A new ‘Destination Derry’ network has been developed to promote the city and county as a great place to live, work, invest and visit.

The initiative, created by homebuilder Taggart Homes, aims to showcase the real people behind the businesses and brands and to collaborate with the local business community, government agencies, industries, educators and community leaders.

The Destination Derry website includes business information and contact details, a blog section, and Live, Learn, Work and Visit sections.

It will also be promoted on social media channels to a local and international audience.

www.destinationderry.com

Local social prescribing firm Elemental has been named Best Small Tech Company of the Year at the 2020 Digital DNA Awards.

The Derry-based ‘tech for good’ company helps connect individuals, families and their carers with community-based programmes, services and interventions to make a positive impact on their lives.

Elemental Co-founders/CEOs Leeann Monk-Özgül and Jennifer Neff were also highly commended in the Founder of the Year category at the awards, which celebrate Northern Ireland’s best technology businesses and people.

This year’s awards were held online and featured more than 300 entries from over 160 companies.

“Myself, Jennifer and the entire team at Elemental are on cloud nine after winning the Digital DNA Small Tech of the Year award,” said Leeann Monk-Özgül.

“The calibre of finalists in each category of the Digital DNA awards is testament to how much the tech sector is thriving here and how much talent we have on our doorstep.”

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have announced an investment of £1.7million in a new arts and cultural project in the Derry-Londonderry Urban Village area.

The Ministers revealed plans from the Executive’s Urban Villages initiative to transform the existing New Gate Arts and Culture Centre in the Fountain estate and the adjacent vacant site into a state-of-the-art shared performance space.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The North West Cultural Partnership has used arts and creativity as a catalyst for change over the years, bringing people from different backgrounds and cultures together in shared experiences.

“The investment of £1.7m by the Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative, in a new build multi-use performance space will expand their ability and opportunity to facilitate more activities and training; while connecting with wider audiences, not only from the Urban Village area but across the City and further afield, breathing new life into this area.”

The public can view plans at https://www.planningni.gov.uk/

FinTrU has been named in this year’s Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 as the 42nd fastest-growing company across the whole of the UK. The league table features the UK’s 100 private companies with the fastest growth over the last three years.

FinTrU Founder & CEO, Darragh McCarthy, said “This is a fantastic achievement and something that all our employees should be immensely proud of. Each and every member of the team has played a crucial role in FinTrU’s success so far and this national recognition is testament to their hard work and dedication during their FinTrU careers.”

The league table ranks businesses across the whole of the UK and FinTrU is the only company from Northern Ireland featured in the list.

FinTrU Chief of Staff, Katrien Roppe, also added “We are delighted that FinTrU has received this accolade. This is not only recognition for this year but for the past number of years in FinTrU’s short history. During this time, our employees have excelled professionally and demonstrated ambition with humility, whilst our company has undergone rapid growth. We recently opened our first US premises in New York, which demonstrates our commitment to expand our global footprint.”

Despite the pandemic, FinTrU has proven to very resilient during 2020 with a growth rate of 75% driven by operational excellence. The company has secured eight new client contracts and two additional Tier 1 Investment Bank clients during this period.

About FinTrU

Founded in December 2013, FinTrU is a multi-award winning RegTech company in the Financial Services sector that is committed to giving local talent the opportunity to work on the global stage with the largest International Investment Banks. FinTrU works with Tier 1 Investment Bank clients to find solutions to help them meet with their regulations in areas such as; Legal, Risk, Compliance, KYC, Operations, Consultancy and Technology. FinTrU employs over 700 people across Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, London and New York.

A leading Magee-based Ulster University researcher will develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that could help people to communicate following serious brain injuries, thanks to a £20million government investment announced today.Professor Damien Coyle of Ulster University’s Magee campus has been awarded the prestigious Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship. The Fellowships will give 15 of the UK’s top AI researchers the resources to work with industry to bring their innovations to benefit multiple sectors.

