The first cohort of students to study a cutting-edge degree in personalised medicine in the UK and Ireland are set to graduate today from Ulster University in a milestone which promises to deliver a new era of healthcare.

Based at the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, the Stratified Medicine students have been taught new approaches to managing chronic diseases such as Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer.

The course explores how genes, lifestyle and environment can influence disease. The practice relies on the use of biomarkers, such as genes or proteins, to organise patients into groups of individuals who are at risk of developing a disease, or who are likely to respond better to one therapy over other alternatives.

Dr Catriona Kelly, Course Director at Ulster University said: “We are proud to see the first intake of students graduate from our Stratified Medicine course. It’s a key milestone moment as the next generation of medical experts can now take us a step closer to providing the right treatment, for the right person, at the right time. We believe this is the future of medicine, globally.

“Our course, which is the first of its kind in the UK and Ireland, has focused on the development of new technologies and systems to predict disease, select the best treatment, and reduce side effects for individual patients. We know that this approach to streamlining healthcare provides more accurate clinical decision making.”

Stephen Morgan, who will graduate in Stratified Medicine from Ulster University this week, said: “I knew from a young age that my career path would involve science or medical research in some form and the idea of this particular course really appealed to me. It has provided me with practical skills and valuable insight into personalised care plans. This has been supported by two summer placements with the Almac Group which gave me the opportunity to learn advanced techniques and practices.

“My goal now is to complete a Masters degree in Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics. In the future I would love to return to Ulster University, perhaps to study at a PhD level, to further research priority areas within Stratified Medicine and play a role in the development of this research globally.”

Ulster Rally 2017 hosted in Derry City and Strabane District

Ulster Rally 2017 hosted in Derry City and Strabane District

Ulster Rally 2017 set to return to Derry ~ Londonderry: A host of Rally stars joined organisers and special guests at the historic Guildhall Square, Londonderry, for the launch of the 2017 John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally. Returning to Derry City and Strabane for the second year promises both competitors and race fans an action packed weekend of motorsport throughout Derry and Strabane on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 August 2017.

This year the Rally welcomes contenders from the FIA European Rally Trophy (Celtic Cup), the MSA Prestone British Rally Championship and the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Stages again feature the full breadth of Counties Londonderry and Tyrone with two regroups, one in Derry/Londonderry’s Guildhall Square on Friday and the other in Strabane Town Centre on Saturday of the event.

John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally Event Director, Robert Harkness is excited about returning to the Maiden City for this year’s event;

“It is an honour to be returning to such a prestigious venue as the Guild Hall to launch the second year of the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally in this historic City. We have the ideal event base at Ebrington Square with two new regroups this year in Derry and Strabane and a host of classic and challenging stages throughout the region”.

“But it’s not just the venue and stages that make these events, the stars of the event are the drivers, co-drivers and their cars and this year’s Ulster Rally promises a fantastic array of machinery crossing the start ramp in the Guildhall Square at lunchtime on Friday 18 August. We have a great selection of local competitors, many of them young and some very young, who are already making their mark in the sport. Callum Devine, Marty Gallagher and Gordon Noble venture successfully well outside Ireland; we also have Alan Atcheson, Joe McGonigle and Eathan McColgan. And what about our motorcycle racer Michael Dunlop who is now firmly caught up in rallying ?

We welcome the MSA Prestone British Rally Championship back to the Ulster Rally stages and we are looking forward to the battle for supremacy between the R5 cars in the British series and the Irish Tarmac Championship regulars. We are hopeful that our local home-grown talent will again be fighting for pole position in their respective categories in all the major championships included in this year’s event.

Robert continues; “It’s great returning to a venue for the second year and this which could only be made possible by our sponsors Derry City and Strabane District Council and John Mulholland Motors, along with Tourism NI and Visit Derry, our local stage sponsors and the 800 volunteers who give of their time so generously. The plan’s in place to make 2017 the best event yet.”

Headline Sponsor, John Mulholland Motors is based in Randalstown and Campsie and John himself was one of the first to put in his entry for this year’s event.

“This is our second year of a three-year agreement as main sponsors of the Ulster Rally, an event I have been competing in since 1994.

This year is extra special for us as it marks my 25th anniversary of participation in this iconic motorsport event. To celebrate I will be behind the wheel of a new Skoda Fabia R5 sporting a black and gold livery in recognition of us wining the UK Skoda retailer of the year (for the second time)”

Welcoming the event back to the City is Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh; “I am absolutely delighted that the Rally organisers have teamed up with our local club – Maiden City Motor Club – to bring this prestigious sporting event to the North West region for the second year in a row. It’s also great to have our local sponsor, John Mulholland from Campsie on board once again.

