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Magazine of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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March/April 2018 Issue 27



Keeping it in the Family The McConvilles on business and family life at MJM in Newry.

Editor: Adrienne McGill Publisher: Chris Sherry Advertising Managers: Lorraine Gill & Gerry Waddell Editorial Assistant: Joanne Harkness Email addresses: / / gerry.waddell@ Websites: / Addresses: Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 4-5 Donegall Square South, Belfast, BT1 5JA Tel: 028 9024 4113 Publisher: Ulster Tatler Group, 39 Boucher Road, Belfast, BT12 6UT Tel: 028 9066 3311 Printed by: W&G Baird, Antrim Front cover image by: David Cordner.



At a Glance News: 08 Chocks away for Airport investment 10 BT renews partnership with NI Chamber 35 Chamber Business Awards Entries Now Open

Columnists: 12 Conor Lambe 14 Ian Rainey 18 John Woods 20 Nigel Harra 24 Gareth Walls 26 Sinead Dillon 60 Maureen O’Reilly 64 Paddy O’Hagan 72 Connall Keenan and Susan Cleland 78 Mark Haslam 96 Jim Fitzpatrick

Chamber Chief: 30 Update

Features: 16 A Good Sport 34 Tanya Talks … 40 My Ambition is to… 62 Ulster Bank accelerates Entrepreneurship 66 North South Interconnector Approval: Good for Business 68 Word from Brussels 74 Top Young Talent 76 West Meets East - Almac and Heavenly Tasty Organics 82 Stairway to Seven - Lisa Bryson

Appointments: 84 New Appointments Line Up Special Section: 43 Priorities of Local Authorities


Lifestyle: 87 Business Class Motoring - James Stinson 91 On Holiday With… Conaill McGrady 94 Style Inspiration - Joanne Harkness 95 Dine and Wine - Chris Rees and Andrea Mola



70 Cover Story Magazine of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

March/apriL 2018 iSSUE 27 £2.95

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jim Fitzpatrick on curbinG the power of tech GiantS

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Driving Ambition

Cold snap spreads to Brexit


hen Storm Emma swept in from the Atlantic on the tail of the Beast From The East’s chilly blast recently, the result was the creation of some of the most testing weather experienced in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK for some time. It was estimated that the chaos cost the local economy more than £80m with heavy snowfall, sub-zero temperatures, icy winds and blizzard-like conditions causing cancellations and delays at Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport and shutdowns at workplaces, schools, shops, restaurants and high-street stores. As public transport ground to a halt together with numerous road closures in rural areas, the best advice was stay in, stay warm and stay safe. A chill also spread over Brexit. According to government figures, Brexit could cause the Northern Ireland economy to shrink by up to 12%. Brexit impact studies released to MPs by the government reveal that the North East of England, West Midlands and Northern Ireland will sustain the biggest hit to economic growth from Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union next year. Assessments for each region of the UK have now been published – it is suggested that Northern Ireland will face an economic hit of 12% if no deal is agreed with the EU. A free trade deal will cause the economy to shrink by 8% and a deal to remain within a single market, seen as a ‘soft Brexit’ will lead to a 2.5% hit. The assessments do not mean the economy would shrink in absolute terms. Instead, they look at how the economy would perform under each scenario over the next 15 years compared to current forecasts.

Whatever the case, the fact is that the economy is going to be impacted and businesses need to be prepared. Away from the chill… and in this issue of Ambition, our Special Section looks at the ‘Priorities of Local Authorities’ as we feature 8 local councils formed after the reform of local government in 2015 and hear from each of their Chief Executives or Chair about a key issue of interest and relevance to citizens in their area and beyond. In ‘Keeping it in the Family’, MJM founder and Chairman Brian McConville and his daughter Naoimh and son Conleth reveal what it’s like working together in the family-owned cruise ship fit-out business and in ‘West Meets East’, pharmaceutical giant Almac and baby food firm Heavenly

Tasty Organics detail the key to success in export markets. Also, motoring expert James Stinson tells us there’s a lot to like about Mazda’s CX-5 and Chris Rees, Head Chef at the River Room Restaurant at Galgorm Resort and Spa tantalises our taste buds with a delicious poached rhubarb dessert and tasty additions. As always, Ambition is a packed full of interesting and appealing content. We are delighted to feature NI Chamber members and highlight their success in business – so please continue to let us know about your achievements. Adrienne McGill Editor Ambition

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President’s Perspective

Cross Border Trade is Sign of Economic Togetherness A

ll island cooperation has been thrown into sharp focus recently as a result of the Brexit referendum and the detail of the negotiations, which have followed. Relations within the island have taken on a new impetus – the European Union post Brexit has led to some political, economic and even security challenges. It’s no wonder that the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, said recently when talking about the relationship between Northern Ireland and the South that “in so many ways, success for one of us is success for the other”. Ireland’s Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Heather Humphreys joined Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry at an event in Belfast recently, where she outlined the current status of cross border trade and importantly what the Irish government has done to work with employers and businesses to prepare for the impact of Brexit. The volume of cross border trade now stands at £2bn per annum. Flowing out of the North/South approach to business development, we now have a joint strategy on attracting tourists to the island, specific sectors work together to maximise research and development and businesses and individuals are mentored on how best to maximise their sales potential both at home and abroad. The work of InterTradeIreland alongside the better than ever relationships between representative business organisations including NI Chamber means that the politics has long disappeared from adopting an all island approach to economic development and support. Yes of course our firms compete with each other and the search for Foreign Direct Investment involves each jurisdiction fighting its own corner, but the common sense approach to working together where appropriate is well established. Brexit poses a threat to that stability and the joint approach which North/South cooperation underpins. Until it becomes

clear what the precise new trading relationships will be between the UK and the EU block, it leaves Northern Ireland businesses in particular in business limbo. As that is worked out over the next 12 months and most likely a longer period than that, we can only hope that the spirit of cooperation, now well established, endures and softens the Brexit blow. 6

Ellvena Graham President Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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KPMG’s Tony Hughes, Associate Director, Risk Consulting; John Hansen, Partner in charge of the Belfast Office and Bernard O’Hara, Director, Risk Consulting at the firm’s ‘Achieving Cyber Resilience’ breakfast.

Every company in Northern Ireland, regardless of size, can take practical steps to identify and respond to the risks posed by cyber criminals. That was the message from the KPMG ‘Achieving Cyber Resilience’ breakfast, held recently at the firm’s Belfast headquarters, where attendees heard that over 75% of cyber-attacks exploit failures in basic controls. The speakers, who included KPMG’s cyber security experts, explained how companies should prepare for and deal with cyber-attack. Tony Hughes, Associate Director, Risk Consulting at KPMG, said: “Get the basics right: identify and look after your crown jewels, assess who might be interested in attacking your business, focus on establishing a culture of staff

vigilance, supported by business processes as well as technology, to mitigate perceived risks and be prepared for a cyber-related incident. If all companies followed this approach then it would provide the basis for a strong cyber security posture and help to limit the damage which attackers may cause.” Bernard O’Hara, Director, Risk Consulting at KPMG and the host of the event, said a pro-active approach to cyber resilience can lessen the potential likelihood, or impact, of an attack. “Boards have a key role to play in ensuring effective cyber resilience. They need to identify business critical systems, direct resources towards protecting these (focus on people and process, as well as technology) and ensure that a robust response plan is in place.”

CHOCKS AWAY FOR AIRPORT INVESTMENT George Best Belfast City Airport is to invest £15m on improvements at its terminal building. The upgrade will include the departure lounge, the central security area and hold baggage screening facilities, as well as the purchase of a new fleet of Airport Fire appliances. The work, which will also see food and retail facilities expanded, is due to be completed by October. UK investment company 3i bought the airport last year for an undisclosed sum. The airport’s Chief Executive, Brian Ambrose, said the investment would be welcomed by the 2.5m passengers who use it annually. “Belfast City Airport is fully committed to continually improving the overall journey for our passengers,” he said. “The £15m investment in our infrastructure is another major reinforcement of our commitment.”

FITZWILLIAM HOTEL CHECKS IN WITH EXPANSION The five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast, has announced that work has begun on a second £2m investment to upgrade rooms and increase capacity at its premises on Great Victoria Street, bringing the total invested there since 2016 to £4m. This phase of refurbishment follows an initial £2m refit which was completed in November 2016 and saw the lobby, 113 bedrooms and facilities updated with new sumptuous, art deco inspired colour palettes and furnishings. The latest phase will see the existing bedrooms and meeting spaces on the eighth and ninth floors transformed into city view rooms and an additional luxury penthouse, with panoramic views over Belfast. This will bring the total number of bedrooms to 150 – a 15% increase – to meet the continuing rise in

Cian Landers, General Manager at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast and David Harte, Project Manager at Edgewater Contracts.


visitors seeking luxury accommodation in the city. The increased capacity will also create 17 new hospitality jobs in front of house, the bar and restaurant and accommodation, meaning that the number of staff will rise to over 100 in total. Speaking about the investment, The Fitzwilliam Hotel’s General Manager, Cian Landers said: “Northern Ireland’s hotel industry is experiencing strong growth and with the increased demand we are delighted to be able to contribute to the stock of premium hotel rooms in the city.” David Harte, Project Manager with principle contractor, Edgewater Contracts, said the 26-week project would be completed by the end of July and that the hotel would maintain its five-star service throughout the period of work.


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BT renews partnership with ni chamber

For the 10th consecutive year, BT has renewed its partnership with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The deal, which runs until 2020, will continue the leading communications company’s relationship as NI Chamber’s Official Communications Partner. BT will support NI Chamber’s key priorities, including a number of flagship events such as the President’s Annual Lunch and Banquet. Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “We are thrilled yet again to have BT, one of Northern Ireland’s leading investors and employers, as NI Chamber’s Communications Partner. The fact that this relationship has continued for over a decade reflects its success, as together we are committed to growing the Northern Ireland economy.

“Through NI Chamber’s own extensive network, we support a wide range of small, medium and large firms to whom we offer dynamic initiatives, programmes and advice as they seek to take their business to the next level and to markets well beyond Northern Ireland.” Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director of BT Business in Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to renew our association with the NI Chamber and look forward to working together to promote economic development in Northern Ireland. “BT is enormously proud to play its part in advancing and developing Northern Ireland’s infrastructure, enhancing our research and innovation capabilities and providing opportunities for the considerable talent that exists here – particularly in the digital sector. “We share the NI Chamber’s drive and

Countdown to enter Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards Businesses across Northern Ireland are being reminded that the entry deadline for the Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards 2018, is fast approaching.

Trailblazing companies are being given the ‘final call’ to submit their entries by 16 March at 5pm. Aer Lingus will fly the shortlisted companies from George Best Belfast City Airport to London to celebrate their achievements at an awards lunch, held in the Institute of Directors’ Headquarters on Pall Mall on 8 May. This year there are eight diverse Cabin crew member Lyndsey Minford and Aer Lingus Business categories to choose Development Manager Andrea Hunter. from including the

in ship shape The biggest regeneration project undertaken in recent years in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter will be officially opened later this month during a specially co-ordinated Dockside Festival. The £20m investment in the restoration of the Pump House, refurbishment of Alexandra Dock, installation of a new bridge and the full remodelling of the HMS Caroline (completed in 2017), which now employs 20 people, will be ready to open to the public from 24 March revealing Belfast’s latest and most imaginative tourism asset. The Pump House will feature

Ann McGregor (Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and Paul Murnaghan (Regional Director of BT Business in Northern Ireland).

commitment and appreciate its strong and challenging voice on behalf of the business community.”

recently added Excellence in Marketing Award. Highflying businesses of all sizes are being urged to reflect on their achievements in the last 12 months, choose their categories and gain recognition for their success. Head Judge and Business Development Manager of Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland, Andrea Hunter said: “Despite national and domestic political uncertainty and a challenging economic forecast, Northern Ireland companies are forging ahead in their sectors and are doing wonderful things that deserve our praise and congratulations. “We want to give those companies a platform so they can inspire and motivate entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to make the step up to the next level.” * Entry forms and criteria can be found at

much of the original Edwardian era machinery and will house an extensive new visitor centre, while a new 25-metre steel and timber footbridge has been installed across the mouth of Alexandra Dock to allow even greater accessibility for visitors to the area. Director of the massive regeneration project, Captain John Rees OBE from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: “The completion of the Pump House and the Bridge across Alexandra Dock opens this revived area of Queen’s Island for the public to explore this collection of Victoria architecture, engineering and marine technologies focused around HMS Caroline.” * The ship opens to the public seven days a week from 10am until 5pm. For more on the Dockside Festival and the story of the restoration, visit


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Conor Lambe, Chief Economist at Danske Bank

Positive outlook for international trade

The strong global economy provides opportunities for local exporters.


018 is shaping up to be a good year for the global economy. It is currently experiencing an upswing in performance and in their latest forecasts, published at the beginning of the year, both the IMF and the World Bank projected that global GDP would grow at a slightly faster pace this year than in 2017. What makes this global pickup particularly welcome is that it is broad based with all the major economies of the world growing. In the US, real GDP grew by a faster rate in 2017 than it did in the previous year. And the tax reforms passed by the Government at the end of last year are expected to support economic activity in the short term. The European economy also had a good year in 2017. Both the whole of the European Union and the euro area (the 19 countries that use the euro) grew by 2.5 per cent, the fastest pace of growth in a decade. The latest monthly data also shows that the unemployment rate in the euro area is now at its lowest level since the start of 2009. In the emerging markets, the Chinese economy grew by 6.9 per cent in 2017 and growth is expected to remain above 6 per cent over the next couple of years. The IMF and World Bank are forecasting growth of above 7 per cent in India this year. After experiencing falling output in 2015 and 2016, Brazil and Russia are also growing again. This relatively strong economic performance

across the globe is supporting world trade. According to data published by the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, the volume of global goods trade increased by 0.6 per cent over the three months to November 2017. Closer to home, export success was one of the positives in 2017. In Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, exporting businesses have been able to benefit from the strong global economy and the depreciation of sterling that has made UK goods more price competitive in global markets. The latest data shows that to the year ending 2017 Q3, Northern Ireland’s top five export partners for goods were the Republic of Ireland, the US, Canada, France and Germany and it was encouraging to see the value of exports going to each of these countries increase. There were also increases in the value of exports of each of Northern Ireland’s top five export commodities – machinery & transport equipment, chemicals & related products, miscellaneous manufactured articles, food & live animals and manufactured goods classified chiefly by material.


International trade is not without its challenges and there are a few on the horizon. Local businesses still face a lack of clarity around what the UK’s long-term trading relationship with the European Union will look like after Brexit, and at the time of writing, we still have not secured a transition period to come into force once the UK leaves the EU next year. Businesses will also need to keep a close eye on currency movements – the weak pound has strengthened export demand over the past year, but added to buying pressures for importers. But with 2018 set to be a good year for global GDP growth, there could be more opportunities for local exporters this year.



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Ian Rainey, former international Banker and current non Executive Director at 4c Executive

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Golf, rugby, ballet and Mr Universe... all in the name of business.


y days at Queen’s University were the earliest times when I picked up on the ability to mix work with pleasure. I decided after obtaining a degree in History and Geography, that I was too young to embark on a career and decided to take a second degree in law. At the same time, I got into student government and found myself representing Queen’s and Northern Ireland on the Executive of the British Universities’ Sports Federation in London. My first success was in bringing the 1965 British Universities’ Golf Championships to Royal Portrush Golf Club. We were successful in getting an American university team to compete. I met the Americans off an overnight flight and took one of the team with me in my MG Midget to Portrush via a coffee stop at my family home in Randalstown. When we got to Portrush we immediately took the American team out to play, regardless of their jet lag. I accompanied my young, blond passenger around the course only to be amazed that at the age of 17, he went around Royal Portrush in 4 under par. I obviously followed his career closely and he went on to win the US Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania with a final round of 63, still the lowest score in US Open history. My blond passenger was none other than Johnnie Miller and we are hoping that he will return to Portrush next year for the British Open as the renowned commentator for NBC Television in the US. I doubt if he will remember me. After graduating in law, I spent two years practising with Antrim County Council before deciding to emigrate to South Africa. Again, my sporting background came into play in

that I brought with me a letter from Willie John McBride and Sid Millar who had accompanied a young Scotsman on the 1962 Lions Tour. I called the said Scotsman, known to rugby followers as Gordon Waddell, who while on that 1962 tour had met and fallen in love with Mary Oppenheimer, the daughter of the infamous Chairman of De Beers Diamond Mines and Anglo-American gold mines. My visit with Waddell worked the oracle. His comment on reading my CV was: “You have two degrees and you practised law but you played for Ballymena. Anytime I played at Ballymena, all they wanted to do was kick anything that moved above the grass. But if you are a friend of Miller and McBride, you have a job in our legal offices.” On finding that the mornings were so bright at 6am in Johannesburg, I decided to go to the gym on the way to work. I recognised the name of the gym as Reg Park’s Gym. Reg was Mr Universe in the UK three times in the 1950s and 60s. While I was training, I noticed that he was working with this magnificent specimen of a body builder who I used to speak to each morning when I was working out. He was to become Mr Universe seven times in the 1970s and more recently the Governor of California from 2003-11. He was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. From the legal profession with De Beers, I joined Standard Bank, who decided to send me to the Wharton Graduate School in Philadelphia. Having made a presentation one evening to a group of bankers, I was approached by two Senior Executives of Philadelphia International Bank. Their offer to me was “you have had nine years in South Africa and 25 years in Northern Ireland, you must know more about foreign political risk than we will ever know. Would you like to join our bank?” It was a good time to leave South Africa as the political climate there was turning nasty. My job was mainly travelling in Asia and Africa, assessing the financial risk of lending there. In Thailand, I was a Director of a Finance Company, Multi-Credit Corporation ltd. One of my fellow Directors was the President of Thai Danu Bank. He was a close associate of the King of Thailand. He was due to attend the birthday party of the King’s daughter and asked me if I would be good enough to accompany his wife to Princess Chulabhorn’s 21st birthday party. I was delighted to be in the company of royalty and the main act was none other than Lionel Richie and the Commodores. In the Philippines, I was invited by Mrs Virata, the wife of the former Minister of


Finance, to accompany her to the Bolshoi Ballet performing Swan Lake, which was being sponsored by “the Iron Lady” Imelda Marcos, wife of the infamous President Marcos. Being an ageing bachelor had many benefits. On the more mundane side of travel and golf, my job travelling the world allowed me to indulge in other excesses. In 1982, Golf Magazine had adjudged the three top golf courses in the world to be Royal Melbourne, Durban Country Club and Royal County Down. I was able to combine my business visiting the Australian banks in Melbourne to coincide with an invitation to play Royal Melbourne, followed by a long nine-hour flight to Johannesburg to do an update on the political risk situation in South Africa, which was deteriorating quickly. On spending three full days there, I was able to visit my parents in Northern Ireland on my way back to Philadelphia. Obviously I had to play Royal County Down before going back to the US. It was not a bad life! Arnold Schwarzenegger


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A Good Sport Mark Irwin is Managing Director of Ardmore Advertising, a leading integrated marketing communications agency based in Holywood, Co. Down. He is also a board member of Hockey Ireland and a former Irish hockey international with 130 test caps, 16 as captain, and 37 goals to his name.

What’s your favourite sport and why do you like it? Difficult question. I love all sport (and I mean all sport!). If you pressed me I’d say golf. Someone once told me if you want to know what a person is really like play a round of golf with them. For that reason alone it is certainly the most interesting. Do you encourage other members of your family to play a sport? I believe sport is a fundamentally important part of our time on this planet. That being the case, I would encourage everyone to get involved in some way, not just those closest to me. Are you a spectator or a participant? I’m a mixture of both, plus a coach, plus an administrator! I regularly play golf and hockey and train 3 times a week in the gym. I am an Ulster Rugby season ticket holder and as often as possible I watch boxing and football in person and everything in between on television. I coach Youth Hockey each Sunday, and as a board member of Hockey Ireland I also try to do my bit to help develop the sport. What team (across any sport) do you follow? Again, a difficult question to narrow to one

team. If pushed I would have to admit to a soft spot for Manchester United. Do you think the games we play as children in many cases were designed to prepare us for life as functioning adults? In my view sport is the safest way to teach children the harsh realities of the real world. You can’t participate without experiencing the joy of winning, the pain of rejection, the despair of losing, the challenge of developing skills, not to mention the requirement for hard work and that life sometimes just isn’t fair! It builds character and resilience, it helps your physical and mental health (vital in today’s world) and it is a platform to make lifelong friendships. All that, then factor in that the world over (and particularly in our post-conflict society), it is one of the few things that binds us together as human beings (local politicians take note when allocating funds!). Safe to say I believe very strongly that sport plays a powerful role in developing people and driving progress. What lessons are there in sport that can be applied to business? I could talk for hours on this subject! I could summarise that everything I know about business has parallels in lessons learned as a player, spectator, coach and administrator.


Do you think playing a sport or being part of a team makes you a better leader? I’d answer that with another question. What skill did you ever excel at without any related practice? Being a leader is a skill honed by experience. Amateur sport provides an opportunity to practise, when profit livelihoods aren’t at stake. In business, do you think the phrase ‘play to win’ applies and if so why? Not really, to be honest. I am as competitive an individual as you will ever meet but I believe in controlling the controllable, winning is not always in your control. Your individual performance and that of your team is in your control so my focus is always on our performance, the result in many cases will look after itself. If we can honestly say we did our best then I can live and learn from losing.

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John Woods, Managing Director and Owner of Linwoods

Take heed of healthy habits

Changing consumer attitudes to health foods and the growing demand for high quality, organic products in the marketplace is putting healthy eating top of the shopping list.


ealth, healthier, healthy… are all words most of us hear or read about on a daily basis and, for the majority of us, we are now more aware of our health than ever before. Online technology has played a huge role in this, providing a platform for consumers, especially millennials, to gather information about healthy choices and educate themselves like never before. Consumers want to be informed of and understand where their food comes from and how it’s fueling their bodies – almost becoming amateur health experts along the way! As a leading business in the health food industry, we have witnessed this shift in attitudes towards healthier foods over the last number of years; demand for these products continues to grow as more people want to make lifestyle changes to help them to live longer, happier and healthier lives. It is now estimated that the health food industry will be worth €140 billion by 2020 and as new innovative products are introduced, as more health food startups appear and as larger conglomerates within the sector diversify, this figure isn’t hard to believe. This has led to a greater need for transparency for many health food brands as consumers demand more information

about the journey their food goes on from field to plate. There has also been a mindset shift with consumers now prepared to spend more for organic, wholegrain, ethically sourced products, which ten years ago may have been a very specialist market. Linwoods, for example, has a sprouted flaxseed product, a new edition to our range, which involves a highly skilled technique of sprouting the flaxseed before cold milling. This process provides even more nutrients but comes with a higher price point. We’ve only recently launched this product and not only has it been recognised with an international award but we’re seeing demand from health food retailers across the globe for this product. Consumer demand for organic, premium products is continuing to grow and health foods are no longer considered to be niche, they have become mainstream in many markets around the world. I spend a great deal of time travelling the globe in search of new ingredients and new trends and this has allowed me to see the vast differences in the health of consumers and I am always surprised to see that the UK and Ireland is lagging behind European countries.


