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THE NEXT STEPS FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY Ambition talks to new NI Chamber president Paul Murnaghan and vice-president Gillian McAuley.

06/07/2021 11:52


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July/August 2021 Issue 47



The Evolutionary Legal Practice Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Managing Director, Jonathan Forrester, and new Director Kerry McCloy, talk about the integration of the latest legal technology.

Managing Editor: Christopher Morrow Interviews: Emma Deighan Publisher: Chris Sherry Advertising Managers: Lorraine Gill & Gerry Waddell Editorial Assistant: Joanne Harkness Email addresses: / Websites: / Publisher: Ulster Tatler Group, 39 Boucher Road, Belfast, BT12 6UT Tel: 028 9066 3311 Printed by: W&G Baird, Antrim. Front Cover by: Jamie Trimble



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At a Glance News: 06 Gilbert-Ash Hands Over GroundBreaking PwC Project 33 NI Chamber and Pinsent Masons Announce New Partnership 83 Version 1 Acquires Neueda 95 It’s Time to Press the Reset Button

Columnists: 08 Kate Marshall 12 Jonie Graham 16 Julie Skelly 32 Lynsey Foster 36 Laura Jackson 42 John Campbell 48 Jane Shaw 58 Peter Russell 67 Dr Ian Smyth 72 Paul McClurg 87 Niamh Campbell 88 Nigel Walsh 89 Mark Owens 96 Jim Fitzpatrick

44 56 60 64 68 70 73 78 84


Special Focus: 49 Colleges Supporting Business Appointments: 74 Danske Bank announces CEO Transition


Lifestyle: 80 Business Class Motoring James Stinson 92 Dine & Wine - Chris Rees 94 Fashion - Joanne Harkness

38 20 Cover Story

NI Chamber Chief: 26 CEO Update 28 NI Chamber in Conversation With

Features: 10 Q+A - Catherine McConkey 14 My Ambition is to... 18 New Training Programme to boost Hospitality Skills 20 Next Steps for Economic Recovery 24 Setting the Scene for Diversity 38 The Social and Economic Influence

The Evolutionary Legal Practice Focusing on the Future Serving the Community Structural Integrity Launch of New Course at NRC New Division is Fit for Purpose Stairway to Seven World Class Belfast Fully Booked




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06/07/2021 16:21


President’s Perspective


t is a pleasure and privilege to be appointed as president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I am delighted to take on this role over the next 12 months, and I am really looking forward to working with NI Chamber’s new vicepresident, Gillian McAuley of Devenish Nutrition, the Chief Executive Ann McGregor and the Executive team. I would also like to thank my predecessor, Ian Henry. Throughout his presidency, Ian, along with Ann and the fantastic team at NI Chamber, have been outstanding, providing strong representation at the highest level during this difficult time in response to both Brexit and COVID-19, as well as continuing with an unrivalled calendar of events, business support programmes and promotional opportunities. It is clear that businesses are not sitting back: we are rebuilding our supply chains, developing new products and services, creating new employment opportunities, entering new markets and investing in the health and wellbeing of our teams. I congratulate each and every one of you for all that you do and thank you for your continued support of NI Chamber. I very much look forward to working with you over the coming months. Paul Murnaghan President Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry NI Chamber President Paul Murnaghan discusses his priorities for the year ahead as this issue’s cover story.





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NEW ARTEMIS AND BELFAST MET APPRENTICESHIP Artemis Technologies and Belfast Met have announced a new apprenticeship programme offering a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to play a role in the future of maritime transport. It marks a major milestone for the Belfast Maritime Consortium project, led by Artemis Technologies, to create transformative marine technologies and a new range of zero-emission vessels in the city. The three-year Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship commences in September, combining classroom tuition with hands-on experience at Artemis Technologies.

BLOC LAUNCHES TECH SPINOUT Magherafelt-based Bloc has invested £600,000 in the launch of a new spinout company – Bloc Labs – to design, test, and develop the next generation of consumer technology products and experiences for global markets. In its initial phase Bloc Labs will create 10 new jobs, forming a closeknit team of researchers, designers, and technologists. Heading up the Bloc Labs team is Dr Rachel Gawley, one of NI’s most highly experienced tech specialists.