Professor Damien Coyle who is currently Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) at Ulster University’s Magee campus, said:“Everyone’s brain is different and many factors influence brain states so brainwaves are extremely complex and change and evolve from minute to minute and day to day. This presents an excellent challenge for AI in detecting specific brains states. “The AI R&D planned for this fellowship will be thoroughly trialed not only in the lab but also with end-users of the technology – patients and clinicians who can really benefit. The AI will be deployed in wearables developed in partnership with NeuroCONCISE Ltd, an Ulster University spinout. “New AI developed for neurotechnology during the fellowship will be translated across other sectors and industry led-data analytics challenges so the fellowship will impact widely within the city and region, Northern Ireland, the UK and beyond.”

The ISRC, where Professor Coyle is based will feature in the Derry and Strabane City Deal through the Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL). Its objective is to help NI industry across a broad range of sectors from health to financial technology to become world-leading in their use of Artificial Intelligence. The ISRC is already home to the Dr George Moore Chair in Data Analytics, a world-class academic position made possible with the philanthropic support of Mrs Angela Moore. This funding injection is another endorsement of Derry – Londonderry as a place where AI and Innovation thrives.

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway said:“The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we therefore have a duty to equip the next generation of Alan Turings, like Ulster University’s Professor Damien Coyle, with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.“Northern Ireland is a hotbed for innovation and the inspiring AI project we are backing today could assist those who have experienced a serious illness or injury to communicate, transforming how they live, while cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.”


A Londonderry school has been named as the UK Secondary School of the Year at this year’s Pearson Teaching Awards.

St Cecilia’s College, an all-girls’ secondary school in Creggan, was announced as the 2020 winner on BBC’s The One Show on Friday.

The school was told they had won the prestigious national teaching award on a video call with presenter Alex Jones.

“I am so chuffed, I am so proud and I am so humbled,” principal Martine Mulhern said.

Another Northern Ireland school, Hazelwood Integrated College in north Belfast, was also shortlisted for the award and won silver.

In a tweet, Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Well done on a very deserved award St Cecilia’s.”

The Pearson Awards were founded in 1998 to celebrate excellence in UK education.

Mrs Mulhern nominated the school for the Making a Difference: Secondary School of the Year award because she thinks everyone who contributes to the school’s success deserves recognition.

Creggan is one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland, with over half the pupils in the school eligible for free school meals, which is twice the national average.

Mrs Mulhern said she did not want the past of the area, which was hit hard by the Troubles, to define the school.

“It is very, very important that we continue to march forward into the future and not allow anything or anyone to take us back to a place we don’t want to be.

“We create a pathway through our school that allows every single child – regardless of ability, regardless of socio-economic background – to achieve their absolute potential.”

Despite the challenges, the students excel academically with 97% of pupils getting A-C grades in at least five GCSE grades.

Derry City and Strabane District Council are working with Ignite NI and alongside other partners, Invest NI and Ulster University, to bring an exciting one-day virtual start-up bootcamp for founders/early stage companies specifically for this Council area.

The bootcamp is open to anyone who wants to build a successful start-up of scale.  It will be delivered through a one-day online course on Wednesday, 25th November by Ignite NI, who will bring their expertise along with the shared experiences of their NI Propel alumni companies and mentors.Through a series of workshops, Q&As and 1:1 chats, the start-up bootcamp will provide you with the building blocks of a successful start-up.By the end of the session, individuals and teams will be well on their way with a growth mindset. 

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, welcomed the bootcamp.”This has been a particularly tough period for our local business community so, as a Council, we have been working with partners to grow and support the entrepreneur ecosystem within the district, and this bootcamp is an example of that.”We want to stimulate high growth potential within our business community and give entrepreneurs a platform from which to build, and through this bootcamp those individuals and groups will be equipped with the necessary supports and tools they need to grow.”The bootcamp will also help us build a network of start-ups within Derry and Strabane which is exactly what we want to see as we move forward.”If you want to build a successful start-up of scale, whether you are a student, an academic or employed, an individual or a team; if you have an idea or concept or it is in early stage development but don’t know how to take it forward, this is for you.

Kevin O’Connor, Council’s Head of Business, added: “To build a successful start-up, you need to have the right growth mindset from the start.”Through this start-up bootcamp we want to provide the building blocks, the knowledge and the encouragement entrepreneurs need to take the right first steps.”To apply to take part in the start-up bootcamp, please visit https://airtable.com/shrNrEMYuMSU9KkMR

The application process will close on Wednesday, 18th November 2020.