In terms of economic benefit for the city and region, the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally will have a huge impact in terms of bringing visitors to the City who will stay locally and hopefully spend money at our local restaurants, shops and bars. We are confident the Rally will create a great buzz and excitement across Derry and Strabane throughout the month of August.

Entries for the event are now open and the organisers, The Northern Ireland Motor Club Ltd anticipate a top line up of local and International competitors and a host of the frontrunners from the various Irish and Northern Ireland Rally Championships. Also included in this year’s Ulster Rally programme is the popular Historic section and the recently introduced Junior category.

Leeann Monk and Jennifer Neff Co Founders Elemental Software

Leeann Monk and Jennifer Neff Co Founders Elemental Software

Derry Tech For Good Company, Elemental Software, which has developed an award winning social prescribing digital platform that connects patients, health and social care professionals and community health & wellness providers, announced today that it has raised £300,000 with the help of ClearlySo, Europe’s leading impact investment bank. Elemental is using the capital to further develop its software that supports and empowers lifestyle change for communities most at risk, make key staff hires, and expand marketing reach.

Elemental’s platform is the only comprehensive social prescribing solution developed by community development experts that measures the impact of social prescribing and the difference that non clinical solutions can make to the health and wellbeing of communities, which is a growing priority at the highest level in government and rapidly being adopted in the UK.

Elemental Software’s platform was awarded the ‘Best Tech in the 3rd Sector’ of 2016 by Digital DNA and the best enterprise software at INVENT 2016. Leeann Monk and Jennifer Neff, co-founders of Elemental Software, said: “We are absolutely delighted that ClearlySo plugged into the Elemental vision for revolutionising the ability to socially prescribe across the health, social care and third sectors. The investment partnership, created by London based Clearly So, engages social impact investors who each bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and resource to help us solve one of the most pressing health and social care challenges of our generation.“

More than 80% of the world’s chronic conditions can be avoided by lifestyle change alone. Despite this, chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, mental health related illness and heart disease are rising and so too are costs. In the UK alone, the NHS, which has a funding gap estimated at £22bn by 2020, is spending £7 out £10 in treatment of conditions while GPs capacity is strained.

The key aim of Elemental’s Social Prescribing platform is to demonstrate the value and difference that referrals to local exercise, diet and nutrition and mental support can make to peoples’ lives. Further commenting, Stefano Cappanari, investment manager at ClearlySo, said: “We were very pleased to play a role in helping Elemental scale the “more than medicine” approach to health. From grass-roots Jennifer and Leeann built a business around the patient, health and social professionals, community based providers and Commissioners and we are excited that the capital raise, which closed in record time, and capabilities from our network will allow them to take the next step in transforming our care system for better.”

Mary McKenna, Director at Elemental Software, first introduced the company to ClearlySo, and concludes “I look for startups with that magic combination of knowledgeable and credible founders, a great product and a large and ready market opportunity. Elemental Software has all of that and more.

This investment round will allow Elemental Software to reach that huge social prescribing market at lightning speed.

A selection of manufacturing focussed business in Co. Londonderry come together to announce investment of over £6.2million and 51 new jobs. Pictured (centre) are Invest NI CEO Alastair Hamilton and Stephen Kelly, CEO Manufacturing NI with (L – R) Brian McErlain, McErlain’s Bakery, Ross Armstrong and Richard McMullan from Armstrong Medical.

A selection of manufacturing focussed business in Co. Londonderry come together to announce investment of over £6.2million and 51 new jobs. Pictured (centre) are Invest NI CEO Alastair Hamilton and Stephen Kelly, CEO Manufacturing NI with (L – R) Brian McErlain, McErlain’s Bakery, Ross Armstrong and Richard McMullan from Armstrong Medical.

Londonderry Manufacturers Invest in Growth and New Jobs: Manufacturing in Northern Ireland continues to grow as a selection of 30 businesses come together to announce investment of over £22 million and 282 new jobs.

The 30 firms, supported by Invest Northern Ireland, are from a broad range of disciplines: food to chemicals, pharmaceutical to transport equipment. Speaking at an event hosted by Invest NI to recognise the commitment to growth within the manufacturing industry, Invest NI’s Chief Executive Alastair Hamilton said: “Today’s event is an opportunity to highlight some of the investments manufacturing focused businesses are making. The local firms we have here today are from right across Northern Ireland.

