Hypixel Studios, the videogame developer behind upcoming title Hytale, will establish its headquarters in Derry~Londonderry as part of its acquisition by US-based developer and publisher Riot Games.

Hypixel Studios was established in 2018 as a spin-off of Hypixel Inc, the creators of one of the world’s most popular independent game servers, with a leadership team including Derry~Londonderry natives Aaron ‘Noxy’ Donaghey and Sean McCafferty. The studio has traditionally operated entirely remotely, with a geographically-dispersed team of over 40 developers. In December 2018, the company announced its debut title, Hytale, a community-powered game that allows players to go on adventures in a block-based fantasy world, express their creativity through extensive built-in customisation tools, and compete in quick and accessible online minigames.

Artwork from Hytale, developed by Hypixel Studios.

Hytale has received a monumental reception from the gaming community. It has amassed over 2.5 million sign-ups for its forthcoming beta testing program, and its debut trailer has received millions of views on YouTube. It was nominated for ‘Most Anticipated Game’ at the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards. In November 2019, Hypixel Studios announced that it is planning for Hytale to be playable by everyone in 2021.

Hypixel Studios today announced its acquisition by Riot Games, the developer and publisher best known for League of Legends. Hypixel Studios will continue to operate as an independent studio while leveraging Riot’s expertise, technology and resources to support the development of Hytale, including the establishment of the company’s first physical office in Derry~Londonderry.

“When the question of where to set up came into the conversation there was no doubt in my mind that we should set up in Derry~Londonderry,” said Hypixel Studios Chief Executive Officer Aaron ‘Noxy’ Donaghey. “Many members of our team have enjoyed visiting the city over the years, and as a base to develop many of our team’s functions, it has both the talent pool and – more importantly – the spark of hunger necessary to ignite creativity.”

“As part of our acquisition, we had the opportunity to pick almost anywhere in the world, but one of my favourite sayings is ‘when the roots are deep, you need not fear the wind’ – and Hypixel’s roots in Derry and Northern Ireland are deep,” Donaghey said. “It may seem strange to be announcing such a move in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, but games and home entertainment are now more important than ever and we have a community of millions to be looking after. Our company HQ will be the nexus for these ongoing efforts.”

The present COVID-19 crisis means that an opening date for the new office cannot currently be set. When it opens, the Hypixel Studios office will act as a base for back-office functions and quality assurance throughout the development process. Hypixel Studios is initially hiring 20 highly skilled new positions in these areas, all based in Derry~Londonderry. The company anticipates further growth as development of Hytale continues and the needs of the project evolve.

“Our offices in Derry will be the backbone that allows our remote development team to work effectively,” said Hypixel Studios Chief Operating Officer Sean McCafferty. “There, we will not only have our back-office services such as finance, recruitment and general operations, but as we move through the year we will be ramping up areas such as quality assurance while providing a space for our remote workers to congregate a few times a year.”

“I’ve been in game development for 20 years at this stage, always working around the north west and Derry~Londonderry specifically,” McCafferty said. “It has been my greatest wish to bring game development, wholesale, to the place in which I grew up. Having worked in the space for this length of time and to be finally in a position to help bring a game studio to ‘the town’ is something incredibly special to me – a life-long wish that is finally coming true.”

Hypixel Studios’ office in Northern Ireland is being established with support from Northern Ireland Screen, the national screen agency for Northern Ireland.

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, said; “We are absolutely delighted that Hypixel Studios is setting up its latest hugely ambitious games venture in Derry~Londonderry with the support of Riot Games, one of the biggest game publishers in the world.  We are in no doubt that this hard won next step for Aaron and Sean is hugely important for the video games sector in Northern Ireland.   Hypixel Studios and Riot Games can do for the games sector here what HBO and Game of Thrones did for the TV drama sector.“

In addition, advice has been provided by Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business for Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Derry City and Strabane District Council have been delighted to coordinate with Hypixel Studios over the last number of months. The selection of the North West is a further endorsement of the City/Region as a key investment location. The availability of a highly skilled talent pool, world-class digital connectivity and unparalleled quality of life have obviously featured heavily in this decision. This is an exciting development for the City providing well-paid jobs in a growing sector of the economy “

For more information on Hypixel Studios and Hytale, visit www.hytale.com

LIMERICK-based tech firm Deveire has set up a new software development centre in Derry’s Ebrington Square, as it looks to guarantee access to the UK markets post-Brexit. The Irish web solutions company has said it expects to create 15 new jobs at the site over the next three years. Invest NI has offered the firm £97,500 in support.

