A major boost for Northern Ireland’s future economy, life sciences industry and global patient healthcare through a collaboration between Randox and Ulster University.

Carla Harkin, PhD student, Professor Alastair Adair, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Peter FitzGerald, Founder, Randox and Tara Moore, Professor of Personalised Medicine. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Carla Harkin, PhD student, Professor Alastair Adair, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Peter FitzGerald, Founder, Randox and Tara Moore, Professor of Personalised Medicine. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Ulster University and Randox Laboratories Ltd have launched a £5 million skills development initiative to support up to ten individuals annually through PhD level study in the Life Sciences sector.

The Randox-Ulster University-Industrial PhD Academy, which aims to encourage the development of advanced, higher level skills in key industry sectors, will further reinforce Ulster University’s position as one of the top universities for biomedical related research impact and, enhance Randox’s competitiveness in the growing global healthcare sector.

Up to ten PhD researchers will be supported annually, including Randox employees and individuals from the wider sector, who are working on a range of scientific projects, with the ultimate goal of new product development. They will have the opportunity to work on new research projects, driven by industry and jointly supervised by Ulster University and Randox, to enhance their own individual skill sets whilst delivering groundbreaking advances in the life sciences sector. Ulster University and Randox will each fully fund up to five PhD researchers annually.

To date PhD researchers enrolled in this new programme of Industrial Research have started exciting projects in areas of medicine including mental health, diabetes and cancer, with more projects being developed. All projects share the common goal of delivering new diagnostic approaches for early detection of disease and earlier intervention where possible.

Professor Alastair Adair Deputy Vice-Chancellor Ulster University said:

Ulster University is renowned globally for research in personalised medicine, cancer, diabetes and mental health and this makes us the perfect fit for a global industry leader like Randox. Ulster University and Randox have a longstanding partnership built around research, knowledge sharing and collaboration which has placed both organisations at the forefront of diagnostics and health research globally.”

Ulster University Professor of Personalised Medicine Tara Moore, said:

“The life sciences sector is of critical importance to our economy and health. To truly maximise our contribution to the economy and to fully exploit new advances in science and technology we must focus on advancing the skills of our workforce, ensuring the most talented people reach their full potential by working with partners to tackle new challenges and drive new discoveries. A strong and growing life sciences sector ensures patients will continue to benefit from new technologies which will help to improve diagnosis getting them the treatment they need quickly.”

“This new Industrial PhD Academy is a further step forward in our commitment to respond to national priorities such as the Industrial Strategy, aligning the research community with industry to drive innovation, building on the world-leading reputation of Randox and supporting a new generation of researchers in this strategically important sector.”

Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director of Randox Laboratories, said:

“At this time of rapid and significant change in the UK, it is critical that the next-generation can meet industry’s ever-changing demands. The current STEM skills shortage costs the economy £1.5bn/year and will only be resolved if all companies in the sector recognise they have a role to play now too.

“In the last 4 months, we have made significant investments within Northern Ireland, in both R&D infrastructure and now in helping aspirational scientists at Ulster University to develop the critical skills to make a positive difference to patient healthcare around the world. We are unapologetically ambitious in our determination to cement Northern Ireland’s reputation as a global hub for life sciences and our own position as a worldwide leader.”

KES Group to build state of the art manufacturing facility at Strabane Business Park

L-R Des Gartland, North West Regional Office Manager, Invest NI and Conor McCrossan, Managing Director, KES Group.

L-R Des Gartland, North West Regional Office Manager, Invest NI and Conor McCrossan, Managing Director, KES Group.

KES Group is to make a multi-million pound investment in a new, purpose built, manufacturing facility at Strabane Business Park. The company has purchased circa 3.5 acres of land on the Invest Northern Ireland owned Business Park to accommodate their first phase of development.

Conor McCrossan, Managing Director, KES Group said: “This is a very exciting time for our company. This new manufacturing facility at Strabane Business Park will be where we design, manufacture and develop our innovative products. We look forward to bringing our SmartBuild and Energi divisions under one roof.

“Providing a turnkey solution is integral to our business strategy. Each SmartBuild is bespoke in nature and designed to suit individual customer’s needs. Our Energi division operates a class leading service supplying packaged plantrooms to some of the most prestigious commercial contracts throughout the UK and Ireland.

“We approached Invest NI when it became apparent that our current facilities where no longer suitable due to the increase in demand. Invest NI offered Strabane Business Park as an option, and due to the location and infrastructure available it was in our best interests to invest in this area.

Invest NI has been a great support and any advice we have received from them has made a great difference. We have been able to expand our team, grow our business and this now gives us the confidence to invest in our new state of the art factory.”

Des Gartland, INI North West Regional Office Manager said: “This new 40,000 sqft factory is a significant investment by KES Group and will be a fantastic asset to Strabane and the surrounding areas.

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.

AXA Insurance to create 60 new jobs at their offices in Derry.