For example, walking through the streets of Stockholm it would be difficult to point out an overweight child. However, recent research has stated that now 1 in 5 children in the UK are clinically obese, a shocking statistic! Another example of differing attitudes to health trends can be found in France where an average two-year-old consumes 10 different vegetables regularly. Parents in France strive to consistently offer their children vegetables in a variety of formats until their taste buds become accustomed to their tastes. The UK and Ireland could learn a lot from the health food trends in the European markets and the healthy habits they have adopted over the years. At Linwoods almost 70% of our product being sold into the European market is organic and demand for organic products in Europe currently outweighs any other part of the world. Overall, the growth in the health food market shows no signs of slowing down. This is providing exciting opportunities for companies like ourselves to grow and diversify and fulfil the growing demands for healthy, organic, clean label products and we’re looking forward to grasping this opportunity with both hands.

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Nigel Harra, Senior Partner at BDO Northern Ireland

Taking stock of jobs and growth

Talent attraction and development fosters a pipeline of business leaders.


hen it comes to gauging economic performance, there is a lot to be said for paying attention to the labour statistics and taking note of the ebb and flow of employment trends. On their own, each regular monthly snap shot gives an abstract impression with insights on claimant counts, economic inactivity and number of redundancies. Over time, however, a sharper – though still limited – image is revealed and right now it points towards a slow and steady transformation and expansion of business in Northern Ireland. In January, an unemployment rate of 3.8% marked a 10-year low and kept headline writers and commentators busy. It’s a trend that has been underway in tandem with returning business confidence since 2013. If Quarterly Economic Survey findings prove correct, it will continue this year but at a more modest rate with focus shifting towards a range of hard to fill roles and developing future leaders. At BDO Northern Ireland, like many others, we too have bolstered our ranks. 2017 brought 15 hard-earned promotions and since the New Year, three new senior team members have joined us. Meanwhile our Belfast-based UK and Global Outsourcing services division continues to expand, improving the way accountancy and business advisory services are delivered to clients within the BDO International network.

BDO Senior Partner, Nigel Harra (3rd from left) with Claire McGuigan and David Ramsey (two promoted Directors within BDO’s Tax and Audit departments) and Geraldine Browne (Tax Director), Richard Todd (Senior Tax Manager) and Eimear Brown (Senior Audit Manager), new additions to the BDO senior team in Belfast.

New technologies, shifting political dynamics and increasingly multi-generational workforces are heralding a new era in every sector. Knowing where and how to prioritise recruitment efforts can appear a sizable task, particularly with other market forces and Brexit likely to shift the landscape in the year ahead. Talent attraction and development has been embedded into our strategic planning for more than 20 years and we recognise that the demand is changing. It is no longer just about high volume of roles with on-the-job training; the goal should be a strong and sustainable pipeline of talent boasting the right skills and aptitude for where the economy and business needs are heading. Building tangible and practical links between students and businesses has been a vital part of our approach to future proofing our operation and fostering a pipeline of potential leaders. We’ve carefully invested time and resources into partnerships and initiatives with Queen’s University, Belfast and Ulster University aimed at advancing career-focused learning and workplace excellence. In partnership with Queen’s and Henderson Group, for example, we established the Northern Ireland Business Challenge for Schools – an innovative competition that gives


A–Level Business Studies pupils the chance to develop practical work-related skills and work on a live business case study. Good communication has been and will always be a critical asset for effective leadership. Alongside Ulster University, the BDO Interview Award provides expert mentoring aimed at helping students adapt to pressure and express themselves in a clear and effective way. Initiatives like these and many others in Northern Ireland are important if we are to establish a work-ready generation with the skills needed to support sustainable growth and ambitious development. The quality of talent in Northern Ireland has always been a high performing asset and by 2027, workplaces will for the first time reach the point where they are going to have four generations working together. Bringing generations of people together in a way that enables teams to grow and individuals to excel will be more challenging. Employment statistics offer a frozen glimpse of where the economy has been, but the challenge is for employers to be imaginative in what should happen next. If we’re serious about turning this region’s potential into profit, then we need to map out the job priorities of the next decade and the actions needed now to forge the new wave of young leaders.

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Barefoot Computing project makes its mark in Primary Schools More than 40% of Northern Ireland Primary Schools have signed up to an initiative to boost tech literacy in the classroom in its first year. The Barefoot Computing Project works with teachers to help them develop the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to teach computer science. The Barefoot programme is led by BT in Northern Ireland and supported by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, and CAS – Computing at School. It provides free workshops and classroom resources, which have been designed by teachers and tailored to meet the needs of the NI curriculum. In the year since its launch, the programme has reached 42% of Northern Ireland Primary Schools. Volunteers have delivered over 100 free workshops to more than 1,000 teachers – reaching around 31,000 Northern Ireland school children. Many more schools have also registered to use Barefoot’s online resources, helping more pupils make the most of lessons with a computing element. Paddy Hardy, Principal of St Mary’s Aghlisnafin Primary School in Castlewellan, which registered with the Barefoot programme last summer, says: “The in-school training for staff has allowed us to introduce problem-solving into

every class, not just maths, because tech literacy is now a fundamental building block of children’s education. “We have always encouraged our P7 pupils to be ‘reading buddies’ for some of the P1 children. Now we’ve got the older children helping the younger ones as their ICT buddies. That’s thanks to the Barefoot progamme.” Barefoot is part of BT’s tech literacy ambition and forms part of the company’s longterm commitment to reach five million young people in the UK by 2020. Acting Managing Garret Kavanagh, Acting MD of NI Networks at BT and Paddy Director of BT’s Northern Hardy, Principal of St Mary’s Aghlisnafin Primary School in Ireland Networks division, Castlewellan with pupils. Garret Kavanagh, says: “We’ve made significant progress since the Barefoot important as reading and writing. That’s programme was launched in Northern Ireland why BT wants to encourage more schools in just over a year ago. It’s great to see so many Northern Ireland to sign up to Barefoot.” local Primary Schools accessing the free resources to boost computing confidence in • Getting involved with the Barefoot the classroom. “We’re living in an increasingly programme is easy and free. To find out digital world and tech literacy is now as more, visit

Innovative new broadband technology in Antrim

Network fibre planners Joe Lowe and Scott MacDonald with Garret Kavanagh, Acting Managing Director of NI Networks at BT in Northern Ireland at the G.Fast cabinet in Antrim.

BT has announced that households and businesses in Antrim can now ask their internet service providers to switch to and benefit from ultrafast internet speeds of up to 330 Mbps – more than 10 times the UK national average. BT’s Northern Ireland Networks division has made available to over 4000 premises in Antrim town as part of a pilot project announced last year. By using existing copper wires, this hybrid fibre broadband technology

involves minimal disruption and provides a basis for many new services with considerable economic benefits. Garret Kavanagh, Acting Managing Director of NI Networks at BT, said: “This is great news for Antrim, pushing it to the forefront of the roll out of ultrafast broadband in Northern Ireland – thanks to this pilot project. “ is new technology, designed for areas of high population density, that delivers ultrafast speeds over existing copper lines.


This means we can add it to our existing network, which means faster internet with less disruption. “Faster speeds are more important than ever – both at work and at home. is part of the next stage of the ongoing transformation of our digital infrastructure, which is so important for our economy.” As part of BT’s plan to drive forward the digital economy of Northern Ireland, last November the company announced a further £20m investment in a major ultrafast broadband expansion across Northern Ireland that is scheduled to be completed in 2019. This will result in 25 per cent of Northern Ireland homes and businesses having access to ultrafast broadband, using either or Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, which is a pure fibre connection from exchange to end user. • To discover more about and broadband availability in your area, contact your internet service provider or visit www.

At Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke we aim to improve peoples lives by inspiring change. We want people to enjoy healthy, happy and active lives and avoid becoming unwell which is why we offer businesses high quality health and wellbeing programmes.

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Gareth Walls, Partner & Head of Employment, A&L Goodbody

Employers in Northern Ireland: Are you GDPR ready?

Take action now on a practical basis, in preparation.


ost employers will no doubt have already read a high volume of commentary on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into force on 25 May 2018. However, almost none of this deals with the application of the GDPR in Northern Ireland and how the regulations interact with pre-existing legislation unique to this jurisdiction but here is what you need to know. The ‘right to be forgotten’ and competition of laws Employers should assess what personal data (including sensitive personal data) is collected in relation to employees, why it is held and the length of time it is retained. This not only includes data relating to current employees – the regulations are much more wide-ranging. The ‘right to be forgotten’, for example, means GDPR extends to personal data held in relation to former employees and potential new recruits or unsuccessful candidates (such as CVs and application forms). This audit must comply with other NI rules and regulations on data held, such as Article 55 monitoring returns under the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 (FETO) and pay regard to other NI specific legislation such as the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (as amended). Audit and identification Upon completion of this audit, the legal basis for collecting, processing and retaining that data should be assessed. Many employers currently rely on a ‘consent’ clause within employment contracts. However, the validity of employee consent has been queried due to the imbalance of bargaining in an employment

relationship. Additionally, GDPR introduces a higher bar for relying on consent as a legal basis for processing personal data, in that employees will be able to withdraw their consent at any time. As such, employers should either revise and re-issue the ‘consent’ wording, or must try to rely on another legal basis for processing personal data, since this current ‘blanket’ consent clause may no longer be as relevant. The GDPR sets out that ‘personal data’ should be held for no longer than necessary – but what constitutes necessity? All business owners/managers should determine what your data retention policy is going to be and the rationale behind retaining data from a legal perspective. This should include a review of third parties to whom the employer will have disclosed information, such as insurers (brokers) and private healthcare providers. Contracts policies and procedures GDPR introduces new and enhanced rights for individuals and, generally speaking, employees will have greater control over the collation, control and processing of their personal data. Any contract, which explicitly references the Data Protection Act 1998, or the ‘US Safe Harbor’ schemes, is obsolete under the GDPR. It is therefore critical that contracts, policies and procedures are reviewed and revised by employers in order to meet the new and enhanced rights of employees. Privacy Notices In the interest of fairness and transparency, there are also enhanced obligations on employers to provide employees with information regarding the collection of their personal data. This information must be provided in an easily accessible form for employees (often referred to as a ‘Privacy Notice’) and plain language free from ‘legalese’ must be used. Employers should therefore review and update existing privacy notices (or introduce privacy notices, where these do not currently exist), to ensure compliance. Empowering the Data Protection Officer Since certain members of staff will have


access to employees’ data and will be required to process it for specific purposes, a Data Protection Officer (DPO) will need to be appointed and given meaningful training and real authority. It is equally important that middle and senior management have a working knowledge of individuals’ increased rights under GDPR and the enhanced obligations that rest with the employer, to ensure that personal data is processed correctly. GDPR has removed the ability to charge a fee for responding to a subject access request

(SAR) and the timeframe for responding to a SAR will reduce to one month. This will have a significant impact on litigation in Northern Ireland, where the £10 fee was often used to withhold or delay speculative requests. Increased compliance, perpetual compliance GDPR has enhanced the powers of supervisory authorities to enforce compliance, which includes the power to impose significant fines (of up to €20m – approx. £17.5m – or 4% annual worldwide turnover). This does not include the additional financial exposure in respect of claims brought by data subjects for failure to comply with GDPR. Ongoing compliance should therefore be monitored on a continuing basis, to reduce financial, litigation and reputational exposure.

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Sinead Dillon, Principal Consultant at Fujitsu

Preparing for the workplace revolution

How are business and technology leaders laying the foundations for the future digital workplace?


y 2025, millennials will represent more than 50% of the workforce in the UK and Ireland. It is also estimated that 65 percent of the children entering primary school now will work in a job role that doesn’t currently exist. From demographic and social shifts to communication changes and technology advancements, the next decade will see nothing short of a revolution in our workplaces. A lot of what will become the norm – such as the technology that we use, and where in the world we work – is today unthinkable. Although it seems a long time in the future, organisations need to start preparing now if they are going to be ready for the changed landscape of 2025. From our latest collaborative independent study, ‘Workplace 2025: UK and Ireland’, local businesses point to several current areas of workplace strategies that need to be addressed urgently. These are negatively impacting the ability for companies to engage and innovate with external partners and to harness new and innovative workplace technology. A total of 84% of those surveyed said that current working practices are not flexible enough to get the best out of their workforce, while more than 90% state that the complexity of today’s workplace technology is holding employees back. More than half (57%) of participants state that cyber security is also a barrier to workplace productivity. Almost two thirds, however, have invested or plan to invest in their approach to security by implementing technology solutions that balance security and productivity challenges. As new generations become the dominant

presence in the workforce, more than 60% of organisations are planning to adapt current policies to create a more agile and compelling workplace experience as well as provide instant access to information. The need to drive innovation at speed is forcing businesses to look beyond the walls of their organisation, and 69% have either implemented or plan to deploy crowdsourcing and open innovation as a way to create new products and services. This is something we see evident in our own dealings with customers both in the private and public sector and with industry bodies and peers – there is a greater desire to digitally co-create solutions together. To create a more compelling workplace experience that supports enhanced collaboration and productivity, a substantial proportion of businesses also plan to invest in areas including social enterprise platforms (55%), robotic process automation (44%) and digital virtual assistants (55%) in the next 12 months. The impact of technological advancements on the workplace was discussed in depth at the recent Catalyst ‘Future of Work in Northern Ireland’ Solutions Summit. Although Northern Ireland was named as the 2nd fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK for the 4th consecutive year, the latest Knowledge Economy Report warns that this rate is slowing down significantly. Investment in technological


developments such as automation and robotics will boost competitiveness and secure more jobs in the long term. The report also points to a need to look closely at the skills which support employment in this age of technology, such as complex problem solving, fluency of ideas, critical thinking and resilience. At the inaugural ‘Women in Tech NI’ Conference held last month, Fujitsu together with Women in Business NI and a collective of local technology leaders also confronted this very issue. The need to increase the number of visible role models was emphasised along with activities such as coding workshops and school outreach in order to inspire the next generation of digital innovators and technologists. Thankfully the number of young people studying computing at GCSE and A-Level in Northern Ireland is on the rise – an increase of 21% and 29% respectively in the last year alone. In this era of unprecedented digital disruption, society is transforming, with advancements such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, voice activation technology and Big Data changing how we live our lives. While it could be easy for organisations to get sidetracked by how they can use and incorporate this technology, it is important that we plan for the entire journey ahead – this includes how we equip our businesses and our people on this journey of change.

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A NOVEL APPROACH TO TACKLE EMPLOYABILITY AND SKILLS IN MID ULSTER How Mid Ulster, NI’s most entrepreneurial region, is blazing the trail to address employability and skills issues through a new Skills Forum. Recently re-confirmed as Northern Ireland’s most entrepreneurial region, Mid Ulster is home to significant global business, cuttingedge industries and ambitious SMEs across a broad range of sectors from agri-food to retail. So just how is the area planning to ensure that one of the key drivers for its continued strong economic growth – a high performing workforce, equipped with the right skills to meet current and future industry needs – is assured? The answer: an industry-led Skills Forum. Established in 2017 by Mid Ulster District Council, the Mid Ulster Skills Forum is the first industry-led, area-based body of its kind in Northern Ireland and has its roots firmly in both the Council’s progressive economic development strategy and the region’s Community Plan. The 30 strong partnership, which draws its membership from local businesses, colleges, universities, enterprise agencies, key sectoral business organisations, government departments and the Council, is speaking as one voice to take forward its skills agenda in a focused and co-ordinated manner. Business at the helm was the obvious option, according to Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Kim Ashton: “While as a Council we have a direct role to play in growing our local economy, we recognise that it is the business community which must drive this aspect of our economic development strategy and that is where the Skills Forum has its origins.

“There is a clear commitment and a desire to effect tangible change which ultimately will bring growth and prosperity for the district”. Alan McKeown, Corporate Services Director with Dunbia, Dungannon, who has been appointed Chair of the Skills Forum said: “I commend the Council for being pro-active and establishing the forum, which is another great example of the Council following through on the commitments it has made in its economic development strategy. “As one of the largest employers in the Mid Ulster district, Dunbia already collaborates with a number of local education and training partners to develop skills in our people. “Through the Forum we see the opportunity to work alongside the Council, other employers and our education partners, to help shape the future strategy for skills development in Mid Ulster, which is vital if we are to sustain economic growth in our area.” So what is the Forum’s skills and employability agenda? It is working towards 2 long-term outcomes: 1. Closing the skills gap through stronger partnership working with business, education providers and relevant government agencies. 2. Positioning the Mid Ulster region as a stronger place for business and investment.

Standing in front of members of the Mid Ulster Skills Forum is Council Chair Cllr Kim Ashton and Mr Alan McKeown Chair of the Mid Ulster Skills Forum.


As befits an industry-led body, one of the Forum’s first tasks has been to commission a piece of industry-led research. Designed to clearly define the gaps in workforce skills, the research is tailored to key business sectors in Mid Ulster including agri-food, manufacturing and engineering, construction, retail, IT and hospitality, as well as new and emerging sectors with growth potential. The resulting skills report and action plan will, according to Mr McKeown, be a critical piece of work: “To date much research has been undertaken at a regional level. However, there is a significant gap in information on this issue at a sub-regional level. “We know from previous Mid Ulster-based consultations that we need to address the specific needs of Mid Ulster to benefit our competitiveness, our ability to sustain and increase employment, and our economy’s success.” Alongside the research, the Forum is also prioritising its consideration of other issues, specifically apprenticeships, engagement and linkages with education, and, unsurprisingly, Brexit – with other areas of work including lobbying, fundraising and ensuring skills development supports inward investment in the medium-term plan. Mr McKeown says: “One of the key challenges is to promote stronger engagement and co-operation between education and industry. “Everyone and, in particular young people, must be encouraged to reach their full potential and to do that they need access to clear and

relevant pathways, including apprenticeships, to employment which reflect their own interests and skills, as well as the workforce needs of the local economy. “We can only create that environment by forging strong, practical and measurable linkages between employers, educators and future employees. And Brexit? “Undoubtedly, Brexit will bring both unique challenges and opportunities given Mid Ulster’s location and, among other things, the fact that our unemployment benefit claim rate is one of the lowest in Northern Ireland,” he adds. “This means we have a strong demand for labour and a low availability of unemployed. Mid Ulster could suffer a disproportionality high impact if access to migrant labour were to become a problem as a consequence of Brexit. “The Forum is considering the impact of Brexit holistically with business and education, as well as sectoral bodies including FSB, Manufacturing NI, and NIFDA”. Concluding, Mr McKeown says: “We all know the challenges that the Mid Ulster District faces as a largely rural area, but also know that we are a region with unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit and success. “The newly formed Skills Forum has a unique opportunity to develop an industry-led approach to employability and skills which will help to achieve future economic prosperity in the Mid-Ulster area.”

Discussing Brexit - Kerry Curran (InterTradeIreland) giving a presentation to the Forum’s Brexit Working Sub-Group.

For more information about the Mid Ulster Skills Forum please contact Fiona McKeown, Head of Economic Development. E: Tel: 03000 132 132. 29

update Chamber Chief’s

From networking events to meetings with government ministers and in-camera dinners with leaders in business, the hectic round of activity spearheaded by NI Chamber for the benefit of members never stops. NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor gives a taste of what’s coming up and what’s taken place recently with a picture gallery over the following pages.


xporters across the globe rely on the efficiency and reliability of transport and logistics companies to get products and goods to market and ultimately to customers. NI Chamber is therefore delighted to announce transport and logistics giant DSV as its newest patron. DSV recognises the valuable brand exposure that patronage status of NI Chamber brings and we are looking forward to assisting them in communicating their first-class services to businesses in Northern Ireland and linking them to further opportunities in their specialised area of work. Having been in the Northern Ireland marketplace since 2010, the organisation comprises three divisions – DSV Road, DSV Air & Sea and DSV Solutions who work as one. The company’s Air and Sea service manages all import and export shipments by air or sea, from parcels up to large equipment not suitable for containers, with the help of 1000 offices in more than 80 countries. The company also operates by road, with traffic hubs strategically located all over Europe and 17,000 trucks on the road every day – with DSV Road having more than 200 terminals and 300 offices in Europe. The company’s third division – DSV Solutions – offers warehousing facilities worldwide and specialises in logistics solutions, distribution, packing, freight management, customs clearance, e-commerce and e-business support. The company employs 65 people at its facility at Dargan Road in Belfast where it is headed by Simon Lawson (Director Regional Operations for the Air and Sea Division); Marshall Boyd (Senior Key Account Manager – Northern Ireland) and Gerry Murphy (General Manager at DSV). • Read more about DSV, which features on Ambition’s front cover and on pages 70-71.

Valerie Gourley (NI Chamber Head of Business Development); Ian Hunter (NIE Networks Commercial Manager) and Philip Steele (Managing Director of Denman International Ltd). Simon Lawson (DSV Director Regional Operations for the Air and Sea Division); Ann McGregor (NI Chamber Chief Executive); Marshall Boyd (DSV Senior Key Account Manager – Northern Ireland) and Gerry Murphy (DSV General Manager).

We recently launched our 2018 ‘Regional Networking Series’ with an event at SERC’s Space campus in Bangor. Over 100 members of the local business community joined NI Chamber and sponsor NIE Networks for the first of 5 largescale networking events which will take place across Northern Ireland throughout 2018, bringing together a wide range of businesses across a variety of sectors. Attending delegates had the opportunity to make new contacts and promote their company, whilst hearing from guest speaker Philip Steele, Managing Director of Denman International Ltd – the UK’s foremost manufacturer and distributor of hairbrushes, combs and hair accessories which are marketed under the DENMAN brand. The company now exports its products to around 60 countries, including the US, Japan, Germany and South Africa and has offices in Bangor, London, Boston and Amsterdam. Mr Steele shared his experience of business development and gave practical tips on growing a business.


It was then off to Cookstown for NI Chamber’s Energy Forum, the first of the year and the largest to date with more than 70 attendees. The Energy Forum series, delivered in partnership with SONI, brings local businesses and energy industry specialists together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the energy market in Northern Ireland and its impact on the local economy. The focus of the Forum this time was the North South Interconnector, a proposed new overhead transmission line that will further connect the electricity grids in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and which received planning permission from the Department for Infrastructure in January 2018. When delivered, the Interconnector will facilitate economic growth by generating significant energy savings for businesses and ensuring Northern Ireland has enough electricity to meet demand in the coming years. At the Energy Forum, NI Chamber members and guests highlighted the Interconnector’s importance as a key piece of infrastructure that should be progressed in 2018. The Forum also heard from Charlene Jones, Group Environmental & Quality Manager at Henry Brothers and Michael

chamber chief’s update

Campbell, HSE Manager at Genesis Crafty, who detailed how their respective companies have introduced innovative measures to reduce energy usage and therefore costs. Also attending were Natasha Sayee from SONI and Chris Morrow from NI Chamber. • Read more on North South Interconnector on pages 66-67.

It was the Minister’s first engagement with members of the business community in Northern Ireland and we look forward to welcoming her back. Finally… NI Chamber is pleased to announce its certification to ISO 9001: 2015 quality management systems (QMS) awarded by certification body IMS International. Following a successful audit, NI Chamber has demonstrated its fulfilment to meet the criteria to the highest level of quality and service. The certification was presented to Stuart Hollinger, NI Chamber’s Finance and Assurance Manager and myself by Graham O’Geran, Global Business Development, IMS International.

Michael Campbell (Genesis Crafty); Charlene Jones (Henry Brothers); Natasha Sayee (SONI) and Chris Morrow (NI Chamber).