Set up over 10 years ago, the company specialises in building web solutions for enterprises and large organisations looking to use the latest technologies for their digital presence.

Deveire has delivered platforms that power the systems behind over 50 globally-renowned companies including Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Amazon and the Special Olympics. It has also developed National Geographic’s and Hallmark’s video platforms.

Welcoming the company to Northern Ireland, Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business, Invest Northern Ireland, said: “Deveire’s decision to locate its new centre in the North West is based on the many advantages this region has to offer international companies, particularly in the software and technology industry.

“With our support for 15 new jobs, the company will be able to build upon its innovative ambitions and expand in new markets. The new centre will also create economic benefit for the local economy, with £582,000 of additional annual salaries.”

Invest NI is offering the company £97,500 to support the creation of the new jobs.

Cathal Murtagh, Chief Operating Officer of Deveire, said: “When we began the process of expanding our team, we were eager to create a base where we had access to a strong talent pool of software developers; we believe Londonderry is the right place to find the talent we need.

“Also, as a part of our Brexit strategy, the Londonderry office gives us access to the UK markets. Invest NI’s support has been invaluable, helping us to build a team whose innovative expertise will allow us to develop new products and grow and explore success in global markets.

“Our Software Development Centre will focus on advanced computing and innovative technical approaches, to build next generation application solutions. It will have a strong focus on culture and people, through our working environment, but this will also be a key objective of our software solutions. Our aim is to create software that meets the users’ needs to allow for seamless experiences that are personal to a user, allowing people to reach their full potential.” The company’s new centre will be based in Ebrington Square, Londonderry

Pictured (L-R) are Steve Harper, Executive Director of International Business, Invest NI, with Cathal Murtagh, Chief Operating Officer, Deveire.

Technical fire engineering services specialist, Joule Group is winning new business in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar following R&D investment. The new contracts are being delivered by the team in Northern Ireland, creating 16 new jobs at its Londonderry headquarters.

The company offers consultancy expertise on fire engineering design, construction and operational processes. Its digital technology platform, Total Fire Solutions (TFS), improves fire safety in buildings such as airports, hotels, retail and sports venues.

It has recently secured fire engineering consultancy services on two major infrastructure projects with a stadium project in Doha and airport development in the UAE. These are multi-year deals for complex engineering projects.

The company already has a portfolio of prestigious projects across 10 different countries from Europe to Middle East and North Africa. This includes working on 10 of the signature super high rise towers in King Abdullah Financial District in Saudi Arabia which will host the G20 Summit in 2020.

John Noone, co-founder and director of Joule Group, said: “We are striving to create a safer world through our transformational technology and are committed to digital fire safety globally. The continual support we have received from Invest NI has been invaluable to the growth of our business.

“By undertaking R&D we have been able to develop our TFS product and secure innovative export deals with globally renowned companies. Business is developing rapidly so we have created a specialist team in the North West to focus on growing in international markets.”

Invest Northern Ireland has offered the company support of over £200,000 to innovate through R&D and to expand its workforce, as well as support towards export market visits. Job opportunities at the company include software engineers, fire engineers, a business support manager and business director. Recruitment is underway, with seven of the 16 roles in place.

Des Gartland, North West Regional Office Manager, Invest NI, said: “Joule Group is a perfect example of how, when a business invests in R&D and in exploring new export markets, it can grow its business and lead to new job creation.

“Our support, both financial and advisory, has helped the company to reach its full potential and we are delighted to see the team grow here. The company’s specialist expertise in the fire engineering sector is already delivering success in international markets, and we look forward to seeing them continue their growth.”