The insurance firm AXA is creating 60 new jobs at its offices in Derry.

AXA have local branches nationwide, with the Derry branch providing insurance products such as car, home, travel, van and business insurance.

The AXA offices are located in the Springtown Centre at the Elaghbeg Business Park on the Northland Road.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “We are excited to announce that AXA Insurance is creating up to 60 new jobs at our offices in Derry/Londonderry.”

40 new jobs after O’Neills international sportswear announces major outlet to open in the city

THE sportswear brand O’Neills is to create 40 jobs through a city centre store in Derry. The Irish sportswear firm was looking at opening up a new branch at the site of the former SuperValu store in Waterloo Place, which closed at the beginning of March.

The new Derry store will measure 20,000 sq ft. Commenting, Stephen Thompson from O’Neills, said: “Celebrating 100 years in the sportswear business, O’Neills is proud to announce that one of the country’s most historic, vibrant and dynamic cities, Derry, is to be the location of our latest retail venture, creating around 40 new jobs.”

“The 20,000 sq ft store looks forward to welcoming eager customers, both new and old, to this latest destination. The store will breathe energy, heritage, authenticity and originality showcasing how far the brand has evolved during its 100-year history,” he added.

The new Derry store marks the latest expansion for the site after Derry City and Strabane District Council issued planning approval for a major new development at the O’Neill’s site in Strabane last month.

Ulster University launches test centre to meet growing demands for nurses across the UK

Ulster University is continuing to support the vital transformation of Northern Ireland’s healthcare system by launching its new Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Competence Test Centre at Ulster University’s Magee campus, which aims to meet the growing demands for overseas nurses and midwives wishing to work in UK.

Nurses and midwives registered outside of the EU/EEA are required to undergo stringent procedures before they can practice in the UK. This involves successfully taking a two-part test of competence. The first part of the test is computer-based and can be taken anywhere in the world. If successful, applicants can then take the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) at a UK test centre.

Situated at the University’s Magee campus, as part of the School of Nursing, the new purpose-built, designated test centre will deliver the objective, structured clinical examination (OSCE), which tests applicants’ skills, knowledge and behaviours in a simulated practice environment.

The test centre at Ulster University is one of just three in the UK and the only centre in Northern Ireland. It joins similar centres in Oxford Brookes University and University of Northampton.

All non-EU/EEA registered nurses recruited directly by the Trusts will be required to go through the Test Centre at Magee before they can practice. With no waiting lists currently in place, Ulster University can bring our much-needed registered nurses recruited overseas through the centre immediately and ensure that they are all promptly allocated to clinical practice and patient care.

The new test centre, which has the potential to test 45 candidates per week will help to increase nursing capacity in UK, allowing a greater choice of location and shorter waiting times for overseas nurses and midwives wanting to sit the test.

The new Competence Test Centre facility at Magee Campus also serves the Independent Sector in enabling overseas nurses recruited to work in the Nursing Home sector to undertake the OSCE ‎in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the opening of the new test centre, Professor Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, stated:

“We are actively addressing the nursing staffing issue on a number of levels, including the recruitment of 622 overseas nurses by 2020. The new Nursing and Midwifery Council Competence Test Centre at Ulster University will ensure that any oversees nurses who apply to work within the trusts each year have gained professional registration and that they are fit to practice in the UK at the required standard.

“We recognise the invaluable contribution that nurses educated outside the EU and EEA make and the key role they play in the UK’s health and care workforce, but it is vital that they possess the correct skills and qualifications required.”

Professor Carol Curran, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, also said:

“We are delighted that Ulster University is one of just three universities in the UK selected to offer such a vital service. This new test centre demonstrates the commitment of the University and the Department to strengthening and enhancing the healthcare workforce.

“Located at our Magee campus, the centre builds on our delivery of our nursing education provision and stratified medicine in the city. Alongside innovations such as our Physician Associate Course, our School of Nursing and our allied health profession courses, this test centre is a further opportunity to make a tangible impact on the pressing challenges and demands of our health service.

“Across our own skilled and committed nursing graduates and the nurses who will gain their registration through this centre, our Magee campus makes a valuable and rewarding contribution to nursing care.”

Lynn Fee, HSC International Recruitment Nursing Lead / Assistant Director of Nursing at Southern Health and Social Care Trust, also stated:

“The new test centre in Ulster University’s Magee campus is vital to ensure that the nurses educated outside the EU and EEA who wish to join our register can sit the test in a timely way, assisting overall in the direct intervention of healthcare workforce challenges in Northern Ireland.

“The current project to recruit overseas nurses for the HSC follows a regional approach. Nurses must pass through the NMC Competence Test Centre before they can practice and, once registered, are placed into the points of greatest need within the Healthcare System to best serve our community.”

For further information on Ulster University’s NMC competence test centre, visit https://www.ulster.ac.uk/faculties/life-and-health-sciences/nmc-competence-test-centre.

