A cybersecurity company has announced 70 new jobs in Derry-Londonderry as part of a £4.5 million investment.

Based in the city, MetaComplance develops cloud software for cybersecurity and compliance, providing software solutions and e-learning content to educate employees on the dangers of a cyberattack.

The firm is looking to grow its business into new markets in the US and Europe. The 70 new jobs, which will help develop the cybersecurity learning market via cloud-based solutions, will inject an estimated £1.9 million per year in additional salaries into the local economy.

MetaCompliance chief executive Robert O’Brien said: “Our ambition is to be internationally recognised in our field of expertise. We have seen a rapid global increase in the demand of cybersecurity products and services, particularly since GDPR has been implemented.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered £695,000 of support towards creating the new jobs and market development activity.

John Hood of Invest NI said: “MetaCompliance is already a strongly established business within the cybersecurity sector. The creation of these jobs will build upon its previous success and help the company to expand its presence in the North West, the cybersecurity market, and in new markets.

Invest NI has previously supported MetaCompliance with job creation investment in 2017; management and digital training for employee development; and R&D support for its Voyager and MyCompliance Cloud user awareness cloud solutions. The company is also currently receiving support through Invest NI’s Skills Growth Programme.

Alchemy Technology Services has announced their partnership with Silicon Valley software company Guidewire PartnerConnect as a consulting alliance member at the Select level.

The Derry~Londonderry based firm has made the announcement just under a year after its official launch in the city last September. Since then, Alchemy has employed 62 full time permanent staff against its three year target of 250+ staff to work on insurance software implementation projects across Europe.

 “We are pleased to join Guidewire PartnerConnect as a Consulting partner, especially given that our focus on collaboration and investing in our people aligns us both culturally and operationally with Guidewire,” said John Harkin, the company’s CEO and Founder. “This is a great acknowledgement of the work we have done over the past year and to be in partnership with an industry leader such as Guidewire confirms that we are moving in the right direction. We look forward to working with Guidewire and helping to ensure that insurers’ digitization projects are delivered with the expertise needed globally.”

“We welcome Alchemy Technology Services as a Guidewire alliance member,” said Lisa Walsh, vice president of Global Alliances at Guidewire Software. “We are pleased to work with a company whose values are consistent with our own, and we are excited to expand our relationship with them.”

Alchemy Technologies provides talent and resources to support insurers in their efforts to modernize and grow their technology platforms. Alchemy’s near-shore resourcing allows for quick and efficient deployment of services to insurers across Europe. Backing from Invest NI and the Department for the Economy supports the company’s intensive training plans enabling them to provide fully certified consultants.

Guidewire PartnerConnect’s consulting partners provide consulting services in areas such as business transformation and strategy and implementation, as well as in related delivery services. It is a subsidiary of Guidewire Software, who provides software, services, and partners ecosystem to enable customers to run, differentiate, and grow their business, serving more than 350 companies in 40 countries.

Significant City Deal and Economic Growth Funding Package confirmed for Derry and Strabane.

The announcement today of a £105M economic package by the UK Government in the Derry City and Strabane City Region has been widely welcomed by City and District partners with the Mayor saying it will be “a significant catalyst for change and economic growth” for the Derry City and Strabane District and the wider North West and expressed his delight that it has been secured during his Mayoral year as a key priority.

The investment package announced comprises a £50M ‘City Deal’ and a £55M ‘Inclusive Future Fund’ and is the culmination of a long period of engagement with Government in relation to advancing priority projects and initiatives within the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan and City Deal proposals.

Reflecting the model recently announced by Government for the Belfast Region City Deal, it is anticipated that the UK Government investment package announced today of £105M for Derry~Londonderry and Strabane will be at least matched by a similar commitment from the NI Executive and will lever further investment from project partners and other third party sources which it is hoped will eventually lead to an overall investment injection of in excess of £300M.

The announcement follows a visit to the City last July when the Chancellor, Philip Hammond met with civic and political leaders to hear of the plans and invited a bid for a City Deal to be formally submitted.

