Derry based online learning firm expands into Scotland

Londonderry-based firm Learning Pool has confirmed the acquisition of Scottish company MediaCorp for an undisclosed sum.The e-learning business, which employs 140 people in Derry, Belfast and Nottingham, will now incorporate 12 new members of staff at MediaCorp’s Hamilton office.

Paul McElvaney (left) of Learning Pool with MediaCorp’s James Marshall

Paul McElvaney (left) of Learning Pool with MediaCorp’s James Marshall

The Scottish online learning and e-portfolio provider was founded and is still run by James Marshall.

Learning Pool said that the move would strengthen the company’s footprint in Scotland and increase its presence in the manufacturing market, which it considers key to expanding its product offering.

In its latest accounts, Learning Pool reported turnover of £7.6m and pre-tax profits of £2.3m for the year ending April 2017.

Co-founder Paul McElvaney said the acquisition would push its user numbers past two million.

The takeover sees Learning Pool enter the apprenticeship training market, availing of the Scottish firm’s services, which help companies manage qualification and apprenticeship programmes.

Mr McElvaney added: “It’s a significant acquisition for us.

“It gets us past 550 customers and two million learners on our platform. Plus, the acquisition opens up the apprenticeship market, which in Great Britain is an exciting market and something a lot of our customers are interested in.”

He said his company was on course to grow by 20% in 2018, with further acquisitions in the pipeline.

“The business plan for Learning Pool is very much focused on growth,” he added.

“We intend to grow by 20% organically this year and we have a pipeline for acquisition that is pretty interesting, but there is nothing imminent.

“The next six months is about us bedding in the MediaCorp team and about integrating as a team.

“We’re delighted to welcome James and the MediaCorp team into Learning Pool.

“We’ve been impressed by what they have achieved and I’m delighted to be working with an extended team in Scotland who share our passion for customer service and creating positive business impact.

“The apprenticeship market is clearly a growth area and many of our customers are looking for solutions to help manage the complexity of delivering apprenticeship programmes.”

It is the latest acquisition for Learning Pool.

The company bought over Mind Click in Nottingham two years ago.

Positive links being made at joint trade mission to Philadelphia

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr John Boyle and An Cathairleach Seamus Ó’Domhnaill of Donegal County Council, along with senior representatives from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council, and a number of companies from the North West returned this week from a very successful trade delegation visit to Philadelphia.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr John Boyle said this is the second visit by the North West group to the city of Philadelphia and was organised to build on the initial good work that was done during a visit to the city last year.

He said the Philadelphia market was a significant one for companies in the North West to tap into and it was important the Derry/Strabane and Donegal Councils were working in close collaboration to promote the North West City region to further develop links and relationships previously established between the two cities and regions.

The Philadelphia trip coincided with a tourism and business visit to New York the same week by the Derry and Strabane Mayor and a number of Council officials to attend the start of the Legenderry Finale leg of the Clipper Round the World Race before its departs for Derry to take part in the Foyle Maritime Festival taking place in July and to officially launch the city’s International Halloween festival to the US audiences.

Mayor Boyle said the visit was hugely worthwhile and a great opportunity for Councils to work closely with its strategic partners and local businesses to further develop ties with the US in particularly with businesses in Philadelphia and New York.

“I was delighted to be part of the delegation that travelled to the US to continue with the excellent work that is being done on the ground to develop business links, put job creation and investment to the fore and promote our unique tourism and cultural offering to a new and captive audience. It was a very busy visit but very worthwhile for everyone involved. There is really strong Derry/Strabane and Donegal connections in Philadelphia and we have a lot in common in terms of industry and our links to the Port so working with them to further develop those business links is hugely important,” he said.

Among the companies who travelled to Philadelphia were local agricultural company, Agri Fleming and data company Atlantic Hub from Derry.

An Cathairleach Seamus Ó’Domhnaill of Donegal County Council said the work being done by the two Councils in profiling the North West as a gateway to both the EU and UK markets, and a unique and vibrant place to do business is vitally important. and really effective. I had the opportunity to see this collaboration between the two councils at work and the positive reception in the US for the strong proposition we have to offer. The trip was extremely successful as an opportunity to identify new opportunities for foreign direct investment and to promote the growth and development of the North West as well as form new relationships with key stakeholders in the spheres of education, politics and business, and to showcase the unique products and services they have to offer to the right market.”