Keeping on top of the all-island economy, we were delighted to welcome Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, who met with representatives from a range of businesses in Northern Ireland to discuss cross-border trade and Brexit at a breakfast event hosted by NI Chamber and SSE in Belfast.

Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Minister Humphreys, who represents the border area of Cavan-Monaghan in the Irish Dáil, has responsibility for, amongst other things, enterprise policy, trade, investment and research and development. She is also leading efforts to help Irish companies prepare for and address the challenges associated with the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Speaking about the benefits of NorthSouth trade, the Minister said coming from the border area, and having worked in financial services in border towns, she understood how important cross-border commerce really is.

NEW MEMBERS Business Services HNH Human Capital PRL Stuart Hollinger (NI Chamber Finance and Assurance Manager); Ann McGregor (NI Chamber Chief Executive) and Graham O’Geran, Global Business Development, IMS International.

To be awarded certification to ISO 9001: 2015, an organisation’s processes and procedures must meet the strict requirements of the international standard. It includes involvement and accountability of top management, an emphasis on performance monitoring and measuring, and risk prevention and mitigation throughout the quality system. This achievement fully demonstrates NI Chamber’s continual dedication to quality at an international level. With over 1,200 members, we strive to be as good as the businesses we service and always endeavour to offer excellent customer service. We worked closely with the auditors at IMS to reach compliance of the standard and are delighted with the result. To maintain the certification, NI Chamber will have regular audits to ensure compliance and to assess initiatives for continued improvement. Members can therefore be assured that NI Chamber will continue to provide them with top level service as they seek to grow their businesses at home and abroad.


Creative Industry Okto Technologies Food Manufacturer & Wholesaler Finlay Foods Manufacturing LaserProto McDon Peat Supplies Marketing Loud Mouth Media Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities Task Team Property Management Wholesale & Retail Trade Applegreen

* To become a member of NI Chamber join online at or phone the membership team on 02890 244113.

Breakfast with Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation


2. 1.

Owen Brennan (Devenish Nutrition); Dr Andrew McCormick (The Executive Office); Kevin Conmy (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland) and Gerry Carlile (Evolve).

2. Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, addresses the NI Chamber event. 3. Jonathan Martindale (Phoenix Natural Gas); Vicky Boden (SSE) and Ellvena Graham (NI Chamber).


4. Mark Ennis (SSE); Leigh Meyer (Citi); John Healy (Allstate NI) and Brendan Monaghan (Neueda). 5. Mark Ennis (SSE); Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys; Ellvena Graham (NI Chamber) and Ann McGregor (NI Chamber). 6. Alastair Hamilton (Invest NI) and Mark McClure (Caterpillar).



6. 32

Networking Series at SERC’s Space Campus


2. 1. Patrick McVeigh (Traction Finance); Kerry Calvert (HLM) and Sian Devon (Traction Finance). 2. Paul O’Brien (Tughans) and Eugene O’Neill (Grant Thornton). 3. Ian Hunter (NIE Networks); Elaine Flynn (SERC); Andrew Smythe (NI Chamber) and Philip Steele (Denman International).


4. Andrew Smythe (NI Chamber) interviews Philip Steele (Denman International) on growing an award winning business. 5. Marc Coppez (Randox Health) shares his ‘elevator pitch’ during structured networking. 6. Philip Steele (Denman International) and Valerie Gourley (NI Chamber).



6. 33



xporting is the next step in my business growth plan. However, I am unsure where to start? Market research to inform an export plan is a critical first step – a company should understand: - Is there a market for their product? Do they have a USP? - Are there any legal or tax barriers to entry? - Risk in terms of business risk, country/political risk and credit risk. Desk research is a good place to start with an increasing amount of information available online - Invest NI have a Business Information Centre located in Belfast which is an extensive database of market research and worldwide directory of companies. They also have Trade Advisors based internationally who can offer practical advice and assist in carrying out desk research. Alternatively, a company could commission a bespoke research report into a particular territory. When deciding which markets to approach, it is advisable to look for a natural fit in the first instance – i.e. GB, ROI and Europe – before looking further afield. Countries closer in terms of culture, language and geographical proximity lend themselves to more straightforward logistics and better control. Whilst BREXIT may add complication to trading in Europe, it is in no doubt that Europe will remain a significant export market. Where possible, businesses should consider visiting a target market since first-hand experience is invaluable and can be achieved cost effectively through trade fairs and trade missions.

Tanya talks... Export Entry into export markets is a natural step for growing companies as it serves to increase revenue, diversify customer base and act as a catalyst to innovation. SMEs often see the process of stepping into a foreign market and managing their overseas presence as a daunting challenge. Tanya Anderson, Head of SME Development at NI Chamber answers a few key questions on selling internationally.


Do I need a local presence from the start? There is no doubt that a local presence is important to export success since it removes a key advantage held by resident competitors. However, it is sensible to gain a foothold in a market before making significant investment. Renting an office overseas staffed by members of your NI workforce may lead to slow progress in comparison to securing a local partner who understands the market and has an established network. A local partner can be one of the following: - A Distributor who sells your products locally (the distributor takes title of goods). - A Sales Agent who sells on a company’s behalf or puts a company in contact with local customers on a commission basis (an agent never takes ownership of the goods). - A Joint Venture – with a local business to manufacture and/or sell your product. Both businesses share management and profits and, as such this can be an expensive and difficult option. In the case of a distributor or agent, it is essential that responsibility for payment and delivery is clear. Are there any specific financial products to assist exporters, particularly for companies in the growth phase of their life cycle? As with any finance raising exercise, it is advisable to approach your existing bank in the first instance since there is an established relationship. In instances where there is insufficient collateral or track record for a bank, UK Export Finance will guarantee to the bank up to 80% of the risk of a working capital facility upon meeting predetermined criteria (under their Export Working Capital Scheme). UK Export Finance also provides a similar level of guarantee to a bank in respect of a contract bond in relation to a UK export contract (under their Bond Support Scheme). Another option is an invoice discounting line which is provided by both local banks and specialist finance houses – this may lend itself to providing a level of funding for a specific export contract to a high quality debtor. *For further assistance with export markets, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry is part of an international chamber network of chambers which it can tap into for market intel and also facilitate business connections. Further, the Department for International Trade has a wealth of information on their website - uk/getting-ready-to-sell-overseas

SCALING FOR GROWTH Improving scale and driving excellence for business growth IN PARTNERSHIP WITH EXCEL GROW LEARN


The next Scaling for Growth workshop is being held on 22 May and will focus on how to overcome the common challenges faced by companies as they seek to export. See for more details.


Colin Johnston, General Manager of Galgorm Resort & Spa (second left) with NI Chamber’s Nicola Woods, John Quinn and Gabi Burnside launching this year’s Chamber Business Awards.

Chamber Business Awards to showcase best of local business for 15th year running


usinesses from across Northern Ireland are invited to compete in the fifteenth annual Chamber Business Awards hosted by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The prestigious competition is one of the showpiece events in the business calendar, recognising and promoting the best of Northern Ireland business. The Northern Ireland winners will then go on to compete against the winners from 11 other regions across the UK, culminating in a Gala Awards Dinner at Tobacco Dock London in November. Last year Armagh-based Linwoods and Dunmurry’s Flynn were amongst the regional winners who went on to win national awards in London. Companies can enter nine categories, covering exports, small business, exemplary employers, technology, high-growth, customer commitment, partnerships with the education sector, digital communications, and workplace wellbeing. The full list is as follows: • Small Business of the Year • Export Business of the Year • Best Use of Technology Award

• • • • • •

Employer of the Year Workplace Wellbeing Award Customer Commitment Award Digital Communications Campaign of the Year Education and Business Partnership High Growth Business of the Year

Entries are now open, and one of this year’s winners will also have an opportunity to open the market at the London Stock Exchange as a prize — a rare opportunity for a private business. Gabi Burnside, Business Services Manager at NI Chamber, said: “The Chamber Business Awards recognise and celebrate the contribution of businesses to their local community and the wider economy. “We are hearing so many stories from dynamic companies about how they are making a positive contribution to their local communities, and finding new markets for their products and services at home and abroad. “Each year the calibre and diversity of applicants to the Chamber Business Awards surpasses our expectations, and we look forward to seeing the scope of great companies that apply this year.” Colin Johnston, General Manager of Galgorm Resort & Spa, winner of the ‘Excellence in


Customer Service Award’ last year, said: “We were delighted to have scooped the Excellence in Customer Service Award at The Chamber Business Awards. “Recognising and rewarding excellence in business, these awards are one of the most contested and prestigious business award programmes. They represent the best of this country’s entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and hard work and give every business the opportunity to recognise their achievements and outstanding performances, and to inspire others. “We wish all those entering this year the very best of luck as they compete for these much coveted titles.” The closing date for entries is Friday 29 June 2018 with entrants being assessed and then winners declared at regional level on 24 September 2018. Northern Ireland winners then go forward to the Gala Awards dinner at Tobacco Dock in London on 29 November 2018. Businesses can enter the awards online at or for further information you can email or follow @NIChamber and @chamber_awards on Twitter.

Resolution centre: taking your business to the next level in a centre of excellence Despite being faced with an abundance of political and economic uncertainties business leaders in Northern Ireland have a proven ability to find pragmatic solutions and to equip themselves with the flexibility necessary to react to evolving situations.

be a highly sought-after business venue, capable of meeting a wide range of potential uses- and delivering impeccable quality and value to its growing list of clients.

The ability to have an adaptable and flexible business solution is therefore a highly attractive one, especially when it comes to choices regarding longer term investments such as office accommodation and meeting space.

With a dedicated onsite team and a managed suite of soundproofed private meeting rooms of various sizes, capacities and configurations, break-out areas, state of the art video and tele conferencing as well as wi-fi internet and catering facilities on demand, business are increasingly turning to the venue for uses such as: • Grade A serviced meeting space; • Exclusive Training venue and Away-Day location; • Confidential interview or presentation space; • Sensitive HR meetings • Mini Conferencing • Networking venue – catering for both formal and informal drinks reception and dining opportunities.

Fortunately, a new proposition has emerged that offers a distinctive, high quality option for astute businesses to avail of. Located within The Boat – an iconic building in Belfast’s skyline – The Resolution Centre, with stunning views across the city and beyond, is proving to

Owned and operated by the Bar of Northern Ireland, The Resolution Centre was created in response to growing demand amongst local and international business clients. Traditionally a wide range of commercial and civil disputes end up being taken to

This is not a simple task as businesses must be able to balance longer term planning and investment with shorter term flexibility and cost competitiveness. Having the agility to cope with differing outcomes is emerging as a key differentiator of successful local businesses.


court for resolution. Whilst this remains an effective and appropriate route in many circumstances, the aim of this new centre was to create a tailor-made venue within the local Belfast market for skilled mediators and arbitrators to assist parties in arriving at alternative resolution options. Situated in the heart of Belfast with convenient access to parking and transport, the potential of The Resolution Centre to serve, not only its original purpose, but also a wider range of needs for our business clients became instantly obvious. The positive feedback from the organisations which have visited and used the centre has been overwhelming and has confirmed that it is satisfying a previously unmet demand for a flexible venue operating to the quality benchmark that our successful local businesses rightly expect. The Resolution Centre would be delighted to talk to you about how it can partner with you to support your business success. For more information on The Resolution Centre visit www. call us on 028 9026 5700 or email us at


Keeping it in the family Brian McConville is the founder and Chair of MJM Group, a global fitout specialist in the marine and land sectors. Established in 1983 in Rathfriland, the company has extended into purpose built premises in Newry and now is one of the leading employers in Northern Ireland. Brian acquired specialist contracting firm Mivan, based in Antrim in 2014 and has an extensive portfolio of retail, commercial, aviation and residential development interests across Northern Ireland. Four years ago, Brian began his process of succession planning by taking two of his four children, Conleth and Naoimh, into the business as directors which has proved to be successful on all accounts.


Conleth McConville I call Naoimh the boss because she is the more confident one when it comes to marketing and promoting the business. But it takes different personality types to run a successful business and as we both have our individual strengths and weaknesses we bounce well off each other. I prefer to get stuck into a project out on the ships or on the factory floor and am always looking at ways we can improve. I suppose you could say we are a combination of both sides of Brian’s character. He is a visionary and always ten steps ahead of everyone when it comes to promoting the business but at the end of the day he is a worker. He never forgets where he started out and if he can see that same spark in people he will reward it. In MJM Group our CEO and several of our senior management team started out on the factory floor. This progression route, open to everyone, is something we continue to be proud of as a unique selling point of the company. I’ve always admired how Brian could walk into a room or field and see the finished product, he is all about the detail and maximising every opportunity. I remember growing up watching my Dad going from the farm to the office, from a fancy dinner to the factory floor and wondering how he kept so many things going, as well as making time for us at home. I think this is something that from a very young age that I aspired to be able to do. When we were younger Brian spent time away abroad on ships and I looked after the farm at home, this wasn’t easy when homework got in the way. From a young age I spent every summer, Easter and Christmas holidays working in the business, from sweeping the floors to photocopying all for a very minimum wage! I spent each summer working in each different department including logistics, design and contracts. Due to this, I went down the construction path naturally – I probably always thought in the back of my mind that I would end up in the business but I was never pushed. I went to university in Aberdeen for four years and after this I decided to come into MJM full time. I was allowed to spend the time getting to really know the business at different levels before more recently starting to think about where I sit from a management capacity. It is a challenge I am more than willing to accept; but I think, like Brian, I will never lose the desire to be stuck in the middle of the team, sleeves rolled up, making something spectacular for people to admire and enjoy which, at the end of the day is what we are really about at MJM.



Brian McConville When my wife Connie and I established the business in 1983 we were not long married and starting out on our family journey. Starting your own business is always a risk but one that needs to be even more considered when you have a young family. I was a joiner by trade and due to the early 80s recession opportunities for work were limited at home, so like many other young tradespeople I headed to England for work. I recall sitting at the bar on the B&I Ferry from Dublin to Holyhead chatting to the barman. I asked him who did the joinery work that surrounded us in the relatively fancy bar we were in and he told me to contact Head Office. Something struck a chord with me and I decided I would make it my business to get in front of these people. After many months of phone calls and faxes I got my opportunity and I was invited to a meeting. It was scheduled for 9am but what I didn’t realise, without the luxury of a mobile phone, was while I was driving to Dublin they were trying to contact me to cancel. I was so disappointed when I arrived to no meeting that they felt compelled to rearrange. A few days later I got my very first small piece of marine work. I would like to say the rest is history but it was a long, hard road. Connie and I spent many years knocking doors in places like Miami which was, and still is, one of the global centres of the marine and cruise ship industry. In fact, I would say we spent 12 years back and forth before we really got our big break. The important thing is that I always knew it would come. I had confidence in my ability, and that of the small team I had around me at that stage. Some of these people are still with me today and I feel that they are very much a part of my family because they have come through the ups and the downs with the McConville clan. You could say my four children have grown up in the business because it is so integrated into our lives. Connie is my sounding board, indeed she is the one who came up with the idea for our superyacht fitout business. While we try to separate work and home life, especially with Naoimh and Conleth in the business now, it is not always easy to do. All through the years I have focused on creating a profitable business which has a family ethos and family values. I wanted to build something which my children would eventually be proud to join and make their own impact upon. I am delighted that after they pursued their own studies – Naoimh in accountancy and Conleth in construction management – they both decided to get involved. It is important to have family focus on the business but also for the business to have focus on the family. It creates opportunities for them to follow the career paths they choose, in or out, of the business and I am very proud of all my children. I am proud of what Naoimh and Conleth have achieved in the business over the last few years as we work together, with our great team, to take it to the next level. They have worked in other businesses so they know what it takes to make a family business work and we work well together as a team. I have great ambitions for what we can achieve over the next few years and I know that Naoimh, Conleth and our team share that vision and drive for continued growth. I am very lucky to be able to involve my family in what I do and I hope that continues for a very long time.


Naoimh McConville Growing up we were very aware of the business and of how hard Brian and Connie worked as a team, with sacrifices along the way all in aid of “the big picture”. Growing up my parents treated us all as equals and instilled in us values that gave us the confidence that anything was possible with integrity, vision, hard work and determination. From the age of 16, I spent my summers in MJM and have worked through all our departments in some capacity which I believe has stood by me in terms of understanding our business from end to end. After obtaining my masters, I took an audit role with Ernst & Young for my chartered accountancy training. I made the decision to join MJM as a cost analyst, as I knew that the family business was where I really wanted to be. I firmly believe that as a family member in the business, it is important to take nothing for granted, I expect to work as hard, if not harder, than everyone else to prove that I can make a positive impact on the business and contribute to the strategic vision for the long-term sustainability of the company. I feel passionate and proud to be building a career that will transition our family business into the next generation along with a fantastic team of people that uphold the values and vision for our future growth. We have a very close family unit and as Brian has said, it is almost impossible to separate work and home life, however I think living the business helped us to develop a deep admiration and respect for what Dad and indeed Mum have been able to achieve. Although my sister has banned MJM discussion from the dinner table, it still can’t be helped slipping into the conversation! Conleth, Brian and I do make a conscious effort to have a dedicated meeting through the week to focus on the business, but often our best meetings and work discussions are when we are “offline” on the farm at home or out with the horses. It’s usually here we can chat through our day and think of the grand plans in building the legacy.



My Ambition is to... tori watson, broadcast journalist bbc news ni, multiplatform.


n his book ‘My Trade’, Andrew Marr writes that people who become journalists do so by mistake. If what he says is true, then it’s certainly the best mistake I’ve ever made. I never actually planned to be a journalist. At school, I had a fascination with news and current affairs and was involved in various youth initiatives that enabled me to engage with local politicians and ask them questions about things I had concerns about. As a result, I always thought I would end up working for an NGO, a lobbying firm or the Civil Service. When it came to choosing university options, politics was obviously on the cards but I could never seem to set my heart on one particular course. That all changed when I heard a lecturer from Queen’s University give a speech about a relatively new course they were offering - Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The three pronged approach was a natural fit and I applied immediately. I was accepted onto the course and during my final year of study, my academic supervisors selected me to complete a sixmonth placement at BBC NI’s political unit. Like most placements, you are never really sure what to expect until you engage with it, but even then, there is a possibility that you are not going to enjoy it. Luckily, that was not the case for me, as I loved every second of it. So much so, that when my placement came to an end, I actually shed a few tears and, at that point, I knew that I had found exactly what I wanted to do as a career. I also realised that I had a number of hurdles to overcome before I would be able to achieve it. I had no journalism portfolio and, while I had earned a first class honours in PPE, I had no specific journalism qualifications. Nevertheless I set about making my ambition become a reality.

I returned to Queen’s University and completed a Master’s in Broadcast Literacy. In conjunction with my studies, I used the resources around me and I began compiling a journalism portfolio. I set up a radio and current affairs programme at the students’ union radio club and produced and presented a weekly hour-long programme about issues on campus, local politics and international affairs. My work load, whilst self-inflicted, meant that most nights I was burning the midnight oil, as I had to ensure that I kept on top of news agenda as well as my academic studies. I knew, in my heart, if I worked diligently and focused on achieving my ambition, the hard work would pay off.


I now work full-time as a broadcast journalist in the newsroom at BBC News NI, across digital and online platforms. It is an exciting and, at times, pressurised environment in which to work, but I thoroughly enjoy the new challenges each day brings. While I have achieved a lot in a short period of time, I have only been able to do so through hard work and dedication in the pursuit of my dream. Eventually, I would like to be a reporter in the political unit, but for now I am very content in the newsroom where I am able to benefit from the experience and advice of more senior journalists, and it’s a privilege to learn something new at work every day.

Powering your business! If you are thinking about growing your business, or starting a new venture, you may need a new or increased electricity supply. Talk to our experienced teams when planning your project and let us know how we can help.

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Priorities of Local Authorities

The biggest changes to Northern Ireland councils in more than 40 years took place in 2013 following major reform which saw authorities reduced in number from 26 to 11. These have been operating since April 2015 with new powers and significant responsibilities covering areas such as local economic development, tourism and planning which have given them powerful tools with which to shape their areas and communities. In this section we profile 8 of the councils and hear from the Chief Executive or Chair from each one about a key issue in their area.

Inside this Issue: 44









On a Mission Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Global Recognition for local geology Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

City Deal is a Big Deal - Belfast City Council

Putting Power back into Manufacturing Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Driving Digital - Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

Counting the Cost of Waste Management Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

A HomePlace at the heart of Mid Ulster Mid Ulster District Council Helping entrepreneurs succeed - Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Change for the Better The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA)

priorities of LOCAL authorities

On a Mission

Business, investment and political influencers will learn more about what the Lisburn Castlereagh area has to offer at a series of up-coming high profile events in London as the Council’s Chief Executive Dr Theresa Donaldson tells Adrienne McGill. Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council will take London by storm next month when representatives across business, politics and tourism jet to the capital to join key GB contacts for a series of high profile events to showcase the best of this leading Northern Ireland local authority area. The events are scheduled to take place on 18-21 April during which local food and drink producers from Lisburn Castlereagh will also take part in the first ever councilled dedicated four day Food and Drink trade mission to London. The trade mission will offer local business participants the opportunity to engage with potential buyers at face to face meetings, network at the highprofile annual Lisburn Castlereagh Palace of Westminster event attended by leading political and business figures, including many manufacturers, and promote their finest and most flavoursome offerings at a popular London market. In addition, at the start of the packed mission, the council will launch its new

2018-2022 Corporate Plan within the imposing surroundings of the Tower of London at the ‘Treasured Opportunities’ event in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces. The Plan will set out an investment programme, which will focus on improvements in the tourism, leisure and digital infrastructure of the council area as well as the night time economy. The council’s dynamic new Tourism Strategy, also being launched, will set out the vision of the Lisburn Castlereagh area and how the growth of its events and business tourism marketing and product development will contribute to the wider Northern Ireland market. Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Chief Executive, Dr Theresa Donaldson, says the area has much to offer and the mission to London will help spread the message. “The council is delighted that this inaugural trade mission will coincide with its 2018 Westminster event, jointly hosted by Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, which is attended by over 200 high-profile


delegates including local businesses, potential developers, ambassadors and senior politicians in a bid to develop trade links with Great Britain and foster relations with suppliers and customers. “We want to showcase the excellent business and tourism strengths within the council area to those that matter. We have super manufacturers but there is also a strong history of local food and drink producers exporting high quality products ranging from Carnbrooke Meats to Hilden Brewery. Food & Drink is a key strand of our local tourism offer, which will see further investment over the coming years, helping to keep us ahead of the competition. “It is incumbent on us to help companies and all of them will get a chance to improve their profile. The Westminster event in particular enables firms to look at the bigger world and network with those who may be able to help them sell products to more markets. The business owners who develop the

will be closed for the re-presentation of the magnificent State Rooms, re-opening in July 2018. Visitors will then be welcomed to visit the elegant Castle and lovely Gardens, with new features to see almost every month, culminating in the opening of the beautiful walled garden and visitor facilities in 2019. “Historic Royal Palaces are exceptionally professional in showcasing and managing wonderful historic buildings and they are bringing the same panache to bear in Hillsborough and working with local craftsmen to regenerate the castle and make it a real visitor attraction. The gardens will be a wonderful crowd-pleaser,” says Dr Donaldson. Hillsborough Castle currently attracts 8,000 visitors but Historic Royal Palaces envisages that number will grow massively to 200,000 within 3-4 years. “In addition to the creation of jobs, the spin-off will be a substantial increase in tourists who will be spending more money which will be a revenue generator for the council area which will put it on the map as a major tourist destination. “This will be a high end attraction and be particularly popular with visitors from cruise ships and tour operators. It will be a superb attraction for the island of Ireland,” adds Dr Donaldson. The council will also be profiling the businesses that take part in the Food and Drink trade mission as part of the wider ‘Made in Lisburn Castlereagh’ showcase event this autumn. Now in its second year, the free one-day event is a unique opportunity for everyone including local businesses, residents, schools and budding entrepreneurs to see first-hand the innovative products and talent that is prevalent in the Lisburn Castlereagh Council area. It is home to many top companies including world-class manufacturers such as Coca-Cola HBC, Boomer Industries,

Spanwall, Smiley Monroe, Assa Abloy and Montupet UK and fast-growing SMEs such as Decora Blinds, Hughes Craft Distillery, McGreevy Engineering and Helios IT. The region is also promoted by the council annually at the UK’s largest property and investment conference MIPIM UK, at which it exhibits alongside major UK cities and regions to highlight opportunities for land zoned for employment to global investors and developers. “Everything we do is aimed at increasing opportunities for businesses and for growing the local economy,” says Dr Donaldson. “When we go to the Palace of Westminster we are showcasing our home grown businesses and they are availing of an important networking opportunity and engaging in political engagement. With ‘Made in Lisburn Castlereagh’, and through the assistance of Invest NI, we are highlighting the innovative products and services of the excellent firms in our area to the local market. “We also involve the colleges and the schools because that is where the pipeline of skills is going to come from. Students need to know about employment opportunities and businesses need to tell them what skills they need to possess. It is all about communication.” Overall, Dr Donaldson says every event is aimed at highlighting Lisburn Castlereagh as the location of innovative and dynamic firms who are keen to expand and provide job opportunities for the next generation of young skilled motivated employees. “As a council we have a good corporate outlook. We have a big vision and I welcome opportunities to collaborate. We want the area to be the best it can be. I think the profile we have carved out locally, regionally and nationally makes us stand out as a great place in which to invest, and do business. And a win for Lisburn Castlereagh is a win for Northern Ireland,” she adds.

