£42.4 m has been awarded to Smart Nano NI – a Northern Ireland nano technology consortium to develop new technology for medical devices, communication and data storage. 

 The funding, which has been awarded by the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund presents a game-changing opportunity for Northern Ireland’s nano technology and manufacturing sector and launches the necessary support to scale up capacity in device manufacturing, 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 is led by data company Seagate Technology in collaboration with Analytics Engines, Causeway Sensors, Cirdan Imaging, Digital Catapult NI, North West Regional College, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and Yelo (the “Consortium”). The eight partners form a corridor of expertise from Derry~Londonderry to Belfast.  

  The funding award was made after a highly competitive process with projects from across the UK. It will further consolidate Northern Ireland’s position as a global leader for excellence in the field of nano technologies as well as delivering a significant and lasting impact on our local economy.  

  This is a once in a generation opportunity for Northern Ireland. The Consortium will accelerate the work of developing transformative advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods. This will allow for the delivery of new technologies as researchers and industry partners work together to develop new sensors for healthcare and optical communications leveraging the vast wealth of Northern Ireland’s research and industry knowledge. The Consortium will build capacity and new prototypes in the spheres of medical devices, communication, and data storage.   

  Northern Ireland has a unique cluster of expertise in this globally expanding field. The collaboration between all the members located along the Derry Londonderry / Belfast corridor will enable the establishment of a Centre of Excellence. This will enable advances in the Life and Health Sciences as well as exploiting the potential of photonics and nanotech in other high-growth sectors through knowledge transfer.  

  Smart Nano NI’s Dr Mark Gubbins said: “We are delighted and honoured to secure this investment which will deliver significant benefits for the economic growth of the region and the “corridor” of businesses from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry ensuring a levelling up of shared opportunities. 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”.   

  Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I wish to congratulate and acknowledge the outstanding team behind this achievement. Securing this funding through UKRI Strength in Places is a major boost for our economy and our post Covid recovery journey and is a testament to the power of collaboration and the calibre of Northern Ireland companies. It will create new commercial opportunities, will drive economic growth and help tackle productivity challenges, and invigorate our manufacturing sector.” 

Further Information: media@smartnanoni.com or maria@mccannpr.com or mobile 07802934246 or 02890 666322 

A new webinar series has been launched to celebrate innovation in the North West.

The Innovation Stories webinars 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. Its first event, targeted at businesses and employees considering upskilling and anyone with a stake in the innovation or City Deal agenda, was held this month.

Rosalind Young, the 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.”

One of the academics and researchers behind the planned, Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA), Justin Quinn of Ulster University’s School of Computing Engineering and Intelligent Systems at the Magee campus said:

“With Industry 4.0 upon us, a new form of manufacturing is about to begin which will change the face of industry. It will bring about huge opportunities for the industries who embrace it and challenges for those who do not. Work is underway now to bring about a Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation in Derry. We are inviting businesses to consider how they would like to be part of the Derry City Deal. Covid-19 forced many a business to reconsider how they operate, so in many ways we have seen that rapid change is possible. We would like to help companies to begin their innovation journey now so as to be ready to take advantage of centres like CIDRA and CARL when they are in place. ”

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

Ulster University, Seagate and Dell Technologies Ireland have combined their research and data storage capabilities in a collaboration which will allow advanced analyses of Covid19 patient data.

CTRIC @ Ulster University

The Ulster University research team will examine large volumes of medical datasets to establish if there are links between COVID 19, genetic make-up and the severity of the disease. The findings will also inform decisions around drug treatments for those with severe symptoms and possibly long covid, as well as providing an insight into how genes may influence vaccination efficiency.

Data storage company, Seagate, and multinational IT company Dell Technologies have delivered the infrastructure required to store patient information for this major research project at the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine based at C-TRIC on the Altnagelvin hospital campus.

Seagate donated 100 x 12TB Hard drives and Dell Technologies donated critical equipment and expertise to help deliver a complete solution.

The collaborative partnership is part of the Data4Good initiative aimed at data usage for the benefit of humanity. It created a petabyte of data which is the equivalent of over 1000 large home computers working together or the capability for an individual to store 4,000 digital photographs every day for their lifetime.

Professor of Genomics, Tony Bjourson, Director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine at C-TRIC at Altnagelvin, and the Project Lead on the UU THRIVE City Deal project said:

“We are delighted this crucial infrastructure is now set up, thanks to Seagate and Dell Technologies as without this data storage and IT capacity we could not undertake this work. We recently completed the recruitment of the 500 Covid19 patients for whole genome sequencing. It means reading the sequencing of the 3.2 billion chemical letters that make up each of our genomes.  This generates huge amounts of raw data that has to be stored to allow very advanced computational genomic analyses.

This collaboration, which came about when Seagate and Dell Technologies responded to our call for assistance, offers a good example of how research transforms lives and how technology acts as a catalyst for innovation. We will pursue more of these kind of collaborations through the Derry and Strabane City Deal in the years ahead through data analytics via CARL and health innovation via THRIVE and of course industry partnerships such as this one will be key. For now, as our work during Covid19 continues, we are so grateful to partners such as Seagate and Dell Technologies for coming together in this way.”

Fergus O’Donnell, Plant Manager and Site Lead at Seagate said:

“This collaboration involved a huge effort from the teams at Seagate, Dell Technologies and Ulster University working together to overcome the many logistical and organisational arrangements to help deliver a complete solution. It is important to support these advanced analytics capabilities which enable progress in this vital area of research and bring benefits for local and global communities”.