During the Philadelphia trip, the North West region delegation met Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilman Bobby Heenan and Congressman Brendan Boyle, and attended a number of functions and events including a Diaspora engagement event and a trade mission event. The group met with the Director of the NI Bureau Norman Houston OBE and the Deputy Irish Consul General Anne McGilicuddy as well as representatives from the economic development units in neighbouring areas of Chester and Montgomery. The delegation also attended a breakfast event at the Irish Immigration Centre of Greater Philadelphia.

In New York, in addition to attending the Clipper Connect Business Series event, the Derry and Strabane delegation met with the British and Deputy Irish Consul General and took part in a City Region of Opportunities event that was attended by business investors and tourism culture, diaspora to showcase the region and up and coming events including the Foyle Maritime Festival and the International Halloween festival.

Mayor Cllr John Boyle speaking after the visit said: “We really believe that our ongoing positive engagement with the US is part of our long-term strategy and commitment to develop relationships and links that will help us attract investment, develop trade links that will in turn see tourism numbers increasing, jobs being created and money invested. To date we have enjoyed some success and are confident that our continued and joint efforts “


Fleming Agri Products is a fifth generation family business manufacturing a range of agricultural and grounds-care machinery at their factory in Newbuildings. With almost 90% of production exported outside Northern Ireland, the company see a solid future in the viability of engineering and manufacturing in the North West region.

Approximately 12,000 machines came off the production line in 2017 and were shipped to an extensive network of dealers and importers worldwide. Fleming’s have put a dedicated Export Manager in place in 2016 and have been growing and developing new export markets in France,
Denmark, Latvia, Spain, Slovakia, UAE, Australia, New Zealand, and most recently the USA and Russia.

The Fleming factory has been operating a two shift pattern up to the start of 2018, but
due to increased demand from both the domestic and export markets for Fleming products, the workforce has had to be increased to create a third shift. This has created 10 further new job roles initially with further growth in employment as this new shift develops and increases the production output.

Plans for a new 25,000 sq. ft. factory extension are currently being put together to
streamline the production flow and create capacity and capability for new products
designed and developed in recent years to come online. Currently Fleming’s employ 110 staff and the proposed new expansion will create a further 25 new positions at their base in Newbuildings.
For further details and employment opportunities with Fleming Agri Products please see;

Derry City and Strabane District Council and Invest NI International Team Stakeholder Lunch


Derry City & Strabane District Council invites you to attend the Invest NI International Team Stakeholder Lunch. Join us on Monday 4th June 2018 for access to Invest NI’s International team (approx. 100 staff from across the globe) as well as members of the business team at DCSDC.

This free to attend event will be of interest to companies already exporting who may be looking to expand to new markets as well as first time exporters seeking advice or scoping markets. Members of the Invest NI team will be at hand to network and provide advice on the day. A complementary lunch will also be served.

Attendance at this event is expected to be at capacity. Register Now!

Monday 4th June 2018, 12:30 – 14:00hrs

Corinthian Suite, City Hotel, Queens Quay, Derry ~ Londonderry BT48 7AS

RSVP to by Thursday 31st May to confirm your attendance.

Local designers to showcase during London Fashion Week.

Local Designers attending London Fashion Week

Local Designers attending London Fashion Week

Ten ‘up and coming’ local designers will get a unique opportunity to showcase their collections to an audience of global fashion experts and international press at an exclusive exhibitor event during London Fashion Week next month.

The ten local designers who have been selected to travel to London in mid-February – known as the Derry Design Collective – follows a special ‘pitching’ event held last week at the Fashion & Textile Design Centre on Shipquay Street.

A total of 15 designers put forward their ‘perfect pitch’ to judges – including John Paul Doherty of John Paul Couture and industry specialist Jenny Holloway, CEO of renowned Fashion Enter London (FEL).

Derry City and Strabane District Council, in partnership with the Fashion & Textile Design Centre and Fashion Enter London held the ‘pitching’ competition as part of the Designer Business Start Up Programme – which supports emerging designers and helps to take them commercially to market through a series of workshops led by industry experts.

The bespoke scheme – which is also sponsored by Invest NI – draws on the expertise of Jenny Holloway to disseminate ‘best practice’ – ensuring local designers are empowered and provided with essential skills training, knowledge and the tools to develop their businesses effectively and efficiently.

Helen Quigley, Chief Executive of the Inner City Trust, said that the opportunity being created for our local designers is the culmination of the partnership working that has taken place in the Fashion & Textile Design Centre over the last number of years. This work has combined significant support from the team at the Inner City Trust, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Invest NI and Fashion Enter, and represents a commitment in presenting our local talent in a global setting.

Danielle McNally, Business Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “I am delighted that the ten winners will be able to avail of this incredible opportunity – and will benefit from the hands-on experience, technical training and professional mentoring from Fashion Enter London.