Hillsborough Castle.


priorities of LOCAL authorities

products are very expert in what they are doing, but to go to the next level and explore opportunities requires help. “It is about talking to influencers and enablers in the wider world. We are fortunate in Westminster to have political engagement with our MPs and there is also a great business network. It means contacts can be made and doors opened which is invaluable. Together we are stronger. “The GB market is critical to businesses in our council area. For example, Abernethy Butter, which is handmade, sells a huge amount of product through top end stores such as Fortnum and Mason and Harrods, and we have numerous local manufacturers and engineering companies working across GB.” On the tourism front, Dr Donaldson points to the many popular visitor experiences in the council area which will be promoted in London including Down Royal Race Course, Lagan Valley Regional Park, the Lagan Canal and the Cregagh Glen. However, the undisputed jewel in the crown is Hillsborough Castle. Under the direction of Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace – Hillsborough Castle is currently undergoing an ambitious £16m programme of conservation, re-presentation and reimagination, in a landmark project which will make the building a place of discovery, delight, and learning for visitors. Hillsborough Castle is not only a working Royal Residence and the base for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but the council is keen to promote it as a great place for the public to visit. The transformation has begun with work on an inspirational Clore Learning Centre, the conversion of the Stableyard into an elegant visitor facility and the addition of a car and coach park with access directly from the A1 road. The castle and gardens

priorities of LOCAL authorities

Global recognition for local geology To be designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark is highly prized and is one which the Newry, Mourne and Down area with its distinct landscapes of immense scenic value deserves. Adrienne McGill talks to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s Chief Executive Liam Hannaway and hears how formal recognition of the area’s rich geology will be another jewel in its crown.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is forging ahead with plans to secure a world renowned tourism designation for an area stretching from Strangford Lough to South Armagh. The local authority is to seek the prestigious UNESCO Geopark status across three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the district: the Mournes, Ring of Gullion, and Strangford and Lecale. If successful, the UNESCO Global Geopark will use the shared geological heritage of the three areas as a mechanism for sustainable tourism, generating economic benefits, providing recreational opportunities and increasing awareness of the natural beauty of the entire area. For the past 10 months, consultants have been working on the bid and it is hoped that the application to UNESCO will be submitted next year to meet the deadline of 30 November 2019 but time is of the essence to meet the requirements of the agency. According to the council, the UNESCO Global Geopark will play a key role in

differentiating the region and in giving it a much stronger and cohesive market identity while at the same time bringing significant economic benefits as tourists flock to it. UNESCO Global Geopark status is awarded to areas with internationally important geological heritage of which there is no shortage in the district’s three AONBs. From the dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Ring of Gullion, to the high granite peaks of the Mournes and the rolling drumlins of Strangford Lough, the region has long been prized for its landscape all of which has been formed and shaped by various earth processes over millions of years. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway says the Geopark will be a unique attraction. “We have lots of very unique geography – there’s the Ring of Gullion which is the only ring dyke in Europe, the beautiful Cooley Peninsula across Carlingford Lough, the Mourne Mountains with their mass and environmental importance and the Strangford and Lecale area which boasts Strangford Lough. The council has been pursuing the idea of a Geopark for some time and while it is based on the geology of the area, local tourism is a key aspect. The local community has to be involved including landowners, farmers and businesses, which requires wider engagement. “The Mournes, Ring of Gullion and the Strangford and Lecal area all merit Geopark status – they are unique geological and environmental assets which people can come and enjoy. From a geo-tourism point of view, we are perfectly positioned. The UNESCO Global Geopark is a global brand which will really enhance the district.” While Newry Mourne and Down District Council is leading the plan, Ards and North Down Council also has an interest due to the lead and copper mines in the Ards Peninsula. A Geopark steering group to advance


the application has been established and includes the two councils, Mourne Heritage Trust, the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, Ring of Gullion and Strangford and Lecale AONBs, the Forest Service and Environment Agency, the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities, NI Water, the National Trust and the Loughs Agency.

others in Ireland — The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark in County Clare and the Copper Coast Geopark in County Waterford. Great Britain has just six Geoparks. Geoparks are based around significant areas of geology and are set up to support sustainable economic development of an area, primarily through geological and ecotourism. But Geoparks are not just about geology; they also include sites that are of interest for their history, archaeology, biodiversity, folklore, cultural heritage and for intangible heritage. These include the biodiversity around Strangford Lough and the upland areas of the Mournes, the Anglo-Norman, Viking and early Christian heritage and the numerous prehistoric monuments that are peppered across the local landscape. “There will be tour guides who will champion the geology of the area so visitors will be able to appreciate its unique qualities. Also, they will be able to learn about landmarks such as the large stone cairn which covers a Neolithic passage tomb known locally as the ‘Calliagh Berra’s House’ on the southern summit of Slieve Gullion in the Mournes and north of the cairn there is a small lake, known as the


‘Calliagh Berra’s Lough’, reputed to be bottomless,” says Liam. Council officials say due to the AONB designations, there is already provision for the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the respective areas and to increase awareness and public enjoyment of them. While there is a financial benefit for securing Geopark status, council officials insist the benefits are not just economic. They say Geoparks have a significant role to play in empowering local communities and giving them the opportunities to develop cohesive partnerships with the common goal of promoting the area’s significant geological and other heritage. The proposed UNESCO Global Geopark in the Mourne, Gullion and Strangford areas will join 127 others across the world in 35 different countries, all of whom have been awarded this significant status on the basis of their internationally important rocks and landscape. “We believe we can make this council area the premier tourist destination on the island of Ireland,” says Liam. “The UNESCO Global Geopark is an important aspect of that aim.”

priorities of LOCAL authorities

Preparatory work on the designation application started in March last year with council officials now focusing their efforts on firming up the boundaries of the proposed Geopark and engaging in consultations with the local communities within its boundary. The UNESCO Global Geopark brand is not a statutory designation and therefore does not impose any restrictions on planning or development. Instead, it works in tandem with local landowners, businesses and communities to use the natural heritage as a tool for sustainable tourism. Only those sites with public access or with specific access arrangements will be actively promoted as part of the UNESCO Geopark to ensure that the area is sensitively managed with the interests of the local communities and landowners at its very core. “The council is confident Geopark status has the potential to deliver high quality tourism in the area as it develops and identifies the links between geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage,” says Liam. Only one other Geopark exists in Northern Ireland, centred on the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh, and there are only two Mourne Mountains, Geopark.

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City Deal is a big deal The Belfast region is ambitious for economic growth and a £1bn City Deal could make this a reality as Adrienne McGill hears from Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie.

Plans for a City Deal for Belfast continue to take shape in a dynamic initiative, which is expected to bring significant economic and social benefits not only for the city but for Northern Ireland as a whole. In the Budget last autumn, the Chancellor paved the way to open negotiations for a Belfast City Deal – a 10 year investment plan focused on boosting the economy, creating jobs, improving infrastructure and ensuring economic growth reaches all areas. The City Deal model encourages city councils or groupings of councils to work together more effectively in identifying local economic development opportunities. They then strike a deal with central government to develop the finance package necessary to realise these opportunities. City Deals are a way of financing projects, which cities or regions could otherwise not afford to do through traditional financing. It is part of the UK government’s so-called “localism agenda” – this approach was designed to give more power and freedom to localities so they could do what they thought best to achieve growth in their area. At the core of the deal for Belfast is the proposition that in order to ensure that

the city region and Northern Ireland can improve productivity and competitiveness and also deal with many of the deep seated social and economic issues, focused investment in infrastructure, key business sectors, regeneration schemes, tourism products and the skills sector is essential. The Belfast City Deal, involves not just the Belfast City Council area but incorporates five other councils within the Belfast region – Mid and East Antrim; Antrim and Newtownabbey; Ards and North Down; Newry, Mourne and Down; and Lisburn and Castlereagh. They are part of a wider travel to work area and will be represented as part of the Belfast Region City Deal proposition, which will concentrate on three key priorities – infrastructure, innovation and skills. All proposals put forward will be subject to a scoring mechanism in order to maximise both the community and economic benefits for the region. Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie says the authority – and others – are actively engaging in identifying key projects, which they wish to be considered within the City Deal scheme. “A City Deal is all about boosting


economic growth because cities are drivers of economic growth. It is really important for Belfast because if you look at cities across the water – Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff – they all have a City Deal and have prospered as a result. The key element involves identifying your growth sectors, seeing where your competitive advantage lies in your area and investing in projects that are really going to be a step change by creating more jobs and better jobs that pay higher wages. “We want to make sure that the growth is inclusive – if we are growing the number of jobs with the right type of investment we want to make sure that the people who really need to get those jobs have access to them. That means we have to develop the right skills programmes and encourage those that are furthest away from the labour market to get the skills to enable them to get into the jobs that are being created. “The six council areas, which cover a population of 1m people and contribute £22.7bn of GVA – over two thirds of Northern Ireland’s Gross Value Added – have a unique economic proposition with growth areas in cyber security, ICT, financial technology, financial services

programme is so critical. In terms of geographic spread, there may be a proposal for a large visitor attraction in Belfast but there may be satellite attractions in other places and you would make sure what happens in Belfast points to other council areas and entice people to visit the Mournes or Strangford Lough or Hillsborough Castle. It will be a balancing act but at the end of the day it will be Treasury who sign off on the deal so we have to be clear about achieving a positive economic impact. “It is too early to specify the number of jobs which will be created by the City Deal but we will be taking each proposed project and doing economic appraisals. Each of these will have the number of jobs, which are expected to be created. “As part of this, the Belfast Agenda, which is the council’s vision for how the city should look in 2035, states that over the next 20 years, it is committed to creating 46,000 jobs.” It is hoped that the main terms of the Belfast City Deal will be signed by next autumn but there is still a lot of work to be done. “I believe that this is one of the most exciting developments the city has ever been engaged with – it has to create a step change in the economy but has to create a different way of working in partnership with the Executive, government departments, other councils, the private sector and other anchor institutions around the city,” says Suzanne. “We are also supportive of other local deals such as the one being worked on in the North West. “The Belfast City Deal will create a dynamic for the type of relationships we want to form in the future. It is a long term capital programme and will be incredibly challenging but the benefits will be considerable.”

Putting power back into manufacturing Mid and East Antrim is determined to build on its reputation as a manufacturing giant thanks to the establishment of a new body as Adrienne McGill hears from the Borough Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy and Rose Mary Stalker, Chair of the Manufacturing Task Force.

A new breath of life has been blown into the Mid and East Antrim area with the recent announcement of the legacy gifting of the Michelin site, which will cease operating later this year, for exciting and ambitious manufacturing opportunities and economic growth. The welcome boost comes at a much-needed time for the borough, which has been badly affected in the last two years by major job losses and the closure of companies, but demonstrates a resilience and tenacity to overcome challenges and embrace change and opportunity. Widely regarded as the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy, Mid and East Antrim is fiercely proud of its reputation for manufacturing excellence. The borough has a dynamic and innovative skills base and infrastructure, and is home to a community brimming with ambition and talent. Its largest town, Ballymena, has been particularly badly hit with 2,700 redundancies following the decision by two major international manufacturers – tyre company Michelin and tobacco giant JTI-Gallagher – to shut their operations. Kilroot Power Station is also facing closure within months with the loss of up to 240 jobs and in another blow, bus builder Wrightbus, one the area’s major employers, is to cut 95 jobs from its workforce. The cascade of redundancies continued most recently with the announcement that 125 jobs are to be axed at tyre pressure systems company Sensata Technologies in Carrickfergus. But those tasked with leading the fight back are adamant that Mid and East Antrim’s standing as a key driver of the Northern Ireland economy will remain due to the enterprise, innovation and vision of its citizens and business leaders. It’s amid a changing industrial landscape that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has established a ‘Manufacturing Task Force’ to proactively address the effects of the recent closures. It will bring together key stakeholders to help define a bold and new agenda for action as the borough looks to rebalance itself economically and provide a strong platform for economic growth and job creation. The Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy says the aim is to ensure the area retains its standing as a manufacturing giant. “The Task Force has been established to highlight Mid and East Antrim as an advanced manufacturing centre of excellence – not only for Northern Ireland but across Ireland. Its aim is to replenish the manufacturing strength of the area and to rebuild manufacturing as a key industry here. “The JTI site is already active again and has been filled by Wrightbus so we know there is the potential to reinvigorate


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and health and life sciences, and we are co-dependent on the supply of labour and the demand for labour. A total of 58 per cent of people who work in Belfast come from outside the city.” A report by business advisers KPMG states that around £1bn is realistic to fund the City Deal. Funding will come from a number of sources, including Westminster, but the money has to be invested in projects that are going to boost the economy and through which the Treasury can be paid back. The funding from Westminster has to be matched with money from the NI Executive and local councils and also from the private sector through a mixture of innovative financing measures. “The fact is investment in infrastructure stimulates economic growth. Without it – growth won’t happen,” says Suzanne. “We need investment in our roads, sewage systems and public transport but we also need investment in our digital infrastructure if we are going to grow our ICT companies and the creative industries sector. “We are talking about a whole collection of things – businesses need premises but they need research and innovation centres beside them and the universities need to support them. We need the skills to bring through a pipeline of talented people who can go into jobs in growth industries.” But how will each of the projects proposed within the City Deal be deemed worthy of being taken forward? “The councils will do this by undertaking a fine analysis of the projects which will have the most impact economically,” says Suzanne. “We want everyone to feel the benefit of the projects that will receive investment hence there will also be a social outcome perspective. This is why the skills

priorities of LOCAL authorities Rose Mary Stalker, chair of the Manufacturing Task Force and Anne Donaghy, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Chief Executive.

sites that would otherwise have been left in decline. “We are delighted with the announcement the Michelin site is to remain a key manufacturing centre. The council is a key player with a private developer in transforming the site, which once established, will lead to the creation of jobs. “Both JTI and Michelin want to leave a legacy and have put funds into the Manufacturing Task Force which is a real partnership along with the council. They are both fantastic companies and have been great employers – they have been extremely responsible in their exit. There is so much positivity in this area about growing jobs. The strength of people in Mid and East Antrim is their willingness to work together and with the council.” The Task Force includes members of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, representatives from local enterprise agencies, higher education and private sector firms, who will work together to draw up a forward programme of deliverable tasks. The newly appointed Chair of the Manufacturing Task Force is Rose Mary Stalker who is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and Fellow of the Chartered Management

Institute. She has the job of ensuring its strategic direction over its expected lifespan (18 months) and overseeing the production of anticipated outputs. “We are at the information gathering stage of the Task Force,” says Rose Mary. “We are keen to hear from manufacturers about what will make them more productive? What will help them build their sustainable competitiveness? What are the barriers? “Within the Task Force, a team of manufacturing and business experts from a number of industry sectors will be able to determine how best to capitalise on strengths, build on existing capabilities, and deploy new technologies to improve manufacturing competitiveness in order to protect and grow the economy.” A total of 4,665 businesses are based in the borough with 1 in 5 jobs in manufacturing, 3 times the UK average. Mid and East Antrim’s economy is currently worth around £2bn in GVA (Gross Value Added) and has performed well in recent years, experiencing faster annual growth relative to the rest of Northern Ireland and the UK. In 2013, a quarter of total output in the local economy was attributable to the manufacturing sector – more than triple the equivalent share of 8% for the UK and much higher than 13% in Northern Ireland.


“We are not telling manufacturers what they should do – we are asking them how can we help?” says Rose Mary. “Another role of the Task Force is to ensure that we have the right support in place for all those people who have been displaced by the closure of JTI, and the impending closure of Michelin and others. Do they want to start their own businesses? Have they got the right training and support? “There will also be a focus on employment and skills. Working with both further and higher educational institutes, this strategy aims to ensure that young people in the borough are fully equipped with the skills needed to get started in the world of work. Mid and East Antrim benefits from its strategic location within Northern Ireland. With close proximity to both major airports, home to the Port of Larne and recent investment in the A8 and A26, the area is ideally suited for commerce.” Earlier this year, the council produced a new strategy ‘Amplify’, which aims to support the development of Mid and East Antrim right through until 2030. It is a shared vision for growing the economy and arming businesses and people with the right skills to succeed of which the Manufacturing Task Force is a key element. By 2030, the council wants Mid and East Antrim to have a nationally competitive economy, operate an economically active population known for its high-level skills providing critical labour to priority sectors, and be recognised as a vibrant, ambitious place to live and work. It will be delivered by focusing on five key themes: Entrepreneurship and Enterprise; Innovation; Employment and Skills; Infrastructure; and, Inclusion and Wellbeing. During the period 2012-13 to 2016-2017, total investment in the area was £195m, of which £70m was from externally owned businesses. Anne stresses that as well as growing indigenous SMEs, the area needs to do all it can to position itself for high quality and sustainable inward investment, through the development of a strong investment proposition and close working between the council and Invest NI. In another show of its determination to put the area on the skilled manufacturing map, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in conjunction with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is leading a bid to land a Heathrow Logistics Hub. This would be used to pre-assemble components to help in the construction of Heathrow’s third runway. “We have great ambitions – we keep reaching for the moon as we know that even if we occasionally miss, we’ll land among the stars. Nothing is too big for us,” says Anne.

Digital has become a buzz word for local councils as they seek to enhance services through new technology. Adrienne McGill talks to Roger Wilson, Chief Executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council about the authority’s transformation.

Local government often comes under criticism for being cumbersome, complicated, multi-layered and duplicatory. But that view is changing with the introduction of digital technologies, which are helping to transform local councils by enabling them to save money, foster economic growth and deliver better outcomes for local residents and communities. There are 11 new local authorities in Northern Ireland providing similar services but in different ways. In terms of IT this means 11 websites, 11 email systems, 11 finance systems… the list goes on. Councils provide a wide and diverse range of services from bin collection to promoting tourism and this provides a significant opportunity for transformation. The advent of digital systems in council services is helping to simplify and streamline services making communication to and from the citizen much easier. Most councils in Northern Ireland have identified the need for a digital transformation strategy which is suitable for the structure and culture of their local government organisation. It has given councils in Northern Ireland a huge opportunity to increase internal communications, agility, efficiency, effectiveness and even insight into key stakeholders. Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is one of those leading the way in digital transformation which at its core is about using technology to accelerate and enhance business processes. The council’s Chief Executive Roger Wilson says the authority made a point of getting its technology infrastructure in place as soon as the new council was created in April 2015. “There are changes below the surface that people don’t necessarily see. You have to get the foundations in place before you are able to deliver any digital transformation.

“For us we had to merge systems or in some instances introduce new systems and implement these in our back office before introducing them to the front, i.e. the public. “New platforms were necessary to support our operations – we moved to cloud computing rather than continuing to use our own servers. The three legacy councils operated on different servers in different ways but when we became one they had to be homogenised – which meant the integration of our telephone and email systems. “The aim is to ensure that the citizen who contacts the council is not being pushed around the system. “Also council officers such as building control, planners or environmental health officers are doing a lot of work on site through their tablet so they don’t have to come back into the office and fill in forms. There is an efficiency – they are dealing with real time information. If there is an update in the office, that is available to the officer on site so he/she is getting the most up to date information as well. It means we are delivering a better service to our citizen at the point of delivery.”


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Driving Digital

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s dedication to using digital technology effectively has been recognised by being named the Best Local Authority Digital Integration Project at the 2017 Local Government Awards for Developing a Digital Culture. Meanwhile the council’s recently launched ‘Digital Transformation Programme’ is set to help 100 local businesses receive digital support. Part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme, the newly announced project will provide assistance and mentoring to traditional and digital small medium enterprises (SMEs) over the next three years. With tailor-made support, the programme will equip businesses with the digital skills to manage information, communicate, transact and problem solve, while also enabling them to scale up, drive business growth and as a result help create over 250 jobs by 2020. “The digital economy is one of the most important drivers of innovation, competitiveness and growth for our economy,” says Roger. “We are an ambitious and forwardthinking local authority, keen to stay ahead of the continually innovating and ever adapting digital wave. With huge economic and social benefits on offer for the region, we understand that to reap those benefits we need to equip our business leaders and young people with the right skills and knowledge. “Developed in partnership with specialists, the Digital Transformation Programme will provide the perfect platform for businesses to share knowledge, develop new skills and establish new connections in order to help them take advantage of opportunities that lie within the digital economy.” The 16-week transformation programme, which began last month, is delivered by specialists from 42 Digital and Southern Regional College and consists of workshops, networking events and will cover two main elements, namely digital marketing and digital innovation. Social media has become embedded in daily communications from the council, which operates services for 208,000 citizens across its area. “Citizens now want to make contact with us via Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp as opposed to the traditional channels such as a letter, phone or email,” says Roger. “We have had to develop systems outside of our core processing systems to respond to citizens on social media and of course if you reply on social media, the whole world can see it.

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“For instance, when weather conditions become bad we can post messages quickly about council services – bin collection, facility closures, etc. We can target people more effectively so citizens don’t have to wait to hear details of disruption to services. “We are constantly using social media to highlight council services, events and information because digital is an instant medium. Overall there is an efficiency and saving through it. “One of the most significant financial savings we have made is for our council and committee meetings – everything is done digitally. All our councillors have tablets through which they can access the minutes of meetings or reports. Traditionally this would have been printed material in legacy councils and it would now amount to a considerable volume of paperwork, which would have to be distributed to each of our 41 Councillors. “Using digital systems has enhanced the debate and decision making processes of the council as well.” At the end of the day, new technologies, combined with mobile connectivity and social media, have changed the relationship between organisations and their customers, in both the private and public sector.

