Derry has been named regional winner in the UK’s Top Towns for Business competition.

Locations across the UK were shortlisted on factors including connectivity, dedicated space, retail space, networks and leadership in the competition, run by Enterprise Nation in partnership with Dell UK and Intel UK.

After a public vote, Derry came out as Top Town for Business in Northern Ireland.

The awards aimed to shine a spotlight on the UK’s towns and cities that nurture entrepreneurial spirit to make a lasting impact on local communities and the economy.

The North West Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Collaborative Growth Network has recently rebranded as GEMX – Generating Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence.

The network, supported by Invest Northern Ireland through its Collaborative Growth Programme, aims to raise awareness of manufacturing and engineering within the North West, develop a pipeline of talent, and encourage collaboration between industry and education.

Leading companies – including NuPrint Technologies, AE Global, PPSL and Fleming Agri – will work together to exploit opportunities and enhance their competitive edge.

Project director Joanne Sweeney said: “We need to harness the abilities of educational establishments and ensure that they are being fully utilised by local industry.

“Through the elimination of stereotypes, we can develop an engineering pathway to inspire children and young adults and encourage them to pursue careers in an exciting, dynamic environment which is future-proof.”

Invest NI’s Collaborative Growth Programme is aimed at SME-led networks, and provides support for groups to pursue innovative collaborative projects and boost business competitiveness.

Thousands of manufacturers are set to benefit from a new £50m data innovation hub led by Ulster University.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub will support small and medium-sized manufacturers to capture and better utilise data, helping them increase productivity, growth and sustainability.

The hub is available to manufacturers in Northern Ireland before going live for companies UK-wide, supported by 12 delivery partners.

Around 10,000 manufacturers will be assisted in developing, testing and adopting the latest data-driven technologies thanks to the hub, testbed and grant funding; approximately 13,000 jobs are also expected to be supported.

The funding comes as part of the £300 million Made Smarter Innovation Challenge, a collaboration between UK Government and industry to support the development and increased use of new and existing industrial digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Pro Vice Chancellor, Research at Ulster University, Professor Liam Maguire, said: “Made Smarter is another important project in the broader realisation of the Derry and Strabane City Deal agenda, further enhancing the attractiveness of investment and driving economic growth.”

Ecommerce support platform eDesk is to create 150 jobs in the next 18 months as it plans further expansion in the US and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, more than doubling its current headcount.

From left: Ross Keating, vice president of sales for eDesk; Courtney Graham, vice president of customer success; Mats Forsgren, vice president of operations; Dermot O’Connor, chief executive.

Among the roles on offer are positions in product, sales, marketing, customer success and customer support.

The jobs will be based at eDesk’s headquarters in Dublin, its Derry office and its premises in Skibbereen, Co Cork. Some of the roles will also be based on the east coast of the US, where the company is planning to hoping to have 20 employees in the coming 18 months. EDesk currently operates a hybrid work environment, with remote working and office space available for its employees.

Founded by entrepreneur Ray Nolan as xSellco in 2012, the company provides ecommerce support solutions to customers looking to sell across multiple channels and consolidating all customer interactions into a single box. It rebranded to eDesk in 2021. Among its customers are Superdry, Pitstop Auto and Right Deals UK, with partners that include Amazon, eBay, and Shopify.

“Ecommerce is so hot right now and eDesk as a product has seen significant growth in recent years so we are delighted today to announce the growth of our team over the coming months with these new open roles,” said chief executive Dermot O’Connor.

“eDesk was created to ease the complexity of customer service so that companies can focus on growth. These new hires will continue to support our growth by creating new updates and top-tier products to ensure that our customers truly support each individual customer across all of their sales channels, allowing them to more effectively grow their own businesses.”

Boxever cofounder Mr O’Connor was recently appointed chief executive of eDesk, joining a number of senior hires that include vice-president of sales Ross Keating; Courtney Graham as vice-president of customer success; and Mats Forsgren as vice-president of operations.

“I’m so proud of our team for getting eDesk to the point where we can double our headcount, creating 150 new jobs,” said Mr Nolan. “Dermot brings with him to eDesk over two decades of experience in founding, building, and scaling successful SaaS businesses out of Ireland. I have every faith that he and the eDesk team will take the company to the next level of growth.”

The news of the expansion was welcomed by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. “EDesk’s creation of 150 new jobs over the next 18 months in Dublin, Derry, Skibbereen and the US is a testament to the company’s ongoing commitment to Ireland,” he said. “The company’s incredible growth shows how Irish eCommerce and Business to Business firms like Flipdish, Intercom, and Wayflyer continue to take on global markets and grow from here in Ireland.”