“Council is delighted to be working with the renowned Fashion Enter team on this fantastic initiative, providing unique opportunities for our emerging designers to work with leading industry experts to commercialise their design talents.

“We have a wealth of local design talent, and ultimately this programme will provide the tools and the opportunities required to support designers in making their fashion or textile business a reality.

“Indeed, this programme aims to give emerging local designers an invaluable profile boost by presenting them to an international audience during one of the most important weeks of the fashion calendar.”

Deirdre Williams, Business Development Manager with the Fashion and Textile Design Centre and Inner City Trust, added: “I would like to pay tribute to the strength and diversity of all the local designers who took part in the ‘pitching’ event.

“I was hugely impressed by the diversity and innovation of the local designers who are such creative and talented people representing both quality and variety in the fashion and textiles sector.

“It is clear from the outstanding talent displayed at the pitching sessions that our region – as in the past with our world famous shirt industry heritage – is continuing to produce young and emerging talent whose imagination and quality of design is key to a successful future in the global fashion industry.

“This will be a fantastic opportunity for the winning designers from the Derry & Strabane district to showcase their Autumn/Winter 2018 collections during London Fashion Week at the Fashion Enter premises in London.

“It will also provide opportunities for the ten local designers to engage with the UK fashion industry and build international connections.

“I am therefore delighted that they will avail of this unique opportunity to present their collections outside of local markets to an international audience.”

For further information on the Designer Business Start Up Programme visit

Wurkhouse to create 30 digital jobs in Derry

Alastair Hamilton (right), Invest NI, is pictured with Troy Armour, Wurkhouse.

Alastair Hamilton (right), Invest NI, is pictured with Troy Armour, Wurkhouse.

Londonderry based technology firm Wurkhouse is to create 30 digital marketing jobs as part of ambitious expansion plans to help it grow its export sales. Wurkhouse provides innovative marketing solutions to a wide range of clients based both locally and outside of Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the investment, Invest Northern Ireland’s Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton said: “Wurkhouse is a young and innovative business with high growth potential. The 30 jobs being created will contribute over £780,000 in additional annual salaries to the economy and offer excellent employment opportunities in the local area.

“The Creative Industries sector has been identified in Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Strategic Growth Plan as a priority sector for future economic growth and prosperity. Wurkhouse is a great example of a successful firm that is making a valuable contribution to that plan and providing local job opportunities for the talented workforce in the North West.

“We are delighted to support Wurkhouse in the next stage of its journey and to ensure it has the skills and knowledge necessary to exploit the substantial export opportunities it has identified, particularly in the GB and RoI markets.”

The new roles will include a range of designers, web developers, SEO and social media roles and will increase the company’s employment to 49 staff over the next three years.

In 2015, Wurkhouse received assistance from Invest NI of £24,000 to help with developing its design team.

Troy Armour, CEO of Wurkhouse said: “We are focused on becoming the leading digital agency in Northern Ireland through our export driven growth strategy. The advice and support we have received from Invest NI is helping us to scale quickly and has been vital to our ongoing growth and development.

“We play an integral role in the success of many of our clients and we believe that this success comes from our experienced staff and in-depth knowledge of the digital sector. We are confident that the North West region has the skills base we need to enhance our team, which will help us to achieve our ambitious plans for growth over the next three years and beyond.

“These jobs are for what we call ‘Creative Intelligents’. We seek two core attributes when hiring; intelligence and passion so we are looking for people with intelligence, who have a passion for what they do. This helps us deliver smart solutions for our clients and their passion is carried over into the delivery. It is like that old adage – cooking with love just makes the food taste better.”

A STRABANE-based manufacturer is set to double its workforce in an ambitious £7 million expansion.

Strabane-based Fabplus has announced it is planning to more than double its workforce and turnover. Darren McGavigan (left), Fabplus is pictured with Alastair Hamilton and Des Gartland, Invest NI

Strabane-based Fabplus has announced it is planning to more than double its workforce and turnover. Darren McGavigan (left), Fabplus is pictured with Alastair Hamilton and Des Gartland, Invest NI

Fabplus, which provides provides prefabricated pipework for use in fire sprinkler systems, is set to create 83 new jobs as part of a three-year plan to increase business both at home and abroad.

Recruitment is already underway to fill the new positions, which include management and production staff and the roles, set to be in place by 2019, will generate £1.7million annually in additional salaries, bring total employment at the firm to 138 people.

The major investment further includes expansion of the firm’s factory space storage and R&D facilities on Orchard Road as well as the development of an in-house powder coating and pipe optimisation capability and implementation of a staff training plan.