The Derry and Strabane area has been ranked as the best place to work from home in Northern Ireland, and the fourth best in the UK.That is according to the Remote Working Index put together by uSwitch.com after research carried out ranking 106 of the UK’s biggest towns and cities on metrics including broadband speed, green spaces, air quality, crime rates, quality of schools, and GPs per 100,000 people.

The Derry and Strabane area ranked second overall for green spaces and low crime rates, and third for low air pollution.The result comes after Northern Ireland was voted as the happiest place in the UK to live earlier this month, according to the Lloyd’s Bank Happiness Index. Derry City and Strabane District Council’s business team have also been working to promote the area as a remote working destination for employees and businesses.When it comes to working remotely, connectivity is a hugely important factor, and Derry and Strabane has been found to have broadband which is fast and reliable. And for those who still have to travel, City of Derry Airport provides a centralised hub.With a unique combination of access to coastline and beaches, woodland, rivers and greenways Derry and Strabane provides a platform for the perfect work/life balance bringing such a positive impact on well-being.

Remote working in Derry and Strabane is also extremely attractive due to the cost of general living here making salaries go that bit further.Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said that the research showed that the district is attractive for remote working on many levels.”Working from home has become a much more significant factor in most people’s lives this year, and it’s fantastic to see that Derry and Strabane ranks as the number one spot in Northern Ireland, and within the top four throughout the whole of the UK.”Derry and Strabane ticks all the right boxes when it comes to working from home and working remotely, and that’s why we have ranked much higher than some of the largest cities in the UK, such as London (88th) and Manchester (100th).”Not only is there accessibility through strong broadband speeds, but the high scores on green spaces, low crime and air quality show that Derry and Strabane is a fantastic overall location for working and living.”

David Fleming works as a Future Trader for a large independent commodities trading firm and has recently returned from London to work remotely.”The main difference I find is the commute. In London, like many others, I cycled which would cost me an hour one way,” explained David. “Not having to take an hour out in the morning for the commute I found very beneficial as I deal a lot with markets in the Far East and the extra hour in the evening became an add on to family time.”David also explained that he was surprised at the infrastructure in place which has made connecting all over the world from his home base easy and convenient. “Broadband was the first thing I looked at and was surprised that actually the broadband speed I am getting is actually slightly better than what I was getting in London.”Phone signal hasn’t been an issue either and given that EU roaming has become significantly cheaper, crossing the border on a regular basis is not the same bank-breaking process it used to be.He continued: “Everything that I need is available, and when you factor in rent/mortgage costs at a much-reduced rate overall it has been really beneficial.”Looking forward to the future, David said remote working in Derry and Strabane could become much more of a factor.”In general, I think there has to be a balance as people need to learn, develop and share ideas which is more difficult to do remotely, and it is in the junior ranks that this would be felt most.”But losing the strict 9-5 attitude and moving towards a results-based approach which, in turn, would promote better time efficiency and a better work/life balance can only be a good thing.”

Kathryn Nicell, a commercial lead in a wound care company, and her husband Andy, who works in Talent Acquisition for a financial consultancy firm, have returned to live in Derry for the first time since Andy left in 2003. Having spent time working in Canada and the United States, they were most recently based in Edinburgh, with Andy travelling to his company’s head office in London monthly, and Kathryn doing a similar journey to Wales.17 years on from when Andy left, Kathryn said they are glad to be based in Derry which has all they need for remote working and a balanced family life.”We have considered moving here several times, but now that we have the opportunity to work remotely due to Covid-19 we decided that it would be a good time to do it as we have always had the desire to bring our daughter up here in the great schools,” said Kathryn.”Andy is happy to be back in familiar and comfortable territory but is amazed at how Derry has changed through more visible investment and growth. “When things go back closer to the old normal we plan to travel to Edinburgh, London and Cardiff when we need to. The duelling of the A6 is going to reduce my travel time significantly and the introduction of a Belfast to Cardiff route next year will also help. It is very convenient for Andy to fly from Eglinton, and his travel time to the airport would be less than it was in Edinburgh.”Kathryn also credited the green spaces, community spirit, low crime rates and affordability of living as factors in the family’s decision to work remotely from Derry and to plan their future here.”Since moving here in September this year we have enjoyed local walks in many of the parks and green spaces – we are spoilt for choice with outside space. We have enjoyed being within ten minutes out of the city centre as in Scotland we were 40 minutes from the city,” explained Kathryn.”We feel blessed to be able to bring up our daughter somewhere we feel very safe. Derry is also the most family friendly place that we have lived and is what we were in the pursuit of as we moved around to different countries.  We are happy to be surrounded by happy and welcoming people who are focused on the community and family.Kathryn continued: “We are lucky that we can work anywhere (close to airport links) and are confident that Derry was the best choice for us. We considered other parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland and were seeking greater affordability and quality of life.”There was nowhere that we looked at where we could get affordable property that met all of our needs, including home office space, had great schools within walking distance and had the transport links should we start to travel again. We feel that we have found our home for life if we are able to continue to work remotely.”

