Kieran Kennedy, former Managing Director of O’Neills Irish International Sports Company, is set to share his innovation insights in an upcoming webinar.

The October 14 ‘Playing the Innovation Game’ event is the second in the Innovation Stories webinar series, which 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 in which City Deal partners select case studies from the region, discuss what innovation means within a business, offer and general advice on embracing digital technologies.

Rosalind Young, 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.”

For further information and to book go to https://londonderrychamber.co.uk/events/innovation-for-growth-playing-the-innovation-game-14-october/

The region’s first ever BSc Hons Paramedic Sciences programme is now underway, with Ulster University welcoming 40 students to the Magee campus.

With funding support from the Department of Health, the new three-year course will be based within the university’s multi-award-winning School of Nursing.

This course will support the development of the paramedic profession in Northern Ireland and further afield. Until now, local students wishing to become paramedics had to travel to the south of Ireland or across the Irish Sea to complete a BSc Hons programme in Paramedic Science.

The first cohort ranges in age from school leavers to people in their forties and a wide range of backgrounds – from those embarking on a change of career from accountancy to insurance, to people working in similar fields: ambulance care assistant, lifeguard, emergency medical dispatcher and humanitarian.

They will learn a wide range of skills through frequent experience and learning inside an exact replica of an ambulance – the only one of its kind in the region – coupled with 60 weeks of practice-based learning with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and a range of other hospital and community-based experience in the other Health and Social Care Trusts and independent sector partners.

The students will also have access to a wealth of specially designed training spaces from a hospital ward, simulated bedrooms and living room recreated on campus, to clinical skills rooms and the latest equipment.

NI Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has announced the first two of four Assured Skills Collaborative Welding Academies at North West Regional College.

The first two Assured Skills Academies will see 24 successful applicants receive industry-standard welding training during a five-week course at the college’s Limavady and Springtown campuses, followed by two weeks of consolidation training at one of eight participating engineering companies.

Applicants who complete the Academy are guaranteed an interview for a welding position at one of the companies.

Sinead Hawkins, Business Skills Manager at NWRC, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for new fresh talent to progress in the industry by addressing the skills shortage. This will have a positive impact on the North West City Region’s local economy by feeding into local business anchors. We are committed to providing a skills guarantee for a post-Covid economy and future labour market.”

A nanotechnology consortium to develop new technology for medical devices, communication and data storage has been awarded £42.4m by the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund.

Smart Nano NI is led by Seagate Technology in collaboration with North West Regional College, Analytics Engines, Causeway Sensors, Cirdan Imaging, Digital Catapult NI, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and Yelo.

The funding award, which was made after a highly competitive, UK-wide process, will further consolidate the region’s position as a global leader for excellence in nanotechnologies, and provide a lasting economic impact.  

The UKRI investment will help the consortium scale up capacity in device manufacturing, and 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’s Dr Mark Gubbins said of the investment: “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”.

Health Minister Robin Swann has officially opened a Campsie-based manufacturing facility supplying vital PPE to health workers.

NorthWest Medical has created 25 new jobs after being awarded a £6.5m contract to supply Type IIR face masks to the health service in Northern Ireland.

Minister Swann said: “Demand for PPE has soared during the pandemic with many health systems around the world facing challenges in securing stocks of protective equipment. In Northern Ireland, we saw local manufacturers and businesses quickly diversify, recognising that their skills, expertise and assembly lines could be repurposed and they too could join the fight against this virus.”

Director of NorthWest Medical, Gavin Killeen, added: “We are exploring how we can move into other areas so that we can continue to create employment locally and at the same time support our health service by providing a resilient supply line.”

North West firm E&I Engineering will recruit 100 new staff in the next year after its acquisition by the US-based infrastructure solutions and services company Vertiv.

The electrical switchgear manufacturer has plants across Derry and Donegal and employs more than 2,100 people worldwide.

With all current roles to be safeguarded in the takeover, E&I says it will recruiting around 100 new staff across its three locations in the North West in the next year.

Ohio-headquartered Vertiv offers power, cooling and IT infrastructure solutions and services to customers in the data centre, communications, commercial and industrial markets. It has a workforce of over 20,000 across more than 130 countries.

E&I Engineering founder and chief executive, Philip O’Doherty, said: “We are excited to join the Vertiv team and continue to grow our business through Vertiv’s global reach, strong channel presence and great customer positioning in critical digital infrastructures.”

Local social prescribing company Elemental Software has announced its acquisition by UK health informatics firm Servelec.

Founded in 2013 by two former community development workers, the Derry-based business provides technology to connect people with support and services in their community, address social issues, and improve wellbeing.