Fablus director Darren McGavigan said the ambitious expansion plan is being carried out with a view to competing in the global market.

“Extending the factory by 48,000 sq ft will increase our production capacity and improve factory workflow. Adding breadth and depth to the management team will also introduce additional expertise into the business while implementing our innovative new processes will consolidate our market leading position with new and existing customers.”

Invest NI has offered £786,000 towards the expansion, including £187,590 of R&D support, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the latest investment from Fabplus is a “significant boost” to the construction sector.

Fabplus is an established family business in Strabane which has experienced considerable growth over the last five years. The company has been working in partnership with Invest NI during this time and developed a strong competitive advantage in the UK marketplace.”

Fabplus wants to take advantage of growth opportunities in mainland Europe and Scandinavia and is utilising our help and expertise to invest in the resources, capabilities, training and R&D needed to help achieve its objective,” Mr Hamilton added.

The family business is a subsidiary of Mechanical Pipework Fabrication Limited (MPF), based in Lifford in the Republic of Ireland. Its equipment is installed in power stations, warehouses, retail buildings, hospitals, stadiums, apartment blocks and factories throughout Britain and the island of Ireland.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

CIVIC and political representatives gathered in the Guildhall at the weekend to welcome Chinese Provincial and Municipal leaders as part of the delegation visiting N. Ireland for the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, hosted a special reception for the five members of the delegation representing the City of Dalian, led by Vice-Mayor Lu Lin.

The trip was organised by the NI Executive Bureau in Beijing as part of the UK-China Regional Leaders’ Summit.

Local MP Elisha McCallion, joined the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and local party leaders in welcoming the delegates, and discussions centred on building links between the two cities and the many mutual benefits of a future partnership.

They were later joined by leading figures in local business and education, who had the opportunity to speak to delegates about the shared interests of the two areas and the North West’s attractive proposition as a base for global business.

The delegation have been enjoying the local hospitality during their three day visit to the region, which took them first to Belfast, before they arrived in the city on Sunday.

The Mayor extended a warm welcome to the group, and spoke of the strengthening relations between the two countries. “It’s an honour to host members of the Regional Leaders’ Summit here today as part of this prestigious event,” he stressed.

“This visit is testament to the ongoing efforts of our local politicians and business leaders to establish meaningful links with China.

“Council is committed to the forging and strengthening of international relations, and as our regional profile grows, we can look towards international markets for the opportunities for trade and investment which will galvanise our position in terms of global business.”

Based in North East China, the city of Dalian is a global financial centre with a population of over 6.5million.

The city specialises in the Financial and IT sectors, and is home to some of the major players in these industries including Oracle, IBM and CISCO. Local political and civic leaders heard more about their developments in the software industry, bio-medicine, digitalisation, marine engineering and advanced manufacturing.

During the visit Council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie gave the visitors an insight into the ambitious plans for growth for the NW as outlined in the recently published Strategic Growth Plan for Derry and Strabane.

The delegation heard about the City and District’s plans to enhance infrastructure, invest in jobs and skills and create the ideal environment for global investors to do business.

“We have been working to establish strong international links with locations such as Boston Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and the City of London and now we are turning our attentions to the East as part of our outreach to foreign direct investors,” Mr Kelpie explained after the meeting.

“The City is fast becoming a learning hub, and as our academic institutions at Ulster University and North West Regional College continue to forge ahead with plans for growth, we have much to offer in terms of education and skills.

“Coupled with our focus on entrepreneurship and our growing expertise in areas such as the digital and advanced manufacturing industries, we have many common interests which can form the basis of a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the city of Dalian.”

Work begins on building on strong connections made in Boston and Philadelphia

Ireland Northwest Delegation members

Ireland Northwest Delegation members

A first ever North West Trade delegation trip to Philadelphia next summer is one of a number of positive outcomes from last week’s joint Council led trade and investment mission in North East America.

The delegation, led by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh and Leas Cathoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Noel Jordan, included representatives from 15 local companies, Údaras Na Gaeltachta and senior council officers.

Representatives from Ulster University, North West Regional College and Letterkenny IT also made the trip as the region presented a united front to showcase its offering for inward investment and potential export opportunity.

A key element of the trip was showcasing the region’s entrepreneurship and innovation and to provide local companies with an opportunity to tie into the US market.

The delegation returned to Ireland at the weekend and work has already begun on building on the strong connections made during their week in the US.

“The mission sought to build on the ongoing positive work being carried out by the two Councils to establish strong economic development links and initiatives in the US,” explained Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie.

“We showcased the region as a well placed, cost competitive investment hub with high speed broadband and a young, talented and well educated workforce.

“Our message was well received and the challenge now is to build on the many positive connections the Councils and travelling companies have made to deliver increased education links and export relationships between our two regions and attract more direct investment into the North West region.”

The delegation began their five day trip in Philadelphia where they met with the City’s Mayor Jim Kenney and representatives from the City’s Chamber of Commerce and civic representatives to plan the details on the 2018 trade mission.

After a day exploring business and life science partnerships in the City of Worcester and an evening meeting with Irish Consul-General Fionnuala Quinlan on Tuesday, the delegation met up with the 15 local companies for the start of three days of networking in Boston.

On Wednesday morning, the Ireland North West Showcase presentation at allowed both Councils to sell the region as a prime area for investment before a networking event allowed the local companies to meet with potential partners in the US.

Thursday saw the delegation take part in an Invest NI breakfast with Ireland’s Ambassador to the US Daniel Mulhall and key decision makers before a meeting with the City of Boston International Economic Development Office and a visit to Boston’s House of Representatives.

The week climaxed with the annual Golden Bridges Conference and Awards on Friday at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Centre where officers from Ulster University, Letterkenny IT and the North West Regional College joined representatives from Harvard in a panel discussion on the benefits of a strategic alliance between the three further and higher education providers in the region and the increasing partnerships with Boston-based colleges.

Delegates heard from Derry City and Strabane District Council Chief Executive John Kelpie and Donegal County Council Chief Executive Seamus Neely who discussed Ireland’s role as America’s Best Friend in Europe. Officers from both Councils also discussed ‘Driving Tourism to the North West through World Class Events’ and ‘Helping Start-ups Survive and Thrive’.

Reflecting on the trip, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, said the joined up approach of the region’s civic, business and educational representatives filled him with optimism for the future.

“The message from the Ireland North West delegation was very clear, that we were a prime location for inward investment and trade with Derry as a city operating in partnership with the regional towns of Strabane and Letterkenny,” he noted.

“The trip highlighted the importance of the joined up strategy of our educational institutions with the North West Regional College’s campuses in Strabane and Derry working alongside their colleagues in Ulster University and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

“Those institutions’ are part of a strong working relationship with Council and our local businesses and their flexibility in being able to adopt to the needs of industry to address any skills shortages was reassuring to potential investors.”

Among the companies from the Derry City and Strabane District Council area in the Ireland North West delegation are AE Global (formerly Allpipe Engineering); The Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC); ActionSense Ltd; Makematic; NeuroConcise; O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Co Ltd; Troll Inc; and Type 40 Creative.

While Aniar Cumhacht Teoranta; Algaran Teoranta; O’Donnell’s Bakery; Silver Birch Gallery; Meastoiri Domhanda Teo; Eilis Galbraith and DS Environmental Services Ltd from the Donegal County Council area also took part.

Derry set to strengthen trade links with China

The city of Dalian and Zhongshan Square, Liaoning Province, China

The city of Dalian and Zhongshan Square, Liaoning Province, China

Derry’s council is set to strengthen its trade links with a city in China as part of a push to attract future investment, it’s emerged.

The move is part of a wider strategy by Derry City and Strabane Council, which also involves building trade relations with Boston and Philadelphia.

Earlier this week a delegation, led by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh and Leas Cathoirleach of Donegal County Council visited both regions to discuss bolstering trading links between the northwest and the US.

It’s now emerged that council has now its sights set on Dalian in the Liaoning Province of China as a potential target for future trade missions.

Dalian is seen as the financial, shipping and logistics centre for Northeast Asia.

The plans were discussed at Friday afternoon’s meeting of council’s Business and Culture committee, where Stephen Gillespie, Director of Business and Culture with the council, gave an update on its International Relations Activities.

The meeting heard that council has been undertaking activities to ‘enhance its reputation and capacity to attract investment, expand business opportunity, extending the global reach of the region and its economy’.

As part of this, Mr Gillespie added that council is ‘actively developing its international connections through a range of channels and relationships such as trade missions and international activation visits’.

He continued: “These relationships need to be formalised over time and a number of activities are in the pipeline which will strengthen this.”

He added these would involve a range of partners include the Ulster University, North West Regional College (NWRC), Invest NI and ‘other bodies with shared ambitions’.

Councillors were then asked to give approval for the council to develop more formalised relationships with the City of Dalian, Laoning Province, China, which was agreed.

At the same meeting, approval was also given for council to develop and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Boston.