PwC is opening a space at Ulster University’s Magee Campus in Derry/Londonderry as part of its investment in innovation in Northern Ireland.

The space will house research and development for its £40m Advanced Research and Engineering Centre (ARC), which launched last year in conjunction with Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast, with support from Invest Northern Ireland. 

Through its alliances with government and academia, ARC’s innovation ecosystem is looking to build solutions to complex business problems into the next decade and beyond. This latest collaboration will see Ulster University students and researchers, at the Jordanstown and Magee campuses, work alongside Operate staff.

The new space will be used primarily as a base for ARC staff based in the North West of the country as PwC Operate ramps up recruitment from beyond its Belfast base. PwC Operate will start with four people at Ulster University’s Magee campus, but is looking to establish a larger team as ARC builds out its capabilities. 

Ian McConnell, PwC Operate Lead Partner, commented: “We’re delighted to be establishing a presence in the northwest. ARC’s vision includes university postgraduates working on research projects that feed into the software engineering function of ARC, as we develop solutions to our clients’ problems. ARC will continue to be based in our Merchant Square HQ in Belfast, but we’re keen to recruit from as wide a talent pool as possible. To be able to offer opportunities to people across the country is something very close to my heart and I believe fundamental to the success of this initiative.”

Jim Harkin, Head of the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems from Ulster University also added: “It is positive for the Derry and Strabane City and District that PwC’s Operate will open an office at Ulster University’s Magee campus. The new office located on the Magee campus reflects the growing interest in doing business in Derry/Londonderry because of the easy access to talented people and innovative research from the Intelligent Systems Research Centre. As we develop research centres for robotics, AI and personalised medicine in the years to come as part of the Derry & Strabane City Deal, we will see more and more companies growing their presence in the North West and creating high-tech jobs.” 

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, this week met with the UK Ambassador for Sweden, HE Mikaela Kumlin Granit during a special visit to the city.The meeting, which was arranged in partnership with the NI Executive Office, was part of a wider visit by the Ambassador to the region.During her visit to the city she met with the Mayor and senior Council representatives to get an overview of the exciting City Deal plans before meeting with the wider City Deal partners and business leaders to discuss a range of issues including City Deal, international students, business and trading issues and the NI protocol.Speaking following the meeting, Mayor Warke said it was a huge honour to welcome the Ambassador for Sweden to the city and give her an insight to some of the exciting plans being developed for the city and district.He said: “It was a huge honour to welcome the Ambassador to the Guildhall so she could hear at first hand the excellent work we are doing to invest and promote our region and also to give her an insight into some of the challenges we face. 

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, with Swedish Ambassador Mikaela Kumlin Granit at a reception in the Guildhall. Photography Lorcan Doherty

She was very interested in hearing about our City Deal investment in research and innovation and how it will really drive and transform our regional economy. The visit was an excellent opportunity for us to promote the work we are doing in termsThis is the second visit by the Swedish Embassy Team to the Derry City and Strabane City Region, where they have met with city stakeholders to learn more about the city region deal and the challenges and opportunities regarding BREXIT and the NI Protocol. The Mayor previously met with Mr. Magnus Stuxberg (Deputy Head of Mission Political and European Affairs) and Mrs Åsa Theander from the Swedish Embassy Team in June 2021. 

The Stormont Executive has announced £15m worth of investment for a new 152-bed hotel in the Ebrington area of Londonderry.

The work will involve the refurbishment of the clocktower and five buildings in the former military base.

The first and deputy first ministers visited the development on Thursday to confirm the plans.

About £7m is coming from the executive office’s investment fund and almost £2m from Invest NI.

First Minister Paul Givan said it was “another step forward” for Ebrington and for the city.

“It continues to grow as a vibrant, modern city which is looking to the future with confidence – and there is a real sense of that optimism here today,” he said.

Mr Givan paid tribute to those involved in the redevelopment of the 29-acre site at Ebrington, which had been a military barracks until 2003.

Ebrington’s development is widely regarded as a key to Derry and the region’s wider economic growth.