“With £1.9 million of support from Invest NI they are making a combined investment of over £22million in our economy. As well as stimulating economic growth there are also new job opportunities, with 282 new jobs being created, which will generate over £6.3million annually in additional salaries for the local economy.”
McErlain’s Bakery, The SkunkWorks Surf company, Dynasty Group, Armstrong Medical Ltd and Gallagher & Mc Kinney Limited are among the manufacturing based firms in Co. Londonderry committed to growing their business, benefiting from combined Invest NI support of over £520,000.

Collectively these firms are investing over £6.2million in projects that will create 51 jobs. Once in place these new jobs will generate over £1.2million annually in additional salaries to the local economy.
“These investments show real commitment from businesses to invest in the future”, continued Alastair. “With investment in new equipment, skills and training, new jobs and export development, it is clear that there is real opportunity for growth in manufacturing.”

Welcoming the investments, Stephen Kelly Manufacturing NI Chief Executive said: “Manufacturing plays a huge role in the Northern Ireland economy generating annual sales approaching £20 billion, directly employing 80,000 people, supporting production and employment in a wider supply chain and creating jobs and strong communities in every constituency across Northern Ireland.

“SMEs make up 98% of all businesses here in Northern Ireland and are at the very heart of what we do in our manufacturing base. Week in, week out, companies like this continue to work very hard to keep moving forward, to build and grow our business economy and build communities.

“It is encouraging to see the progress and developments being made by firms across all disciplines. Invest NI is offering valuable support to enable these businesses to create highly skilled, well paid jobs and drive innovation and growth in export markets.” Northern Ireland manufacturing is rich in knowledge, skills and experience, founded on a strong heritage. A large number of manufacturing businesses account for 15 per cent of all local economic output and one in every nine local jobs.

Speaking about Invest NI’s commitment to helping these businesses, Alastair Hamilton continued: “Growing and strengthening Northern Ireland’s manufacturing business base is core to our strategy. We continue to focus on growing local businesses, increasing investment, and identifying new export opportunities.

“We are working closely with organisations like Manufacturing NI to support the promotion and growth of manufacturing. We have a global reputation in areas such as our Advanced Manufacturing, materials and engineering sectors. By working in partnership with businesses we can continue to support them to capitalise on new opportunities and realise their full potential.”

The investments are underway and over 100 of the new jobs are already in place. Manufacturing plays a huge part in the Northern Ireland economy with the latest HMRC 12 month rolling figures valuing manufacturing exports at just over £8bn.

Catalyst Inc welcomes the investment

Catalyst Inc welcomes the investment

The SEUPB has announced that funding of over €8.5 million from the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme has been offered to Catalyst Inc for the creation of a new cross-border ‘super cluster’ within the Health & Life Sciences business sector.

The project is called the ‘North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing’, and will be led by Catalyst Inc. It will support eight different key Health & Life Sciences companies involved in 15 different research projects based in the North West to develop new products and processes.

The project aims to enhance the level of cross-border research and innovation collaboration within the area of applied advanced manufacturing. It will also significantly increase the the number of Health & Life Science businesses engaged in commercially focused research in order to make them more competitive.

The project will bring together a number of partners in the creation of a new ‘super cluster’ including the Engineering Research Institute at Ulster University, the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre at Glasgow University, the PEM Centre at Sligo Institute of Technology and the CoLab facility at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Industry partners include Sphere Global, Randox, Lpe, Armstrong Medical, Nuprint, Abbott and GSK.

A total of 26 PhD level researchers, along with post-doctoral research assistants will be recruited over the life time of the project, to work with the eight participating companies, and create up to 98.5 years’ worth of PhD full time equivalent research.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland, the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland and the University of Glasgow.

Announcing the funding award Gina McIntyre CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which manages the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme said: “This project will make a real impact in terms of providing support for a business sector with strong economic potential. The research produced will be used to strengthen the economic outlook of businesses on a cross-border basis.

“This is one of the core objectives of the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme which has been specifically designed to enhance the levels of Research & Innovation found within businesses across the region,” she continued.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Norman Apsley CEO Catalyst Inc said:

‘As lead partner for the North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, we are delighted that the project has been awarded this EU funding. At Catalyst Inc we are focused on advancing the Knowledge Economy and this project will support the development of new products and services by bringing together industry and academic partners to work on research projects deploying Advanced Manufacturing technologies within the Life and Health Sciences sector.

This will see the development of a virtual cross-border Centre for Advanced Manufacturing with a focus on four cross-cutting thematic areas, enabling our industry partners to benefit from additional research facilities and expertise which will have a positive impact on the companies and the wider economy.