The bid, supported and endorsed by all local and regional political parties and representatives and devised around the key strategic economic projects outlined in the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan 2017-2032.

Led by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the bid was developed in partnership, and with the support of a wide range of local education, business and economic partners – including the Ulster University, the North West Regional College, both the Londonderry and Strabane Chambers of Commerce, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Visit Derry, City Centre Initiative and the Foyle Port, in consultation with all associated NI Government Departments.

At the core of the bid is education, innovation, job creation and skills development with a key focus being the advancement of the much sought after expansion and growth of the Magee campus of Ulster University.

The investment package announced today, will enable planning and business case development to now proceed on proposals for a significant landmark riverfront university medical education and innovation hub, comprising a graduate entry medical college and centres of innovation, research and teaching excellence in data-driven personalised medicine, cognitive analytics and robotics and automation, eventually delivering over 200 new posts/research assistants at the City’s university and upwards of 2,000 additional students.

The stimulus package will additionally advance the delivery of a range of smart city and digital infrastructure projects and initiatives, further positioning the City and District as a highly digitally enabled location for cutting-edge business development and expansion and inward investment.

The catalytic impact of this could therefore result in the single biggest ever combined and integrated funding injection the City and District, that will enable progress and delivery of other key infrastructure, tourism and regeneration projects contained within the Plan and Bid in both Derry City Centre and Riverfront and in Strabane Town Centre.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle said: “This hugely significant announcement today for the Derry and Strabane District will go some considerable way in addressing the long-standing obstacles to economic development that this City Region and its people face. It is good news and is the result of an enormous amount of work and sustained effort invested by Council and the City and Regional partners to develop, deliver and negotiate on the bid.”

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie acknowledged the collaborative approach and the unified vision and commitment demonstrated by politicians, and partner organisations in development of the bid and the advice and support received regionally and nationally in securing such a positive outcome.

Enthusiastic about the opportunity presented by today’s announcement he commented: “This City and District has seen much progress in recent years economically, physically and socially. It has however significant remaining challenges in overcoming an infrastructure deficit and a legacy of underinvestment both of which have been such inhibitors to sustainable economic growth.

“This funding package, if directed at the key agreed strategic growth projects and if used to lever significant further public and private sector investment, will deliver a new era of unprecedented growth and development for the City and Region providing tangible benefits for all of our citizens and a promising future for our children and young people.”

Other City Deal Project partners reacted equally positively with the Vice Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon said, “This investment will now see the rapid development of plans to grow and enhance facilities and student numbers at the Magee Campus including the Graduate Entry Medical School.”

Brian McGrath, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “This funding is hugely welcome and provides a solid platform upon which to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the City and Region and attract further significant exciting new companies, business prospects and investment.”

Council Chief Executive, John Kelpie concluded:  “The next steps will now be for everyone to continue to work together to develop the necessary detailed business plans and advance the projects through planning and design. We will do this by using this unprecedented opportunity to promote the future of this City and District as a location of choice for all in terms of business, lifestyle and ambition.”

Ulster University gets £5m donation to boost data analytics

Ulster University is to boost its prominence in the field of data analytics and artificial intelligence following a £5 million donation.

The money is to be spent on the establishment of the Dr George Moore chair in data analytics. The late Dr Moore was described by the university as “one of the founding fathers” of the data analytics industry.

Professor Paddy Nixon, vice-chancellor, Ulster University, with Angela Moore, who made the donation.

Professor Paddy Nixon, vice-chancellor, Ulster University, with Angela Moore, who made the donation.

The donation was made by Dr Moore’s wife, Angela Moore. Recruitment for the role has begun and the selection process is ongoing.

“The chair will be a stellar, world-class academic, who will lead an innovative research team responding dynamically to the real-world needs of data analytics,” said Ulster University.

“In recognition of Mrs Moore’s gift, Ulster University will recruit an associated research fellow and three PhD students who will contribute to revolutionising global AI and data analytics research.”

