£42.4 m has been awarded to Smart Nano NI – a Northern Ireland nano technology consortium to develop new technology for medical devices, communication and data storage. 

 The funding, which has been awarded by the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund presents a game-changing opportunity for Northern Ireland’s nano technology and manufacturing sector and launches the necessary support to scale up capacity in device manufacturing, underpin and develop hundreds of jobs across the sector. The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources is £63.9m.  

   Smart Nano NI is led by data company Seagate Technology in collaboration with Analytics Engines, Causeway Sensors, Cirdan Imaging, Digital Catapult NI, North West Regional College, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and Yelo (the “Consortium”). The eight partners form a corridor of expertise from Derry~Londonderry to Belfast.  

  The funding award was made after a highly competitive process with projects from across the UK. It will further consolidate Northern Ireland’s position as a global leader for excellence in the field of nano technologies as well as delivering a significant and lasting impact on our local economy.  

  This is a once in a generation opportunity for Northern Ireland. The Consortium will accelerate the work of developing transformative advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods. This will allow for the delivery of new technologies as researchers and industry partners work together to develop new sensors for healthcare and optical communications leveraging the vast wealth of Northern Ireland’s research and industry knowledge. The Consortium will build capacity and new prototypes in the spheres of medical devices, communication, and data storage.   

  Northern Ireland has a unique cluster of expertise in this globally expanding field. The collaboration between all the members located along the Derry Londonderry / Belfast corridor will enable the establishment of a Centre of Excellence. This will enable advances in the Life and Health Sciences as well as exploiting the potential of photonics and nanotech in other high-growth sectors through knowledge transfer.  

  Smart Nano NI’s Dr Mark Gubbins said: “We are delighted and honoured to secure this investment which will deliver significant benefits for the economic growth of the region and the “corridor” of businesses from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry ensuring a levelling up of shared opportunities. We can now advance Northern Ireland’s niche capability around smart nano manufacturing and world-leading knowledge in photonics to create a self-sustaining local industry. It allows us to capitalise on the combined expertise of our companies and the availability of trained researchers and resources across our academic institutions”.   

  Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I wish to congratulate and acknowledge the outstanding team behind this achievement. Securing this funding through UKRI Strength in Places is a major boost for our economy and our post Covid recovery journey and is a testament to the power of collaboration and the calibre of Northern Ireland companies. It will create new commercial opportunities, will drive economic growth and help tackle productivity challenges, and invigorate our manufacturing sector.” 

Further Information: media@smartnanoni.com or maria@mccannpr.com or mobile 07802934246 or 02890 666322 

Invest Derry City & Strabane has recently launched the Work Life Balanced campaign in association with Version 1, aimed at promoting the North West as a premium remote working destination for businesses while attracting highly skilled talent to the local area.  
A region boasting vibrant culture, stunning coastlines, immaculate rural scenery, and a growing and dynamic economy, the North West provi​des the ultimate work life balance in a new remote working era. A fantastic place to live, the area has everything needed to pursue an exciting career while also focusing on raising a family.
  The list of benefits to remote working is extensive, and arguably the most valuable to be gained of these is time. With commutes no longer needed, an increase in flexibility allows more time to be spent with family, but it also provides an opportunity to increase productivity.  
IT services company Version 1, which employs over 1,500 staff across the world, has already committed to bringing new roles to Derry-Londonderry and the wider North West. The jobs on offer include traditional Software Development, Business Analysts and QA Consultants through to more senior roles in Cloud Computing, Data Science and Delivery Practice Leads.   Alderman Graham Warke, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “It is fantastic to see Version 1 bringing these opportunities to the North West, which we already know is an area full of potential and talented individuals.   “The COVID-19 pandemic proved that highly skilled jobs do not need to be in one fixed city, with so many successfully carrying out their work from home. If more companies decide to follow in Version 1’s footsteps, we will be in a position to keep more of our talent pool here while also creating an attractive location for others to live and work in the North West.”   The company has also been named a ‘Great Place to Work’ in both the UK and Ireland, ranking 16th in the UK last year and 9th in Ireland.   Scott Mitchell, Delivery Manager at Version 1, said: “Having started working for Version 1 in Belfast over three years ago, my family and I decided to move back to Derry during lockdown. The company fully supported this decision and provided project work and equipment to make the move as straightforward as possible.   “The work life balance is fantastic. I can spend time with the kids, walk the dogs, and find time to relax, all while doing my job to the best of my ability in a comfortable environment. It’s fantastic to see Version 1 giving many more talented people in the North West the opportunity to secure highly skilled work while remaining at home.”   Rosalind Young, Investment Manager, Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “The Derry and Strabane area is a first-class place to work remotely for a number of reasons, including the exceptional broadband on offer. Additionally, salaries go that bit further thanks to the general cost of living, and the ease of access to green spaces contributes positively to our wellbeing.   “The city region is experiencing exciting developments in recent times. We are witnessing a huge growth in ICT and FinTech, which is a vote of confidence in the talent of our local workforce and our capabilities.   “There are lots of opportunities for a fantastic career here, so hopefully we see a substantial number of talented individuals electing to fulfil their professional ambitions in the North West.”   For more information on the Version 1 roles available in the North West and to apply, visit the Invest DS jobs portal on the website at www.investderrystrabane.com/worklife For more information on support available to companies to locate here contact investment@derrystrabane.com