Source: Irish Times

  • £50 million data innovation hub at Ulster University to support UK manufacturers to accelerate development of digital technologies
  • Dedicated grant funding will be provided to manufacturers to implement expert recommendations from data scientists
  • Adoption of digital technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things and artificial intelligence is key to driving manufacturing productivity, sustainability and competitiveness

UK manufacturers are to have their productivity and competitiveness boosted thanks to a new data innovation hub and testbed led by Ulster University, Industry Minister Lee Rowley announced today (Wednesday 18 May).

The £50 million Smart Manufacturing Data Hub (SMDH) will support small and medium size manufacturers to capture and better utilise their data, helping them increase productivity, growth and sustainability. Businesses in sectors spanning from food and drink, aerospace and many more will be supported to develop, test and adopt the latest data-driven technologies.

Nearly 10,000 manufacturers are expected to benefit from the hub and 13,000 jobs will be supported, helping to boost economic growth and level-up regions across the UK. The hub will be supported by £20 million from the UK government backed Made Smarter Innovation Programme, along with £30 million of business co-investment.

UK Industry Minister Lee Rowley said: 

“As we embrace the digital manufacturing revolution, it is vital manufacturers across the UK can capitalise on the productivity and growth gains that come with the adopting the latest data-led digital technologies.

“The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub, backed by £20 million of government funds, will support companies to implement cutting edge production and process techniques themselves, helping bring the next generation of products to our shelves in a more efficient and sustainable way.”

The hub will host an online Manufacturing Data Exchange Platform that will enable companies to submit their manufacturing data and receive recommendations in return, helping to improve their products and processes. A dedicated £5 million fund will then provide companies with grants to make further improvements in areas of critical importance to their business.

Virtual manufacturing testbeds will allow companies to create a “digital twin” to simulate the implementation of digital technology on their own processes, harnessing data from other manufacturers that have already adopted the technologies to encourage investment.

The SMDH will also provide manufacturers with expert analysis of their emissions and energy data from support staff specialising in data analytics and engineering, which will help them target reductions in waste, energy use and ultimately improve sustainability.

Pro Vice Chancellor Research at Ulster University Professor Liam Maguire said:

“Made Smarter provides the opportunity for innovative collaboration that will be transformative in driving industry competitiveness. At Ulster University, we have a strong track record of collaboration; using our research and technology to act as a catalyst for change, innovation and positive economic, social and environmental impact. Made Smarter is another important project in the broader realisation of the Derry and Strabane City Deal agenda, further enhancing the attractiveness of investment and driving economic growth”

The SMDH will first be accessible by small and medium size manufacturers in Northern Ireland in the coming months, before going live for companies across the rest of the UK. The programme will be supported across the rest of the UK by 12 delivery partners, including the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing, Industry Wales and Scottish Engineering.

The funding comes as part of the £300 million Made Smarter Innovation Challenge, a collaboration between UK Government and industry designed to support the development and increased use of new and existing industrial digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

The challenge aims to deliver a resilient, flexible, more productive and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing sector. It will also develop new technologies that can be exploited commercially across the manufacturing industry, worldwide.

Today’s announcement builds on the government’s Help to Grow schemes, which are helping smaller businesses to boost their productivity with training and software that is proven to get results.

The impressive ecosystem of multinationals based in the North West of Ireland provides the people of the region with strong employment and development opportunities across diverse sectors.

One of the North West City Region’s largest employers, Allstate NI was established in 1998, to provide high quality software and business solutions to support its US-based parent company, the Allstate Corporation. Protecting people from life’s uncertainties with more than 113 million proprietary policies, Allstate offers a broad array of protection products through multiple brands and diverse distribution channels, including auto, home and life assurance.

Employing 900 people across the North West in offices in Derry and Strabane, the region is of major strategic importance to the company.  Their Derry office celebrating 20 years in business last year.

Allstate Strabane Office

Based in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, Talent Acquisition Manager, Alan Fletcher explains Allstate’s reasons to locate in the region with “The initial set-up about getting access to a deep talent pool available in the wider city region. The North West has talented individuals who make a great contribution to the success of all our businesses.”

Alan Fletcher: Talent Acquisition Manager

Alan is one of many cross-border workers in the Fortune 100 firm. He along with fellow colleague Maria McColgan, are both natives of Donegal and are part of a growing list of digital professionals who speak glowingly about Allstate and the North West City Region.