Dr George Moore, born in Co Louth, left Ireland in 1972 and established Targus Information, a world leading data analytics service provider, whose technologies are used by many Fortune 500 companies.

Dr Moore predicted the explosion of information that would follow the creation of the internet and he recognised the commercial value of harnessing such information though data analytics.

Ulster University awarded Dr George Moore an honorary doctorate in 2005 in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to society” and his global impact on the field of data analytics.

Alchemy Technology Services has announced it is setting up a European Centre of Excellence in Derry. It will provide software implementation and technology consultancy to the UK and European insurance sector. The company will provide certified staff to System Integrators, Software Providers and insurance companies for the implementation of digital solutions across the insurance industry. To meet this demand the company aims to recruit 256 staff.

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Announcing the significant investment, Alastair Hamilton, CEO, Invest Northern Ireland said: “The Alchemy management team has extensive knowledge of the insurance sector and in delivering transformation projects. They have identified a gap in the market to provide a service to the insurance industry and believe Londonderry is the right place to find the talent to meet this need. “Alchemy is planning to create the new roles in software implementation and technology consultancy over the next three years. The majority of the roles will be customer facing with the opportunity to work on projects right across Europe. “With average salaries in the mid-£20k range, and good opportunities for progression, these are roles that will suit college and university students, as well as graduates. “Once the project is fully implemented it will generate over £6.5 million in annual salaries, a real economic boost for Northern Ireland, and the North West specifically.” The government has offered nearly £2.3m of funding to support the creation of the new roles and secure the project for Northern Ireland.

John Harkin, Director and Founder, Alchemy said: “Insurance companies in the UK, and across Europe, are making an unprecedented investment in the digital transformation of their core systems and processes to respond to the changing demands within their marketplace. There is a real shortage of specialist skills to respond to this upsurge in digital transformation projects across the insurance industry. We plan to help meet that demand by bringing new talent into the industry. “We look forward to working with the Department for the Economy’s Assured Skills Training programme to recruit business and technology oriented graduates and college students with good communication and interpersonal skills to fill these customer facing roles. “I am originally from Derry, and have made frequent visits here in recent months as we assessed different locations for this investment. I have met with the colleges and university, and numerous students and have been impressed. I am confident that this is the right place to set up our business and find the talent we need.”

Danske Bank creates 67 jobs in Londonderry

Danske Bank has created 67 jobs in Londonderry at a new customer protection centre.

The roles, 25 of which have already been filled, will include quality assurance managers and analysts.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered Danske Bank £234,500 towards the creation of the jobs.

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Once fully operational, the centre will generate nearly £1.5m annually for the local economy in salaries, according to Danske Bank.

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Stephen Matchett, Danske Bank’s chief financial officer, said: “This is exciting news”.

“We also had great support from Invest NI.

“The centre will be there for due diligence. How customers operate on their accounts is vital information that we need to be across.

“Cyber crime is very important to us. The centre will have direct contact to the customer.”

He said the typical salary would be in the region of £17,000 or £18,000.

Local tech entrepreneur wins UK Gamechanger of the Year Award

Robert O’Brien, CEO of leading cyber tech firm MetaCompliance, has won the UK Gamechanger of the Year Award at the ACQ5 Global Awards 2018.

Robert O’Brien, CEO of leading cyber tech firm MetaCompliance

Robert O’Brien, CEO of leading cyber tech firm MetaCompliance

Having successfully grown and sold a number of technology firms in the past, Robert is an excellent example of a modern entrepreneur, and his achievements have been recognised by the recent award win.

The ACQ5 Global Awards recognise the most outstanding organisations and professionals across the globe and celebrates the best in achievement, ability and performance.

MetaCompliance has been developing software and content for the Cyber Security and Compliance market since 2005 and is experiencing a phenomenal phase of growth as worldwide demand for its products increases.

The massive growth in cyber-crime has meant that cyber security and compliance have now become key priorities for organisations as they realise the massive implications that a data breach can have on their business.