Serena Terry, Mammy Banter

Serena Terry has more than a decade’s marketing experience with local companies including Learning Pool and social prescribing business Elemental, where she was appointed COO in 2019. But to over half a million TikTok fans, and more than 100,000 Instagram followers, the Derry woman is better known as her honest and funny alter ego, Mammy Banter. In May, Serena launched her own agency, Catchy Co, specialising in social media marketing, training and content production.

Congratulations on the launch of Catchy Co! Why did you decide to set it up?

I always wanted to do it, but what I found scary was that there are so many marketing agencies who can back up their work with testimonials and case studies from previous customers. Yes, I’ve got companies I worked for as an employee for 15 years, but as an agency I didn’t have the testimonials yet, so I decided to keep building up Mammy Banter.

For me, I think my credibility is that I practise what I preach. The proof is in the pudding. Every single one of my customers this month is from Mammy Banter. I did my first Instagram masterclass last week and was able to use her as a case study, talking clients through what I’ve done and the different demographics I focus on, as well as looking at the future of digital marketing in general.

How daunting was it to leave full-time employment and go it alone?

It was really hard. I was in a well-paying job, we have two kids, a mortgage. But lockdown was the turning point for me; I needed more flexibility and I needed a new challenge. Lockdown also taught me I was able to be productive working from home, so that myth was dispelled. And the more Mammy Banter was going up and up in engagement and followers, it gave me a bit more security to think, there’s bound to be at least five people in every 100,000 followers on Instagram that owns a company or knows a business that is struggling with social media.

I just said, ‘I’m going to do it. If I don’t do it, I’ll never know’. So I did my business plan, I looked at what I needed to earn, and I got a good accountant. It wasn’t about wanting to be rich. I just wanted to pay myself a salary, maybe work less hours and enjoy making more people laugh with Mammy Banter, but also have the flexibility to go and collect my son from school, for instance, and be able to close the laptop. I can dictate my hours, I can dictate how many campaigns or customers I take on, that is definitely one of the perks of being out on your own.

How has it been going so far?

What’s crazy about Catchy Co is I’m so busy at the minute and I haven’t even done any marketing for myself yet. I’ve got some bigger businesses I’m doing campaigns for, and then smaller businesses and lifestyle bloggers, who can sign up for a 1.5-hour course with a resources pack. Longer-term, I’d like to continue supporting all size of businesses, and really get my name out there as a growth consultant that can come into start-ups, scale-ups, or corporate organisations, become an extension of their team and help them with growth via digital marketing campaigns.

Do people expect you to be like Mammy Banter in real life?

Mammy Banter is my Sasha Fierce, my alter ego. I was worried at the start that people might be joining the course expecting a comedy session with Mammy Banter. But I got a couple of testimonials yesterday from people saying they have put into practise over the weekend what we went through in the session, and the resources I sent out, and their engagement rates have already shot up. 

Your Mammy Banter videos have racked up 14.5m likes on TikTok. Why has she resonated with so many people?

I think it’s the honesty of it. I hated Facebook and the whole fake world of Instagram picture-perfect mums and the Photoshopping and the ‘look, we’re rich’. TikTok was a platform for me where I thought, people are honest here, warts and all. That’s the kind of social media you want. You don’t want to go on and go, ‘Oh my god she’s a perfect parent, she’s sailing through lockdown, she looks great, she’s not putting on any weight!’ We want relatable, down-to-earth humour. Branding-wise, I’m going to be launching a merchandise range with T-shirts and hoodies and sweaters that go up to 5XL, again just to get that message across that the Mammy Banter brand is inclusive of everyone.

What do your children think of your new found fame?

My five-year-old isn’t really aware of it yet. My 12-year-old daughter only followed me last week when I got verified on TikTok and then unfollowed me the day after. She loves it when her friends talk about Mammy Banter and I’m sure she laughs with them when they’re talking about it, but then face-to-face she’s like, ‘Ugh, I just don’t think you’re funny’. The day she finds me funny my comedy career’s over, there’s something wrong!