RAPID EXTENSION TO FACILITATE 30 NEW JOBS Work has commenced on a new 14,000 square foot extension to Rapid International’s existing 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility in County Armagh. The extension will create an additional 30 jobs and provide increased manufacturing capabilities for the new Rapid Power Generation division and its range of diesel and natural gas generators. Construction is expected to be completed in December 2021.

GILBERT-ASH HANDS OVER GROUND-BREAKING PWC PROJECT Gilbert-Ash has handed over one of the most ground-breaking projects to be completed in Northern Ireland in recent years. The company was the fit-out contractor for PwC at Merchant Square, a £14million project, which has created 200,000 sq ft of Grade-A office space over nine floors in Belfast city centre. The offices will accommodate Graeme Pike, Ray Hutchinson and Kevin MacAllister. up to 3,000 employees at the former Oyster and Royston buildings adjacent to the City Hall. The landmark building incorporates technology-enabled client collaboration and event spaces. It also includes a state-of-the-art digital hub that will provide the infrastructure and environment to inspire and support innovation.

ARMSTRONG MEDICAL DEVELOPS NEW LIFE SUPPORTING MEDICAL DEVICE Coleraine-based Armstrong Medical has commercialised an innovative respiratory breathing circuit for life support ventilation that was developed in collaboration with Ulster University through the North Dr Ciarán Magee (Armstrong Medical); Dr Thomas West Centre for Advanced Dooher (Ulster University); Dr Dorian Dixon (Ulster University); Dr Oonagh Lynch (NWCAM) and Jawad Manufacturing (NWCAM). Ullah (Ulster University). The AquaVENT® VT breathing circuit was released just prior to the WHO’s declaration of the global coronavirus pandemic and has now been incorporated in a number of critical care ventilator circuits for adult, paediatric and neonatal patients who require assistance with their breathing. By expanding the range of breathing circuits and electromedical devices Armstrong Medical supplies to hospital intensive care units, they were able to respond rapidly to global demand for critical respiratory devices. Since first launching in early 2020, the product has been used in a number of countries and helped to alleviate pressures for equipment during the COVID-19 crisis.

MALLAGHAN ANNOUNCES NEW I-TEC BRAND Mallaghan, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of airport ground support equipment (GSE), has bolstered its commitment to green aviation with the launch of a new brand to further develop its range of eco-friendly and electric products. The company’s electric i-tec portfolio comprises equipment to support Niall Mallaghan of Mallaghan. Ground Handling, Cargo Handling, Passenger Transportation, Aircraft Catering & Cleaning and Aircraft Maintenance for aviation partners across the world. The further electrification of the range will assist airlines and airports achieve environmental targets set by the global aviation industry. The i-tec range will be developed at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Northern Ireland and Georgia, USA.


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06/07/2021 09:49

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Columnist Kate Marshall Speaker, Coach, Author

Leadership: Dealing with Mistakes and Setbacks A lbert Einstein once said that anyone who says they have never made a mistake has never tried anything new. No-one in this world is perfect – mistakes are an inevitable fact of life and a daily hazard of leadership. Mistakes can be embarrassing, costly, even tragic – but the best leaders understand that they are also opportunities. Indeed, I argue that you learn as much from your failures as you do from your successes. So what is there to be afraid of? Of course, many take the view that risk is an everyday part of their organisation. To these leaders, mistakes are an occupational hazard. It followed, then, that their behaviour towards mistakes in others, and their reaction to their own mistakes, was seen as a key element of good leadership behaviour. Gail Rebuck, chief executive of Random House, made the point that during her early career her bosses had been ‘very indulgent’ when she made a mistake and took the view that you learn from it, stop beating yourself up and move on. ‘That is such a valuable lesson, it really is,’ she says. A few years ago, I was asked by a board to work in a business where unfortunately this was not the view of the executive team. It was a very strong “Alpha” team that were passionate about growth. Don’t get me wrong, they were growing the top line, winning new business; their aim was worthy, but their style and behaviour shouted “win at any cost” and mistakes were not tolerated. They had created an atmosphere where mistakes were seen as a disaster and a personal failure. Consequently, they had created a situation in their organisation where people felt unable to admit to their mistakes and when they did, they feared the response. They condemned people for a wrong decision – or a less-than-desired result, often looking at who to blame rather than understanding the context, background or, indeed, circumstances which led to the failure. That fear dominated behaviour and the company went into freefall. A culture where people don’t feel safe, where a blame culture pervades impacts decision-making, stifles innovation and risk-taking stalls. The organisation will at best be mediocre, and at worst fail and fail fast. An organisation will only travel as far as the people can trust the leader. Our task was to rebuild trust and change the mindsets of the executive team who were blinded by their ambition to win at all costs. Great leaders believe that ultimately, a mistake within their organisation is the leader’s responsibility – and are not afraid to shoulder the blame. Great leaders believe that in the best organisations, responsibility moves upwards and the blame culture is all but extinct. Poor leaders generally have a terrible habit of failing to admit when they’ve made a mistake. There is no doubt though that mistakes, particularly painful public mistakes, are a stern test of a leader’s ability. We have seen many of these here in NI in business and in political life.