“As today’s ideas become tomorrow’s opportunities, I will be watching with interest as potential turns into reality for Londonderry,” he said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the start of work on the hotel “is a milestone day for Derry”.

“Together with the Grade A office space due to be completed soon, this new hotel will bring a renewed sense of vibrancy and a real boost to the regional economy,” she said.

“I offer my congratulations to the developers and all who have played a part in getting us to this point,” Ms O’Neill added.

Plans for the hotel were unveiled in 2017 and granted planning permission by Derry City and Strabane District Council the following year.

Ebrington is the largest regeneration site in Derry.

A former naval base that opened in 1841, it was known as HMS Sea Eagle during World War Two and was an important part of the North Atlantic Command.

Work is expected to be completed on the four-star hotel in the summer of 2023.

Plans have been submitted for the new high-tech Alpha Innovation Centre in Letterkenny.

The enterprise campus, which is estimated to cost €20m, is set to be built in the heart of the town on the former ESB premises on Pearse Road.

The development will include a seven-storey building of approx 1,625sq.m (17,500sq.ft) and office and research & development facilities – providing space and opportunities for new and existing businesses to work and network.

The campus will also incorporate a central civic space; pedestrian, cycle, accessibility and moblity infrastructure; landscaping; disabled and age friendly courtesy parking and emergency/service vehicle entry and egress.

The €6m Alpha Innovation Centre has secured €3.6m co-funding from Enterprise Ireland, and the €14m Beta
Business Centre, is being developed in partnership with Catalyst NI.

The project is being led by Donegal County Council in partnership with the Donegal 2040 Strategic Development Designated Activity Company (DAC). It is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland under the Border Enterprise Development Fund and will be delivered in collaboration with the key economic development agencies including, IDA and Donegal LEO along with Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Donegal ETB, Donegal Digital and ERNACT.

The centre is set to provide a bespoke pre-accelerator for early idea entrepreneurs as well as an extensive programme of wrap-around supports for businesses. The Alpha Innovation Centre will build on the latent potential of the emerging tech start-up scene in the Northwest, contributing to the region’s reputation as a great location to invest and do business.

The Derry City and Strabane District City Region has been ranked second in the FDI European Cities of the Future 2022 category in a study carried out by the FDI Intelligence Division of the Financial Times.

Welcoming the accolade, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke said the high ranking in this significantly prestigious and influential study was hugely positive for the City and District as Council as well as its wider delivery partners as they continue to work to set in motion the next stages of delivery of the City Deal and a wide range of major investment and regeneration plans to transform the City Region.

The ranking comes less than a year after the City and District was ranked first in the FDI Global Cities of the Future Category in a report carried out by the FDI, competing against major cities across the globe.

The data collated for this latest report is collected by the FDI intelligence division of the Financial Times using specialist online tools, FDI markets and benchmarks. Data was collected for 553 locations (367 cities, 148 regions and 38 LEPs), under five categories: Economic Potential, Human Capital and Lifestyle, Cost Effectiveness, Connectivity and Business Friendliness. Locations scored up to a maximum of 10 points for each data point, which were weighted by importance to the FDI decision making process to compile the subcategory rankings as well as the overall ‘European Cities and Regions of the Future 2022/23’ ranking. In addition, surveys were collected under a sixth category, FDI Strategy, for which there were 161 submissions. In this category, locations submitted details about their strategy for promoting FDI, which was then scored by fDi’s judging panel.

The Derry City and Strabane District City Region ranked second in the European Cities of the Future Category, tipped only by Doncaster and Sheffield City Region and overseeing competition from other European cities such as Cork, Middlesbrough and Lublin.

As part of the evaluation process, judges assessing the application took account the area’s economic potential, cost effectiveness, connectivity, human capital and lifestyle and business friendliness, as part of their assessment.

Mayor Alderman Warke said this ranking was hugely significant and puts the city and district on a positive footing as it progresses to the next stages of delivering the exciting and innovative City Deal projects. He said the ranking put the city and region on the map in terms of gaining recognition from world leading investors and helps increase the city and region’s visibility across the Financial Times Group global readership and audience, which in turn will encourage further funding and investment.