Maria speaks about the Allstate experience; “the social aspect of the company was beyond anything I had ever experienced, there is so much inclusiveness here and I felt this also supported my development professionally.”

Maria McColgan: Product Manager (Allstate)

Alongside her role as Product Delivery Manager, Maria is also as an ‘Inclusion Champion’, ensuring training is available for all employees and that everyone is happy coming to work. As well as this, Maria is an advocate for Women in Technology at Allstate, “I feel that as a female in IT that there is so much opportunity for which we need to make the next generation aware of.”

Looking to the future, Allstate aims to keep on top of technological advancements by looking for new talent and skillsets in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation and Cyber Security.

The company have embarked on an ambitious investment in re-skilling existing employees in these areas and identifying the next generation of talent, through their 3-year graduate development programme.

At least 100 graduate positions are expected to be filled this year with successful candidates being put through a journey of continuous professional development at Allstate, exploring roles in the skillsets identified such as AI, machine learning, production support and product testing. “The talent, skills and connectivity found in the North West is a major draw for Allstate to grow our talent centres,” comments Alan.

The company offers a flexible hybrid working policy, allowing employees to design a work schedule appropriate for their needs, while also helping to achieve the perfect work-life balance.

When touching on their experiences of living and working in the North West, the benefits were clear. Living in Carndonagh and working in the Calayst building in Derry, Maria comments that her commute through Donegal to work is “way more appealing that a 30-minute sit in traffic.”

“I suppose the major bonus is working in a close-knit community that the North West region provides”, Maria concludes.

“For me it is being able to have a global career in a unique location. I have been able to work in both Donegal and Derry for some of the biggest companies in the world” says Alan.

He also delves deeper into the ecosystem of collaboration between multinationals and high-quality educational institutions as Talent Acquisition manager: “I have built academic partnerships with the University of Ulster, North West Regional College and Atlantic Technological University to name a few and it has been great to see exciting job opportunities being created in the North West region.”

“The fact the region has been voted the best place to work in Northern Ireland shows we are heading in the right direction.”

With the MIT Innovators Under 35 Event set to take place in the gTeic @ GaothDobhair this week, showcasing the vast array of talent of young people across Europe and the North West City Region, it’s assuring to see that investment in the talent of tomorrow is fundamental to Allstate’s operations within the region. 

FinTrU, a technologically enabled regulatory solutions company, has been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (International Trade) in 2022.

The company won the Queen’s Award for International Trade for ‘Outstanding Continuous Growth’ in overseas sales over the last six years.

Headquartered in Belfast, FinTrU has rapidly expanded in recent years with additional global offices in Derry/Londonderry, New York, London, Dublin and Maastricht.

FinTrU Founder & CEO, Darragh McCarthy, said “It is an absolute honour for FinTrU to be recognised in this way. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is an incredibly prestigious accolade with a vast array of highly respected winners over the years. We are delighted at FinTrU to see the hard work of our employees rewarded with this fantastic achievement.”

Employing over 1,000 people, FinTrU was founded in 2013 and provides technologically enabled Regulatory Solutions for Investment Banks – specialising in the areas of KYC, Compliance, Legal, Risk & Controls and Operations.

Now in its 56th year, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious business awards in the country, with winning businesses able to use the esteemed Queen’s Awards Emblem for the next five years.

Source: Written from press release.

There was delight this week after Derry was named as a regional winner in a competition celebrating locations which have the most to offer for entrepreneurs and businesses. The UK’s Top Towns for Business competition was being run by Enterprise Nation in partnership with Dell UKand Intel UK and aimed to shine a spotlight on the UK’s towns and cities that successfully nurture entrepreneurial spirit in order to make a lasting impact on local communities and the economy.

Locations across the UK were judged on a variety of different business-related sectors including connectivity, dedicated space, retail space, networks and leadership, and after Derry/Londonderry made it onto the shortlist for the NI award, a public vote saw the city come out on top.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been named as a regional winner for the UK Top Towns for Business 2022 competition.“The fact that we have been shortlisted and now selected as the top location after a public vote once again highlights why our city and region is such a prime and attractive location for living, working and investment. The area offers so much to entrepreneurs and businesses, from connectivity to workshops to networking and everything in between.

“We nurture and support entrepreneurial ambition and would welcome any individuals or organisations seeking to work and invest in this region. Thanks to everyone who voted to support our city in this competition.”​

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.” 

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.