Female entrepreneurs have just one week left to apply for a spot on a new accelerator-lite programme from AwakenHub which aims to provide support for women who are interested in starting their own business. 

SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland who have recently started a new business venture or who have an idea but are struggling to access the tools, information and support needed to get the business off the ground. 

35 spaces will be available (15 of which are being targeted at women in Northern Ireland) and the programme will be made up of a series of workshops, tailored to meet the needs of those enrolled, along with access to community events and advice and signposting from the programme founders and a hand picked group of Big Sisters who are company builders, innovators, investors and serial entrepreneurs. 

SheGenerate is the latest in a long line of innovations delivered by AwakenHub which have all been aimed at driving and securing economic investment and opportunities in the North West. It’s founders include Angel Investor, Mary McKenna; Business Growth Enabler, Clare McGee; Leadership Consultant Sinead Crowley; and Entrepreneur, Mary Carty. The foursome bring a wealth of knowledge and real life experience of growing and starting a business to SheGenerate and can offer successful applicants hugely sought after mentorship opportunities. 

Co-Founders Mary McKenna and Clare McGee  urged anyone interested in learning more about the event to come along to an Expression of Interest event on Tuesday September 28. 

“We know that many women have been inspired or impacted by Covid-19 to start or grow a new business venture but noticed that many struggled to find the right level of support to help them take ideas to the next level. 

“SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland working in any background or sector who are prepared to take the plunge, do the work and get trading within the next 12 months. 

“Thanks to our programme funders, Ulster Bank and Rethink Ireland, we can offer a place to 35 female entrepreneurs who will have access to mentorship, peer support and workshops to get their business up and running and create all of the positive economic and social change which comes along with this.”

John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank, which has supported SheGenerate through its Enterprise Funding Grants, said it was important these programmes were available to existing and potential entrepreneurs. 

“At Ulster Bank we are committed to supporting female entrepreneurs and providing them with the tools and networks they need to start or scale a business. This partnership with SheGenerate has the potential to deliver transformative change for women; particularly those in the North West, and we are pleased to have been able to play a role in bringing female entrepreneurs even closer to potential investors through the Enterprise Partner Funding grant. 

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project and wish each of the participants well as they make the most of this exciting opportunity and take the next step of their business journey.”

Applications will close at 5pm on Friday October 8 and those unable to attend the Expression of Interest event can register their details here . 

For more information about the programme and it’s founders, visit www.awakenhub.com  

Ulster University’s Pro Vice Chancellor of Research Liam Maguire was joined by colleagues from the Derry-based Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) at a Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Showcase in London.

Representatives from the university’s Engineering Composites Research Centre and Research and Impact Directorate also attended the event, which featured the best of Northern Ireland’s innovative businesses, start-ups and universities, showcasing what the region offers as an inward investment location and as a trade partner.

The Northern Ireland Office, the Department for International Trade and Invest NI partnered to host the September showcase, which Dr Alexander Chacko, UU’s head of Innovation and Impact, said “spread the message that Northern Ireland’s innovators, tech start-ups, and universities are leading the way in post-pandemic recovery.”

The Allstate NI and Ulster University partnership has continued to flourish, with planning now underway for a second joint ‘Learnathon’.

The partnership spans from Allstate NI’s representation on Ulster’s industrial advisory boards, to involvement in reviewing curricula for undergrad and postgrad courses, student scholarships and prizes, running student hackathons, providing industry guest lectures and in turn, University academics presenting in Allstate.

Allstate has also been invited to develop a vision for the new CARL initiative (Cognitive Analytics Research Lab), to be based on the Magee Campus. This vision was developed through design thinking workshops with a small number of industry partners, including Allstate NI. November 2019 saw the opening of a new-state-of-the-art Allstate NI computing lab, also at the Magee campus.

Meanwhile, a recent research collaborative effort with Professor Damien Coyle, Dr Magda Bucholc and their PhD student Salman Ahmed used advanced multi-modal analytics approach to help predict major incidents in Allstate’s infrastructure at the earliest opportunity, allowing them to put preventative measures in place.

Jonathan Wallace, Professor of Innovation within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment and Chair of the Faculty’s Computing Employer Advisory Board (CEAB), said the Computing Schools at Ulster University recognised the strategic importance of developing professional, educational and collaborative research links.

He added: “As well as the computing lab sponsored by Allstate NI, we launched a research partnership linking academics and PhD students from both Computing Schools with Allstate’s AI Centre of Excellence team to explore how AI and ML techniques developed at Ulster can be applied to the next generation of Allstate products and services, indeed planning for a second joint ‘Learnathon’/Mini-Conference to showcase how Ulster’s leading edge research can potentially address the short mid and long-term strategic goals of Allstate NI is currently underway.”

According to DMNI, Diversity Mark is a ‘Mark of Progress’ that publicly declares commitment to building more diverse and inclusive workplaces to benefit all employees.

Jonas Cella, co-chair of the Version 1 NI commented “Receiving the Bronze Diversity Mark is an important milestone for us. It shows we are on the right track to have a diverse and inclusive workplace and makes Version 1 a great place to work in Northern Ireland. At Version 1 diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice we make every day”

Christine White, Head of Diversity Mark NI commented: “We are delighted to recognise Version 1 for their commitment to Diversity by awarding them the Bronze Diversity Mark accreditation.   

Our independent assessment panel commended Version 1 on a reflective application looking at a variety of specific and strategic interventions which will have the potential to collectively shape a truly inclusive culture and begin to address the gender balance across all levels of their business.