How have you found the North West as a place to live, work and invest?

I joined both Elemental and Learning Pool at the start-up stage, so I was privy first hand to the opportunities and the challenges to scaling and growth in the city. And just seeing how many tech companies have scaled in Derry alone and are now providing services worldwide is great. Patrick St has become a complete software as a service hub. You can see those companies are constantly recruiting, and we’re seeing more start-ups come into the tech space too. Community-wise, I absolutely love Derry, I’ve always been a complete homebird. I’m looking forward to when the Clipper returns next year and we start to get more events back, and growth for Digital Derry. It’s exciting.

What would you say to someone thinking of returning to Derry or Strabane?

There’s huge growth and scale locally with tech firms if that’s something you currently work in, and room for you to grow within them. If you want to bite the bullet and start up on your own business, the pandemic has changed the rules around needing to be in a certain office and in a certain town. I’m sitting at my kitchen table and my clients are in America and all over the world, right now. Just go for it, is my advice!

Find out more about Catchy Co at catchyco.com and follow @mammybanter on TikTok and Instagram.

A local American Football club is preparing to battle it out against three Northern Irish teams in a hotly-anticipated tournament.

The Donegal Derry Vipers will take on the Antrim Jets, Causeway Giants and NI Razorbacks to compete for the Donaghy Group Invitational Cup this summer.

The action will take place over four days in July and August, with the final played on August 15 at Prehen Playing Pitches.

Vipers member Paul O’Donnell urged spectators to get out and support the North West cross-border team, which has bases in Derry, Limavady, Greysteel and Letterkenny.


Vipers member Paul O’Donnell

Founded in 2014, the team was promoted to IAFA1 (Irish American Football Association) in 2017 and has a large roster of members, including a player from Alabama, and a coach from Chicago.

The Vipers are also currently recruiting for their youth squad, which will welcome 15 to 17-year-olds, male and female, with no previous experience required.

A new YouTube channel has been launched to help young people whose education and career prospects have been affected by the pandemic.

North West Regional College students joined forces with Enterprise North West and Startacus to create Week Gen-C, to inform people about the skills and tools they will need within the post-Covid economy, and the opportunities that already exist.

The channel, funded through the David Cross Young People’s Fund, features panel discussions and interviews with businesses including Learning Pool, Alchemy Technology, FinTrU, Hypixel Studios, UV Arts, Storefront and Ferry Clever, as well as support organisations such as Young Enterprise NI, Extern, NWRC Careers Academy, Derry Credit Union, careers and employment services and mental health charity AWARE.

Brian O’Neill, Director of Development and Enterprise, Enterprise North West, commented:

“The overall Week Gen-C project has exceeded our expectations and this has been mainly achieved through the hard work and creativity of the steering group of young people involved in the series of events right from the beginning. These events have been designed, produced and delivered by young people and have taken into account the negative impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on young people’s prospects. We firmly believe that these series of events could be upscaled or replicated across NI to inspire other young people”

Alastair Cameron, Co-founder of Startacus, added:

“We’ve all been affected by the pandemic, but it has been even more challenging for our young people so it’s vital that we all do our bit to help them to look forward and to inspire and encourage them to reach their true potential. We’ve been delighted to partner with Enterprise North West on the Week Gen-C project and we have been hugely impressed by the creativity, commitment and dedication shown by the students from NWRC in bringing the entire project to fruition”.

The Week Gen-C recording are available to view on the Week Gen-C YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqLRGRr1jo5LF56hDH6tN0Q )

Ulster University has landed a place in the top 50 universities for the first time in the Complete University Guide (CUG) 2022 League Table’s 15-year history.

After a third successive rise in these rankings, the university has risen 16 places from 60th (2021) to 44th (2022) out of 130 UK universities. This is the highest rank the University has achieved in the Guide’s 15-year history.

In allocated scores, Ulster University was ranked 13th for research intensity with a huge 84% and 73% for research quality.

Ulster University was given special recognition from CUG for a significant upward shift in the top 50 – climbing 16 places into 44th position. Along with one other UK university, Ulster University has achieved the biggest leap among those now ranked in the top 50, in this year’s league tables.

Professor Paul Seawright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Ulster University commented: “The University’s significant uplift in these rankings reflects our continuous focus on the quality and impact of our teaching and research, across our unique campuses. The significant investment in the landmark Belfast campus, due to open from September, which will provide a progressive student experience in a state-of-the art city centre campus; the establishment of the School of Medicine at Magee which will produce 70 doctors per year to address sectoral workforce challenges; and over recent years the University has invested £27 million in facilities on Coleraine Campus including a £5m sports centre and a £6.5m media centre.