This change means people’s expectations are not what they once were – everyone now wants a response and action immediately. Councils who embrace the digital transformation can now deliver services that are better targeted and more efficient and therefore enhance customer

Counting the cost of waste management Dealing with waste is a substantial cost for local councils but recycling and reuse is imperative as Adrienne McGill hears from Brendan Hegarty, Chief Executive of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Further to the reform of local government on 1 April 2015, waste management continues to be a key responsibility for local government. However, there’s nothing cheap about the disposal of waste – it is an expensive business and represents a significant cost risk to local authorities. Each year, councils in Northern Ireland spend more than £165m of public money collecting and disposing of nearly one million tons of household and commercial waste, including £40m on litter alone. While the costs associated with waste management are subject to volatility, the expectation is that over time these costs will continue to rise.

Central and local government believe that developing an effective crossgovernmental, central-local approach to the circular economy will transform the way in which waste is managed by recognising and realising the true value of waste as a resource. The potential increased income generated therefore helps to partially offset costs to local government. The European Commission has set out ambitious legislative requirements, which include revised legislative proposals on waste, and indicators and incentives to business and consumers to help stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. These include:


experience resulting in a high level of customer satisfaction. “We are still very much at the start of our digital journey,” says Roger. “But we are trying to work in a more streamlined way and that can only be good.”

• • • •

A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030 A common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030 A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030 A ban on landfilling separately collected food waste

As a proportion of waste regulations in the UK originate from EU Waste Directives, these may continue to apply in the UK depending on how the UK leaves during Brexit and what deal is made with the European Union. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has put substantial resources into waste management. Brendan Hegarty, the Council’s Chief Executive says: “EU legislation around waste management is embedded into our own legislation in Northern Ireland. “The legislation is designed to protect the environment and human health, to reduce the negative effects of methane gas on the ozone layer and to reduce the negative effect of harmful substances such as leachate that can come from waste. “The legislation is designed to ensure

that materials are recycled in order to protect natural resources. “The objective is to try and reduce the amount of waste that is generated and to maximise recycling of waste and its reuse in order to reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled. “There are specific requirements associated with waste management. For example, legislation says if you separately collect food waste then there is a ban on that type of waste going to landfill. There are extensive regulations in place and targets to be met. “Key targets relate to the amount of waste that can go to landfill and the amount of waste to be recycled.” In terms of costs, the authority spends a total of £5.2m (gross) annually on waste collection including litter, household, recycling and running centres and transferring waste to landfill which represents 23% of its annual budget or 30% in net expenditure terms. A total of £2.4m of landfill tax is paid to the Treasury every year and £2.2m has been invested in waste management assets since 2015. When it comes to dealing with waste and meeting targets, there is a hierarchy. Top of the list is to prevent it in the first

place, then to minimise it through reuse, then recycling, then energy recovery and finally, the least favourite option, which is disposal through landfilling. Local councils’ responsibilities around waste management cover waste collection and disposal, recycling and waste management infrastructure, street cleaning and litter prevention. Following the establishment of the super councils in Northern Ireland, 20152016 was the first year of operation for the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. During the period, the limit for landfill waste in the area was set at 17,360 tons and since then the allowance has fallen by 895 tons a year. It means that in 2019-2020 the amount of waste the council can put into landfill will have fallen to 13,780 tons. “This is quite a significant reduction year on year and obviously to bring forward new initiatives to achieve those reducing targets is quite challenging,” says Brendan. “We have new initiatives around reuse and recycling and we can divert waste through energy recovery.” Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s responsibilities for waste management include refuse collection and bulky waste. The council provides a refuse collection


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service to all domestic households as well as a collection service to commercial premises. It also promotes community engagement in the separation of waste at source through its mixed collection service. There are state of the art recycling facilities at Drummee outside Enniskillen and Gortrush on the edge of Omagh, in addition to multiple recycling centres spread across the district. “However, it is not as straightforward as saying reduce the amount of waste going to landfill,” says Brendan. “Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has ownership of 2 fully engineered landfill sites – full ownership of the Drummee site and shared ownership of the Tullyvar site with our neighbouring Mid Ulster Council. “Both sites are coming to the end of their lives so currently we have a tension between reducing the amount of waste going to landfill but still having to deposit enough waste to achieve the profile you need in order to close the site. “The main recycling target we have to reach by 2020 is 50%. In terms of household waste, our data from April to September 2017 indicates that we are likely to achieve a rate of 48% of waste recycled. “Significant progress has been made in the current year through the separate collection of food waste with an 18% increase in the amount of food and organic waste collected in the first few months. “In 2015-16 recycling activity in our recycling centres was 74% compared to the 2016-17 year when levels rose to 75% and based on the first 6 months data of the current year, we are predicting this could reach 77%. “Whilst there is substantial capital investment going into the centres, they appear to substantiate the view from government that the higher the quality of your recycling centres, the better return you will get on them.” The council’s regime involves the separation of 27 different materials across 15 recycling centres spread across the area with waste dispatched to 17 contractors who process and recycle it. The authority services around 46,000 domestic properties every year and 500 businesses. Overall, Brendan says it is important to view waste as a resource rather than as a problem. “We are very aware of the circular economy and the opportunity that exists within that. At the end of the day, reuse and recycling is much cheaper to deal with as opposed to landfill. If we can encourage people to be more responsible about waste then we can manage waste in a more effective way.”

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A HomePlace at the heart of Mid Ulster Rural tourism continues to make its home in Mid Ulster, Kim Ashton, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, tells Adrienne McGill.

Mid Ulster holds a unique distinction, which no other council area in Northern Ireland can claim. It’s the birthplace of Seamus Heaney and where HomePlace in Bellaghy is located, which celebrates the life, literature and legacy of the Nobel prize-winning poet, while its beautiful rural surroundings offer glimpses of the landscape that inspired him. The opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace in September 2016 has put the spotlight on Mid Ulster as the rich source of the writings of one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets. Since it opened, more than 40,000 visitors from across the globe have flocked to the centre, which takes them on a journey through Seamus Heaney’s life. Developed by Mid Ulster District Council, with part-funding of just under £1m from the former Department for

Culture, Arts and Leisure, the 2,000 sq. m. building is home to a permanent exhibition, interpreting Seamus Heaney’s work through his connections with people and places. The £4m centre spans two floors and is filled with personal stories and artefacts, dozens of family photographs, video recordings from friends, neighbours and cultural leaders, and the voice of the poet himself reading his own words. At its heart is Seamus Heaney’s life and work, incorporating music, from the classical to the traditional, poetry and staged readings, drama, dance, talks and discussions, visual art and installations. HomePlace is named to reflect the physical position of the centre at the heart of the area where the poet was born, grew up and is buried, as well as its significance as a source of inspiration for Seamus Heaney’s work throughout his life. For Mid Ulster District Council, the centre – which has led to the creation of 17 jobs – has represented the beginning of a new era for rural tourism in the region. “Rural tourism is one of our key focuses,” says Kim Ashton, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council. “We are situated in one of the most rural areas of Northern Ireland and we have a lot to offer in terms of tourism. We have many wonderful sites and attractions in the district. “Seamus Heaney HomePlace has become a key driver for tourism in the area. Tens of thousands of visitors, including high profile figures such as Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, have visited it, bringing business and revenue into the area. We are delighted.


“It is also picking up awards across a range of fields from architecture to visitor experience. Interest is huge – it is on a national platform. “It has really helped bring investment into Bellaghy which is a small village and put a focus on the council to keep investing in the area so it’s looks attractive for people who visit.” In addition, Mid Ulster’s rich heritage and history from the Mesolithic, Neolithic, pre Christian and early Christian periods through to the O’Neills, the Flight of the Earls and plantation times, gives the area a unique advantage in offering visitors a wealth of opportunities to steep themselves in a history which spans not just centuries, but millennia. Straddling two counties and stretching from Swatragh in the north to Fivemiletown in the south, the Mid Ulster district covers an area of 1714 km² with a population of more than 140,000, living in a mix of urban and rural communities. Mid Ulster Council has embarked on a five-year plan which aims to enhance the image and reputation of the area for visitors and to grow the economy to the tune of £50m by 2021 involving three key themes: Seamus Heaney; archaeological sites, history and heritage; and outdoor activities. Together, with a focus on building the region’s reputation for good food and events, each theme will play a central part in developing, growing and raising the profile of Mid Ulster in order to encourage visitors and position tourism as a significant economic driver. There’s a host of attractions in the area including the Hill of the O’Neill, the Grant Ancestral Homestead, Blessingbourne Estate, Davagh Forest, Ranfurly House, Burnavon Theatre, Gortin Glen Forest Park, Lough Neagh, and the Sperrins to name but a few. In February this year, a £500,000 investment from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Rural Tourism Scheme boosted plans to create Northern Ireland’s only ‘Dark Sky Observatory’ at Davagh Forest near Cookstown. The new star-gazing experience, to include a visitor centre, complete with a virtual reality exhibition and telescope, is being developed by Mid Ulster District Council in a total investment of over £1m. To be sited close to the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles, at the foot of the Sperrin mountains, the new centre is scheduled to open in spring 2019, and will give visitors a unique opportunity to experience the night sky without light pollution. “This is one of the most exciting, innovative and progressive tourism development projects of recent times and it is at the core of our work to showcase

“When there is a good mix of community buy-in, elected members and staff support, it means villages are well placed to capitalise on opportunities. “Council officers attend major holiday and tourism events to promote the district and we have seen increasing interest. Following the merger of Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt Councils, we have sold the district as one package.” Kim stresses that when underpinned by its natural heritage, Mid Ulster offers an incredibly strong appeal for visitors interested in enjoying the great outdoors, whether that’s gentle walking or cycling or adrenaline-fuelled mountain biking or offroading. “Mid Ulster has something different to offer. There is magic across the whole district,” she adds.


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this part of the country as the heart of ancient Ulster,” says Kim. “Mid Ulster has so much to offer day and night. “The council works together and with other agencies to capitalise on Mid Ulster’s strengths. We can’t work in silos, we have dedicated officers in tourism and marketing who maintain and promote all of the key sites. “The staff are very proactive in seeking opportunities for Mid Ulster and as Chair of the Council my aim is to shine a positive light on the district as the heart of Northern Ireland tourism. “The rural communities in Mid Ulster are excellent when it comes to working with the council’s rural development team and have great Councillors who are championing tourism.

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Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed Giving entrepreneurs the support they need is a major focus for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council as Adrienne McGill hears from its Chief Executive, Jacqui Dixon.

Plunging into the world of business can be a daunting prospect but for anyone thinking of starting a business in the Antrim and Newtownabbey area help is at hand from the Borough Council, which provides a vast range of help, advice, programmes and initiatives for would-be entrepreneurs. Delivered with support from enterprise agencies and business consultants, these include the ASK programme, Go For It and the Lean Business Network - all of which are aimed at helping businesses to get started, grow and reach their full potential. “We identify and support entrepreneurship and we want our citizens to benefit from economic prosperity,” says Jacqui Dixon, Chief Executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. “The Council wants to ensure that Antrim and Newtownabbey is a prosperous Borough with a culture of entrepreneurship. A thriving local economy will create employment opportunities and offer a variety of valued services to our residents and visitors.” There are currently 3,685 registered

businesses in Antrim and Newtownabbey. However, while the council is responsible for delivering the Northern Ireland Business Start-Up Programme to encourage and support entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial activity in the area is the one of the lowest in Northern Ireland (4.2%), compared to the region-wide rate of 6.7%. In a bid to redress this imbalance, the council is therefore spearheading programmes and initiatives to encourage innovation and enterprise in business. “Given our proximity to Belfast and the fact that we have a lot of large employers in the borough who offer high quality employment opportunities for our citizens, it means our entrepreneurship level is quite low,” says Jacqui. “However, we are keen to boost the level and we want to provide an environment with lots of opportunities and facilitate business start ups and support our existing businesses. “The council wants to improve the entrepreneurial rate and sustain a strong prosperous economy. We will engage with


businesses, universities, colleges, Invest NI and other relevant stakeholders to achieve this. “As we get feedback from our various programmes, we review them to make sure they are meeting the needs of participants and addressing issues concerned with their business proposal. Issues such as; Is there a market? What does it look like? Will there be finance available? What are costs associated with setting up the business? It is about making sure there is a robust business plan in place to help an individual decide whether to take on the risk of setting up a business. “Our economic development team is responsible for developing and implementing a wide range of programmes, coordinating them and ensuring that the providers are meeting the objectives and the outcomes that they are contracted to provide on the Council’s behalf. “There is a high level of take up – most of our programmes are over subscribed – we don’t have any difficulty filling places.” Jacqui highlights a new initiative, which starts this spring and is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme. The OPTIMAL (Outstanding Performance Through Individual Mentoring And Leadership) Programme will be Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s principal business support and growth programme. It will provide tailored and specialist business support to 200 micro and small enterprises to support the development of a more prosperous economy within the council area. It aims to: • Support the creation of new sustainable jobs in the council area. • Refer businesses to Invest NI that are capable of accessing financial support from Invest NI. • Strengthen the local business base by assisting businesses to become more competitive in indigenous and export markets. • Promote business growth and innovation • Provide accessible, need driven business support that is tailored to business requirements. • Engage with key business support stakeholders to develop a portfolio approach to business support in the council area, ensuring that there is no duplication of effort. Jacqui says OPTIMAL is yet another example of the Council’s commitment to embed a culture of entrepreneurship in the area and grow the local economy for the benefit of citizens. “This is a very exciting new programme which will open doors for businesses and create opportunities which are there to be seized. That is what entrepreneurship is all about,” she says.

priorities of LOCAL authorities

Change for the Better The restructure of local councils has been aimed at making them more efficient, innovative and cost-effective with extra responsibilities negotiated with central government. Derek McCallan, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) tells Adrienne McGill why the transferral of more powers has enabled local authorities to become local leaders within their communities.

Northern Ireland’s 11 new councils with new powers came into being in April 2015 following local government reform. The new authorities are designed to deliver better outcomes for local people – the hub of communities. There are definite advantages to this newly implemented system, such as enabling local councils and communities to have a greater say in how public services are managed, removing duplication across the complex public service delivery map in Northern Ireland, as well as enabling councils to raise extra funds by realising capital assets, buildings and equipment that are now deemed unnecessary, and exercising new financial powers to borrow in order to develop local economies. Against this background, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) wants, over time, greater responsibilities and powers to be exercised by local government, together with the requisite resources transferred to and deployed by them to provide world class, affordable services and representation.

Derek McCallan, Chief Executive of NILGA says local councils have been performing well following the transformation. “The new councils are 3 years old now and they have embraced the changes. Since 2015, in most cases their district rates have been at or below the rate of inflation – that has not happened in most other public sector bodies. In terms of planning and economic development, they have been taking decisions, which have shown that they are turning tired or derelict areas into economic growth zones. In terms of Northern Ireland’s sustainability, the councils have shown that they can really drive the local economy by putting resources in a wide range of areas such as tourism, manufacturing, entrepreneurship and tourism.” As part of the reorganisation of local government, the 11 new councils gained some additional powers from the Northern Ireland Executive. Most notably, decisions on the majority of planning applications and urban regeneration now rest at the level of local government, not the Department for Infrastructure. “The councils have coped very well with planning decisions although it has been a baptism of fire,” says Derek. “Planning is one of the most publicinterest, public services that you could possibly get. The councils inherited a lot of legacy planning issues and planning applications and they weren’t resourced to deal with those. Over the last 3 years, they have spent approximately 3 times more than the Department of the Environment which held planning until 2015 in order to alleviate the queue of legacy applications. All 11 councils are much faster qualitatively as well as quantitatively in terms of their local development plans. Planning is demonstratively linked to sustaining Northern Ireland’s environment and economy.


“The planning transfer is a benchmark for how future transformations and the transfer of power and authority to local people through local councils should take shape.” Derek says local authorities have a unique chance to work collectively as a sector to improve the governance, economy and quality of public services for ratepayers and citizens. With the collapse of devolved government in Northern Ireland for more than a year now, the Programme for Government setting out the plans and priorities for Northern Ireland as a region for the 20162021 Assembly mandate has stalled. NILGA has made it clear that councils and communities have a significant role to play in the future successes of Northern Ireland. It says it is imperative that a strategic alignment is established and maintained between the Executive’s Programme for Government and the 11 councils. “We believe that, for instance, neighbourhood services should be delivered by bodies which coordinate communities and neighbourhoods i.e. councils. That would include regeneration, on-street car parking, maintenance of the public realm, built architecture and local roads. “This is not a power grab – it is simply to normalise how Northern Ireland is run. It would involve an effective fair and codesigned transfer of resources.” Derek stresses that it is imperative that Northern Ireland’s local councils make the case to government and the public that they are not only the hub of local communities, but are a confident, resourced, essential and growing part of sustainable democracy and world class public service provision. “NILGA believes that this will and must happen for any Programme for Government to be truly citizen-centred,” he adds.

Embracing automation By Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland UK. Bank of Ireland UK proudly partnered to support the delivery of a first of its kind in Northern Ireland at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast on 28 February where two of the world’s leading experts in automation along with an audience of 250 business leaders, policy makers and educationalists participated in the Catalyst Inc. Future of Work NI Solutions Summit. The summit was the result of needing a forum to start the conversation required in Northern Ireland around the potential impacts and opportunities of automation as highlighted at the publication of the 2017 Knowledge Economy report. Focusing on the trends, research, skills and talent requirements for the future of work, the inspiring and thought provoking Ravin Jesuthasan, a contributor to the World Economic Forum and MD & Global Practice Leader at Willis Towers Watson in Chicago, and Johnathan Downing from Northern Ireland, a researcher at Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, ensured they supplied the stimulation for two interactive and dynamic breakout sessions – focusing on actions to ensure Northern Ireland

Future of Work Solutions Summit speakers Jonathan Downing and Ravin Jesuthasan with Elaine Smyth of Catalyst Inc and Gavin Kennedy of Bank of Ireland.

remains a modern economy with increasing productivity and sustainable growth. I definitely walked away with a better understanding of and confidence in the opportunity rather than the negative rhetoric we usually hear around what is possible through automation. What brought it all to life for me was hearing from those who are already using and engaging with automation and from those who are working with staff and the next generation to enhance, develop and nurture the skills of the future. Those

included some early adaptors in business, across multiple sectors and sizes, such as Coca Cola Hellenic, Willowbrook Foods, Liberty IT, Deloitte and Audit Comply. The summit was about people coming together to listen and learn more about the impact of automation, and – through the focused breakout sessions, contribution of ideas, options and solutions – to enable Northern Ireland to thrive together. What is so encouraging is that, at the end of the day, 98% of delegates believed automation is an opportunity.

Making Partnerships Work


he MS Society relies on the generosity and goodwill of the community and corporate sector for support in order to deliver services and support for people living with and affected by Multiple Sclerosis in Northern Ireland. Our partnerships with companies big and small are an important part of what we do – both in terms of increasing awareness of MS and in raising funds. We work with a range of businesses and companies from small companies employing just a few people to larger scale organisations. All are equally important to us and each partnership is tailored to fit. Our partnership with NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been a major success, raising almost £12,000 but also affording us the opportunity to raise awareness about MS and the work that we are doing in Northern Ireland. In 2017 we worked with a number of corporate partners including the Wilson Group, G Electric, Sainsbury’s Forestside, Halifax, Atlas Communications, Brightwater and Curran Commercials. Our partnerships are just that, partnerships. We work together with companies. Some partners get involved in our existing fundraising activities – including our abseils, zip slides, running events, etc. – others organise their own fundraising events - we are there to help them when needed.

Tom Mallon Fundraising Manager at the MS Society Northern Ireland who was presented with a cheque from the Halifax team following the charity’s partnership with the bank.

We work with companies to ensure our partnership is mutually beneficial. We allocate a key worker as a main point of contact and we also agree on a spending plan enabling companies and their employees to specify how they would like the funds that they raise to be used. Some of our supporters opt to support our research programme, while others choose to support our work at local level. Whilst companies view a partnership with us as an opportunity to support our work, they can also offer employees the opportunity to gain experience, develop new skills and for many companies, the partnerships offer


a different approach to team building and personal development. Please get in contact. We’d love to hear from you and we’d like to tell you how we can make a partnership work for your company and, of course, how a partnership with your company can help us to provide vital services and support for people living with MS. Could your company become a ‘Partner’ and help ‘Stop MS’? We are currently looking for more partners. We would be delighted to come and speak to you. Please get in contact with us. Call Tom Mallon on 028 9080 2802 or email

Building the future together As a first choice supplier for leading architects, construction companies, builders and the self-build sector, RTU is helping shape the architectural landscape of Northern Ireland.


Maureen O’Reilly, NI Chamber Economist

The new world of work


There is an emphasis on possessing the right kind of skills that jobs in the future require.

had the pleasure recently of being one of the judges at Young Enterprise NI’s Big Market event in St George’s Market in Belfast. At the event student companies from schools across Northern Ireland came together, set up their stalls and sold their wares to the general public. This involved over 900 young people aged between 11 and 18 along with their teachers and business mentors. There was a really great buzz on the day which was reflective of the enthusiasm from all those involved. The idea is to give young people an insight into entrepreneurship by setting up and running a Young Enterprise company at school, with support from a business mentor. There were a myriad of business ideas from a primary 7 pupils’ handmade jewellery to a book developed by 17 and 18 year olds to educate children about autism and even an app for dog owners to give them ideas on things to do with their dog! As judges, we were asked to mark each company in terms of 1) the Enterprise 2) Endeavour, Impact and Results 3) The Journey Travelled and 4) Organisation and Development. The focus is essentially on entrepreneurship but in chatting with the young people and


their teachers it became clear to me that they gained much more out of the experience. They learned about the importance of perseverance, leadership skills and the ability to work and communicate with others (social skills). These form part of a range of what are termed ‘noncognitive’ or soft skills which in simple terms have been shown to strongly improve labour market outcomes1. A recent report by Nesta et al. on ‘The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030’ 2 highlights just how important those types of skills are going to be for the future labour market. It uses a very technical approach (including machine learning) to determine how employment is going to change in different parts of the labour market in the next 10 to 15 years along with the skills that are likely to be in greater demand to meet those changes. These skills include interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills, and systems skills. What do they mean? Interpersonal skills include the ability to instruct others and ‘social perceptiveness’ which is really about understanding situations and how to respond to them. Higher-order cognitive skills include originality, coming up with ideas and using new information to support problem

solving and decision-making. Systems skills include judgement and decision making around actions and how systems should work and be improved. The report also suggests that broad-based knowledge such as English language, history, philosophy, administration and management are all strongly associated with occupations set to rise as a share of the workforce in coming years. In terms of demand for occupations, the Nesta report does support wider research that jobs likely to be in decline will focus on those with low/medium skills such as manufacturing production, administrative, secretarial and some sales occupations. However, it suggests that agriculture, skilled trades and construction are thought to provide ‘pockets of opportunity’. Areas of services such as food preparation, elementary services like cleaning and labouring along with hospitality are expected to grow in importance. It also mentions the re-emergence of skilled crafts (artisanal) employment in occupations like barbering, brewing and textiles. The education, healthcare and wider public sector occupations in the UK are expected to show continued growth. The research also forecasts strong demand for some, but not all, professional services. A lot has been made of the fact that the rise of automation has the potential to lead to significant jobs losses globally. The latest Connect Knowledge Economy Report3 estimates that around half of jobs in Northern Ireland are at risk from automation by 2030

compared to 35% for the rest of the UK. The Nesta report would suggest that too much has been made of the risk of automation while the potential benefits in terms of job creation have been minimised. It predicts that around ‘one-tenth of the workforce are in occupations that are likely to grow as a percentage of the workforce while around one-fifth are in occupations that will likely shrink’. The figure of one-fifth is a lot lower than many other studies around the risk of automation have suggested. What the research does imply is that around 7 in 10 people are currently working in occupations where they are simply not sure what might happen to their job in the future. The research also makes a strong play of the fact that the future of work will not only be influenced by automation but on bigger picture issues including globalisation, increasing urbanisation, increasing inequality and demographic changes including an aging population with all its composite requirements and a new generation (largely referred to as ‘millennials’) with ‘divergent consumption and work behaviours’. The report describes millennials as the first group to have grown up with digital technology ‘bringing with them heightened expectations of immediacy, participation and transparency’. Regardless, it is clear that automation (and indeed digitalisation) requires a significant policy response to support businesses, employees, the education sector and others to prepare for what seems like the

Time never stands still in world of agri-food By Nigel Walsh, Director, Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank.