MetaCompliance has created a product range that directly addresses the specific challenges that arise from cyber threats and corporate governance, and the company has helped over 600 organisations around the world stay cyber secure and compliant.

Clients of the company include BUPA, ITN, Jaguar LandRover, Vodafone, Volkswagen, ESB, Schroeders, Dentons, Top Oil, Jamie Oliver Ltd and one of the largest Banks in the world, with a network of over 360,000 staff in 172 countries.

Robert has been instrumental in driving the business forward and ensuring the company remains at the forefront of innovation.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the IT industry, Robert is a serial technology entrepreneur with a wealth of experience in executing and developing strategies for high growth businesses.

Robert commented on the award win and the plans for the business going forward: “I’m delighted to win the UK Gamechanger of the Year Award, it’s a real buzz!

“Our purpose is to help organisations keep their staff safe online and protect their brand and reputation.

“As disrupters in our industry, we recognise that Cyber Security is hard for ordinary people and we are relentless in our vision of making this palatable, whilst ensuring people are equipped with the skills to protect themselves online.”

The award win continues the winning streak for the company after it recently won the award for the Most Innovative Cyber Security eLearning solutions, by Corporate Vision Magazine.

To support its continued growth, the company recently announced a major recruitment drive of 30 graduates for its Derry office and is still welcoming applications across all disciplines including software development, software testing, sales, marketing, HR, support, design and motion graphics.

Derry company Blockception is taking the world by storm with its virtual creations for blockbuster game ‘Minecraft’. The Campsie-based company was recently honoured as ‘North West Creative Industries Business of the Year’ in recognition of its leadership in a global marketplace for Minecraft ‘maps’.

The business essentially creates sets of Lego-like virtual building blocks and items to enable Minecraft gamers to build different environments from their imaginations. “If you can dream it, we can make it,” explains 21 year-old Derry man Jonathan Black who, along with joint Managing Director Alex Bellavita (24), formed Blockception in 2015. The whizzkids hit the mother lode last year when their company was one of only nine pioneer Minecraft partners selected from around the world by Microsoft to launch its Minecraft Marketplace Programme.

Blockception’s limited edition creation, Lost Civilisation, was downloaded more than 1.1 million times over the Christmas period – with 850,000 in a single day. Jonathan explains: “Lost Civilisation was part of a 12-day marketing campaign by Microsoft around Christmas. Microsoft wanted to release a free product from one of their partners and ours was chosen. “It was a set based on a Machu Picchu-inspired world that the user could explore. For Christmas, we added snow to give it a festive feel.”

Prior to the approach from Microsoft, the business was being sustained by local projects including a virtual recreation of Derry’s Guildhall. “Culture Tech asked us to do a project on the ‘Four Wonders of Northern Ireland’: The Guildhall, Mussenden Temple, Harland and Wolff and Belfast City Hall. We also recreated 17th century Carrickfergus for Carrickfergus Museum. “But the jobs were not flooding in and we were putting a lot of effort in for very little return. A week before Microsoft approached us, we had agreed to hand over to another company. Just a day before the handover, Alex got the email about Lost Civilisation,” Jonathan says. Alex explains: “We were so close to moving away from Minecraft. It seems unthinkable now. We got an email and everything kicked off again.

After Lost Civilisation, Microsoft came calling once more. “We were asked to help launch a new programme – a completely new revenue model for Minecraft. The Minecraft Marketplace Programme would not launch until June 2017 and we were very privileged to get in at the start,” Alex adds. Blockception was registered as a limited company on March 2, 2017. Trading became very brisk after the Marketplace launch. Alex and Jonathan have themselves enjoyed playing Minecraft for many years and that now allows them to create maps that have real appeal for gamers. Jonathan explains:

“We’ve been playing Minecraft for a long time – I started playing it at 14. We’ve had a long time to learn things from a consumer point of view. We’ve now gone full circle – ‘players to providers’.”