To view Uswitch’s Remote Working Index, visit https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/remote-working-index/

After a career in finance at Bank of Ireland and Deutsche Bank in Belfast and Dublin, Moville-born Louise McElvaney returned to the North West with her husband Paul in 2004. Soon after, the e-learning company Learning Pool was founded at their kitchen table. Louise looked after the new venture’s HR while holding down a day job with mortgage administration company HML, before formally joining Learning Pool eight years ago. As Director of People and Performance, she’s seen the company grow to more than 200 staff in six offices in the UK and USA, including Derry-Londonderry’s Old City Factory. Learning Pool has also been listed in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For in the UK.

As the Covid-19 pandemic loomed, Learning Pool closed all its offices and switched to remote working, and is continuing to recruit new employees and hold virtual events for customers. To create an element of fun while working remotely, the company has held arts and craft competitions for the children of employees, weekly quizzes and virtual coffee breaks.


Louise McElvaney, Learning Pool’s Director of People and Performance

Why did you decide to return to Derry?

Paul and I were living in Dublin, both travelling with work and doing really interesting roles, but we chose to move back to Derry and have a family. We had lots of friends in Dublin, but our support network and family were here. Now, I can be in work in 20 minutes whereas in Dublin it’s an hour each way, each day. It was 7am starts and home at 7pm or 8pm. I didn’t want to do that with family life, but I didn’t want to compromise my career either. 

Has Covid-19 affected Learning Pool’s long-term plans?

We see COVID as more of a short to medium-term thing. Long-term we were seeing a real shift toward online learning in most workplaces and if anything, COVID has accelerated this dramatically. Longer term it seems clear that workplaces will be very different to what we’ve been used to and this should play to our strengths as a provider of online services.

Have you learnt any lessons from the past seven months?

I think all successful businesses going forward will demand effective leadership who can create agile cultures. We need leaders to not just be responding to needs as they arise but looking further out. They will need to provide support, role model empathy, compassion and inclusive leadership. We need to help our team adopt resilient mindsets and navigate uncertainty in a way that they haven’t had to before. We are seeing a huge intersection between home life and work lives and we really need to adjust to lead our teams through this. Compassion and empathy should be key attributes to any good leader. The most basic start to this will be developing robust flexible working policies and enabling our teams to be their best. Embedding this in our cultures as the new norm.

What qualities do you look for when recruiting Learning Pool staff?

We have three core values that we embed across the team: let’s build to grow, do the right thing, and we’ve got your back. It works for our team – we promise we’ve got your back, we’re building sustainable careers, and we’ll always do the right thing – and our customers too, in the products and services that we’re providing. We are looking for someone who’s curious and excited about being part of that engaged Learning Pool team. We’re serious about developing peoples’ careers because we know people are our best assets. If you look after your people, the rest will follow. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of relocating to Derry and Strabane, or investing here?

I would say go for it. It’s a wonderful place to work. You’ve got all the beaches, it’s so friendly and there’s so much to do in the city these days – entertainment, restaurants, hotels. There are great schools and universities locally and in surrounding areas. Rush hour in Derry is 10 minutes. And there’s a serious pool of talent and opportunities. The more companies that come here and create sustainable jobs, the more talent we’re going to attract. There’s also a great support network; I find businesses here really do pull together and the Chamber of Commerce do a great job of providing training for businesses. There’s also the opportunity with the City Deal coming on board and the new medical school. 