Nigel Walsh of Ulster Bank with, Rhonda Geary, RUAS, Cormac McKervey, Ulster Bank, and Colin McDonald, RUAS.

As the countdown gets underway to this year’s Balmoral Show, which will be the 150th, it’s worth reflecting on how time never stands still in farming and food. The organiser of the Show, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, was founded in 1854, to discover and promote best practice in agriculture, innovating in response to the prevailing, challenging circumstances of the time. While we are fortunate not to experience the same degree of challenges today, it does show that hardwired into the industry in Northern Ireland is a degree of resilience and adaptability. It’s not a sector

that believes in resting on its laurels. So while the Show, which takes place 16-19 May, is about celebrating the rich and important heritage of agribusiness in Northern Ireland – something that Ulster Bank is proud to support – it is also very focused on making changes for the future. The industry perhaps has a conservative image; however, the simple truth of all farming and food production is that if you don’t plan ahead and respond to variable conditions then crops don’t get planted, livestock doesn’t get raised and you don’t know what customers want to eat – meaning you’re not left with very much at all. So there is real effort to understand


inevitable. However, that response needs to be measured and yes, focus on preparing for technical skills (there has been a lot of debate around the appropriate level of focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths for example) but at the same time not lose sight of the importance of the softer or non-cognitive skills which will be crucial in supporting this new world of work. This does pose a significant challenge to the ‘classical’ approach to education and skills development, which tends by its nature to take a much more rigid and structured approach, largely because it is driven by targets around attainment. Much greater investment needs to be made in finding better ways to bring soft skills into the education and skills systems in a much more focused and targeted way. The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs report’ 4 argues that by 2020: “Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, (employees) are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.” Creativity was certainly in abundance at the Young Enterprise Big Market event. 1. Seven Facts on Non cognitive Skills from Education to the Labor Market, The Hamilton Project, 2016. 2. Pearson, Nesta, The Oxford Martin School, 2017. 3. 2017. 4. 2016.

the new and impactful ways that technology and innovation can influence food production, as well as creating an export product. Through our work with exciting entrepreneurs across Belfast, Ulster Bank is seeing that happen. For example, Northern Ireland has a comparative advantage with other markets in terms of the traceability and quality assurance of food. Belfast also has one of Europe’s highest concentrations of cybersecurity businesses. So there is a lot of potential for interaction in these fields, bringing innovation into the supply chain and providing standards and technology that influence food production the world over. There’s further potential in terms of marketing, packaging and storage of products – helping to feed a growing middle class around the world. Ultimately, the Show is about people coming together to celebrate and enjoy themselves – but in doing so, it creates a space for ideas to be shared, new conversations to be had and to demonstrate that the more things seem to stay the same, the more they are changing behind the scenes. We very much look forward to the 150th Balmoral Show in May, and to using it as a platform to help support and inspire the next generation of food & drink and agri-business entrepreneurs.


Lighting the way for Northern Ireland entrepreneurs is Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneur Development Manager, Ulster Bank along with Matthew Teague and John Ferris from the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator.

Ulster Bank accelerates entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland H

undreds of entrepreneurs and jobs have been created and multimillions raised in investment for businesses based in Ulster Bank’s Lombard Street entrepreneurial hub in Belfast, it has been revealed. Since its inception in 2015, the venture – now called the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator – has made a significantly positive impression on the entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland, with a cumulative total of 264 entrepreneurs supported, 658 jobs created and £15m raised in investment for fledgling firms in the hub. The figures are revealed in the Northern Ireland findings of the 2017 Impact Report regarding activity at Ulster Bank’s entrepreneurial Belfast hub. Lynsey Cunningham, Entrepreneur Development Manager for the Bank, said: “These figures show that the model of connecting brilliant ideas and people with practical support and guidance can deliver outstanding results. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done to date to build a vibrant entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland,

and I’m excited about what we still have to do.” As part of continuing to build on the success of the work to date, Ulster Bank has brought the hub – formerly called Entrepreneurial Spark – into the bank as a fully managed accelerator, becoming the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator. This move mirrors similar changes made across the UK. Lynsey added: “The Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator will continue the fantastic work done to date, with the same outstanding and expert team, and we’ll be bringing greater clarity to how we support both early stage businesses, as well as those high-growth prospects that want to scale up. “Our aim is to support even more entrepreneurs, help create even more jobs, and facilitate start-ups to bring in even more investment. We know this is a really compelling proposition and we’re pleased to be offering start-up and scale-up businesses fully-funded office space, mentoring, access to expertise, knowledge, networks and supply chains.” As part of the new structure, the bank will be making changes to the model to better encourage further business growth:


• The Acceleration programme is a 6 to 18-month programme for entrepreneurs with high growth businesses looking to scale up. Designed to ensure that these businesses get the best chance to succeed, entrepreneurs will receive free office space, free wi-fi, free business support and mentoring, bespoke coaching, and access to the bank’s networks and supply chains. • The Pre-Acceleration programme is an intensive, 12-week programme for up to 50 early stage start-ups. Run simultaneously in each of our Hub cities, entrepreneurs benefit from an introductory immersion day, online learning materials, webinars, digital ‘nutshells’ and a concluding celebratory awards event. This programme is complemented by a variety of events, run by the bank’s Business Growth Enablers, as well as the bank’s local partners. In 2017, the bank’s Entrepreneurial Development Academy, which supports the development of intrapreneurial skills and understanding among staff, received external accreditation from the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. A total of 256 Ulster Bank colleagues are part of the Academy.

GDPR eLearning Solution

Michael Black, Employment Director at Cleaver Fulton Rankin

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation impacts on all organisations that handle the personal data of UK and EU individuals, whether they are clients, employees or suppliers. GDPR has a global impact with businesses from Silicon Valley to Australia, including those with no physical presence in the EU, having to ensure full legal compliance. For all employees who handle personal data, GDPR requires all Data Controllers and Data Processors to train all such staff on GDPR, and to retain clear records that such training has taken place.

simple and accessible. It can be viewed on desktop or mobile devices when convenient. Student assessment is built in and employees receive a certificate upon completion. Our eLearning solution is a user friendly, expedient and low cost training resource for your workforce. We also deliver practical workshop training to managers including Data Protection Officers and those who have significant involvement in handling personal data. We are currently conducting Data

Protection Audits and Privacy Impact Assessments as well as advising on Data Sharing Agreements and Privacy Notices on behalf of a number of clients. The ICO and other national regulators in the EU can impose fines of up to â‚Ź20million or 4% of annual turnover (whichever is the larger amount) for non-compliance of the various Data Protection legal requirements. Please ensure that you take steps now to keep you, your staff and your organisation on the right side of the law.

At Cleaver Fulton Rankin, we offer a convenient and inexpensive eLearning GDPR solution to meet this legal requirement. For more information please see: This webpage contains a sample module from our eLearning resource. This training engages directly with employees and is designed to be

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is one of Northern Ireland’s leading commercial law firms combining over 125 years of heritage with an innovative approach. Our experienced Employment team is widely acknowledged for its expertise and ability to provide practical advice to clients across the full spectrum of employment issues.

To find out how we can help you, please contact: Michael Black T: 028 9027 1312 E: 50 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FW | T: +44 (0)28 9024 3141 | W:



Paddy O’Hagan, Chief Operating Officer, Neueda

Casting the net wide The talent circle – nurturing, attracting, retaining.


alent is one of the core building blocks of any business’ success. Across all sectors, however, attracting and retaining the best people is an ongoing challenge and must remain top of an organisation’s agenda. Northern Ireland is home to a wealth of skilled people across a broad range of disciplines. To fully maximise this, companies should review their recruitment and people development strategies regularly, assessing if their offer as an employer is in line with market expectations. Within the IT sector, the talent pool is growing faster than ever, with more people keen to switch from different careers into IT and a new generation of fresh tech talent coming through our education system. Worth noting is that 72% of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025.* Salary

is not the most important driving factor for this audience, whereas workplace culture and appreciation take a higher priority. Assessing your company culture is therefore an essential exercise – as it should reflect the type of company you want to be and how you want to be viewed by your stakeholders. Your culture should come through in all your corporate communications and speak to your existing and future employees in a positive, engaging way. In IT for instance, there can be an outdated perception that employees work in isolation amongst a silent room full of computers. As anyone employed in the sector will know, that is massively inaccurate – so the more we can do to debunk that myth the better. Casting the net wide and thinking beyond the traditional career channels can also help unlock further talent. For instance, whilst many of our staff have IT qualifications, there is a wealth of talent outside traditional areas like computer sciences. Proof of this was Neueda’s first Assured Skills Tech Academy Programme in 2017, delivered in partnership with the Department for the Economy. Open to graduates from all disciplines, 16 participants successfully went through training at Belfast Metropolitan


College and have each been successful in securing a full-time role with Neueda. Where possible, it adds real value for an organisation to work in partnership with educators in relation to career development. Consider what opportunities you have to connect with the younger generation and work out a meaningful way of doing this. We work with schools from primary level upwards to engage and educate, ranging from our Code Club which introduces young children to programming, through to our higher education student placements. Of course, companies must continue to invest in their own people through ongoing training, development and mentoring. This will keep employees motivated to fulfil their full potential and ultimately drive growth for your business. At Neueda, we think of talent development as a full circle process, which I think can be applied to a lot of organisations. If a company is pro-active about nurturing talent from the outside – building dynamic, appealing career opportunities and developing its people to the best of their ability – it will undoubtedly reap the benefits. *Source - EY Global Banking Outlook 2016, Transforming Talent — The banker of the future.

Can Office 365 help you with GDPR? Get help with regulatory compliance

GDPR sets new standards for privacy and personal data.

Microsoft technology you may already have today forms the basis of our solution.

In May 2018, a new European Union (EU) privacy regulation goes into effect with broad reaching implications for organisations around the world. The regulation, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduces new requirements on privacy, security, and compliance for organizations that offer goods and services to European Union (EU) residents.

If you use Office 365 today you already know how well it fits within your organisation. However, Microsoft has designed Office 365 with industry-leading security measures and privacy policies to safeguard your data in the cloud, including the categories of personal data identified by the GDPR. Office 365 can help you on your journey to reducing risks and achieving compliance with GDPR by:

GDPR: Not just about getting permission for marketing lists. GDPR applies more broadly than many people think. The law imposes new rules on companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations that offer goods and services to people in EU or that collect and analyse data tied to EU residents — no matter where they are in the world. The steps to getting started with GDPR are as follows:





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North South Interconnector approval: Good for business Almost a decade since the first planning application was lodged, the Department for Infrastructure has granted approval for the North South Interconnector to increase the flow of electricity between the Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Adrienne McGill talks to SONI’s General Manager Robin McCormick about the benefits.



he Department for Infrastructure awarded planning approval for the North South Interconnector in January of this year. The decision follows a lengthy planning process which included a Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) public inquiry that was completed last year. Proposed by SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), the new 400kV overhead transmission line will further connect the electricity grids in Northern Ireland and the Republic. It will go through Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan and into Meath. It is viewed as a key strategic project by NI Chamber and its members, and its delivery has been at the top of the energy agenda for many years as it will generate significant economic benefits and improve business conditions. Robin McCormick, General Manager, SONI, says the North South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers. “Having the Interconnector in place will allow the full implementation of the all-island electricity market, creating efficiencies and generating savings for consumers throughout the island. “It will also help to ensure that Northern Ireland has the electricity supply it needs to meet demand in the coming years – something that’s clearly very important when we are trying to attract investment and encourage our indigenous businesses to grow.” NI Chamber has highlighted the importance of the proposed Interconnector during engagements with members and elected representatives throughout the region. It also presented to the Planning Appeals Commission during the public inquiry process about the positive impact the project will have on the economy. “We appreciate the strong support for the Interconnector shown by NI Chamber, and in particular would like to thank the organisation’s Chief Executive Ann McGregor, who has been a vocal advocate for the project based on the benefits it will deliver for Chamber members,” says Mr McCormick. As the North South Interconnector now has planning permission in both Northern Ireland and ROI, SONI is focused on progressing with the delivery of the project and working closely with communities in the area and landowners who will host the infrastructure. “While we recognise this project is to the benefit of everyone, we will continue to work to ensure that it is delivered at the least possible impact to the hosting communities and landowners,” says Mr McCormick. “SONI has appointed a full-time Agricultural Liaising Officer who, along with our engagement team, will be on the ground engaging with landowners and the community, ensuring they remain up-to-date on progress and timelines. “We also have a mobile information centre

that we take on the road to engage with local communities; and we have a SONI office in Armagh where landowners and members of the community are welcome to call in to view information about the project and chat to members of our team. “In the coming months we will hand over the project to NIE Networks who will construct and maintain the Interconnector. When all consents are in place, it will take in the region of 3 years to build the line and for it to become operational.” With the delivery of the Interconnector, and a number of other grid development projects expected to progress throughout 2018, Mr McCormick is keen to emphasise SONI’s longer-term view of its relationship with the business community and its engagement with NI Chamber. He says: “At SONI, we’re very conscious of the important role we play in facilitating economic

“Having the Interconnector in place will allow the full implementation of the all-island electricity market, creating efficiencies and generating savings for consumers throughout the island.”


growth in Northern Ireland. To achieve this we have to work closely with key organisations, like NI Chamber, to deliver infrastructure that meets the demands of modern industry. “Looking ahead we want to help create the conditions necessary to attract investment from major employers across all industries including technology and professional services, all of which rely on a high quality electricity supply. “We also look at the prospect of City Deals and other initiatives in Northern Ireland such as Project Kelvin and are determined to play our part in making sure those opportunities are maximised. “To do this, we will continue to engage with NI Chamber and its members to make sure they understand what we are doing and also to listen to their feedback and maintain a good working relationship with employers and the business community.” SONI partnered with NI Chamber to deliver a series of Energy Forum events in 2017, and this partnership will continue with four events scheduled for 2018. The events (the first of which took place in Cookstown in February) are held throughout Northern Ireland and include presentations from energy professionals as well as from local businesses who share stories about how they are reducing their energy costs. “We’re delighted to continue our partnership with NI Chamber to deliver the Energy Forum series again this year,” says Mr McCormick. “We really enjoyed last year’s events and the feedback we received from Chamber members was very positive. It’s great that we can work together to not only help break down the complexities of the energy industry, but also to create a platform where businesses can interact and learn from each other in a way that will ultimately improve their overall performance. “We will continue to support Ann and the rest of the team at NI Chamber to help create a better understanding of the electricity industry and SONI’s role. This is an essential aspect of working together to deliver strategic infrastructure projects, like the North South Interconnector, which will benefit businesses and employers throughout Northern Ireland.”


Word From Brussels Ambition Looks at Recent Developments in Brussels as the UK prepares to Leave the EU.

European Commission publishes draft legal text on transitional arrangements The European Commission has published a draft text of the transitional arrangements to be included in the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement, following the UK’s request to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union for a short time-limited period after its withdrawal from the EU on 30 March 2019. The text reflects the clear, detailed mandate provided to the Commission by the Member States on such possible transitional arrangements. As the UK will remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union until 31 December 2020, the UK will remain bound by EU law and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Union acquis will continue to apply in full to and in the UK during this period. Any changes made to the acquis during this time should automatically apply. The draft text will now be discussed amongst the EU27 Member States, before being formally transmitted to the United Kingdom. VAT: more products on reduced rates, less red tape for SMEs A new system for reduced VAT rates that will allow Member States to keep the existing ones and introduce reductions to new products, has been proposed by the European Commission.

The proposals also broaden the pool of SMEs that can benefit from simplified procedures of VAT reporting or can be exempt from VAT altogether. The Commission proposed a new regime under which Member States will be able to allow additional exemptions from VAT. They will also be able to put in place two separate levels of reduced rate of between 5% and the standard rate in the country concerned (15% or above). They will in addition be able to set a further rate at between 0% and the lower of the two reduced rates. All goods that currently enjoy rates different from the standard rate can continue to do so. This means that Member States will be able to keep existing reductions or exemptions and add new ones. The new system will abolish the existing complex list of goods and services – agreed more than 30 years ago – to which reduced rates can be applied. Small businesses represent 98% of all EU businesses and contribute to over 65% of employment in the private sector. These proposals follow the Commission’s announcement in April 2016 that it plans to introduce definitive arrangements based on the principle of taxation in the Member State of destination, as opposed to the current system under which VAT is paid in the country where the goods or services originate. In practice, the new regime – as well as making fraud much


more difficult – will allow more diversification in standard VAT rates. Commission publishes guidance on upcoming new data protection rules The Commission has published guidance to facilitate a direct and smooth application of the new data protection rules across the EU as of 25 May. The Commission has also launched a new online tool dedicated to SMEs. With just over 2 months left before the application of the new law, the guidance outlines what the European Commission, national data protection authorities and national administrations should still do to bring the preparation to a successful completion. While the new regulation provides for a single set of rules directly applicable in all Member States, it will still require significant adjustments in certain aspects, such as amending existing laws by EU governments or setting up the European Data Protection Board by data protection authorities. Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Our digital future can only be built on trust. Everyone’s privacy has to be protected. Strengthened EU data protection rules will become a reality on 25 May. It is a major step forward and we are committed to making it a success for everyone.”


Forwarding freight across the globe Products and goods get to businesses and consumers as a result of efficient, safe, and rapid transport. Adrienne McGill talks to newly appointed General Manager, Gerry Murphy and Regional Director, Simon Lawson of global logistics company DSV in Belfast, and hears how the company is to the fore in freight forwarding.


owadays logistics management is a part of supply chain management, which is a basic factor in the success of any company’s operations and has a direct impact on its bottom line. As freight volume grows and transportation becomes more complicated, the need for logistics management rises. For logistic companies, controlling the flow, carriage and storage of goods across road, sea, air and rail in order to meet customers’ requirements needs precision. That is where DSV has become a major player – it is a global name in logistics. The Danish company was founded in 1976 and from then has achieved rapid expansion and an international presence, predominantly through a series of strategic competitor acquisitions. In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the company’s biggest leap was after the acquisition of Campbell Freight Agencies in 2007 and Roadferry in 2008. The company employs 45,000 people globally, has an annual revenue of $12bn, owns operations in over 80 countries and is the fourth largest freight forwarder worldwide. The DSV operation in Belfast employs 65 and covers three divisions – Road; Air & Sea; and Solutions (warehousing in key industry sectors) – but they operate as one strong unit which is central to the company’s culture focused on working together as one DSV across the entire global network. The company’s Air & Sea service manages all import and export shipments by air or sea, from

parcels up to large equipment not suitable for containers with the help of 1000 offices in 80 countries. The company also operates by road, with traffic hubs strategically located all over Europe and 17,000 trucks on the road every day – with DSV Road having more than 200 terminals and 300 offices in Europe. The company’s third division – DSV Solutions – offers warehousing facilities worldwide and specialises in logistics solutions, distribution, packing, freight management, customs clearance, e-commerce and e-business support.

“On a daily basis it is all about speed, preparedness and agility.” Last year DSV moved in excess of 1 million tonnes of cargo across all modes of transportation from its hubs at Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Shannon Naas, Lisahally and Limerick. DSV Regional Director for Air & Sea, Simon Lawson, who was appointed to the top post


just three months ago, says the importance of logistics cannot be underestimated. “Transporting cargo across the world, whatever its nature, requires experience and reliability. “Local and global acquisitions have made DSV a worldwide player but with a local reach as we firmly believe in market autonomy. This allows us to be close to our customers and understand their needs.” DSV Belfast recently gained its Good Distribution Practice (GDP) Passport assuring the quality of the distribution of pharmaceutical and medical products. It effectively means that manufacturers can ensure that their products are transported and handled according to the World Health Organisation regulations and guidelines. The facility in Belfast is, however, classed as a multi-user site with all types of cargo transiting through on a daily basis. From white goods to foodstuffs to electronics, DSV handle it all and more recently carried a number of unique shipments, which have included Game of Thrones film sets and the entire seating for the new National Stadium at Windsor Park. DSV General Manager Gerry Murphy was appointed to the role six months ago having worked in the industry for 30 years. He says having all three divisions on site in such a prominent location at Belfast Harbour has many benefits to both DSV’s operation and entire customer base. “It is a complex business which we aim to streamline for our clients. “There are many links within a supply chain,

Picture by David Cordner. www.david

therefore transport and logistics are core to the entire process. Every customer has their own unique requirements and it is most important that we understand those to enable us to provide a service without disrupting the flow of goods and information. “On a daily basis it is all about speed, preparedness and agility. “It is a 24/7 business and we have to ensure that people and equipment are at the right place at the right time. Our access to a shared global platform gives us instant live visibility of all shipments across the world which is essential in today’s fast paced environment.” Of course, there are a lot of challenges for today’s logistics and transportation executives whose jobs have become as much about dealing with a crisis and understanding technology than simply about loading freight on trucks, ships, and aircraft. It has always been about moving product from point A to point B. But in today’s market of international

trade and the emergence of sophisticated technology, the job of senior level executives like Simon and Gerry has become extremely more complex than perhaps in the past. “We face many difficult issues, some may be isolated whilst others happen more regularly,” says Simon. “The most common challenges are weather, congestion, seasonal capacity, fuel and currency fluctuations. It is important to identify trends in the market to be able to understand the difference between short-term disruption and long-term infrastructural changes. “It is also extremely important to ensure export and import documentation is accurate and timely. If completed incorrectly, it can cause delays, compliance issues and potential fines for parties involved. Documentation will become even more important after the UK leaves the EU as tariffs and codes may need to be realigned. “You have to be able to react and communicate quickly and DSV are good at that.


“We take ownership and show initiative and along with our expertise this means solutions can be found.” Both Simon and Gerry must deal with new challenges requiring continual tracking in all parts of the world, developing cost efficiencies while guaranteeing timely delivery, anticipating problems and having backup plans. They have to be across all parts of the business at all times. “Like many industries, the logistics industry gets more complex and demanding and the expectation today is greater than ever before,” emphasises Gerry. “While DSV is a truly global organisation, our philosophy is one of listening to customers at a local level and striving to meet their needs. This is driven from the very top management to every region and that’s probably why DSV has developed so rapidly in recent years…and will continue to grow in the future.”


