Ulster University research centres are central to the City Deal
The Derry News has taken a look at the key projects allocated funding as part of Derry’s £210m City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund financial package.
Ulster University is one of the main beneficiaries with £85 earmarked for innovative research centres in personalised medicine and data analytics which are becoming ever more important in an increasingly technological world.
These industries will shape future economies and healthcare.
Healthcare research and treatments have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, personalised medicine is based on identifying subgroups of patients with distinct mechanisms of disease or particular responses to treatments.
Data analytics is another key component in the response of governments to the current crisis.
It involves analysing emerging data from countries around the world to identify the most important factors that can help slow the spread of the virus and help find long-term solutions to the pandemic.
In the longer-term, data analytics will be well-placed to support Northern Ireland industry in the recovery process, post COVID-19, by helping recovering NI businesses to improve their products and processes, develop new skills, unlock global opportunities and encourage collaboration across sectors.
It’s understood that well-paid jobs created in these sectors would not be restricted to graduates but would benefit everyone in the city across the skills spectrum.
Other headline investments are £40m for Derry’s riverfront and Queens Quay and Strabane town centre regeneration to the tune of £40m.
The figures below were outlined by Derry City & Strabane District Council at meetings last year.
It is a rough guide but it’s understood that money allocated to different projects has altered which will be explained.
Ulster University (UU) - £85m
UU has been allocated £85m, a considerable portion of the financial package.
The university will contribute 10% towards the Magee projects.
Of the overall amount, £40m will come from the UK Government’s City Deal funding and £45 from the Inclusive Future fund to finance four different projects.
Derry City & Strabane District councillors have repeatedly called on the university to show its commitment to the city by approving the graduate entry medical school and relocating its health science courses to Magee with a view to delivering on the promised 10,000 full-time students (below is an artist's impression of an expanded Magee campus along the riverfront).
The core focus of the £40m City Deal funding remains the delivery of the centres of innovation and excellence in data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA).
Yesterday, UU confirmed that upon confirmation and approval of the business cases there will be further information with regard to student numbers, research posts and staff numbers.
The Cognitive Analytics Research Lab or CARL is said to be a transformational new cutting-edge applied research centre based at Ulster University’s Magee campus.
It will support Northern Ireland businesses to understand how data analytics and AI can benefit their business.
CARL will work with sectors as diverse as health, financial technology, media, energy and public policy.
The centre will be a physical building where companies can work in close collaboration with UU researchers.
CARL researchers will also work with entrepreneurs to develop new start-up companies.
UU’s strong commercial focus has already led to the creation of numerous successful spin-out companies including ActionSENSE and AirBRIO and the award-winning wearable neurotechnology company NeuroCONCISE.
It has been said that the CARL innovation centre would provide the city with global opportunities to become world class in areas such as software engineering, advanced networks and sensors, data analytics and cyber security and would offer huge potential to the city and wider region’s economic development.
Another UU project, the Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA) is an innovation centre which will support industry and commerce in Northern Ireland.
It will help companies across all sectors with their digital technology agenda helping to improve innovation, productivity and competitiveness and adapt to Industry 4.0.
This state-of-the-art facility will be a dedicated space for demonstration, experimentation, and an industry hub. It will assist in skills development for local and international industry.
Focussing on innovation and developing competitiveness when it is more pertinent than ever, the Centre will partner with local businesses to build capacity in their workforce.
CIDRA will also play a key role in helping to attract new industry partners to locate in the city and region.
During the COVID-19 crisis, members of Ulster University’s School of Computing, Engineering & Intelligent Systems who will be involved in CIDRA have been making face shields using 3D printing and laser cutting - 1,000 face shields have been safely delivered to primary care COVID-19 centres at Altnagelvin and local health centres.
Currently, Ulster University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems is collaborating with a local company Derry company to develop an automated face shield manufacturing line.
CIDRA and CARL will be located in close proximity enabling potential for collaboration.
The Future Fund of £45m with joint funding from the NI government will be focused on advancing projects such as the Graduate Medical School as a key catalyst for the much-needed expansion of the Ulster University Magee Campus and a Personalised Medicine Centre of Excellence (T-HRIVE).
It is hoped government approval for that project will be announced in the coming days.
The delivery of a Personalised Medicine Centre of Excellence (T-HRIVE) at Ulster University and Altnagelvin is also a priority for this fund as is the provision of an integrated, council-wide, multi-skills employment intervention support programme.
It would expand upon the work of Altnagelvin based C-TRIC - a not-for-profit personalised medicine institute based on the Altnagelvin Area Hospital site which connects patients directly to research opportunities in the North West area and beyond.
THRIVE proposes to have research centres for pediatric cancer and neuromuscular cancer amongst others.
It will train the next generation of doctors and skilled staff in personalised medicine, health data analytics, healthcare policy and economics.
C-TRIC and THRIVE are viewed as the research arm of the proposed Medical School.
Queens Quay/Derry riverfront projects - £40m
Future Fund match funding of £40m had previously been allocated to this project. The council now says that this project will receive approximately £35m but it is unclear where the outstanding £5m will be redirected.
Key tourism, economic, and social projects and initiatives - £25m
Last year the council said that signature tourism projects will be allocated £25m. It now says these projects will be allocated £20m but did not state to which project(s) the other £5m will be awarded.
Digital/SMART cities - £10m
A report to council previously stated that £10m would be set aside for digital/SMART city projects.
All over the world, rapid urbanisation is putting enormous stress on resources and infrastructure which cannot be solved in a traditional way.
The Smart Cities agenda recognises that cities and regions grapple with many of the same issues - traffic congestion, air quality, inadequate energy, poor management of the environment, climate change, and data privacy, etc. and that there are significant opportunities to share learning.
The transition to smart places requires government, citizens, the business community and wider civil society working in synergy so that the effective interplay between policy and innovation meets the needs of citizens.
A council spokesperson previously said: “If we reflect on the past decade, the way we live, conduct business, and interact and engage with each other has changed dramatically.
“Yet, we are only at the beginning of a digital change that will transform our societies. Local government has a key role to play in harnessing the smart city opportunity, making cities more liveable and creative, improving services, competitiveness and standards, embracing technology and innovation, maximising the potential of the mountains of data generated, and facilitating a convergence of digital infrastructure with physical development.”
Derry City & Strabane District Council has earmarked £10m for skills but did not provide any further detail.
Strabane town centre regeneration - £40m
Match funding of £40m from the NI Government will be used to fund this project.
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