We congratulate everyone at Version 1 on this achievement and look forward to working with them on their Diversity journey over the next number of years.”

£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 

A new webinar series has been launched to celebrate innovation in the North West.

The Innovation Stories webinars follow the signing of the historic Derry & Strabane City Deal in February, and also come as Northern Ireland embarks on a Decade of Innovation, set out in the recent publication of the Department for the Economy’s 10X Economy paper.

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Derry City and Strabane District Council and Ulster University are collaborating on the series. Its first event, targeted at businesses and employees considering upskilling and anyone with a stake in the innovation or City Deal agenda, was held this month.

Rosalind Young, the Council’s investment manager, said: “Through the visionary Derry and Strabane City Deal, a whole new innovation eco-system will develop here in the region. The people behind the City Deal are inviting businesses to hear best practice and to leave with an idea of how they will play their part in the Decade of Innovation that is ahead.”

One of the academics and researchers behind the planned, Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA), Justin Quinn of Ulster University’s School of Computing Engineering and Intelligent Systems at the Magee campus said:

“With Industry 4.0 upon us, a new form of manufacturing is about to begin which will change the face of industry. It will bring about huge opportunities for the industries who embrace it and challenges for those who do not. Work is underway now to bring about a Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation in Derry. We are inviting businesses to consider how they would like to be part of the Derry City Deal. Covid-19 forced many a business to reconsider how they operate, so in many ways we have seen that rapid change is possible. We would like to help companies to begin their innovation journey now so as to be ready to take advantage of centres like CIDRA and CARL when they are in place. ”

Learning Pool has agreed to a new investment from Marlin Equity Partners which will support the e-learning company’s continued growth and create 100 new jobs.

Founded in Derry and currently ranked as one of the top 60 Large Best Companies to Work for in the UK, Learning Pool employs more than 260 people across the UK and US.

The Marlin investment will facilitate further job creation, with plans in place to hire an additional 100 Learning Pool employees across the group this year. 

As part of the investment, Marlin will acquire the shareholding of Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, who invested in Learning Pool in 2016. Since then, Learning Pool has seen revenue increase four-fold and made four acquisitions, most recently acquiring US-based Remote Learner. Marlin is expected to help accelerate growth both organically and through additional acquisitions.

Learning Pool Team with Marlin Equity Partners

Almac Group, the global contract development and manufacturing organisation, has today announced the launch of a recruitment campaign with a view to setting up a facility in Derry/Londonderry.

With over 5,600 employees located in 18 locations across the world, 3,600 of whom are based at its global Headquarter campus in Craigavon, Almac is planning to offer up to 100 new, highly skilled jobs specifically targeting the North West region of Northern Ireland over the next three years. The initial recruitment drive is underway and offers a mixture of project management and software engineering positions at all levels. Experience of the pharmaceutical industry is not an essential requirement for these roles as full on-the-job training is provided.

Alan Armstrong (CEO) Almac Group

Alan Armstrong, CEO, Almac Group, explains, “We are experiencing significant growth and have a need to support our many clients across the globe. With substantial advancement in technology, we are fortunate to be able to locate our employees anywhere we choose offering greater flexibility and access to our various range of services. Given the skills pipeline coming from Ulster University at Magee and Coleraine, combined with the excellent choice of workspace available in the Derry/Londonderry area, we have decided to explore this region as our next Almac location.

“We are proud to have our global Headquarters based in Northern Ireland and it is our plan to expand our reach and establish a base in the North West.  We are hopeful that, when word spreads about our expansion plans to this region, we will be able to obtain the required numbers and quality of job applicants who are keen to join us and support our mission to advance human health globally.

“Given the success experienced by many other companies in this area, we plan to employ up to 100 staff at this new location over the next three years.”

This announcement comes as the company continues to recruit globally, in particular for its Craigavon campus, as the company grows in response to increased client demand.

To find out more or to apply for a position, visit here.

Private equity investor Tenzing will partner with local cybersecurity firm MetaCompliance to accelerate the organisation’s growth and drive product innovation.

Founded in 2005, MetaCompliance employs more than 100 people, servicing clients in the UK, Europe and internationally with a mission to help customers keep staff safe online, protect their digital assets and avoid reputational damage.

Robert O’Brien CEO Metacompliance

Its award-winning technology and training content is used by over 900 public and private organisations to increase staff vigilance of cybersecurity threats and help customers demonstrate compliance to national regulators.

The business said its decision to partner with Tenzing was fuelled by the fund’s strategic experience in growing similar-sized companies, and a shared belief in MetaCompliance’s ability to become a global cybersecurity force.

Tenzing’s investment will help MetaCompliance continue to develop innovative products and expand its workforce. The existing management team, including founder and CEO Robbie O’Brien, will carry on in their current leadership roles and are investing further as shareholders in the business.

Local company Learning Pool has announced the acquisition of US-based Remote Learner.

Paul McElvaney Learning Pool CEO

Situated in Denver, Colorado, the LMS (Learning Management System) specialist has represented more than a million users for over two decades, with clients including recruitment giant Indeed, Royal Caribbean Group and Ultimate Kronos Group.

Remote Learner is the fourth firm to join the Learning Pool Group in recent years and the news follows strong 2020 annual results for the Derry-based e-learning business, which saw revenues up 32% to £18.1m.

Learning Pool CEO Paul McElvaney said: “This acquisition puts the Group in great shape to accelerate our already ambitious customer satisfaction and growth targets in the North American region and takes the global Learning Pool team to more than 260 dedicated and talented people.”