Our aim is to increase the level of cross-border collaboration across the region and raise the levels of innovation both of which are key to the regions future economic success.’

A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said: “Investment in research and development is critical to future economic growth. Strong collaboration between industry and academia will also contribute to success. The creation of this new super-cluster is a welcome development for the health and life sciences sector and a boost for the North West border region.”

Welcoming the project Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said: “I am delighted that this project has been approved and I am very happy that my Department is in a position to co-fund this project. It is a great example of practical cross border cooperation, which will bring strong economic benefits to the eligible regions in both jurisdictions. Manufacturing has been a key sector for us over the years, providing valuable jobs and investment. This new initiative will help drive competitiveness and enhanced value-added, at a time of significant technological change in the industry.”

Boston Trade Mission Success

Franz Schlindwein celebrates Boston Trade Mission Success

Qubizm squares up to Boston market: Local businesses hoping to break into the US market are being encouraged to sign up for a special trade mission to Boston Massachusetts, which is being led by Derry City and Strabane District Council working in partnership with Donegal County Council.

The 2017 Trade and Investment Mission, November 14th-17th, will focus on promoting the North West region as an attractive investment proposition for global companies. The trip builds on strong links established over the years as part of an ongoing programme of activities included in Ireland Northwest’s Gateway to Growth Initiative.

Several local companies are already reaping the rewards from previous trade missions – among them Qubizm, a unique company which is hoping to transform the landscape of traditional education with an innovative and engaging new approach to Maths. Qubizm creates specialized learning tools aimed at improving teaching standards and reviving interest in the subject for primary and secondary school children.

Local innovator and educationalist Franz Schlindwein heads up the company, which is now also making positive inroads into the education sector in Boston, Mass. Having travelled with the delegation last year, Franz will be travelling back to Boston next month to follow up on a series of networking opportunities generated from last year’s trip, and is confident that other companies can enjoy similar benefits. He explained more about the company’s groundbreaking work, and why Qubizm is the ideal company to break into overseas markets.

“International Research in the form of the TIMSS Report 2015, shows that 43% of children here are not confident in Maths by the time they reach the age of 13,” he explained. “Up until age 9, that percentage is only 19% – this downturn is a reality and Boston College did the research. The downturn creates major problems for children entering the transition process between Primary and Secondary school phase and we can offer unparalleled support in this area.

“We didn’t want to enter the US market until we knew our product was right, so we’ve been refining the system to the point where we now have the endorsement of the universities, validation from the Inspectorate and Education Authority and published research completed by QUB and Trinity College. Now we have something that is proven to work, we are confident in sharing it with the American market.

“In the US there is significant underperformance in Maths, which varies state by state, but in general, attainment levels are much lower than here. The TIMSS Report also shows NI to have the highest performance levels in Maths of any English speaking country in the world.

“Teachers here embrace Izak9 and 40% of schools have already adopted our system for a variety of uses so the response has been extremely positive.”

Qubizm’s first learning tool Izak9, has been going down a storm in schools across Ireland and the UK, where the colourful cube based system, which is supported by engaging online learning resources, has been bringing teachers and pupils together in developing exciting new strategies for tackling traditional Maths problems.

“When we took our system to Boston, children in the Boys and Girls clubs had the chance to try out the cubes and for example the pupils and teachers at Newman College – which is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s former school – use them already.

“While there we had several initial meetings with a variety of organisations both in the private and education sectors, and the next step is now for us to capitalize on that experience by travelling out there in June. We’ve had fantastic support since the trade mission, both from Council and from Invest NI, who assisted in setting up meetings with the appropriate points of contact for our company.

“It’s also been a great help having a contact on the ground over there, with business consultant Pat Bench setting up meetings for us with the Mayor’s Department, Boston Public Schools etc.”

Franz Schlindwein  from Qubizm celebrates Boston Trade Mission Success

Franz Schlindwein from Qubizm celebrates Boston Trade Mission Success

The future is certainly bright for the company which is currently working closely with local education authorities while keeping their sights set on the lucrative US and Asian markets.
“We have lots of plans in the offing at the moment,” Franz reveals. “As well as our trip back to Boston, where we hope to make further inroads in the market there, we also have plans to translate our system into Mandarin and are in channel partner discussions with a company in the Middle East.

“We are supporting the Attainment Challenge initiative in Scotland where they are seeking to achieve equity in education, as disadvantaged children are greatly affected by the massive socio-economic divide over there. It’s become a major priority for the Scottish government to bridge this gap and they are investing heavily in finding ways to improve attainment levels in Maths. We’re working with 50 schools in Scotland already, and we are also initiating a research project with the Welsh Education Authority in September.