Sync NI’s Connall Keenan and Susan Cleland

Techie Talk Time Swatting up on world of work, Snapchat users get snappy and game-changing wearable tech. It’s all happening in the tech world.

Automation sending us back to school?

Increased levels of automation are expected to make their impact felt in many industries as the Fourth Industrial Age beds in. But how well are the future workforce being prepared in school for this new world of work? Bangor Grammar School Principal Elizabeth Huddleson addressed the recent Future of Work NI Solutions Summit and described the current revised curriculum as somewhat “stale and antiquated.” Ms Huddleson noted that the current examination system is dependent on rote learning and being able to write under a time constraint. Sync NI heads nodded in agreement and thought about print deadlines! It turns out that the sustained focus on the value of STEM subjects has reduced demand for subjects like drama and music that develop pupils’ creativity, risk-taking and adaptability: the very skills that researchers predict will be in high demand over the next 10-15 years. Ms Huddleson urged businesses to bridge the gap between schools and reality so pupils would be properly prepared for the workplace.

Snap Inc feels the Trip Advisor Effect

While town gossip used to influence a trader’s fortunes for good or for bad, today a lot more people are within earshot when the feedback is posted on review sites like TripAdvisor. Consumers can be unforgiving, even when good businesses have bad days or make disappointing decisions. An unpopular redesign of the Snapchat user interface triggered more than a million people to sign a petition calling for the changes to be reversed. But it was an 18-word review that was widely reported to knock $1.3 billion off the social media giant Snap’s stock market value when reality TV star Kylie Jenner tweeted her annoyance. “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” The most expensive review in the history of the internet? Well, the real damage was probably Wall Street investors downgrading Snap Inc stock from ‘neutral’ to ‘sell’ the previous day.

Disease-busting mobile and wearable tech Bouncing the light from a green LED off your skin to detect changes in the volume of blood just under your skin faster that you can say “photoplethysmography” allows your smart watch or fitness tracker to calculate your heart rate. Your smartwatch may soon double up as an ECG monitor at only a fifth of the price. By squeezing the metal frame of your watch with two fingers, the device could send a faint current across your chest and

measure the electrical signals in the heart to diagnose conditions like arrhythmia. And Scottish startup Mobi Dx was recently awarded the inaugural Morgan Innovation & Technology Prize for iVisco, which measures how long it takes a single drop of blood to clot using acoustic fields generated by a smartphone. It’s taken Dr Arslan Khalid four years to develop and prove this technology, which will be a game-changer in developing nations.


Want to be the first to find out what’s happening in Northern Ireland’s tech scene? Stay up to date with or follow us on Twitter @syncni

Belfast Met seeking employer partnerships for apprenticeship programme Belfast Met is fully committed to forging strong and creative employer partnerships based on shared goals and mutual respect, striving to bring out the best performance and delivering clear and tangible outcomes. The college offers a flexible and responsive solution to the development and delivery of skills and apprenticeship solutions and proactively engages with regional, national and international employers to identify and respond to their specific needs. To support the delivery of the college’s ambition and commitment and to meet the needs of employer partnerships, Belfast Met has invested in our dedicated Centre for Skills and Apprenticeships. The team provides a tailored responsive approach for employers to deliver high quality workforce skills solutions. Belfast Met is seeking further employer partnerships across a range of industry sectors to support the growth and development of its apprenticeship provision. With your support and engagement, the team can further shape and develop a highly skilled future workforce in Belfast and beyond.

To find out how the Centre for Skills and Apprenticeships team can help with your future workforce development, please get in touch on 028 9026 5219 or email

Devenish delivers innovative nutritional solutions, for the feed industry, the food industry and for human health

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Top Young Talent

Tammy Lee Larkin, Mercy College and Liam Grant, De La Salle College at the launch of Belfast City Council’s Career Development Programme.

Developing future careers


new initiative is set to support more than 4,000 young people in Belfast to get on the road to career success over the next two years. Belfast City Council’s Career Development Programme will provide post-primary school pupils with opportunities to experience the world of work, support them to make informed career choices and enable them to develop skills in innovation, creativity and enterprise. Councillor Mairéad O’Donnell, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “We’re focused on creating quality employment for young people through our Belfast Agenda. We want pupils, parents and teachers to be better informed about the growth sectors in Belfast, where employment

opportunities exist, and the best career pathways to take. “Educational attainment is obviously important for career success, but so too is an awareness of the world of work, real life work experience and the opportunity to engage with employers and role models. So that’s why we’ve established the Career Development Programme, to provide that vital wrap around support to help our young people succeed.” The Career Development Programme will give young people at risk of not attaining five GCSE grades additional support, including mentoring. A range of workshops and an enterprise competition will help to develop business, creative and innovation skills and alternative career pathways including self-


employment and vocational routes, such as apprenticeships will be highlighted. Employers in key growth sectors including the creative industries and financial services will also promote career opportunities. Darren Nixon, Senior Education Consultant and Partner with education consultancy Eye4Education, said: “We’re contacting Belfast schools to offer their pupils the chance to register for the Career Development Programme. We’re excited to welcome our first intake of students, as we know that this level of support is exactly what’s needed to give pupils the motivation and encouragement they need at this vital stage of development.”

Students scoop business challenge award


ixth form pupils from Northern Regional College have beaten off stiff competition to be crowned champions at the first ever Northern Ireland Business Challenge for Schools. Organised by BDO Northern Ireland, in partnership with Queen’s Management School and Henderson Group, the competition tasked more than 85 pupils from 13 schools with developing and pitching a business strategy based on a real-life case study. The intensive event aims to help A Level Business Studies pupils develop practical work-related skills – including communication, critical thinking and teamwork – by challenging them to consider how organisations can enhance their operations and social responsibilities. The business challenge, which took place at Queen’s Management School, complements key strands of the school curricula and offers a range of top prizes including VIP tickets for a Belfast Giants game, £500 for the top school

and a bespoke trophy. The winning team from Northern Regional College was represented by Helen McCallum, Conor Clarke, Ryan Nicholl, Tom Robinson and Alan Neill. Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said: “This is a rewarding and challenging event that gives young people rare access to a real-life project and high calibre coaching from seasoned business professionals. All of the students have shown exceptional teamwork, time management, analytical thinking, presentation and debating skills. “Our congratulations go to the winners, but all participants deserve a lot of credit. They impressed us with their ability to quickly grasp the problem and develop practical solutions under pressure. We are pleased to be equipping young people with practical know-how that helps develop skills for future success.” As part of the event, pupils were challenged to develop a Corporate Social Responsibility plan based on a real scenario provided by Henderson Group.

The Group’s Chief Financial Officer, Ron Whitten said: “I was incredibly impressed with the level of skills that were shown by the pupils during this challenge. Corporate Social Responsibility is a huge priority for companies as large as Henderson Group, therefore the next generation of management need to learn how to ensure businesses give back to their employees, their communities and the overall environment. “It has been a great pleasure to be part of this competition and process, it’s safe to say the future of Northern Ireland PLC is in great hands.” Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s Management School, praised all of the students for the effort they put into preparing for the competition. “I hope that many decide to come to Queen’s University Belfast, especially the Management School, after completing their A levels,” he added.

Northern Regional College students Conor Clarke, Tom Robinson, Alan Neill, Ryan Nicholl and Helen McCallum with event sponsors for the Northern Ireland Business Challenge for Schools competition, Ron Whitten, Chief Financial Officer at Henderson Group; Professor Ciaran Connolly, Queen’s Management School; and Laura Jackson, Partner at BDO Northern Ireland.



West Meets East

The inspiration for starting an export business can sometimes come from seeing the success of others. Two NI Chamber members with a dynamic approach to selling overseas share their stories of how they arrived at their export destination in the Western and Eastern world and describe how challenges have turned into opportunities.

Kevin Reid is the Global Vice President of Corporate Marketing for the Almac Group. He explains how the Craigavon headquartered pharmaceutical giant has experienced phenomenal growth in the US since first entering the market over 20 years ago.


he US is an axis for both customers and suppliers within the biopharmaceutical industry. The decision was taken in the late 1990s to enter the US market to allow the successful expansion of Almac’s range of products and services to clients throughout the entirety of North America. The Almac Group has now been established in the US marketplace for over 20 years. The Group first opened its clinical trial manufacturing and packaging operations in Audubon, Pennsylvania, in 1996. By 2000, Almac had expanded its North American presence into North Carolina. It expanded further and opened its state of the art US Headquarters, based in Souderton, PA in 2011 with additional facilities in Audubon and Lansdale, PA; Durham, NC and San Francisco, CA. Almost 2,000 of its 5,000 employees are based throughout these five US locations. Discussions with existing clients enabled the formulation of a Group strategy to expand into key territories, globally. The US was the first of those new markets for the Group to expand due to the significant number of pre-

Ground breaking research and development is undertaken by Almac scientists.

existing and potential clients in the country. In addition, market research was conducted to form a complete understanding of the opportunities within each territory and help pinpoint a precise location. The Pennsylvania region was a focal region for companies within the biopharmaceutical industry, and Audubon, located at an intersection of education, business and research opportunities, proved an ideal location for the central distribution point for Almac’s operations in the late ‘90s. Almac has experienced tremendous success in the US over the past two decades, and it is expected to continue as it expands operations, develops its exceptionally talented employee base and invests in its existing facilities across the US. Almac invests heavily in the development of all its employees to ensure its clients receive a best in class service, including the occasional


secondment of individuals from its Craigavon HQ site to offer insight, share expertise and align processes across all its activities. The main challenge for Almac, not unique to the US, is continuing to adapt to its clients’ growing list of needs and tailoring unique solutions to build upon and fully support long-term relationships. Almac continues to develop and expand its range of capabilities to meet these expectations whilst investing significantly in its most important asset, its people. All countries’ policy and legislative environments are prone to change – Almac is observant of these and monitors accordingly so that it can adapt and best streamline product/service offerings to its global clients. With 15 locations and 60 depots across the globe, Almac is cognisant of the varying cultural nuances that exist in each location. Almac has a unique culture which is

embedded in its history. By utilising local knowledge and understanding, Almac marries that culture with the local environment to ensure it fits as a company and integrates seamlessly into the local community. In the US, that may mean a preference for online communication versus face-toface meetings, whereas in Japan, for example, the latter would be favoured more. Almac takes guidance from those who know best, the local marketplace. In the US, within the complex Biopharma industry, it is also important to understand that there are many micro pharma “hubs” that exist in pockets across the US. It was essential to define a clear strategy which enabled ease of access for Almac into these hubs and communities. Being able to quickly identify the goals of expansion and properly network are invaluable when exploring potential involvement in the US. Though the UK and US share a robust and intertwined history and culture, the languages and customs can be unique to one’s respective dialect or location. Knowing the intricacies of these, and how they differ, can help to progress the process of identifying opportunities and assessing challenges in the US market. In short, never underestimate the importance of local knowledge and understanding.


James Blair is Operations Director at Heavenly Tasty Organics based in Co Tyrone. The Augher baby food firm supplies its organic snacks, which contain no added sugar and are low in natural sugars, to customers across the world including the Middle East. James explains how the company, which was founded in 2011, has recently begun selling to Saudi Arabia where its products are in growing demand.

Saudi Arabia has become a growing market for Heavenly Tasty Organics.


t Heavenly, we have been growing our presence in the Middle East over the past few years, mainly in UAE and Kuwait but we want to grow this territory with other markets. We identified two countries that we would concentrate on entering, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We see both of these as markets that will be receptive to the Heavenly brand and have a consumer base that will make it worthwhile. Once we had identified Saudi as a potential market, we first did some research in the Business Information Centre in InvestNI to identify information such as birth rates, baby brands in the market and retailers that we could potentially sell through. We have also carried out a market visit to see the retail angle, market pricing, market choice and how we can position ourselves to be successful within this sector. Our route to market is via a successful distributor that handles all shipments and customs clearances which takes the stresses out of shipping into this market. We work closely with our partner to look at a growth strategy that will work and bring year on year growth. We are early days in the market following the pre entry work but we are selling with one of the main retailers in the Middle East and this has seen our sales double in the past three months with the growth trend set to continue upwards. We have plans to expand into other retailers within the grocery sector and have enquiries within the drug store sectors. Our initial contract with our distributor is for the next three years and will look to grow the market to six figures. We feel we can bring our healthy low sugar snacks and create a new ‘on the go snacking ‘ category in the market that will allow parents the convenience they need and children delicious tasting snacks that are good for them. The main barriers we face is the distance to market. We can’t walk out the door and be in the market in an hour. But that is why we have to work closely with our partner to be the eyes and ears for us and feedback monthly reports, photographs and market assessments. We are very conscious of the cultural rules within the Saudi market but this isn’t really a barrier. Every market has its challenges but I think having an open mind, determination and adapting to the market through good research breaks down any that may arise. Respecting the culture in market is key. Taking time to build relationships comes first and building trust between companies before discussing business and signing deals is a must. There is no rushing business in the Saudi market. The main thing is to research the market before looking to enter. In agri-food, not all products and tastes will work in the market but being able to adapt is key. Then identifying a good partner is the main thing. They are your eyes and wheels to make it work for you. Luckily our partner does all the customs clearance for us so it takes a lot of the hassle out of the shipping process.


Mark Haslam, Managing Director and owner of Loud Mouth Media

Traditional Versus Digital

Why the offline approach doesn’t work for digital media.

With the increasing complexity of the customer’s journey to purchase – often comprising a multitude of channels and cross-device interactions – digital campaign managers need to invest their time in analysing the full path to conversion and accurately attributing their online channels. With the vast amount of data available, it reiterates the fact that it is more crucial than ever for businesses to re-educate themselves and make their digital media plans drive real value. The recent, incredibly extensive, growth of digital advertising means it is now a pivotal component in the overall marketing and


igital advertising is ever-evolving, with ‘best practice’ consistently changing and new products released almost daily. Recent growth in programmatic and online video, as well as enhancements in machine learning, have forced businesses to reassess their approach to digital media, causing a shift in their current business models and media spend habits. With these developments come new, more specialised areas of digital advertising, meaning it is now harder than ever to manage digital media campaigns using a traditional marketing approach. The media plan was once the holy grail of planning and execution, but where does digital advertising fit in? While traditional media campaigns, such as outdoor and radio activity, benefit from rigorous advanced planning with a set media budget, digital campaigns should be reactive, with budget dictated by KPI performance. A results-based approach means the campaign plan and budget allocation must be altered according to ‘real time’ performance – where top performing campaigns are scaled, and under-performing campaigns are adjusted or removed. The main advantage of digital advertising is the tangibility of results and the masses of data available to accurately track the effectiveness of campaign activity, using the learnings to inform future campaigns. Reporting in digital media should go beyond the top line metrics such as Reach, Impressions and Clicks to focus on performance stats and measureable growth.


advertising strategy of any company. Despite this, many businesses still do not dedicate adequate time and resources to managing their digital campaigns effectively, meaning they are not up to date with the latest advancements and opportunities in digital media. Whilst traditional and digital both have their benefits and must work in tandem, they certainly merit separate approaches and specialists in each area. If you are going to invest time and money in digital advertising, ensure you (or your agency) are doing it right and giving it the management required to really reap the benefits for your business.

PETER STEVENS, RECRUITMENT RESEARCH SPECIALIST My role, simply put, is about people. Unearthing great talent so that 4c is able to attract the best fit in terms of experience, skills and personality for our client’s business-critical roles. During my time at 4c Executive I have worked across a variety of industries, geographies and functions building up knowledge, which I am able to share with our client’s before and during a search and also with colleagues. Each assignment starts by taking a detailed briefing to fully understand the client organisation; their culture, leaders, the industry it operates in and the requirements of the role itself in terms of technical skills and experience, which gives a more comprehensive and holistic understanding than merely what is written on a job description. From this briefing I begin the process of identifying where individuals who fit our client’s requirements can be found, the research is based around a structured company target list based on detailed qualitative research covering things such as relevant industries, location, turnover, products etc.

From this company target list I then begin the process of identifying who the talent is in an organisation, region or industry, carefully assessing the technical skills and experience of an individual and analysing personality fit to find the best match for the culture of our client. Throughout the life of a search project I work closely with, and brief, independent external Researchers from across the UK and Europe, who help us to identify expat and international talent. I am very fortunate to work for an organisation that is unique in our approach to senior recruitment, when we undertake each assignment we are true to pure Executive Search, basing each assignment on a scientific approach that is not “one size fits all” but is tailored to the needs of our client and their businesscritical role.

For more information call: 028 9043 4343 or visit

dublin airport offers more destination choice for 2018 Dublin Airport is an essential piece of infrastructure and the main international gateway for the island of Ireland with connections to 191 destinations in 42 countries operated by 47 airlines. A record breaking 29.6 million passengers travelled through Dublin Airport in 2017, which was the seventh consecutive year of growth at the airport. Passenger numbers have increased by 58% at Dublin Airport since 2011. The airport has welcomed 11.2 million extra passengers, 113 new routes and services and 22 new airlines in those seven years. Northern Ireland is an important market with more than 1.2 million residents using Dublin Airport annually. The numbers travelling from Northern Ireland has increased year on year due in part to the continued expansion of Dublin Airport’s route network, which offers a great choice of destinations as well as high frequency connections on many routes. Further passenger growth is expected in 2018 with the arrival of three new airlines; Cathay Pacific when it launches a new direct service to Hong Kong, Icelandair operating direct flights to Reykjavik and Croatia

Airlines will start a new route to Zagreb. Aer Lingus will add Philadelphia and Seattle to its transatlantic route network, Air Canada will fly to Montreal during the summer and Ryanair will add Paphos in Cyprus and Marrakesh in Morocco to it schedule this year. Cathay Pacific’s new four times weekly, year-round service will be Dublin Airport’s first ever direct route to the Asia-Pacific region and is a major milestone for the


airport and the entire Irish economy. The Dublin flight will arrive in Hong Kong early in the morning local time, providing a wide range of connecting options with flights to mainland China, Japan, Korea, South-East Asia and Australia on the Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon networks. Visit for bookings and route information.

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Stairway to Seven My seven steps for business success

Lisa Bryson is head of the employment practice at Eversheds Sutherland in Belfast. She trained and worked with Eversheds LLP in England for 10 years before returning ‘home’ to Northern Ireland in 2009. Lisa worked for some other top tier firms in Belfast before rejoining Eversheds Sutherland in 2017 as it established an office in Northern Ireland. Lisa is well-known in the local HR arena and has particular expertise in contentious Tribunal matters, managing change programmes including restructuring and TUPE issues and executive severances.


Let others shine Reflecting back to my younger sporting days as captain of the local hockey team, I learned that our successes were not simply mine – as captain - and that, in fact, ‘those big wins’ were genuinely as a result of recognising that each team member had different skills with each player being encouraged to play to their own individual strengths on the pitch. Developing, coaching and growing those involved in your business, and allowing each member of your team to shine in their own way, is critical to creating a harmonious working environment and, in turn, unlocking business success.


“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” Do I need to say anything more? Of course I cannot claim any credit for this Richard Branson quote, but it really does carry a lot of meaning, and it is something that I believe should be the driving force of every business regardless of size. For me, perhaps it has even more of a personal meaning in light of the way in which I regard Eversheds Sutherland – having only left the firm in England for family reasons, I’m delighted to be back on board as the firm embarks on its new venture in Northern Ireland.


Prioritise It is difficult to manage others if you can’t manage yourself effectively. Selfmanaging means prioritising your goals and being responsible for accomplishing your own objectives, and those of the teams you manage. For me, successful prioritisation means regularly revising your ‘to-do’ list and regulating your time, attention and emotions, while remaining aware of your strengths, weaknesses and potential sources of conflict or bias.


Listen and learn Know when to talk and when to listen. Great leaders are great listeners. Active listening enables continual learning and enhances your ability to adapt to change. Business acumen can come in all different shapes and sizes, but only if you are open to different perspectives. Listen to your clients, customers, competitors, your peers, your subordinates, and to those who care about you. Ask people how you can become a better manager or leader and, in my case, lawyer and business adviser and then listen, and learn.


Be accountable Own your own mistakes, and in turn, others will do the same. To progress and develop, we must reflect on what we 82

have done, what we have accomplished, as well as the things that may have led to failure, incomplete accomplishments or unmet objectives.


Don’t take yourself too seriously Even though matters that you are dealing with can often be very important, it is vital that you keep perspective. Taking yourself too seriously can often unnecessarily cloud judgement and how you relate to your team, clients and contacts.


Dance Make time and space for you, your friends and your family. Becoming a mum four years ago has brought this into even sharper focus for me. The juggling act that we all strive to perfect can be a tiring and challenging one at times and, for the sake of maintaining good mental health, doing something you enjoy outside of work is as important as excelling at work. This may mean joining the ever increasing number of ‘middle aged men/maidens in lycra’ – MAMILs – on the roads, joining the local tennis club or accompanying me to a ballroom dancing class or jiving competition!

Close bonds Global strength for a changing world The only lawyers offering domestic legal excellence and a truly international reach, providing the legal insights you need in a fast-moving commercial world. A network of 66 offices worldwide, including 6 across the US and 11 in the UK, and full service coverage on the island of Ireland, enables our Belfast team to advise local clients from a unique perspective. It’s a network that brings real value to the first class legal expertise we provide. We don’t just give advice: we solve problems, we help you manage risks, we open up opportunities and deliver solutions that save you time and money. Find out how our legal team in Belfast can support your growth and development ambitions, wherever you want to be. Peter Curran Partner +44 28 9091 8604

Gareth Planck Partner +44 28 9568 0556


New Appointments

James Donnelly, Partner, Tughans (centre), welcomes newly qualified solicitors (from left) Jack Balmer, Grainne Lee, Christine Quigley and Maria Walsh, along with trainee solicitors Sarah Matthews, David McClelland and Caoimhe Lowe.

Elise Quigley has joined the Commercial Litigation Team as a solicitor at Carson McDowell.

Hannah McKeague has joined the Banking and Finance Team as a solicitor at Carson McDowell.

Rosanne Brennan has joined the Corporate/Commercial team as an associate solicitor at Carson McDowell.

Temporary | Permanent | HR Consulting 84

Andrew Jennings has been appointed as a corporate partner in the Belfast office of legal firm TLT.

The importance of work-life balance in the workplace By Ryan Calvert, Recruitment Manager at Grafton Recruitment.

Aine McGillie has joined the Banking team of Mills Selig as a solicitor.

During the recruitment process at Grafton HR, we screen and select candidates based on skill and cultural fit, but also from a candidate perspective, try to provide opportunities that are in line with financial and aspirational requirements. A very common trend during this process has been the motivation that secure employment will enhance work life balance, including reduced hours, flexible working patterns, working from home and remote access, with candidates willing to forego an element of financial reward to help attain this balance. The benefit for the employer is that it now makes it more feasible to compete for talent, if flexible working can be provided. A survey conducted by Timewise, which surveyed 3,000 UK adults, found that 90% of employees dislike the nine-to-five day, with many employees preferring to have

John Tougher has joined the Property team of Mills Selig as a solicitor.

Sara McGaughey has joined the Property team of Mills Selig as a solicitor.