Jason Ward, Vice-President and Managing Director, Dell Technologies Ireland said:

“We’re proud to build on our strong partnership with Ulster University through technology and expertise to help their researchers unlock insights into COVID-19 and uncover treatment options for those impacted by the virus. With the latest Dell Technologies storage systems and back-end infrastructure, the team at Ulster University will have immediate access to the data and applications needed to drive their research forward.”

The opening of Ulster University’s new School of Medicine at Magee is gathering pace with the hiring of three new team members.

The School, which will welcome its first intake of students this August, recently appointed Dr Lysa Owen as Senior Lecturer in Clinical Skills, Jason Murray as Technical Services Coordinator, and Claire McDaid as School Administrative Officer.

Recruitment is also underway for a Director of Education.

Speaking about the appointments, Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine said: “Lysa joins us from the new Graduate Entry Medical School in Scotland at the Universities of St. Andrews and Dundee and will bring a wealth of experience to bear in her role as Senior Lecturer in Clinical Skills.

“I am also delighted to welcome two existing members of the Ulster University network to join our growing team at the School of Medicine. Claire and Jason’s institutional knowledge of Ulster University, the student body and the North West area will serve our new students and staff excellently.”

Ulster University Medical School. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Ulster University’s School of Health Sciences undergraduate programmes are set to relocate to Magee from September 2022, bringing more than 800 students to the Derry campus.

Professor Carol Curran, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at Ulster University, said the Magee campus would best support the NHS’s emphasis on the development of multi-disciplinary teams, and provide rich opportunities for interprofessional learning.

She added: “Now, more than ever, in the context of a health service that continues to face sustained challenge in tackling COVID-19, we are acutely aware of the vital contribution of our allied health professionals.”

The programmes will be delivered alongside UU’s new Paramedic teaching provision and Graduate Entry School of Medicine, which are both recruiting students for the start of the 2021 academic year.

UU’s award-winning School of Nursing, ranked 7th in the UK, has operated in the city for 20 years. The Magee campus also runs one of only three Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) competency test centres in the UK, established to increase nursing capacity and help alleviate pressures in the health sector.

In the relocation plans, postgraduate Health Sciences teaching will move to UU’s Belfast campus. The School of Health Sciences will remain at Jordanstown for the 2021/22 academic year.

Students from Ulster University’s Magee campus have been reflecting on how the Derry and Strabane City Deal will benefit their studies and future careers.

Ulster University Magee Campus

The £250m investment package, which reached a key milestone last month with the signing of its Heads of Terms agreement, includes the delivery of the School of Medicine at Magee, the creation of a Health Research Institute (HRI) and the expansion of the C-TRIC research facility at Altnagelvin hospital through a pioneering health innovation project called THRIVE.

THRIVE, a partnership between the Western Health & Social Care Trust, Ulster University and Derry City and Strabane District Council, will see the team of personalised medicine researchers grow at the expanded C-TRIC/THRIVE building, based at Altnagelvin and into the new HRI/THRIVE building, located beside the new School of Medicine.

Ulster University has released a series of videos asking students what the City Deal will mean for them. For second year Personalised Medicine student Sarah McCloskey, the deal will help the region fulfil its highest potential and “see what we can become”. Watch video

An Ulster University Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert is working on pioneering new technology which could help people communicate after serious brain injuries.

Professor Damien Coyle aims to develop AI technology that can be used in new forms of wearable neurotechnologies. These devices, which measure signals from the brain and allow their wearer to interact with technology without movement, could help those unable to communicate following a serious injury or illness.

Professor Coyle, Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at Ulster University’s Magee campus, has received UK government investment for the research. He is leading a national trial in partnership with 17 hospitals to evaluate AI-enabled neurotechnology for consciousness assessment in prolonged disorders of consciousness following severe brain injury.

The AI R&D planned will be thoroughly trialed in the lab and with end-users of the technology, including patients and clinicians. The AI will be deployed in ‘wearables’ developed in partnership with NeuroCONCISE Ltd, an Ulster University spinout.

The Derry City and Strabane District Council area has officially become the first Zero Waste City in the UK and Ireland.


The European designation sees the Council area join a network of communities across the continent sharing learning and experiences of reducing waste generation while improving recycling rates and the quality of the resources captured.

The new status comes amid a deepening collaboration with local campaigning group Zero Waste North West, and marks the latest stage of the City and District’s adoption of a Circular Economy/Zero Waste Strategy.

The Strategy aims to keep resources and products in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value for the local economy, before recovering and regenerating them at the end of their life cycle.

For more on Council’s Waste and Recycling Services visit derrystrabane.com/recycling. Full details on Council’s Circular Economy strategy can be viewed at derrystrabane.com/circulareconomy.

A US-based research scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur with Donegal roots has donated $100,000 to support three students through their four-year degrees at Ulster University’s School of Medicine.

Massachusetts-based Dr Susan K Whoriskey, whose great-grandfather, John Whoriskey, was from Creeslough in Co Donegal, made the donation via the Irish American Partnership.

Dr Whoriskey has worked with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna since it was a start-up, and was involved in the founding of several top biotech companies. She has also been Entrepreneur in Residence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Medical Education Scholarships at Ulster University offer financial assistance to a number of eligible students who are successful in obtaining a place on the Graduate Entry Medicine programme, commencing in August 2021. The Scholarships are aimed at students who have, and/or continue to experience challenges, and where finances present a barrier to accessing a medical education.

More information about the scholarships, including eligibility criteria and key milestones, can be found at www.ulster.ac.uk/medicine.