He said: “Securing this top ranking in this category is hugely positive for us and reflective of the huge amount of proactive work that has been done over the past number of years to actively promote and develop the opportunities in Life and Health Sciences, in digital technologies and in the application of research in artificial intelligence and machine learning across our City and District. Key to this is that all these areas of focus and investment continue through City Deal projects. Our prime focus will be to develop opportunities for the development and promotion of the compelling proposition that is our city and region and the wider North West.”

Kevin O’Connor Head of Business with Derry City and Strabane District Council who was involved in the bid for the award, said the panel in their feedback acknowledged the strong cross border collaboration and mobile talent available in the region and the city and district’s innovative approach to developing talent in high demand sectors. He said the region’s large international diaspora with its strong international business network was also recognised, while the use of historic connections to the city of London and using it to focus on attracting UK based companies who want closer dual market access to the EU and UK was also acknowledged.

He said: “This is a very significant coup for us and comes at a very exciting time in our City Deal journey and as we are recovering from the COVID pandemic and working proactively to promote investment opportunities across our diaspora network, highlighting our increased quality of lower cost of living and increased work life balance to those interested in returning to live and work here. Combined with being recognised by USwitch.com as the top location in NI for remote working in the UK Top 5, along with being one of the top locations in the UK for Full Fibre Network connectivity, we are ideally placed for remote working.  We are also the only City region located where the UK and EU meet, and is a great place to live, visit, study or to do business in.”

For more info on the report visit https://www.fdiintelligence.com/article/80707

Are you returning to the North West for Christmas? A new campaign is encouraging local diaspora to consider moving home for good.

Job opportunities, career progression, quality of life and the benefits of the £250m City Deal are among the key draws highlighted by the ‘Come Home to Us’ campaign, spearheaded by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Investment team.

It features testimonials from local people who have returned to live, work and invest in the region after working abroad, plus information about the range and quality of jobs available, from attractive entry level roles to senior executive positions.

A range of ‘Work Life Balanced’ promotional videos, social media and digital advertising will be released over the festive period to support people who want to move home and build a life in the North West – whether it’s setting up their own business, finding a great job, working remotely, or availing of the excellent schools and natural beauty on our doorstep.

The campaign will also showcase the transformative £250m Derry and Strabane City Deal, which will further boost the local economy through cutting edge innovation and research, job creation and regeneration.

Meanwhile, the Invest Derry Strabane website also features a special round-up of companies currently hiring in the North West, including global firms such as Allstate and Seagate, local success stories such as Learning Pool and Elemental, and ground-breaking gaming company Hypixel Studios.

Rosalind Young, investment manager at Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “This is a fantastic time to consider a move home. There are a wide range of opportunities available in the North West, whether you’re a graduate, on your second or third job, or looking for an experienced, senior level role.

“We have a great variety of sectors here who are currently hiring – from financial services and software development, to advanced manufacturing, engineering and life sciences – and a fantastic ecosystem of businesses, both homegrown successes and multinational companies all serving global clients from the North West.

“The recent shift towards remote working has also demonstrated that people don’t have to live in a major metropolis to do business, stay connected and progress their career path. This campaign is a chance to showcase the opportunities available in the Derry and Strabane region, and celebrate what makes it such a great place to live, work, invest and come back to.”

Ryan Williams is director of home care innovator Connected Health, and founder of business incubator and co-working space The AMP, which recently opened a new site at Derry’s Ebrington Square.

“I think there’s an increasing ecology of career progression in Derry, of moving from one company to the next. There are more senior positions, more technical positions here now, and a much better standard of life than somewhere like London or Dublin,” he said.

Jennifer Neff is co-founder of the award-winning social prescribing software company Elemental. She moved home to Derry and founded the company with Leeann Monk after living in Edinburgh and Manchester.

She said: “I am getting everything I need from this city and region and I am giving back too, having created 35 jobs at Elemental with my business partner, Leeann Monk. There is an energy here right now that I haven’t seen before. Lots of people are making great things happen and there is a chance to be part of that by moving to this wonderful place.”

