Ulster University’s Pro Vice Chancellor of Research Liam Maguire was joined by colleagues from the Derry-based Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) at a Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Showcase in London.

Representatives from the university’s Engineering Composites Research Centre and Research and Impact Directorate also attended the event, which featured the best of Northern Ireland’s innovative businesses, start-ups and universities, showcasing what the region offers as an inward investment location and as a trade partner.

The Northern Ireland Office, the Department for International Trade and Invest NI partnered to host the September showcase, which Dr Alexander Chacko, UU’s head of Innovation and Impact, said “spread the message that Northern Ireland’s innovators, tech start-ups, and universities are leading the way in post-pandemic recovery.”

The Allstate NI and Ulster University partnership has continued to flourish, with planning now underway for a second joint ‘Learnathon’.

The partnership spans from Allstate NI’s representation on Ulster’s industrial advisory boards, to involvement in reviewing curricula for undergrad and postgrad courses, student scholarships and prizes, running student hackathons, providing industry guest lectures and in turn, University academics presenting in Allstate.

Allstate has also been invited to develop a vision for the new CARL initiative (Cognitive Analytics Research Lab), to be based on the Magee Campus. This vision was developed through design thinking workshops with a small number of industry partners, including Allstate NI. November 2019 saw the opening of a new-state-of-the-art Allstate NI computing lab, also at the Magee campus.

Meanwhile, a recent research collaborative effort with Professor Damien Coyle, Dr Magda Bucholc and their PhD student Salman Ahmed used advanced multi-modal analytics approach to help predict major incidents in Allstate’s infrastructure at the earliest opportunity, allowing them to put preventative measures in place.

Jonathan Wallace, Professor of Innovation within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment and Chair of the Faculty’s Computing Employer Advisory Board (CEAB), said the Computing Schools at Ulster University recognised the strategic importance of developing professional, educational and collaborative research links.

He added: “As well as the computing lab sponsored by Allstate NI, we launched a research partnership linking academics and PhD students from both Computing Schools with Allstate’s AI Centre of Excellence team to explore how AI and ML techniques developed at Ulster can be applied to the next generation of Allstate products and services, indeed planning for a second joint ‘Learnathon’/Mini-Conference to showcase how Ulster’s leading edge research can potentially address the short mid and long-term strategic goals of Allstate NI is currently underway.”

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

The October 14 ‘Playing the Innovation Game’ event is the second in the Innovation Stories webinar series, which follow the signing of the historic Derry & Strabane City Deal in February, and also come as Northern Ireland embarks on a Decade of Innovation, set out in the recent publication of the Department for the Economy’s 10X Economy paper.

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Derry City and Strabane District Council and Ulster University are collaborating on the series in which City Deal partners select case studies from the region, discuss what innovation means within a business, offer and general advice on embracing digital technologies.

Rosalind Young, Council’s investment manager, said: “Through the visionary Derry and Strabane City Deal, a whole new innovation eco-system will develop here in the region. The people behind the City Deal are inviting businesses to hear best practice and to leave with an idea of how they will play their part in the Decade of Innovation that is ahead.”

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

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

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

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

The UKRI investment will help the consortium scale up capacity in device manufacturing, and underpin and develop hundreds of jobs across the sector. The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £63.9m.

Smart Nano NI’s Dr Mark Gubbins said of the investment: “We can now advance Northern Ireland’s niche capability around smart nano manufacturing and world-leading knowledge in photonics to create a self-sustaining local industry. It allows us to capitalise on the combined expertise of our companies and the availability of trained researchers and resources across our academic institutions”.

Northern Ireland’s largest IT company has praised the North West’s “resilience, ingenuity and innovation” as it celebrates its 20th year in business locally.

Allstate NI provides high-quality software development services and business solutions to support its parent company, the US-based insurance giant Allstate Corporation. It began its Derry operations in 2001 with 20 staff, and now employs more than 900 people in the area.

Managing Director and Vice President of Allstate NI, John Healy, said: “Our initial setup in Derry was about accessing the deep talent pool in the region.

“What we have managed to achieve in the past 20 years is a testament to the resilience, ingenuity and innovation of our community in the North West.”

Is your business looking for help or guidance with research and innovation? Perhaps your product, service or process requires expertise that is outside your current R&D capacity? Did you know that the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network can help?

To compete in the challenging global business environment, indigenous companies face an ever-increasing demand for advancement and innovation.

Recent data also strongly indicates that companies who collaborate with third-level institutes on research, development, and innovation, have double the turnover of those that do not, and these companies are also likely to have significantly greater sales and export revenues.

Invest NI in collaboration with the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network can assist you with funding and the specialist expertise you require. The Wireless Sensor and Applied Research Lab (WiSAR) Technology Gateway develop electronic products and software using expertise in the internet of things, while PEM (Precision Engineering and Manufacturing)Technology Gateway provide mechanical engineering and process improvements, with specialisation in product design and development in the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

Invest NI’s next £5,000 Innovation Voucher call opens on September 5th and to coincide with this, both WiSAR, based in LYIT and PEM, based in Sligo IT, are holding joint Innovation Voucher Clinics on the 15th, 16th, 22nd and 23rd of September. These clinics offer free one-on-one consultations, where businesses can discuss potential ideas for R&D projects under the scheme.

To book your free consultation at the Innovation Voucher Clinics visit:

https://bookwhen.com/wisarlab/

£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.”