Joule Group’s innovation has been recognised nationally with the Disruptor of the Year award at the Ulster Bank Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards 2019.

The company also has offices in Belfast, London, Doha and Dubai.

Global manufacturer Terex has officially opened its new £12m facility in Campsie, which will create 100 jobs locally.

The firm, which makes lifting and material processing solutions, unveiled the 105,000 square foot facility where heavy equipment for Terex Ecotec (waste management and recycling) and mobile conveyors will be manufactured.

Speaking at a reception of over 100 representatives from educational, political and business institutions in the area, Kieran Hegarty, president of Terex Materials Processing revealed that the manufacturer has “ambitious plans for growth” in the future.

“We’ve a fantastic local team now in place and trained in our world-class manufacturing processes. But we don’t stop there. Terex has ambitious plans for growth and just as important as this new facility and filling our current vacant positions is in developing and retaining our people so we have the skills needed to deliver our ambitious growth plans,” he said.

Discussing the new facility, Mr Hegarty added: “As people, businesses and governments become more aware of their carbon footprint we’re seeing enormous growth in demand for environmental equipment globally.

“We’re excited that Terex Campsie has started producing equipment to cater for this market – the type of equipment capable of processing construction and demolition waste or everyday waste from your home – to be exported all over the world.”

Manufacturing at Terex Campsie is underway, with almost 40% of the initial 100 jobs filled. Northern Ireland is a key manufacturing location for the firm, with nine sites in the region and more than 1800 people employed.

Derry City and Strabane District Council Deputy Mayor, Cara Hunter said: “The grand opening today is very good news for our region and reaffirms the North West’s position as a competitive, exciting and innovative place to do business.”

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.

The city of Derry~Londonderry’s tourism sector is thriving, enjoying record occupancy levels and welcoming thousands of visitors each year. The latest addition to the city’s portfolio is the new Holiday Inn Express Hotel, which opened its doors in July 2019.

The Holiday Inn Express is part of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, a global company representing 12 hotel brands including Intercontinental Hotels, Crown Plaza Hotels and Hotel Indigo, with over 5,000 partner hotels worldwide. The hotel will be managed by Interstate Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading independent multinational hotel operators. These International partnerships and globally renowned brands will provide the hotel and its team with unique access to a world-class portfolio of knowledge, operational and reporting systems and training initiatives to achieve the very highest standards of delivery.

The £7m development will support the wider tourist and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland and provide a new base for visitors to explore the city and surrounding areas. The hotel will create 44 new jobs, generating employment and business opportunities for service providers in the region.

General Manager Stephen Redden commented “We are committed to building a dynamic, passionate and professional team capable of delivering a first-class service for our guests. Our global brand partnerships will enable us to offer ongoing development opportunities for our employees ensuring the hotel is committed to continually enhancing skills, capabilities and knowledge.”

The hotel is the second largest in the city with 119 modern bedrooms and plans are already underway to further increase capacity to 150 bedrooms by early 2020. All bedrooms are air-conditioned and offer appealing amenities such as internet ready Smart TVs, blackout blinds and a free Express Start™ Breakfast for all guests. The hotel’s Express Bar and Café offers an informal all-day dining menu and two on-site meeting rooms can accommodate up to 12 delegates.

Phase 2 of the development is currently in progress to further transform the site with the addition of a stylish independent bar, a chic destination restaurant and 22 modern self-catering apartments, all due to open in 2020.

W: www.hiexpress.com/derry-ldnderry

Contact: Aoife Thomas salesmanager@hixderry.com

T: +44 2871 162400

MULTI-award winning technology giant Allstate is in negotiations to move into a new purpose-built 850-seat flagship office block in Derry, the Irish News can reveal.

The company, one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, is understood to have identified a site at Ebrington, and expects the building to be open within two to three years.

The ambitious move will consolidate its operations in the north west, where it already employs around 800 staff at sites in Derry’s Northland Road and in Strabane.

The existing city office is likely to close under the new arrangement, but the Strabane facility will be retained, and it is thought a significant number of new jobs will be added to its current 2,100-strong payroll.