Ulster University – Magee campus. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Two future doctors at the new School of Medicine at Magee will have their degree costs covered by a construction and property development company.

Heron Bros has pledged to provide two local students with full scholarships for the entirety of their four-year degree programme at the school, which is due to open in August.

NI students applying for the Graduate Entry Medicine programme are eligible to apply for the scholarships where they meet widening access and participation criteria. Applications will open on 5th July and close two weeks later, on 16th July, for students starting the Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery programme this August.

Mr Damien O’Callaghan, Group Managing Director for Heron Bros Ltd said:

“Heron Bros are honoured to partner with Ulster University’s School of Medicine at the Magee Campus. In funding Scholarships to students, Heron Bros will build a better future for the local community, support upskilling of local talented people and provide health benefits for all of us. Heron Bros have been involved in various health, education and third sector education construction projects over the years and the Scholarships truly showcases our business values of passion, forward-thinking and relationships. As we progress from the Covid pandemic Heron Bros Medicine Scholarships will support our future Medicine Students provide a vital and enduring service in our community.”

The Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor Louise Dubras, has welcomed the scholarship announcement for prospective students:

“Ulster University and Heron Bros have enjoyed a longstanding partnership which has seen many of our students work with the team on a variety of Apprenticeship, Placement and Graduate programmes, enriching their learning experience and increasing employability. We are very proud to continue to strengthen this partnership through this scholarship announcement and we are delighted that Heron Bros will support two of our students through the brand new Graduate Entry Medicine programme, starting in August 2021.”

Louise added: “This presents opportunities for those who may face barriers to developing their vocation for a career in medicine – thanks to these scholarships they can now access and achieve the qualifications needed to become a doctor, joining the ambitious, capable healthcare hub here in the North West in four years’ time.”

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has appeared alongside international politicians, academics and writers at a virtual conference broadcast from Ulster University’s Magee Campus.

The ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ discussion took place earlier this month at the American Conference for Irish Studies 2021, which also featured contributions from US Congressman Brendan Boyle the UK and Irish Ambassadors to the US, filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick and local journalist Susan McKay.

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Irish language scholar and Provost of the Ulster University Magee campus said: “Ulster University is delighted to host the ACIS 2021 conference and to welcome academics from 110 different institutions across the world to this global conversation. In partnership with Derry and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council’s Colmcille 1500 initiative, this event is the academic highlight of the year-long commemoration of Colm Cille (Saint Columba), patron of the city of Derry and the wider North West and one of the most significant figures in early European Christianity. The overarching conference themes of ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ act as a pathway for these times. Time for reflection, sense-making and collective restoration and healing is needed more than ever as we emerge from our homes after the challenging period during COVID-19.

City and region leaders got behind the international conference. Sportswear brand O’Neills designed a commemorative jersey featuring a beautiful digital artwork of Magee College by Carla Fulton, artist and recent Ulster University. Gavin Killeen and colleagues at NuPrint Technologies produced conference postcards to complement the O’Neills jerseys. Also, Visit Derry worked with Ulster University to bring this multi-faceted event online for the people of Derry.

A series of Fireside Conversations and speeches are still available to watch online.

Musicians with a link to Ulster University have been invited to submit their music to a new record label, with a debut release due this autumn.

Outworker Recordings will showcase original music created by students past and present and staff of the university, which has 200,000 alumni in 148 countries worldwide, 25,000 current students and 2,500 employees.

Inspired by Derry’s rich heritage of textile making ‘Outworker’ was a name given to people throughout the region who, in the 19th and early 20th century, made shirts in their own homes to help the thriving Derry shirt factories meet escalating demand. These Outworkers were the remote workers of their time.

Leah Bell, 3rd year Music student from Cookstown said: “As a young composer of music which doesn’t fall into the pop category, it’s really refreshing that my university is providing musicians with this opportunity to experiment and to showcase their music. I am excited to get involved. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.”

Dr Rob Casey, Lecturer in Music, at the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Ulster University’s Magee campus said: “We are delighted to launch Outworker Recordings. We want to help build an edgy innovative music scene and to support musicians to be inventive, to push boundaries. We are excited about the contribution this new music label will make to musicians lives and the rich creative life of Northern Ireland today.”

To be part of the first release that will launch the label, composers and musicians can submit a high-quality recording for consideration before 5pm on Friday 16 July. Find out more here.

Ready for an al fresco meal or some drinks in a sun-soaked beer garden this summer? Local business platform Independent Derry has compiled this handy list of their favourite bars and eateries with outdoor spaces. Cheers to that!

https://www.independentderry.co.uk/post/derryoutdoordining