For a round-up of companies currently hiring in the North West, visit https://investderrystrabane.com/worklife/

A two-week illumination festival will be held in Derry in February, with some of the city’s most iconic buildings transformed into pieces of art.

The ‘Illuminating the Walled City’ spectacular will run from February 14 to 27, from 5pm to 10pm daily.

It will consist of three main elements including an Illuminated Trail of Light, with props, performers and lanterns, a music programme embracing the theme of light in unique locations, and live illumination experiences featuring landmark buildings.

The plans follow the major success of the Lumiere light festival as part of the City of Culture 2013 programme, which highlighted the requirement for an out-of-season experience that will attract visitors to the city.

Derry City & Strabane District Council has received a Service Level Agreement (SLA) from Tourism NI for £451k to the two-week long festival. It is 100% funded with no additional budget required by council.

Business leaders from across Northern Ireland have attended an event to celebrate the North West’s potential for investment, innovation, and economic growth.

Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons MLA spoke at the Succeed North West event, which presented the opportunities that exist locally and showcased what makes the region a great place to live, work and do business.

Attendees at the event, held in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel, also heard from Derry-based company Elemental and Derry City and Strabane District Council on the benefits and advantages of doing business in the North West.

The event was sponsored by Allstate NI and FinTru, and hosted by BBC broadcaster Mark Carruthers, with entertainment from renowned Derry musician Phil Coulter.

Succeed North West was led by the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Invest Northern Ireland, North West Regional College, Ulster University, Western Health and Social Care Trust, and Derry City and Strabane District Council. The key strategic partners involved plan to take the event on the road across the UK, Ireland and beyond to promote the North West as a leading location for business and entrepreneurship.

Paul Clancy, chief executive of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are on the cusp of something great in the North West, something which can benefit businesses, workers and families across the region. Looking forward, I would encourage any growing business to consider investing in our region, and to join the thriving, supportive, and prosperous business community that we have built here.”

Ulster University is partnering with Manufacturing & Engineering Growth & Advancement (MEGA) to provide Northern Ireland’s first degree-level apprenticeship in Manufacturing & Engineering.

This first-of-its-kind course, funded by the Department for the Economy, is now underway and represents a new chapter in higher education for the Magee campus.

This new offering aims to create a pipeline of skilled talent fit for industry’s needs now and into the future, ensuring Northern Ireland is in a position to maximise the opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution.

An alternative to the traditional degree route, it will see apprentices employed from day one. This means participants incur no cost in their higher-level education; in fact, they earn a salary.

Robotics, artificial intelligence and digitalisation will be among the key themes studied within the new programme offered by the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems at Magee.

Apprentices who train at Magee will also benefit from access to Centres of Excellence such as the Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA) and the Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL) that are being developed as part of the emerging Derry and Strabane City Deal, and which will become a destination for Research and Development for industry partners.

Representatives from the City of London Corporation met with key City Deal partners during a visit to Derry.

During the trip, the group of senior officials met with the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, and representatives from the local education and business sectors.

The London delegation spoke with students involved in the region’s first professional financial services qualification (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment), delivered to post-primary students, while financial services company FinTrU outlined the continued expansion of their sector in the North West.

City Deal Innovation leads also shared key objectives and took the visitors – who included the City of London Corporation’s Chairperson of Policy and Resources Committee, Catherine McGuinness, and Head of UK Partnerships Andrew McGowan – on a tour of Ulster University’s new School of Medicine at Magee.

Mayor Warke, said: “The City of London delegation during their visit got a unique insight into the key role our region is playing in the success of UK financial services and how the City Deal investment in research and innovation, particularly big data analytics and AI, will drive our regional economy.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Warke also travelled to London last month to attend the installation of the incoming Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation, Alderman Vincent Keaveny. Mayor Warke said it was a “huge honour” to be invited to the ceremony and Derry City and Strabane District Council was committed to further building the close relationship between the two cities, including work, cultural, business, educational and tourism linkages.