Following the sale to Servelec, a leading supplier of digital care software, Elemental will continue to operate from its Guildhall Street headquarters under its own brand and leadership team.

Leeann Monk-Ozgul, COO and co-founder of Elemental, said: “Bringing together our systems with Servelec’s will help us in our mission to achieve the best possible health outcomes for even more people. Interoperability in health and social care is extremely important to help ensure no one is left behind and to maximise the power of technology to support communities.”

Version 1, the global IT services company currently recruiting remote working staff in the North West, has teamed up with mental health charity Aware NI to help ensure that its employees are fully supported during COVID-19.  

Invest Derry Strabane – which recently launched the Work Life Balanced campaign in association with Version 1, aimed at promoting the North West as a premium remote working destination – has welcomed the company’s initiatives which also include supporting the local community where their staff are based.

Version 1 took the decision to support a mental health charity when the consequences of the pandemic became overwhelmingly apparent during the last 18 months. People were forced to adapt to significant lifestyle changes, such as working from home and limiting social interactions. This in turn led to an increase in people experiencing isolation, anxiety, stress, and grief at losing loved ones.

Additionally, the tech firm’s commitment to supporting the local community is a critical element of its core values. Community First is Version 1’s main Corporate Social Responsibility initiative and is driven locally by the employees. The aim of this scheme is to improve employment opportunities in communities by supporting awareness, education, and access by leveraging technology and skills.

Community First is locally driven, enabling each Version 1 office to support causes they care about in their particular area. Some of the Community First initiatives include mentoring, helping local schools, grinds, tackling youth homelessness and community engagement.

Version 1 has also been officially recognised as a Healthy Place to Work. This was achieved by engaging employees in the completion of a robust survey covering four pillars – purpose, mental resilience, connection and physical health – which gathered insight into their experience of work. From the results, the company was able to put together a plan identifying paths to improvement, which subsequently led to the prestigious certification.

Lorna McAdoo, Director of Operations and Business Development NI at Version 1, said: “Our support for Aware NI stemmed from a wish to highlight the mental toll that the pandemic has been inflicting on so many people. The charity helps people realise that it is okay not to be okay, and this service has proved to be invaluable. We have also benefitted from online sessions held by Aware NI to help us all with various tools to use during this time to reinforce resilience and ensure we have been adapting well to the working from home model.

“We are also extremely proud of the visible efforts the company has made to reach out to local communities, and our Community First activities have enabled many people to access education and skills that drive employment opportunities.

“In addition, Version 1’s recognition as a Healthy Place to Work in Northern Ireland was a significant milestone for our company. Being spread across five countries presents its own set of challenges and it has been absolutely critical to ensure our employees are happy and healthy. We have been able to benchmark our progress through the data provided during the process and are now updating and creating initiatives and strategies across our operations to ensure our workforce is the healthiest it can be.”

Rosalind Young, Investment Manager at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Version 1’s approach to dealing with the impact of COVID-19 is exemplary. The company’s commitment to providing mental help and support is evident through their partnership with Aware NI, and their track record of maintaining a community-focused approach is also welcomed as they expand their workforce in the North West.

“I would also like to congratulate Version 1 on their official recognition as a Healthy Place to Work. With the company bringing many highly skilled new jobs to the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, we are delighted that their staff will benefit from our Work Life Balanced campaign.”

For more information on the Version 1 roles available in the North West and to apply, visit the Invest DS jobs portal at www.investderrystrabane.com/worklife

Health Minister Robin Swann has officially opened a manufacturing facility on the outskirts of Londonderry which supplies vital PPE to health workers in Northern Ireland.

The Campsie-based firm, NorthWest Medical has created 25 new jobs after being awarded a £6.5m contract to supply Type IIR face masks to the health service in Northern Ireland.

Minister Swann said: “Demand for PPE has soared during the pandemic with many health systems around the world facing challenges in securing stocks of protective equipment. In Northern Ireland, we saw local manufacturers and businesses quickly diversify, recognising that their skills, expertise and assembly lines could be repurposed and they too could join the fight against this virus.

Health Minister Robin Swann with North West Medical Engineering Manager Harry McCorry

NorthWest Medical is one of five local businesses that now have contracts in place with BSO to supply clinical standard masks for health and social care staff. Securing local stock lines not only enables good continuity of supply of PPE for our front line workers, but is also beneficial to the wider Northern Ireland economy with BSO PPE contracts representing a total £95 million local investment.” 

