Executive Office and The Irish Government.

Jointly chairing the meeting was Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Councillor Patricia Logue, who welcomed the innovative cross border work being taken forward by all partners.

She said: “This is a significant meeting that is attended by very senior officers from government across the island of Ireland who are doing a tremendous amount of work to look at the growth needs of the region. I was very impressed with the level of work that is taking place on important issues relating to further and higher education and was delighted to welcome the Teritary Education Partnership to the meeting to hear at first-hand about their ambitious and forward thinking vision for third level education provision across the North West City Region. The signing of an updated Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their existing relationship will allow all four institutions to continue with their work in capitalising opportunities to improve third level education provision for all.”

Referring to the panel discussions, the Mayor said they highlighted the joined up approach being taken across all our partners to really develop and address the regional priorities for the growth and development across this North West City Region.

“It was also positive to hear about the achievements of the North West Strategic Partnership and about the success of the Colmcille project in creating greater awareness and appreciation of the life of St Colmcille. I was also glad to hear about the commitment to achieving Net Zero and putting green growth top of our agenda going forward.”

An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Martin Harley welcomed all participants to the meeting and highlighted the significance of this unique partnership.  He said that by working together the partners had successfully linked local and central government to work collectively to address regional growth and development.

Welcoming the signing of the updated MOU, he said: “The signing of the updated MOU formalises the existing strong working relationship between the four institutions to work together to enhance opportunities for students in research, innovation, education and training. Through this collaborative approach they can ensure the student pathway is enhanced to provide a quality further and higher education experience for all.”

He said: “It is also important that we acknowledge the achievements of these partnerships and the fund and how since 2016 we have been working collectively as a unique partnership to support the region’s commitment to growth.   I am proud of what we have achieved since this time and the leadership role we have taken to ensure there is a joined-up approach to everything that we do. It is important that we continue to focus on a collaborative cross border vision for the region in terms of spatial planning, transport connectivity, education provision and green transformation.

Extending a sincere thanks to everyone participating in the meeting, Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie said it was more important than ever that these strong links with senior government officials are retained and re-emphasised the importance of collaboration.

John G. McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council also thanked all participants saying the partnerships were hugely beneficial in further strengthening links between the two Councils, its partners and the two governments. Referencing the signing of the MOU between the education partners, he reiterated how collaboration is key to successfully develop a City Region that is thriving, sustainable and prosperous.

The newly inaugurated Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Michael Mainelli, was in Derry and Strabane last week to explore the challenges and the opportunities for advancing trade, investment and civic connections for the two cities.

The 695th Lord Mayor and his delegation were welcomed to the Guildhall by Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, who was joined by Council Chief Executive John Kelpie and senior officers to discuss priorities for the City Region.

Northern Ireland is his first visit as Lord Mayor, and Alderman Mainelli took part in a number of local engagements including a visit to Foyle College and lunch with local business leaders hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. He also took the opportunity to meet with representatives of the International Regulatory Innovation Supercluster (IRIS) including Atlantic Technological University, Catalyst, Donegal County Council, Ulster University and the Council. 

Elected annually, the Lord Mayor of the City of London is an international ambassador leading overseas business delegations to key international markets on behalf of the UK’s financial and professional services industry. He also heads up the City of London Corporation, the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City.

Derry and Strabane retains strong connections with the City of London and London Corporation, developed over recent years, with shared interests in the areas of Financial and Professional Services, technology, tourism and culture.

Welcoming the new Lord Mayor to the City, Mayor Logue said their meeting had been an opportunity to discuss building the ties that can generate growth in both our regions.

“The meeting with Ald. Mainelli was a great chance to discuss progress to date and our priorities going forwards,” she declared.

“The City of London is a global leader in the Financial and Professional Services sector. Our meeting today offered a platform to discuss some of our recent success stories, including the announcement by one of Ireland’s fastest growing fintech companies, FinTrU of plans to invest over £20m creating an additional 300 new jobs in Derry.

“As a Council we are committed to developing strong international business links, and will continue to explore opportunities for future investment and growth, building on the fantastic work that has already been done to develop our key industries, the emerging fintech cluster here, as well as shared interests in innovation, education and climate action.

During his term in office, Ald. Mainelli had pledged to promote his Theme of Connect To Prosper. This initiative is focused on harnessing the City of London’s vast knowledge ecosystem and will bring together thought leaders from the scientific, academic and business worlds to demonstrate the City’s strengths in solving global challenges.

On his visit he said he would continue to explore new avenues to collaborate with Derry and Strabane and opportunities for closer alignment between the City Region and City of London.

A senior business delegation led by US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, visited the North West in October 2023 as part of their wider Northern Ireland itinerary.

Press Eye – Belfast – Northern Ireland – 26th October 2023 Photo by Phil Magowan / Press Eye

They were hosted by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Patricia Logue to a Business Lunch at the Guildhall that was attended by over 40 delegates from the U.S., local partners and stakeholders including representatives from Ulster University, the North West Regional College, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, City Centre Initiative and the neighbouring Donegal County Council.

A significant number of globally focused local businesses and international investors who are located in the NorthWest region were also in attendance alongside Jayne Brady, Head of the Civil Service and representatives from the U.S. Department of State and Invest NI.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Patricia Logue said she was delighted to welcome the delegation to the Guildhall. She said the visit was an important occasion for the North West region to promote and sell its compelling and unique investment opportunity.

She said: “This high-profile delegation offered us an opportunity to promote the NorthWest region’s unique location as a cross border city region with access to both the EU and UK markets, with a dynamic talent and skilful population thanks to our strong university and further and higher education provision and our unique approach to developing a skilled workforce for business. We were also able to promote the flexibility of our people, our rich culture and heritage and the quality of life for people living here.

“The focus of the business lunch was for U.S. investors and local NorthWest businesses to engage in ideas and experiences and to showcase our rich tourism, culture and heritage and unique business offering. The delegation was impressed by the strong collaboration and partnership that exists between all our business sectors and the supportive environment that is available here for investors.”

The event was an opportunity for companies from a diverse range of sectors including Fintech, digital, creative, advanced manufacturing and life and health sciences to network and engage with one another.

In addition to getting an update on the region’s City and Growth Deal and wider strategic projects from Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Chief Executive, the delegation heard contributions from a range of US companies who have invested in the area such as Seagate and Allstate NI, as well as from local leading businesses like NuPrint, FAST Technologies, Alchemy and Access Elemental, before taking a tour of the Guildhall and viewing the John Hume Nobel Peace Prize and a walking tour of the historic City Walls and the Peace Bridge.

The Mayor concluded that the visit reflected the continued commitment of Special Envoy Joseph P. Kennedy III to showcasing the North West as an attractive location for US investors

The delegation arrived in Northern Ireland on October 24 for a number of days to meet local business leaders, established US investors and politicians and took time visit key tourist attractions.