There is a good chance that you will learn a lot more from making a mistake than you will from getting it right, provided there is a person reviewing the mistake and the underlying methodology in a helpful manner who listens to what went wrong and focuses on what can be learnt. This brings me back to a mantra that I learnt early in my career – Catch people doing things right. This uses the analogy of the emotional bank account. Like a monetary bank account, if you make enough deposits (catching them doing it right) then you will be in the black, in credit. If your emotional bank account is in credit, it’s easier to discuss what’s gone wrong, identify the mistake, build and maintain trust. Too often poor leaders only give feedback when something goes wrong. The emotional bank account is always in the red. This results in a culture of fear and in a culture of fear, we retreat to safety, keep our head down and look for an escape route. People often see feedback as negative: feedback can be incredibly positive if delivered well with the right motives. I’ve had the privilege of working with some sports teams where players receive detailed feedback on their performance after every game, whether they won or lost. The most important lesson, though, is that successes should be analysed and praised as thoroughly as failures. The leaders that have adopted this approach within their own organisation know that people were more willing to talk openly about mistakes in the context of success. We know that only analysing mistakes will damage the morale, culture and trust within an organisation. It is the successes an organisation wants to replicate, not the failures. And remember we are a consequence of our thinking and beliefs; we are hard wired to be safe and a culture where mistakes are not tolerated is not safe!

“Of course, many take the view that risk is an everyday part of their organisation. To these leaders, mistakes are an occupational hazard. It followed, then, that their behaviour towards mistakes in others” 8

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06/07/2021 15:38













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A Q&A With…

Catherine McConkey Contract Sales Co-ordinator, London, at Ulster Carpets

Q: How tough was it balancing work and studying? A: I had never studied business before so there was a lot to learn and I also had to try and understand how Ulster Carpets operates on an international stage. It was a lot of information to take in. I would say I was getting into a good rhythm of face-to-face and online learning alongside my work at Ulster Carpets but then COVID-19 hit. Q: Did the pandemic affect your course? A: It put a lot of pressure on me, particularly when I was one of many who were furloughed. It made it a lot harder to get to speak to people to do the research that I needed to and put a lot of extra obstacles in my way but I was determined to get finished and my coursework kept me focused. Q: What are the advantages of this type of learning? A: It is the best of both worlds. It gave me a superb knowledge base alongside practical experience across lots of different elements within the company. For example, one of my lecturers was heavily involved with Brexit, so I was able to take what I was learning in class and then see the practical implications of it for Ulster Carpets. This all helped me develop my 7,000-word dissertation. I also had to do a presentation in front of representatives from Invest NI and Ulster Carpets as well my lecturers. It was a lot of work but it was worth it in the end.

Catherine McConkey is a Contract Sales Co-ordinator based in the London office of Ulster Carpets who has recently been awarded a Distinction in her Postgraduate in International Marketing course as part of Invest NI’s Graduate to Export programme. Here Catherine tells Ambition more about how a change in career path brought her to Ulster Carpets. Q: How did you end up at Ulster Carpets? A: I graduated in 2019 with a degree in Media and Production and then took a year out travelling. I knew then that I wanted to go out and see the world and when I saw an advert for Ulster Carpets that mentioned opportunities to work overseas I jumped at the chance. Q: What is the Graduate to Export Programme? A: It is organised by Invest NI and delivered by Ulster University and the Institute of Export. It was an 18-month programme and I had to spend the first six months learning as much as I could about Ulster Carpets and our different markets. After that, I moved to the London office where I focused on the GB contract sector.