What next for Learning Pool? 

We’re continuing to develop our product set and have developed an entirely new product function. We’ve also acquired a team in Boston. So, while we’ll continue to sell into the UK and European market, we’re also looking at the North American market. There’s huge opportunity there. We have 50 new roles across our six sites that we’ll hire in the next 12 months. We’re really excited about those creative minds that will come into the team and help shape the direction.

Date: 23 Sep 2020. A world-class Visitor Information Centre has officially opened in the heart of Derry-Londonderry.

Derry City and Strabane District Council Mayor, Brian Tierney who officially opened Derry’s new state-of-the-art Visitor Information Centre at Waterloo Place, pictured with, Dave Vincent, Tourism NI, Colin Greer DFC, Catherine Crawley, centre manager and Odhran Dunne, Chief Executive, Visit Derry. The new centre, located in the heart of the city centre and adjacent to the historic City Walls, will be the new hub for tourists to the city and area looking for advice and information on the top attractions to visit and what events are happening across the city and district. Picture Martin McKeown. 23.09.20

Today marked the opening of Derry’s new state-of-the-art Visitor Information Centre at Waterloo Place. The new centre, located in the heart of the city centre and adjacent to the historic City Walls, will be the new hub for tourists to the city and area, looking for advice and information on the top attractions to visit and what events are happening across the city and district.

The refurbishment works commenced in December of last year following the decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to relocate the Visit Derry Information Centre from Foyle Street into the city centre. Thanks to funding from Council, the Department for Communities, the Department for Economy and Tourism NI, work commenced on the project to put in place a world-class tourist facility for the city and region.

Welcoming the completion of the works and the opening of the new facility, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney said the opening of the new visitor information office was a significant milestone for Derry and the wider region.

He said: “This is a fantastic facility and I am hugely impressed with the work that has been done to create this world-class centre in the heart of our city. This is a very important tourism capital project for Council and all our partners. We believe that it will greatly benefit our tourism business and domestic and overseas visitors and allow us to showcase and promote our tourism product in a much more animated way to a wider audience.

“This facility will enhance the entire Waterloo Place area of the city and bring new life and activity into a key retail area in the city centre. We believe this location, right in the heart of the city centre and adjacent to the historic city walls, will be popular with tourists as Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place is a central hub for visitors to the city and that it will also greatly help retailers and local businesses in that area of the city centre.”

The Chief Executive of Tourism NI, John McGrillen commented; “This is a significant project for tourism in Derry~Londonderry and we are delighted to support it. The new visitor centre will provide an interactive experience with enhanced digital offering and combined with the new central location, this will allow visitors to easily access information on everything the city has to offer. This new interactive visitor centre also compliments Tourism NI’s new experience brand, Embrace a Giant Spirit and sends a clear message to the people here that they should stay home, support local and explore what is on our doorstep.”

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “I am delighted that my Department has been able to support this project to relocate the Visit Derry Visitor Information Centre to a more central location.  The new state of the art facility offers a unique and inspirational visitor experience in an attractive and accessible setting and will provide a much needed boost to the city’s tourism offering.  This investment is timely as we work to support the economic recovery of our town and city centres from the impacts of Covid-19The completion of this project will breathe much needed new life into the city centre at a difficult time for traders.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “Northern Ireland is world-renowned for its tourism and hospitality offering and this new centre showcases the many visitor attractions here in Londonderry and the surrounding areas. With so many people staycationing this year, I hope as many people as possible will use the new centre to find out something about their local area, and take advantage of the many wonderful tourism experiences and visitor destinations right on their doorstep.”

Since 2016 Visit Derry has been operating its marketing and administrative functions from the Waterloo Place building. As part of the relocation, the remaining front of house tourist staff will relocate from Foyle Street to the newly refurbished Waterloo Place location.

Funding for the project has been provided by Tourism NI, the Department for Communities, the Department for the Economy and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Construction work commenced in December 2019 and was suspended temporarily as a result of COVID-19 but recommenced in recent weeks to facilitate the official opening.