“I would really recommend the trade mission to Boston in terms of the support that is offered to anyone unsure of how to establish those first important links. The follow up support is excellent. Of course it does require effort on the part of the company in keeping the momentum going after the trip, but the rewards are definitely there for those who are committed to pursuing their goal of breaking into the US market.”

Places are available for 12 companies from Derry and Strabane with similar aspirations to gain access to key economic and government decision-makers in Boston. Burgeoning enterprises can develop in-market networks and in-market intelligence though business-to-business meetings with potential partners, agents and customers, as well as gain valuable first hand insight into the US market. The deadline for submissions is 9th June 2017.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the 2017 Trade and Investment Mission to Boston should contact: Rosalind Young/Adam Goodall at Derry City and Strabane District Council 00353749160735

Apply now for the 2017 Mission at
Further information on Izak9 can be found on

Derry business woman on why she set up her own business in the city

Jennifer McKeever of Airporter

Jennifer McKeever of Airporter

“Starting a business at 23 with not much experience in the travel industry, but an insight into the inconvenience for families visiting Northern Ireland, meant the first year was very much about hard work, determination and a lot of learning and we were delighted to record a total of 5,000 passengers, an impressive start for any business. We are delighted to announce that last year our figures rocketed to 150,000 passengers.”

“The best thing about being an entrepreneur is having control of your life. There are enormous, terrifying responsibilities to having your own business that you could never appreciate until you’re there yourself. But, you do have control – I don’t think there many people who can say that and I am very aware that this is a great privilege.”

“When asked if she would start up a business again after the experiences of the last decade.

“There have been many times over the years when I would have to think hard about that, but now when I look back at what we have achieved, I would say yes – that it was the best decision I ever made and would 100% encourage everyone who is thinking about this to take the plunge and go for it!!”

For more details on the 10K Business Challenge go to
For more information on the Airporter service in Northern Ireland go to

Pennsylvania expansion potential for local companies: Business representatives from Pennsylvania have said there could be major opportunities for Derry-based businesses to expand into what has become one of the world’s largest economies

Talks have also been taking place around partnership work with Ulster University about trans-Atlantic collaboration. Joseph Burke, Deputy Secretary for International Business Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, and Richard Kilner, Managing Director, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania European Investment Office, delivered a presentation on potential investment at a Council meeting on 14/03/17 . Addressing Derry & Strabane Council’s Business & Culture Committee, Mr Burke said they saw:

A lot of opportunity on the island of Ireland north and south”

He elaborated that their work centered on attracting business investment into Pennsylvania – the 19th largest economy in the world- and growing the export market. He said that one of the biggest business opportunities in the state revolved around the shale gas natural resources located there and said that fracking has been ongoing for the past 10 years amid tight regulations. Mr Burke said that this was “Creating a new renaissance in Pennsylvania manufacturing.

Other major industries in the State include life sciences, agribusiness and pharmaceutical manufacturing, mirroring some of the biggest employment sectors in Ireland. At present there are 13 businesses from the north of Ireland operating in Pennsylvania, including Almac and Primark, as well as many others from the south. There are now opportunities, Mr Burke said, for joint international ventures. He said that engagement with Derry & Strabane Council has been ongoing since October, with plans to strengthen ties between the two regions.

Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper said that formalising a mutually beneficial relationship was now “key”, and said there were opportunities for local businesses and the tourism sector to tap into a whole new market. “In many ways there is an open door we can exploit as much as possible,” Colr. Cooper said. “This is opening up opportunities for other organisations- the local university here is very much based on research work, and very much dependant on EU funding, and that’s going to be a problem as well.

“We think there is a lot of untapped potential here.” SDLP Councillor John Boyle said it was “encouraging” that the Pennsylvania representatives were considering that “companies in our part of the world can be of use in what is obviously a very strong and vibrant economy in Pennsylvania”. “We have many talented individuals in this part of the world. One of our problems is we export people,”

Colr. Boyle said, adding it would be better if the region was exporting knowledge and trade. “If your door is open we will be more than happy to facilitate companies from here expanding their business and their presence in Pennsylvania. What we are effectively opening up is that entire area,” he said. UUP Councillor Derek Hussey said that the research and development potential in conjunction with Magee and the North West Regional College was of particular interest. Mr Burke said he has met with the Ulster University representatives on several occasions, including in San Diego and Chicago. “On the life science front I think there’s a lot of synergy,” he said. “The desire is to continue that conversation.”