Q: What did you focus on for your dissertation? A: I looked at how we target 4 and 5-star luxury hotels in the GB market and how we turn project leads into a sale. It was heavily market research led and as well as getting insights from people in Ulster Carpets I was able to speak to interior designers and organisations such as the NEWH. Q: Now you have finished, what does the future hold? A: I feel incredibly lucky to now have a full-time job with Ulster Carpets. I have also been able to move permanently to London and I love it. We have a great team here and everyone has really helped me settle in. As Contract Sales Co-ordinator I now get the chance to follow a project from the initial enquiry right through to the final delivery. I’m dealing with interior designers, hotel owners and contractors and building strong relationships with them while also getting the chance to put some of my new-found skills to good use. I never thought that I could get so excited about carpet!


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05/07/2021 14:24

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Columnist Jonie Graham Senior Consultant, BRC Partnership

Message in a Bottleneck As a leadership consultant the question I am most asked is, “are leaders made or are they born?” The ensuing discussion is usually both informative and enlightening and often leads to one of those light bulb moments of self-awareness that brings a greater understanding of one’s personal effect on those that we lead.

benefit to the organisation. Clear vision is a critical attribute of any leader. Without vision teams become easily distracted into areas that will be detrimental to the organisation or they involve themselves in so many secondary activities that they dilute the effectiveness of the team. Vision not only sets direction but it inspires quality and maintains focus. An effective leader is a visionary leader. The ability to steer the ship, or at least to know the right instructions to give so that the ship can navigate safely and accurately, is another key skill for today’s leaders. How you steer your ship will depend very much on your people and your organisation. Some will use inspirational communication to steer the ship, others will seek to motivate team members through incentives, direction or rewards. What is important is that organisations grow. There needs to be movement, development or improvement. Organisations that are static are organisations that are dying. If the organisation and what they offer matters then the leader must inspire movement. The most effective way to do that is to model what matters. Regardless of your preferred method to motivate your team, you cannot afford not to model the things that matter the most in your success. Leaders that avoid grounding their ship, causing a blockage in the movement or growth and restricting trade, are leaders that strive to see as far and as wide as they can. Leaders that will communicate clearly what they see and what needs to be done and leaders that will demonstrate by example what it means to be committed to the cause of the organisation. Therefore take some time today to sit and reflect on how you ensure that your vision is clear and how it is communicated unambiguously to your team. Consider what is it your team see you model? If they only did what they saw you do, would they be valued members of your team? What is it you need to ensure that you not only do but you inspire your team to do as well? Let us strive to be leaders that are those that open up channels rather than those that block them, those that promote movement and growth, rather than those that cause back log and lost opportunities. Let us be those leaders that are more akin to bottle openers than bottlenecks.


ccording to leadership scholar and author James MacGreggor Burns, leadership is probably one of the most studied phenomena in the world today but also one of the least understood. This should not be surprising, for although there are considerable amounts of research, books, articles, conferences, training seminars and podcasts on the topic of leadership, there are probably as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders. I am never convinced that the, “are leaders born or made” question is the right one to be asking. Of course we all know gifted, leaders but after just a little thought I’m sure we can all think of leaders that we have known that may not have necessarily been gifted but have proved none the less very capable leaders. Perhaps a more useful discussion than “made or born” would be do leaders empower or do they curtail? Do they resource or do they deplete? Do they inspire or do they disillusion?’’ In March of this year the Ever Given container ship blocked the Suez Canal for six days. Due to the ship running aground at the narrowest part of the canal and drifting to an angle, no other ships could pass by. This led to a buildup of 369 other ships waiting in the approach to the canal hoping to pass through and go on with their respective journeys. By some estimates the cost to the world economy was somewhere in the region of $9.6 billion USD in lost trade. The blockage was eventually cleared thanks to the combined effort of an international fleet of tugboats. The cause of the incident was down to a sandstorm that led to an inability to steer the ship, eventually resulting in the ship being blown onto a sandbank. I am not sure if anyone ever asked if the Captain of that ship was born a Captain or if he became a Captain, or even if he was a gifted Captain. What difference would it have made? Neither of these things mattered in those circumstances. Of course ability is critical and skills are important, but skills can be learnt and ability improves with practice. Of the multiplicity of things that went wrong that day, two related occurrences led to the inevitability of the ship running aground. The high cross winds caused a sandstorm that limited visibility and ultimately made it impossible to steer the ship. There is nothing more important for a leader than vision and the ability to steer their ship. Even leaders with the most limited vision can at least see what is right in front of them and therefore can establish some idea of corrective measures, decisive action or preparatory manoeuvres that should be made. The greater the vision, the greater the understanding and the greater the potential for the action the leader and their team take to be of significant