Temporary | Permanent | HR Consulting 85

flexibility of working from home some days, working part-time at the same hourly rate, or working a different set of hours spread across several days. The study concluded that flexible working options are becoming more and more important within the workplace, a measure that will not only help attract top talent, but ultimately retain existing talent. It is important to realise that this shift is happening now and take the necessary steps to ensure that you retain and attract top performers before someone else does. To discuss how Grafton HR can support with attraction strategies for your next HR hire, or provide market intelligence for retaining your current employees, please get in contact with one of the team on 028 9024 2824.

Matthew Jeffrey has been appointed as an Associate at Lanyon Communications.

DRIVERS GET CONNECTED WITH NEW APP Designed to support business drivers on the road, Agnew Corporate have announced the launch of an innovative new ‘Driver Portal’, packed full of helpful features, insightful tips and personalised information on their vehicle. The new app will be made available to all Agnew Corporate customers and can be saved to a driver’s mobile device to offer assistance on the road. Drivers will be able to add information linked to their vehicle, mileage and travel. The innovative portal will also allow customers to locate their nearest tyre depot, get advice on accidents and breakdowns, book a service and access their driver handbook. More than a generic information hub, the intelligent new app utilises existing vehicle data to provide up-to-date information, tailored to each vehicle. The app links with Agnew Corporate’s in-house database software, syncing key information such as mileage figures, P11d value and other vehicle details. Each customer will be assigned individual login details to access information specific to their vehicle, 24 hours a day. Graham Thompson, Managing Director at Agnew Corporate explained,

“Our team have been working hard to develop innovative technology to support our customers and we are excited to launch our brand new ‘Driver Portal’ app. With over 5,000 customers on the road, the app was designed to offer all drivers easy access to their personalised vehicle information and ensure our customers have the information and assistance they need on the road.”

To find out more or to request access for your business fleet, contact Paige Reilly, Fleet Software Specialist at Agnew Corporate, on 028 9038 6600 or email

Office sweet office! When you’re happy to come to work you’re more motivated and productive, trust us to help make a positive environment

The home of quality office furniture & accessories at unbeatable prices T: 0800 9996055 Owen O’Cork Mill, 288 Beersbridge Rd, Belfast, BT5 5DX. 86


James Stinson

Mazda magic

The new Mazda CX-5 drives as good as it looks.


here’s a lot to like about Mazda. The Japanese car maker goes about its business in a quiet, understated way. It doesn’t make as many cars as its Japanese rivals – even Suzuki sells more – but every one’s a little beauty, including this new CX-5. It’s solid, practical and unusually for a highriding SUV, fun to drive. And it shows off what Mazda is doing so well at the minute, making every car better in every way than the one that went before. Mazda calls it SKYACTIV technology but it’s just relentless improvement, making every component lighter, stronger and more efficient, which in turn improves performance and economy. Indeed, while there’s a lot of talk around

all-electric and hybrid cars at the minute, Mazda is busy honing the internal combustion engine further, promising big improvements in economy and emissions in the years ahead. This second generation CX-5 boasts new exterior styling, a stiffer body, improved steering, suspension and braking systems and a completely new interior. There are lots of reasons why manufacturers try to make cars stiffer. It helps protect passengers and as long as you do so without adding more weight, it usually makes cars handle a lot better. The new car is 15% stiffer than the old one. It’s an even bigger deal in an SUV-type car. These high riding vehicles are all the rage, accounting for one-in-four new cars. Drivers love the lofty seating position and practicality but, in most cases, the extra weight and higher centre of gravity can serve up a lumpy driving experience. This is where the last CX-5 outperformed rivals like the VW Tiguan and Nissan Qashqai and this new car carries on that good work. It’s involving and truly fun to drive. Elsewhere, Mazda is evidently looking to move closer to premium brand rivals like Audi, BMW etc with a significantly improved interior. The cabin is quieter while the dash is neatly designed, with good materials throughout. The knobs, buttons, instruments and controls are sensibly positioned, easy to use and have a sturdy feel about them – something Mazda has always been good at.


The new CX-5 is slightly shorter than the old car while the roofline sits a little lower too. Still, the cabin feels airy and the boot is roomy while the overall look is sleeker. The range starts at £23,695 for the frontwheel drive only 2.0 litre petrol powered version. But the 2.2 litre diesels, either in 148bhp or 173bhp tune, will make up the bulk of sales. Expect real-world mpg around 50mpg while both are good for 60 mph from a standing start in under 10 seconds. These are available with either front or fourwheel-drive, with the cheapest all-wheeldrive model starting at £27,695. There are just two trim levels to choose from – SE-L Nav and Sport Nav. Standard kit includes LED headlights, auto power-folding door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and a 7” colour touch-screen display with integrated navigation. Sport Nav adds goodies including a reversing camera, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and Smart keyless entry, plus heated front seats and steering wheel. Offered in a Mazda for the first time, Sport Nav models also feature a power lift tailgate, plus a new head-up display that projects directly onto the windscreen and features Traffic Sign Recognition. If you’re looking to save a few grand, opt for the higher spec over four-wheel-drive. The reversing camera is a must while the twowheel drive version proved very capable during recent icy conditions.

NEW DRIVER PORTAL Keeping Our Drivers Mobile


18 Boucher Way, Belfast, BT12 6RE W: T: 028 9038 6600


AUDI’S REAL ESTATE A long-distance road trip is something to endure or enjoy depending on what wheels you have. This new Audi RS4 Avant fits firmly into the latter category. It’s a stonking sports-tuned, four-wheel-drive load lugger that will put a grin on anyone’s face... even one that just forked out more than £60,000 for the privilege. The heart of this new RS4 is a twin-turbo 2.9 litre V6, replacing the V8 naturally-aspirated unit in the old car. The new motor is a little more frugal and has lower emissions but, crucially, produces 440 bhp and a similarly hefty amount of torque. It’s also lighter (by some 30kgs), which helps handling – the RS4’s real party piece. With four-wheel-drive, which can put up to 70 per cent of that power through the rear wheels, the RS4 grips like a limpet with little or no body roll. Steering in the corners is pin sharp helped by something called torque vectoring, which will gently brake an inside wheel to increase agility. The rear seats are also easily roomy enough for a couple of tall adults. Plus, of course, it’s an Audi estate, which means you get a usefully sized (505-litre) boot complete with flat floor and a parcel shelf that lifts automatically with the powered boot lid. Being a high-end Audi, the RS4 is of course dripping with technology. They’ve even gone to the trouble of fitting a sound actuator, which simulates a throatier noise from what would otherwise be a much quieter engine. It’s another reminder to those inside and outside what a quick car this is. Audi claims a 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Prices for all this high octane driving pleasure start at £62,175.

THIS TIGUAN IS ALL SPACE VW has stretched its popular Tiguan family SUV to add a bigger boot and an extra row of seats. It means the new Tiguan Allspace can carry up to seven people and still boast a luggage capacity of 230 litres. Or, with five people in the car, the luggage capacity is 700 litres, an increase of 85 litres over the ‘regular’ Tiguan (615 litres).

Further emphasising its enhanced flexibility, the Tiguan Allspace’s middle row of seats can slide back and forwards by 180 mm, and can also fold flat. With both the middle row and the third row of seats folded down, the luggage capacity of the Tiguan Allspace is a cavernous 1,775 litres. Engine options are broadly similar to the smaller Tiguan. Petrols include a 1.4 and 2.0 litre units, with the larger unit also available with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive. Three 2.0 litre diesels, in various states of tune, are also available with either two or all-wheel drive. All versions are well equipped, with the Allspace only available in SE Nav trim upwards, so even entry-level models get sat-nav as standard. Prices start from £29,370.



On Holiday with... Conaill McGrady, Director at M. B. McGrady & Co Accountants


here’s nothing like clean air, blue skies, firm snow and the white slopes of a top skiing resort to clear the mind. I haven’t skied since we had kids but last month we got away over mid-term… just why did I wait so long? Somehow the thought of slaloming down a piste (if I can claim to have achieved that) appealed to us now that all the children could enjoy it, so we wasted no time in planning a trip early in February. I enjoy an active lifestyle as does my wife Jacqui and our kids Kerry (8), Clare (11) and Fergus (13), so it makes perfect sense to include this with a holiday. France is a favourite destination of ours and we have holidayed there for the past 10 years so our familiarity with the country led us to choose a resort there. There is also the fact that we can all practise our Français and laugh at each other’s mispronunciations and faux-pas! Complete with the necessary garb, we jetted off – en famille – for our first ski adventure to Flaine in the French Alps. It’s located in the Haute-Savoie region, between Geneva and Chamonix Mont-Blanc, nestling at the summit of one of the largest linked ski areas in France, the Grand Massif. Flaine is quite simply pure bliss for easy skiing with 265 kilometres of beautiful ski runs and all sorts of activities including a snow park, snow mobiling, dog sledding and

paragliding (though none of us took up the challenge). It is a convenient, compact, mainly car-free village, catering particularly well for families, with shops and services and ski lifts on the doorstep. The resort, which I have to admit can’t be described as a totally picturesque alpine village, was famously designed in Bauhaus style by architect Marcel Breuer in the late 1960s. It lies at the foot of a big snowy bowl, is high, but not super-high and is set among trees. The main village is tiny and in two parts: Forum, centred on a square blending with the slopes, and bigger Forêt – up the hillside, linked by two lifts with its own bars and shops. There are other traditional villages on the lower fringes of the area. There is no doubt that mid-term is lively, but thankfully, although the slopes were busy, the pistes were wide enough so collisions with other skiers were avoided but of course you can never foresee the odd mishap (more about that later). Flaine definitely has an olde-worlde charm complete with some slow, old, creaking chairlifts and original 1960s buildings, which sit alongside newer chalet-style developments. It is definitely an ideal choice for beginners, families and those who haven’t skied in a while. We stayed in Les Terrasses d’Eos apartment/hotel where the accommodation


was excellent. It is ski-in, ski-out, which means you just clip on your skis and ski straight out of the hotel onto the slopes and back again. For meals we ate in a variety of restaurants dotted around the village, which were very busy at peak times, so booking was necessary. We particularly enjoyed ‘Brasserie les Cimes’ in Forum with its friendly owners and excellent food and also Le Blanchot which boasts delicious dishes and super views. There are also numerous restaurants for lunch located along the pistes. Our holiday was with another family who are close friends, so while we didn’t over indulge in après ski, it was great to relax and enjoy a few drinks each evening in the various restaurants reflecting on the triumphs and trials of the day. Our kids were welcome everywhere and the traffic free small village made it safe for them to go outside in the evening after they got bored in the restaurants. We very nearly had an iPad free holiday! Our week in Flaine was great – even my minor fall on the slopes which did require some medical treatment – didn’t take the shine off the whole experience! The kids have confirmed that ski holidays have now replaced our traditional summer hot destination, although we may even try the Alps ‘en été’. We are already looking forward to sliding off to Flaine next year.

small great things by mccue


As the great Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way!’ Luckily, for the experienced team at McCue Crafted Fit, they’re well established in doing both. McCue’s 60 years’ industry experience specialising in high quality fit-outs and bespoke joinery services makes them experts in seeing the potential in any space. Transforming a modest, downtown shop into a unique, charismatic and traditional Irish off-licence, the award-winning ‘Friend at Hand’ in Belfast showcases McCue’s excellent capabilities at transforming spaces into promising places. With previous clients including Urban Outfitters, Danske Bank and Four Seasons Hotel, McCue is an expert in the retail, hospitality, leisure and corporate sectors with no project too big or too small.

In recent years NIE Networks has completed a number of major projects across Northern Ireland. From Belfast Harbour Studios to the Coleraine Data Centre and Enterprise Zone, the experienced planning and construction teams at NIE Networks have guided businesses and councils through the connections process, from application to energisation. Edel Creery, Connections Manager at NIE Networks says building relationships with major customers is critical to the success of any project. “At NIE Networks, we aim to work in partnership with our customers, providing a service tailored to your business needs. Whether it’s a load change at an existing premises or the connection of a new housing development, we will work closely with your teams to ensure you receive a quality, flexible service.” Jonathan Gray, SIB Projects Director at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council adds; “Most projects these days are “Fast Track” but the Coleraine Data Centre was particularly so as the £20m private investment requires it to be operational and providing return on that investment quickly. Power is as much the life blood of the facility as data and robust supply is just as important to its feasibility and success as its ultra-fast diverse fibre connections. NIE Networks has been an integral part of our project team from its inception - and at every stage they have delivered - on or ahead of both time and budget.”

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Specialising in Investments and Retirement, Inheritance and Business Protection as well as Pensions and Mortgages; Newbridge pride themselves on being an Independent Financial Advisor – not being restricted in any way, gives them the competitive edge. With client focus at the heart of what they do, the Newbridge team are committed to being honest and transparent; putting your interests above all else, while communicating clearly and without jargon.

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CHESTER NURSING HOME: PROVIDING DIGNITY AND RESPECT FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA The key to helping people with dementia is to treat them with dignity and respect in a loving, caring and homely environment. Chester Nursing Home in Whitehead, which is part of the Wilson Group, specialises in dementia care. Its staff have been through best-practice training with Sterling

University’s Dementia Centre, which is world-famous for its expertise in improving professional practice in helping people with the condition. This involves attention to detail, not just in understanding as much as possible about residents’ interests and past lives, but also in the design and decoration of the building. For example doors are painted in different colours and have pictures on them as well as signs to help clients know where they lead. This is because people with the condition can sometimes get confused around words and letters and so the pictures help to orientate them. Nurse Manager Gillian Dowds explained: “People with dementia can be very happy if they are provided with the right environment. We ensure that we treat everyone with respect, we find out what interests them and do everything we can to

create a genuine sense of home.” On Valentine’s Day residents held a party which relatives were invited to. There was a buffet and dancing, with music provided by singer Eddie Campbell. “It was a great day,” said Gillian. “We regularly have musical events at Chester and our residents really enjoyed the craic.” Chester Nursing Home is a 40-bed facility, which operates an open house policy with relatives. Family and friends are welcome to visit their loved ones at their convenience and are encouraged to participate in daily activities, events and outings. Dementia is a difficult condition, not just from those who have it but also for their families and other loved ones. There is, however, a huge amount of research going on into it and how best people with it can be helped. Thanks to the connection with the University of Sterling staff at Chester Nursing Home will always be at the forefront in providing best practice. For more information visit www. or contact the head office on 028 9075 1212

Left: Babin George Assistant Nurse Manager, Amelia Kelly and Staff Nurse Zsiolt Imre at the party.

HICKSON’S POINT, A NEW SHIPYARD THEMED HOSPITALITY SPACE AT TITANIC BELFAST Inspired by one of the first ship builders in the city, Hickson’s Point will offer an authentic 1900’s public house setting, combining traditional music, entertainment, heritage décor and locally produced food for visitors to the world leading tourist attraction, as well as cater for a range of private and corporate events for up to 80 people. Last year, Titanic Belfast was crowned the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, experienced its busiest day to date as well as significant growth from key markets. Judith Owens, its new Chief Executive believes 2018 will be a strong year and in preparation it has transformed the annex space, adjacent to Titanic Belfast, into its newest hospitality space. Judith commented, “With increasing visitor

Titanic Belfast’s Head of Business and Leisure Sales and Chief Executive Judith Owens launch plans for Hickson Point.

numbers coupled with the global awareness of Northern Ireland’s incredible hospitality offering, we have invested in Hickson’s Point, an authentic setting which will enhance both our visitor experience and event offering. Not only does its shipyard fare build on one of the most popular themes in our galleries for visitors, but it appeals to corporates, incentive travellers and tour operators for an array of events from breakfasts, drinks receptions to themed dining.” Hickson’s Point is the latest development to Titanic Belfast’s premier event suites, alongside its two other venues, SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line vessel and 6,000 metre square Titanic Exhibition Centre. Titanic Belfast’s events have gone to


strength to strength over the past six years. It has hosted over 2,000 business and leisure events including G8 Summit Reception, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Giro d’Italia Big Start and conferences across an array of sectors including Routes Europe 2017, European Federation of Animal Science to the World Conference of Credit Unions. It has also served guests including Her Majesty The Queen, TITANIC director James Cameron and Presidential Candidate and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It has more exciting events in the pipeline, including the recently announced BBC’s Biggest Weekend in May. For more information visit


Joanne Harkness

Style Inspiration Debenhams

Graceful Fashions, Lurgan

Key colours this season in women’s fashion include pink and red and pattern-wise, polka dots and stripes are bang on trend. For men it’s all about looking sharp.

Pink, tailored trousers, £45, Next.

Baker boy hat, £15, Marks & Spencer. Polka dot top, jeans and red boots, available from Miss Selfridge.

Stripe jumper with red trousers, available from Tom Morrow, Dungannon.

Navy suit, Flintoff by Jacamo.

Marks & Spencer.

Pink loafers, £75, Dune.


Floral print shirt, £10, Burton.

With winter coming to an end, we welcome rhubarb back this season as the first sign that spring is fast approaching. Chris Rees, Head Chef at the River Room Restaurant at Galgorm Resort and Spa, has devised this wonderful poached rhubarb dessert which is served with a warm polenta cake, honey crisps and a stem ginger ice cream.

lifestyle LIFESTYLE

Dine & Wine Polenta Cake with Rhubarb - SERVES 6

Method: 1. Peel the rhubarb and gently poach in a syrup made from the sugar water and dried hibiscus. Cook until just soft but not falling apart. 2. For the cakes combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and using an electric mixer, beat together. Once combined insert the mixture into a piping bag. Pipe the cake mix into a well-greased muffin or cupcake tin and bake at 170°C for around 12-15 minutes – until a skewer can be inserted then removed and remain clean. 3. For the ice cream, put the ginger into a

saucepan and cook until caramelised. At this point, add the milk, sugar and glucose and reduce the liquid by half. Blend the mixture in a food processor. Soak the gelatine and once soft add to the hot ice cream mix along with the condensed milk. Pass the mix through a fine sieve and churn in an ice cream machine. 4. For the honey crisp, boil the honey sugar and water to 160°C. Place a baking tray into a warm oven lined with parchment paper. Add the bicarbonate of soda with caution and stir in the mix which will begin to foam. At this point, transfer the honey to the warm tray using another piece of

parchment paper on top. With a rolling pin carefully roll the caramel out thin while it is still warm and pliable. Allow to cool. To Serve: Place the poached rhubarb on a plate beside a warm polenta cake. Add a small spoonful of whipped cream to the top of the cake and stick the honeycomb crisps to it. Serve with the ginger ice cream on the side.

For the rhubarb 3 sticks rhubarb 125g sugar 100ml water Pinch dried hibiscus For the cakes 100g butter 100g sugar 100g ground almonds 50g fine polenta 2 eggs 1 lemon (zest and juice) Teaspoon baking powder

For the ice cream 30g stem ginger in syrup 1lt whole milk 150g sugar 100g condensed milk 50g liquid glucose 1 leaf gelatine For the honey crisp 100ml sugar 100ml water 50g honey Pinch bicarbonate of soda

Need the perfect pairing?

Drinking good wine with good food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The River Room Restaurant’s resident wine expert, Andrea Mola, recommends the perfect wine to accompany Head Chef Chris Rees’ sweet dessert.

Seifried, ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling, Nelson, New Zealand What better wine to cut through the sweetness of dessert than a classic Riesling. The “Sweet Agnes”, from New Zealand’s Seifried Edens Road Vineyard, is a particular beauty and a perfect accompaniment to the first rhubarb of the season. The Seifried story began back in the 1970s when Austrian-born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes set forth on their dream of making wines in New Zealand’s sunshine capital, Nelson.

From small and humble beginnings of grafting vines late into the night to present day, this company remains in the family. This passion and love for wines is clear to taste in this succulent Riesling. To make this delicious wine, lateharvested grapes were selectively handpicked during several passes through the vineyard to select the ripest berries. The grapes produce an intense and luscious tropical fruit, with apricot and orange zest


flavours that have little evidence of botrytis. A deliciously varietal wine that’s sweet but perfectly balanced with tangy acidity. The 2016 is particularly pure and powerful. The nose has mandarin peel and floral notes, while the palate is luscious with bright fruit balanced by natural acidity. Succulent fruit sweetness wraps around the crisp acid backbone leaving a long, exceptionally generous finish - the perfect way to finish a meal. Enjoy!


Jim Fitzpatrick, Journalist and Broadcaster

Let the battle commence

Time to curb the power of the tech giants?


ork kills. In some cases, literally. In the UK around 150 people die each year because of work-related accidents. In Northern Ireland last year, 16 people died in work incidents. It’s a chilling statistic. But a glance at historical figures is worthwhile. Twenty years ago, the number of deaths in Great Britain was around 300 a year. Go back to the 1980s and it’s nearly 500 a year. So why have things improved? The answer is simple – regulation. It’s all that “health and safety gone mad” which has ensured there are now thousands of people alive today who would otherwise have been killed at work. Most good businesses don’t complain about good regulation. They know it keeps them, and everyone else, honest so long as it is properly enforced. But somehow the idea of regulation as a bad thing and regulators (or bureaucrats) as bad creatures has taken hold in the collective psyche. So politicians win votes when they talk about sacking bureaucrats or cutting red tape. It all sounds very enticing. But to what end? The same sorts of regulations that have kept people safe at work have also ensured a much greater diversity in our workplaces where tough laws have driven down discrimination. Yes, Human Resources has a much bigger budget than back in the day, but it also ensures

that companies employ the best person for the job and, again, most good companies welcome this. The extra cost isn’t a problem as long as everyone complies. Regulations are often what enable an efficient market to function. Take the European Single Market as an example. It is the fact that regulations are standardised and enforced across the whole of the EU that enables businesses to operate seamlessly across borders. In order to have this seamless trade the regulations must come first and they must be enforced. So regulations and regulators serve the market. One industry, which has fought hard against government regulation and put forward strong political and philosophical arguments against rules is the tech industry. Particularly the giants like Google and Facebook. But they are beginning to lose the argument. The power of these global corporations is perhaps unprecedented in human history. Individuals and governments have


become increasingly concerned about the concentration of power in such a small number of corporations. These companies own the world’s eyeballs, and, through data, the routes into the minds. The media landscape has altered dramatically as these internet rulers have used other people’s content to sell advertising, sucking money away from those that pay for the content – the television companies and news organisations. What’s more, they have an enormous insight into the audience because of the direct nature of the internet experience. This goldmine of data does not diminish but grows by the second. And there is no room for rivals. They are snapped up before they can get too dangerous. So expect to see an almighty battle between the tech giants and the regulators in the months and years ahead. It’s only beginning, but its outcome will have profound consequences for us all.

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Magazine of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

FlydirecttoHongKong. March/April 2018 ISSUE 27 £2.95

(With zero breaks in between) MarCH/APRIL 2018

Flights start June 2018 from Dublin Airport with Cathay Pacific, bringing you closer to Asia than ever before.

Magazine of northern ireland chamber of commerce and industry

Cathay Pacific will fly direct 4 times a week from Dublin Airport, starting 02 June 2018. Visit and for more.

CIPR PRide Awards 2017 - Best Publication

chamber business awards enter now

jim fitzpatrick on curbing the power of tech giants

Forwarding freight across the globe with DSV’s Simon Lawson and Gerry Murphy

Ambition - March /April 2018  

Magazine of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ambition - March /April 2018  

Magazine of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry