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Female entrepreneurs have just one week left to apply for a spot on a new accelerator-lite programme from AwakenHub which aims to provide support for women who are interested in starting their own business. 

SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland who have recently started a new business venture or who have an idea but are struggling to access the tools, information and support needed to get the business off the ground. 

35 spaces will be available (15 of which are being targeted at women in Northern Ireland) and the programme will be made up of a series of workshops, tailored to meet the needs of those enrolled, along with access to community events and advice and signposting from the programme founders and a hand picked group of Big Sisters who are company builders, innovators, investors and serial entrepreneurs. 

SheGenerate is the latest in a long line of innovations delivered by AwakenHub which have all been aimed at driving and securing economic investment and opportunities in the North West. It’s founders include Angel Investor, Mary McKenna; Business Growth Enabler, Clare McGee; Leadership Consultant Sinead Crowley; and Entrepreneur, Mary Carty. The foursome bring a wealth of knowledge and real life experience of growing and starting a business to SheGenerate and can offer successful applicants hugely sought after mentorship opportunities. 

Co-Founders Mary McKenna and Clare McGee  urged anyone interested in learning more about the event to come along to an Expression of Interest event on Tuesday September 28. 

“We know that many women have been inspired or impacted by Covid-19 to start or grow a new business venture but noticed that many struggled to find the right level of support to help them take ideas to the next level. 

“SheGenerate is open to women from across the island of Ireland working in any background or sector who are prepared to take the plunge, do the work and get trading within the next 12 months. 

“Thanks to our programme funders, Ulster Bank and Rethink Ireland, we can offer a place to 35 female entrepreneurs who will have access to mentorship, peer support and workshops to get their business up and running and create all of the positive economic and social change which comes along with this.”

John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank, which has supported SheGenerate through its Enterprise Funding Grants, said it was important these programmes were available to existing and potential entrepreneurs. 

“At Ulster Bank we are committed to supporting female entrepreneurs and providing them with the tools and networks they need to start or scale a business. This partnership with SheGenerate has the potential to deliver transformative change for women; particularly those in the North West, and we are pleased to have been able to play a role in bringing female entrepreneurs even closer to potential investors through the Enterprise Partner Funding grant. 

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project and wish each of the participants well as they make the most of this exciting opportunity and take the next step of their business journey.”

Applications will close at 5pm on Friday October 8 and those unable to attend the Expression of Interest event can register their details here . 

For more information about the programme and it’s founders, visit www.awakenhub.com  

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/

The region’s first ever BSc Hons Paramedic Sciences programme is now underway, with Ulster University welcoming 40 students to the Magee campus.

With funding support from the Department of Health, the new three-year course will be based within the university’s multi-award-winning School of Nursing.

This course will support the development of the paramedic profession in Northern Ireland and further afield. Until now, local students wishing to become paramedics had to travel to the south of Ireland or across the Irish Sea to complete a BSc Hons programme in Paramedic Science.

The first cohort ranges in age from school leavers to people in their forties and a wide range of backgrounds – from those embarking on a change of career from accountancy to insurance, to people working in similar fields: ambulance care assistant, lifeguard, emergency medical dispatcher and humanitarian.

They will learn a wide range of skills through frequent experience and learning inside an exact replica of an ambulance – the only one of its kind in the region – coupled with 60 weeks of practice-based learning with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and a range of other hospital and community-based experience in the other Health and Social Care Trusts and independent sector partners.

The students will also have access to a wealth of specially designed training spaces from a hospital ward, simulated bedrooms and living room recreated on campus, to clinical skills rooms and the latest equipment.

Ulster University’s new School of Medicine at Magee has welcomed its very first intake of 70 students.

The first cohort to enter the first graduate entry medical school in Northern Ireland is made up of students with a wide range of related and non-scientific/healthcare backgrounds from politics to investment banking, radiography, management consultancy, optometry, forensic science, nursing and even a previous lecturer in Irish at Magee.

The opening of the School of Medicine, in a newly refurbished building with state-of-the-art facilities, comes just six months after the signing of the City Deal’s Heads of Terms, as the region prepares itself to capitalise on further growth in the burgeoning Life Sciences sector in Northern Ireland.

Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean at the School of Medicine, Ulster University said: “I am very proud of our new School of Medicine which in itself marks the continued transformation of the Magee campus into a hub for Health and Innovation, as a pre-emptive part of the Derry and Strabane City Deal.

“Medical schools are sometimes located in a hospital setting but I want our students to learn near the city’s GPs and the population they will go on to care for. The School of Medicine will act as their home, a welcoming place, for the future doctors who are embarking on a challenging yet hugely rewarding journey with us.”

Significant City Deal and Economic Growth Funding Package confirmed for Derry and Strabane.

The announcement today of a £105M economic package by the UK Government in the Derry City and Strabane City Region has been widely welcomed by City and District partners with the Mayor saying it will be “a significant catalyst for change and economic growth” for the Derry City and Strabane District and the wider North West and expressed his delight that it has been secured during his Mayoral year as a key priority.

The investment package announced comprises a £50M ‘City Deal’ and a £55M ‘Inclusive Future Fund’ and is the culmination of a long period of engagement with Government in relation to advancing priority projects and initiatives within the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan and City Deal proposals.

Reflecting the model recently announced by Government for the Belfast Region City Deal, it is anticipated that the UK Government investment package announced today of £105M for Derry~Londonderry and Strabane will be at least matched by a similar commitment from the NI Executive and will lever further investment from project partners and other third party sources which it is hoped will eventually lead to an overall investment injection of in excess of £300M.

The announcement follows a visit to the City last July when the Chancellor, Philip Hammond met with civic and political leaders to hear of the plans and invited a bid for a City Deal to be formally submitted.

The bid, supported and endorsed by all local and regional political parties and representatives and devised around the key strategic economic projects outlined in the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan 2017-2032.

Led by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the bid was developed in partnership, and with the support of a wide range of local education, business and economic partners – including the Ulster University, the North West Regional College, both the Londonderry and Strabane Chambers of Commerce, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Visit Derry, City Centre Initiative and the Foyle Port, in consultation with all associated NI Government Departments.

At the core of the bid is education, innovation, job creation and skills development with a key focus being the advancement of the much sought after expansion and growth of the Magee campus of Ulster University.

The investment package announced today, will enable planning and business case development to now proceed on proposals for a significant landmark riverfront university medical education and innovation hub, comprising a graduate entry medical college and centres of innovation, research and teaching excellence in data-driven personalised medicine, cognitive analytics and robotics and automation, eventually delivering over 200 new posts/research assistants at the City’s university and upwards of 2,000 additional students.

The stimulus package will additionally advance the delivery of a range of smart city and digital infrastructure projects and initiatives, further positioning the City and District as a highly digitally enabled location for cutting-edge business development and expansion and inward investment.

The catalytic impact of this could therefore result in the single biggest ever combined and integrated funding injection the City and District, that will enable progress and delivery of other key infrastructure, tourism and regeneration projects contained within the Plan and Bid in both Derry City Centre and Riverfront and in Strabane Town Centre.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle said: “This hugely significant announcement today for the Derry and Strabane District will go some considerable way in addressing the long-standing obstacles to economic development that this City Region and its people face. It is good news and is the result of an enormous amount of work and sustained effort invested by Council and the City and Regional partners to develop, deliver and negotiate on the bid.”

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie acknowledged the collaborative approach and the unified vision and commitment demonstrated by politicians, and partner organisations in development of the bid and the advice and support received regionally and nationally in securing such a positive outcome.

Enthusiastic about the opportunity presented by today’s announcement he commented: “This City and District has seen much progress in recent years economically, physically and socially. It has however significant remaining challenges in overcoming an infrastructure deficit and a legacy of underinvestment both of which have been such inhibitors to sustainable economic growth.

“This funding package, if directed at the key agreed strategic growth projects and if used to lever significant further public and private sector investment, will deliver a new era of unprecedented growth and development for the City and Region providing tangible benefits for all of our citizens and a promising future for our children and young people.”

Other City Deal Project partners reacted equally positively with the Vice Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon said, “This investment will now see the rapid development of plans to grow and enhance facilities and student numbers at the Magee Campus including the Graduate Entry Medical School.”

Brian McGrath, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “This funding is hugely welcome and provides a solid platform upon which to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the City and Region and attract further significant exciting new companies, business prospects and investment.”

Council Chief Executive, John Kelpie concluded:  “The next steps will now be for everyone to continue to work together to develop the necessary detailed business plans and advance the projects through planning and design. We will do this by using this unprecedented opportunity to promote the future of this City and District as a location of choice for all in terms of business, lifestyle and ambition.”