The company would not reveal exact details of the relocation when contacted by the Irish News given the early stages of its vision.

But a spokesman confirmed that “our real estate team in the US is currently in talks with developers” about creating the new Derry hub.

Allstate is already running at maximum capacity in Derry, and such is the speed of its organic growth that is it having to hire 100 seats at the Catalyst science park building in the city just to alleviate its current capacity problem.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Allstate Corporation, the largest publicly owned property and casualty insurance company in the US, Allstate has been a significant part of the business landscape in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

And its latest expansion will be seen as demonstrating confidence in the region’s highly educated workforce, competitive cost base and its research and development capability.

The Derry facility will be a slightly smaller scale version of the new 140,000 sq ft headquarters building which Allstate opened at Mays Meadow in Belfast last June as part of a £30 million investment.

That building, located between Central Station and the River Lagan, was completed in just two years. It spans six floors and includes large sociable working spaces, break-out areas, outdoor terrace and high-tech software development labs.

The project also involved extensive refurbishment of the tow path, adjacent boat marina and a restaurant unit at ground level.

At the time, Allstate NI’s managing director John Healy described the office as “a truly ground-breaking facility – an inspirational working space fit for a world-class technology organisation with a commitment to innovation, imagination and building digital technology of the future.”

The company first dipped its toe into the Northern Ireland market in 1999 as Northbrook Technology before rebranding to Allstate in 2008.

Throughout its history the company has consistently reinvested to become one of the biggest employers of tech talent in the north.

Total financial assistance offered by Invest NI to Allstate over the past 20 years is £27.2 million.

At the opening of its Belfast headquarters last year, Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: “Allstate has been instrumental in showing that, with ambition and vision, a company can grow its workforce tenfold.

“Not only have they created one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, but they have tapped into the wealth of talent that the local workforce provides to overseas investors, providing high-quality jobs across Belfast and the north west.

“By continually investing in their staff, and their research and development into IT excellence, the Northern Ireland team are at the forefront of digital innovation. I thank them for the pivotal role they play in developing a Northern Ireland economy fit for the future.”

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.”

Fleming Agri to create 34 new jobs in the North West

Londonderry based manufacturer, Fleming Agri Products has announced it is making a £4 million investment and creating 34 new jobs in the North West.

The company is a leading manufacturer of agricultural and ground maintenance machinery. Making the announcement, George Fleming, Chairman of Fleming Agri-Products said:“This £4million investment will help us to meet our strategic growth plans and boost sales in external markets.

“Over the past few years, we have developed new products which have helped to significantly improve our sales performance. With this new investment and the addition of 34 new staff, we hope to break into new markets, including the US and expand our existing sales in Europe.y

“Our main goal is to increase sales in external markets and put in place the necessary resources and infrastructure to enable us to service the increased demand for our products. This investment is a major commitment to the North West region and to our existing staff to help us build long-term sustainability and we look forward to welcoming new people on board to help us drive the future of our business.”

Invest NI has offered the company £220,000 of support towards the new roles which include Production Operatives, Sales Executives and Managers. The 34 staff will be in place by 2020, with 15 of the roles already in place.

Des Gartland, Executive Director for Regional Business, Invest NI said:“Fleming Agri Products is a highly regarded business in the North West area with a strong brand reputation. We have offered Fleming Agri wide ranging support over the last number of years, helping the company improve its performance and strengthen its business.

Pictured (L-R) are Des Gartland, Executive Director for Regional Business, Invest NI and George Fleming, Chairman of Fleming Agri-Products.

Pictured (L-R) are Des Gartland, Executive Director for Regional Business, Invest NI and George Fleming, Chairman of Fleming Agri-Products.

“The company’s pragmatic approach has proven extremely successful and it is great to see an indigenous company reinvesting in the local area. The new jobs being created will generate over £700,000 in additional annual salaries for the Northern Ireland economy which is a great boost for the Derry City & Strabane District Council area.”

This £4million investment will help us to meet our strategic growth plans and boost sales

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.”