The Health Minister thanked NorthWest Medical and all the businesses that have joined in the effort to supply critical PPE items: “The response of our local businesses has been remarkable. Manufacturers the length and breadth of the province have stepped forward over the past 18 months and I want to thank them all for their efforts.”

Director of NorthWest Medical, Gavin Killeen said: “We were delighted to have the Health Minister officially open our new state-of-the art manufacturing and cleanroom facility here at Campsie. We were privileged to answer the call from local health trusts to manufacture the much needed Type IIR surgical face masks and be able to play our part in supporting frontline health workers.

“Since establishing this facility, NorthWest Medical has been able to create 25 jobs and we now want to see the business grow and develop further. We are exploring how we can move into other areas so that we can continue to create employment locally and at the same time support our health service by providing a resilient supply line.”

The North West Manufacturing & Engineering New Futures Network has been awarded £170,000 of support from Invest Northern Ireland’s Collaborative Growth Programme.

The network, led by Nuprint Technologies Ltd, is made up of engineering and manufacturing businesses in the Derry and Strabane area, who work with local further and higher education Institutes and Derry City and Strabane District Council to promote skills and employability in the industry.

It aims to establish the North West as a region of excellence for manufacturing and engineering, boasting the very best skills and innovation capability, as well as generating business opportunities for those involved and the wider NI economy.

The funding will allow the network to appoint an independent facilitator who will work with companies and stakeholders, and help the sector develop through access to a skilled pipeline of talent. They will also provide support for the sector to innovate and embrace research and development to future-proof businesses for global competitiveness.

The group previously carried out a Scoping Study, also supported through Invest NI’s Collaborative Growth Programme. This was to identify key future priorities, including how best to address shifting perceptions of manufacturing and engineering as a preferred career; options for up-skilling; and new pathways to career progression.

Welcoming the support from Invest NI, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, said: “This is fantastic news for Derry and Strabane where we have a serious skills deficit that Council is working closely with our partners in education and industry to address. Partnership is key to taking an effective and sustainable long-term approach to building and developing the Manufacturing and Engineering sector.

“We have a wealth of talent here in the North West, we need to help businesses tap into that talent pool and also create the opportunities for young people to develop the skills and experience required to enhance both their prospects and the future success of the industry. I welcome the plans to appoint a Facilitator who can now begin to deliver on the objectives set out by the Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Collaborative Network.”

Commenting on the funding secured, Paul Kirkpatrick, Chair of the Network, said: “The sector is a huge employer and vitally important as we move forward to rebuild the economy after the impact of Covid-19. This collaborative approach of the public-private sector working together will deliver employment opportunities across all skills levels and emerging opportunities through R&D and new product development.”

The Network is led by Nuprint Technologies Ltd and incorporates membership from Manufacturing and Engineering Companies in North West including Precision Processing Services, AE Global, Fleming Agri, Dupoint, Invista, Seagate, Terex, E&I, GES, Hunter Apparel, Derry Precision Tools, Fast Technologies, McColgans, O Neill’s, MIM Engineering, North West Medical Ltd & KES Group. As the Network develops, the intention is to add more members from the micro and SME sector.

Managing Director of Nuprint, Gavin Killeen, said: “I am delighted our application has come to fruition and I look forward to working with Paul, Invest NI and Derry City Strabane Council in driving forward our ambitions for the sector. In the wider context of the Derry City and Strabane transformational City Deal, one of the key projects includes the development of a Centre for Industrial Digitisation, Robotics and Automation which will support companies wanting to take advantage of the digital technologies which would help support the future growth and development of this sector. I am confident that by working together we can maximise the potential that exists on our doorstep.”

Invest NI’s Collaborative Growth Programme is aimed at SME-led networks, and provides support for groups to pursue innovative collaborative projects with the potential to increase business competitiveness. Des Gartland, North West Regional Manager at Invest NI, said: “We are delighted to support the Manufacturing & Engineering New Futures network through our Collaborative Growth Programme. The North West has a strong advanced manufacturing and engineering heritage and the sector plays a vital part in Northern Ireland’s economy.

“We are confident that collaboration is a key method of accelerating business growth. By working collectively, the network will have a strong focus on how best to attract, retain and engage a skilled workforce to enable businesses to grow and develop skills. It will assist in the digital transformation and contribute towards increasing the global competitiveness of the sector here in the North West and beyond.”

The network will also benefit from the input of a number of targeted stakeholder organisations. These include Manufacturing NI; SEC; Catalyst Inc.; Derry City & Strabane District Council; Invest NI; Sentinus; MATRIX, NWRC, UU & local schools.

Managing Director of Nuprint, Gavin Killeen, with Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council