Blockception has a Minecraft build team of more than 50 environment designers, programmers and field experts, in countries around the world. Jonathan says: “The vast skill of our team allows us to tackle all types of Minecraft maps and achieve the ambitions of our clients, however imaginative. “We create custom-built maps that include but are not limited to minigame maps, adventure maps, hubs, concepts and film sets. “Our aim is always to produce fun-filled, immersive content, which is distributed at affordable prices and enjoyed by millions globally, regardless of language or age.”

Blockception was invited to the world renowned Gamescom in Cologne last August to showcase a project named ‘Kingdom Assault’. Another of the company’s offerings, ‘Whiterock Castle’, topped the Marketplace Purchases League Table for four out of the first five months that it was first listed on the Minecraft Store in September, 2017.

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Meanwhile, Blockception shared the North West Business Awards honour for Creative Industries Business of the Year at last Friday night’s ceremony hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce and City Centre Initiative at the City Hotel. Jonathan said: “It is a great achievement for such a young company and wouldn’t have been possible without such a talented and dedicated workforce.” For more, check out blockception.com

Foods Connected Ltd is making a £1.7million investment and creating 20 new jobs to help it increase its export sales and keep up with the growing demand for its services.

The Londonderry based software firm provides a range of cloud-based software tools to help companies in the food industry manage processes and information across Supplier Approval, Quality and Trading, resulting in reduced costs and increased profitability.

Welcoming the investment, Des Gartland, Invest Northern Ireland’s North West Regional Manager said: “Foods Connected is an export focused company which is making a major investment in the North West and creating 20 new high quality jobs. The new team will be recruited over the next two years and once in place, will generate over £800,000 annually in additional salaries to the local economy.

Invest NI has offered Foods Connected support of £157,000 to help create the new jobs. Roles include systems developers and project management & business development roles.

Gary Tyre, Co-Founder and System Development Director of Foods Connected said: “This investment forms part of our long term growth strategy to become a market leader in management tools for the food sector. We’ve been delighted with the practical support and expert advice provided by Invest NI which we have used to redesign our brand through the Design Active Programme, and support our company expansion plans.

“Over the last few years, demand for our products has grown rapidly with projects well underway with major food processors and retailers in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Recruitment for the new jobs is underway and will give us the resources to keep up with demand and ensure we are well positioned to take advantage of the wide range of growth opportunities we have identified over the coming years.”

Foods Connected currently employs 19 staff and is located in The City Factory, Londonderry with additional offices in Belfast and Sydney.

Beacon Broadband is creating 12 jobs in Derry~Londonderry.
A new wireless broadband provider based in the North West, Beacon Broadband is creating 12 jobs in Derry~Londonderry to help it increase its export sales and position itself for future growth in the Republic of Ireland market.

Beacon Broadband delivers high speed wireless broadband to homes and businesses.

Des Gartland, Invest Northern Ireland’s North West Regional Manager welcomed the expansion during a visit to the company’s premises: “Beacon Broadband was established in 2016 to exploit a gap in the wireless broadband market created as a result of the increased popularity in media streaming. These new jobs are great news for the local area and our support is ensuring the company has the resources in place to win new business in its target markets.”

“Helping small businesses and entrepreneurs to compete and grow in export markets is a priority for Invest NI. We are confident that this is only the beginning for Beacon Broadband and we look forward to building on our relationship with the company in the coming years. ”

Invest Northern Ireland has offered the company £48,000 towards the creation of the new jobs. Roles to be created include installers, sales support staff, an office manager and a technical engineer.

Managing Director of Beacon Broadband, Brian McCourt said: “Our company ethos is built on providing strong customer service backed by the provision of guaranteed service speeds and uptime. Using the latest technology, we offer speeds that rival fibre broadband in areas that have little or no broadband access. This is making us a very attractive proposition to many consumers across both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.”

Pictured (L-R) are Brian McCourt, Beacon Broadband, and Des Gartland, Invest NI

Pictured (L-R) are Brian McCourt, Beacon Broadband, and Des Gartland, Invest NI