New dairy technology centre opens in Artigarvan after £30m investment

Mark Canning (left), corporate acquisition manager at Danske Bank, and Gabriel D’Arcy, chief executive of LacPatrick

Mark Canning (left), corporate acquisition manager at Danske Bank, and Gabriel D’Arcy, chief executive of LacPatrick

DAIRY processor LacPatrick has opened a new technology centre in Artigarvan following a £30 million Danske Bank-backed investment which has led to the creation of 20 jobs in areas such as operations, quality, environmental and health & safety.

LacPatrick was formed in 2015 after a merger between Town of Monaghan Co-Operative and Ballyrashane Co-Operative, and the Artigarvan site has 70 staff, with LacPatrick Dairies employing 300 people across all of its sites.

The new 30,000 sq ft centre will double the site’s capacity, making the firm one of the biggest producers of dairy products in the UK. It represents one of the single biggest investments in the Northern Ireland dairy industry in recent years.

Gabriel D’Arcy, chief executive of LacPatrick, said: “This new dairy technology centre will provide security of capacity for local dairy farmers, producing milk to the highest standards.

“The plant provides long-term security to our supplier base and positions the business at the forefront of global dairy technologies.

“We are now able to produce two new lines of milk powder for international markets with the dairy technology centre able to process milk all year round.”

Mr D’Arcy said the core logistical risk of Brexit has been greatly mitigated by the Artigarvan facility (as an exporter out of the UK, LacPatrick says it will be closely monitoring the trading agreements being negotiated).

He added: “We will be focused on driving product development, building relationships with processors seeking access to our technology and expanding our customer base in Asia and the Middle East.

“We have made a significant capital investment with the clear purpose of delivering a sustainable return to our suppliers over the coming months and years ahead.”

Mark Canning, corporate acquisition manager at Danske Bank, which has had a long-standing relationship with Ballyrashane Co-Operative, said: “This significant investment demonstrates LacPatrick’s continued innovative approach and dynamic presence in the dairy food sector.”

Poundstretcher invests £500,000 and creates 20 x Jobs in Derry ~ Londonderry


Poundstretcher has confirmed its new Derry store will open on Tuesday 6th Feb at the Faustina Retail Park. Poundstretcher have invested £500,000 in the new store and recruited 20 new members of staff (part and full time). Poundstretchers investment at the Faustina Retail park follows the investment and creation of 80 jobs by The Range Retail Group at this key cross border retail park.

Magee expansion: £11m teaching block opens at Derry campus

Ulster University opens a new state-of-the-art teaching block at Magee this week marking an £11million investment in the campus.

Dr Malachy O'Neill, Provost of the Ulster University’s Magee campus outside the new £11m teaching facility.

Dr Malachy O’Neill, Provost of the Ulster University’s Magee campus outside the new £11m teaching facility.

The innovative development delivers the most modern and cutting-edge facilities available in teaching accommodation to students and provides a collaborative teaching approach at Magee.

The four-storey facility, which is attached to the existing library, covers a floor space of 4000 sq meters; including three lecture theatres, 20 teaching rooms, open plan student hubs and a café.

Its opening represents a major investment by the University in world-class teaching space, significantly enhancing the student experience at Magee and underpinning the University’s commitment to developing the campus.

The new teaching block will increase the capacity of the campus for additional students and features a 314 seat lecture theatre representing a significant increase on present facilities.

Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor, Ulster University said:

“The opening of this new £11million teaching block is yet another positive step forward in the realisation of our strategic vision for Magee and underlines the University’s commitment to expansion in the north-west

“As an inclusive and internationally focussed university, we want to offer students the most dynamic and high quality teaching environment possible – one that will confidently provide the foundations for rewarding careers for our graduates.

“The state-of-the art facility will ensure a collaborative teaching approach and interactive learning experience for all of our students. It is a major boost for our staff and current students and also paves the way for enhanced future capacity on the Magee campus in line with our broader expansion plans.”

Ulster University’s Magee campus offers a wide range of undergraduate courses spanning all four faculties in Life and Health Sciences, Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment, Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences and the Ulster University Business School . The recently launched Doctoral College, which has a base in Magee, also enables the provision of student opportunity at the highest level in the city.

Dr Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of the University’s Magee campus, said:

“Students across all faculties and disciplines will benefit greatly from the new facilities – both academically in terms of the high quality teaching environment provided and also socially, with access to relaxed café spaces and student hubs encouraging an interactive experience.

“The new block also features the largest lecture theatre ever constructed on the campus – with capacity for over 300 students. The facility will also be a huge civic asset, offering a fantastic conference centre with incredible views of the city and we are looking forward to welcoming even more local and international visitors to the campus.

“Facilities such as these are vital to ensuring we have the best quality environment for teaching and research for our students whilst also serving the needs of the wider community and supporting economic growth in the region.”

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