“The ability to steer the ship, or at least to know the right instructions to give so that the ship can navigate safely and accurately, is another key skill for today’s leaders.” 12

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05/07/2021 14:24

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commute from Lissan outside Cookstown every day to be on site at City Quays 3 in Belfast Harbour by 7am. This building has a great view over the water so it is a nice place to work every day. From a very young age I had a keen interest in construction and engineering, which developed throughout school while I studied STEM subjects. When I was introduced to the Institution of Civil Engineers programme, a local government led initiative which seeks to identify and examine potential collaborative opportunities, it was a natural progression to work-based learning after A Levels. I attended St Pius X College where I sat my A Levels in 2019. I had an interest in engineering, however, I wasn’t sure university was the best option for me, which lead me to apprenticeships. I applied for my role with Farrans Construction through WorkPlus. I was delighted when I was invited to interview, and following a successful process, I was selected as the incoming engineering apprentice. I’m now into my second year of the twoyear apprenticeship and am due to finish in September with a Foundation degree in Civil Engineering accredited from South West College in Omagh. This will enable me to qualify for a part-time degree in Civil Engineering at Ulster University. I’ll continue to work on Farrans’ projects throughout the course. After doing some work experience during school I knew I wanted to work in construction. I had spent a week at a local metal engineering company in Cookstown called East Sperrin Fabrications and knew from then that I was well suited to a career in this industry. Since starting my apprenticeship at Farrans, I’ve also worked on the multimillion pound sports and leisure facility at South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon. I’m currently working on Belfast Harbour’s City Quays 3 project in Belfast city centre. The 250,000 square feet City Quays 3 will be one of the largest Grade A office developments to be built in Northern Ireland, designed with sustainability at the fore. I work alongside sub-contractors on site, ensuring that health

and safety checks have been carried out, and taking new workers through inductions and issuing permits for site visits. I also help the senior engineers oversee the programme by checking that measurements of building materials are coherent with the drawings. It has been an amazing opportunity to work on a development of this stature. Once City Quays 3 is complete, it will facilitate 1,800 workers and I’m really proud to be part of the team that brought this project to life. It is a bit of a cliché, but the best part of working at Farrans is that every day is different. I also enjoy the ability to learn on the job. When you come to Farrans, your learning continues and they provide you with excellent support. The senior engineers are always on hand to give advice. I’m someone who thinks on their feet, quite literally, which is why the apprenticeship has worked so well. Being on site and working on projects in real time has taught me so much. My ambition is to continue to progress through this apprenticeship to become a professionally qualified civil engineer with a masters degree from Ulster University.

“I’m now into my second year of the two year apprenticeship and am due to finish in September with a Foundation degree in Civil Engineering accredited from South West College in Omagh.”


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05/07/2021 14:25

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Columnist Julie Skelly, Head of Belfast Business Centre, Danske Bank

Companies Moving Back Into Growth Mode As Export Opportunities Return As we move into the second half of 2021, it is incredibly positive to see a number of our customers starting to shift back into growth mode.

met the needs in the market, including hand gel stands and handwashing stations. Innovation is something that’s built into ESF’s DNA, says its CEO. “We are always looking to innovate and that has been fast tracked now,” says Alan. “Electronic and connected products have been fast forwarded 5-10 years because of the pandemic, which makes R&D a high priority. Our generic products are bins, benches and bollards – but even in these traditional products we are trying to integrate wi-fi and solar to solve problems for businesses. “Our focus is on innovation. We don’t go to customers with a product in mind, we go in to try to find solutions to their problems, and that often leads to new products.” ESF hopes to be able to attend trade shows in Europe and the US soon and to start visiting customers in the Middle East, and while initially trade may be slow with customers such as theme parks, there is interest from elsewhere, including a number of city councils in the US and Canada who are interested in the company’s solar powered products. Alan believes there is potential to secure new projects from a number of sectors and countries, and innovation will be the key to reaching pre-pandemic levels. “Our next product is actually a smart defibrillator cabinet aimed at the US market. We saw how important defibrillators are in the Euro 2020 football tournament. It’s estimated the US needs as many as 30 million defibrillators in public places. If we can tap into that market it will be huge for us.”


n the early part of last year, many companies who took government-backed coronavirus business interruption loans (CBILS) did so to help meet immediate cashflow needs; however, towards the end of 2020 and into early 2021 funding requests were predominantly for capex or business acquisition purposes. Danske Bank is committed to helping Northern Ireland grow again and we are now also seeing early evidence of investment in plant and machinery coming through, which normally heralds an upward trend for general investment in business growth. However, it is not a case of simply returning to pre-2020 business as usual. Many companies have pivoted into new product and service areas during the pandemic, and we’ve talked to a lot of customers who are now in the process of incorporating those new business wins into their long-term plans while their core business ramps up again. One such company in that position is Danske Bank customer Environmental Street Furniture (ESF), a family-owned company who specialise in supplying high quality street and site furniture – from benches, bins and bollards to cycle shelters, signage and solar charging stations. The company sells its bespoke site furnishings into 26 export markets, with customers including theme parks, and retail schemes. This year it was awarded the Queen’s Award for International Trade. ESF’s CEO Alan Lowry says the business had to adjust as face-to-face meetings and trade shows were cancelled and international travel was put on hold. “I haven’t been on a plane for 16 months,” says Alan. “Our business is about making custom made furniture for big, often one-off projects, so you really need to be there to meet people so they can have confidence to know who they are dealing with. Zoom and video calls are ok, but it’s hard to build new relationships without being in front of people. We’ve missed exhibitions too as you get a much better sense of our products at exhibitions than on videos or websites.” The company adapted to these challenges, focusing initially on its home market and pivoting to create new products that

“However, it is not a case of simply returning to pre-2020 business as usual. Many companies have pivoted into new product and service areas during the pandemic” 16

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05/07/2021 14:25

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05/07/2021 14:39


New Training Programme to Boost Hospitality Skills Launched

A new training programme to provide young people in Northern Ireland with the skillset needed to kick start a career in the hospitality sector was launched by Diageo in June.


uinness Learning for Life – Gateway to Hospitality is a free 15 day preemployment training programme which will help young people aged between 18 and 26 years old access employment in the hospitality sector, while investing in the skills needed to support the industry’s economic recovery. The programme, developed in partnership with The Springboard Charity and leading hospitality business Sodexo, has 14 places available. The young people that participate will gain targeted industry and life skills, achieve an accredited industry qualification, be provided with support in CV writing and interview technique and be guaranteed an industry interview for a live job. Matching high-potential individuals with vacancies within the industry to reduce the skills gap, the Guinness Learning for Life programme has taken on added importance with many young people having left the hospitality sector due to the impact of the pandemic. Commenting on Diageo’s commitment to support the industry and the opportunity the programme presents to young people, Claire Hutchinson, corporate relations manager for Diageo in NI, said “At Diageo we are passionately committed to supporting the industry, ensuring it has the resources, facilities and expertise to reopen safely and recover from the pandemic, having invested €14m in the sector across the island of Ireland through Guinness’s Raising the Bar initiative. “Our programme, Guinness Learning for Life – Gateway to Hospitality, will provide young people in Northern Ireland with the tools, training and skills in the key areas they need to gain employment and thrive in the hospitality trade. “Following the devastating impact that the pandemic has had, the need to fill the skills gap has never been greater with businesses having been closed and young people, so crucial to the vibrancy of the industry, moving away to seek employment in other sectors. “The industry and its value chain are crucial

Pictured pre-pandemic.

to the recovery and long term economic prosperity and it is good to see businesses back trading with customers through their doors following the unprecedented challenges of the last 15 months. However, these are small incremental steps towards the full return of the sector and programmes like Guinness Learning for Life will help to support the industry in providing the exemplary service for which is renowned the world over.” Caitriona Lennox, NI Manager for The Springboard Charity, said: “We are truly delighted to be working in partnership with Diageo on the Gateway to Hospitality training programme with the collective approach being to raise awareness of the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry, encouraging young people to choose it as a real career option. “Given the wide variety of course content, it is a fantastic opportunity to learn many new skills and gain industry accredited qualifications – all in just 15 days. Like this partnership, it is so important that organisations work in collaboration to raise awareness of the variety of opportunities within the sector and to promote it and its many roles.”

“Following the devastating impact that the pandemic has had, the need to fill the skills gap has never been greater with businesses having been closed and young people, so crucial to the vibrancy of the industry, moving away to seek employment in other sectors.”


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06/07/2021 15:32

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Next Steps for Economic Recovery NI Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor, president Paul Murnaghan and vice-president Gillian McAuley.


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Ambition speaks to new NI Chamber president Paul Murnaghan about recovery, the importance of political stability and why NI businesses can be optimistic about the future.


he new president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paul Murnaghan, has called on NI Executive Ministers to “reset the dial and turn their attention away from party political wrangling towards issues-based policy making which supports jobs and economic growth.” The Head of BT in Northern Ireland was appointed to the role in June and succeeds Henry Brothers Director, Ian Henry.

Looking to the immediate recovery of Northern Ireland in a post-COVID landscape, the NI Chamber president said that the restoration of all sectors should be “safe and managed” and urged politicians to work together to streamline that process. Paul begins: “Businesses here are resilient – they are doing all they can to get back to normal – to bounce back – but it is getting tougher and tougher to move forward and the lack of focus on the economy by our elected representatives is very disheartening indeed. They must reset the dial and turn their attention away from party political wrangling towards issues-based policy making which supports jobs and economic growth.” “We need to see our political leaders and our communities working together in the best interests of Northern Ireland. A spirit of compromise and cooperation saw us through some of the worst weeks of the pandemic last year. We need that again if we are to truly recover.” He continued: “Economy Minister Gordon Lyons must ensure that businesses of all sizes continue to receive the necessary financial and practical support they need to recover and prosper. He is challenged with creating the conditions for a vibrant and externally focused private sector which grows the economy, generates income from abroad and supports sustainable employment and learning, helping our young people who have also been very negatively impacted by COVID in education and employment terms.” The NI Chamber president stresses that this will involve the NI Executive “working collegiately to transform our education system.” He said that the chance of “economically inactive” young people “seeing the advantage of the peace dividend seems even further away”. Paul believes Northern Ireland has many reasons to be optimistic, with the most recent Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) with BDO illustrating some promising signs, particularly in manufacturing. In the QES, nearly 70% of respondents believed that Northern Ireland’s status under the protocol – which avoids a hard border on the island – presented opportunities and the companies hopeful that their turnover and profits would grow in the next 12 months outnumbered those who believed it would fall. The research also stated that 54% of members traded well or reasonably well during quarter one. “But of course there’s a long way to go if we’re to recover the ground we’ve lost,” Paul adds. “We must look towards the opportunities. These include dual market access, the new trade deals with key markets such as Canada and Australia, the UK levelling up and All

Island funding and the expertise that is available from our excellent universities and FE colleges.” Like many of the businesses questioned in the QES, he believes the NI Protocol can support our recovery in the year ahead: “We are hearing about the disadvantages and the advantages of the NI Protocol right now, but we are in an enviable position of having ease of access to both the UK and EU markets and that unique trading access paired with the right promotion should make us a more attractive location for foreign direct investment. “We must therefore remove any uncertainty and focus on reducing administration and costs, which are the negative aspects of the NI Protocol, and redirect our attention to the future with the government detaching the development of the NI economy, job creation and investment from party politics to ensure that we benefit from this advantage.” Paul will be joined in his new leadership role by NI Chamber’s new vice-president, Gillian McAuley, Group HR Director of Devenish Nutrition. Gillian is at the helm of one of the most innovative businesses in Northern Ireland. New roles, global expansion, innovative research and a new graduate and apprenticeship programme have all been pushing the company upwards in its sector and it has demonstrated a resilience that could prove influential for many other businesses here. Speaking about her new role, Gillian said: “I am extremely proud to be appointed as vice-president. NI Chamber is a wellrespected business support organisation, with local roots and extensive links ranging from the World Chambers Network, the British Chambers of Commerce and Chambers Ireland. “The organisation sits at the heart of our economy, helping businesses to help each other. That partnership approach has never been more relevant or important and the practical support it is currently providing to businesses across sectors is crucial. “I look forward to working with the NI Chamber Board, Council and Executive team to cement NI Chamber’s position at the forefront of business support and representation.” Welcoming both into their new roles, NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor, said: “I would like to congratulate Paul and Gillian on their election and thank the outgoing president Ian Henry for working exceptionally hard on behalf of member businesses over the past year. Our new president and vicepresident bring a breadth of experience which will become a great asset to the organisation.”


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06/07/2021 16:30

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Setting the Scene for Diversity Emma Hunt, Head of Litigation and Partner at Mills Selig, is celebrating 20 years with the NI law firm. Here she talks about the minefield that is dispute resolution and how she is testament that Mills Selig has always been a pioneer in diversity.


mma Hunt joined Mills Selig in 2001 as a trainee after graduating from law at Queen’s University, Belfast and completing a master’s degree in commercial law at University College Dublin. She was the first female trainee the firm had hired and her arrival was to be a landmark moment for the business, which today has a board that is majority female. “I think it’s really important to say that in a world that waas once male-dominated, Mills Selig led the way with a strong female presence, particularly in leadership roles,” Emma begins. “The male mentors here have been   important throughout my career; I’ve always felt rewarded on merit without gender even coming into the equation.”  Reflecting on the past two decades and comparing her staying power with the industry norm, Emma adds: “It is unusual to stay with the one firm in your career but for me, being here so long is about the culture and how it compares to what else is out there. “The strong culture is such that I never   really felt the need to move. It’s been a fantastic place to work since day one, with a one firm/one team approach to everything,” she adds. In her earlier days at the firm, Emma, a   former Rathmore pupil, said working on high profile and contentious cases gripped her attention and focus, steering her towards a specialism in litigation.  Today she works on a host of commercial disputes, acting mainly for NI companies and leaning towards specialisms in property, professional regulation and media law.  “But, I cover all types of litigation. Northern Ireland is such a small jurisdiction that you have to be able to turn your hand to anything,” she says. Challenge is rife in her domain and  

Emma anticipates an onslaught of property disputes as Covid-19 schemes and temporary legislation comes to an end. “It’s a bit too early to see where trends are going to be because there are a lot of restrictions in place. Cases coming in, I believe, will be more about disputes between landlords and tenants and when restrictions on legal action ease and courts are up and running, property litigation will be a trend area.”  She continues: “The challenge in litigation is learning to adapt really quickly to the emerging trends. Northern Ireland is very broad so you have to be agile to adapt but it’s also about keeping your finger on the pulse and knowing what type of case will be next and understanding your client’s needs.”  Among Emma’s other specialisms is intellectual property disputes, professional regulation and injunctions. She has been pivotal in the exponential growth of Mills Selig’s litigation team.  “In the last three years the litigation team has expanded by 50% and there is very much scope to grow more. When the pandemic started, we were all nervous, not just for our business, but for clients but we had a really strong year, I see a lot of potential in the future.”  Emma is also a specialist in media defamation and was instrumental in growing the defamation practice within Mills Selig, acting for broadcasters, publishers, national and local newspapers. She is also recognised as a leading expert in media litigation and the developing area of litigation arising out of the use of technology and social media, acting as the local representative for one of the largest global social media companies. She also frequently presents to the   profession and to businesses on contentious legal issues relevant to the technology sector. “We have a long-standing recognition in   Chambers UK legal directory as a leader in

“The strong culture is such that I never really felt the need to move. It’s been a fantastic place to work since day one, with a one firm/one team approach to everything.” defamation and reputation management and have been involved in many of the major libel and media cases in this jurisdiction. We have also responded quickly to the developing law of defamation arising out of the use of social media and other online forums and have advised on a number of notable cases,” Emma continues.  “Social media is a whole new dynamic and can be very difficult to navigate. It is an area that will evolve and will be informed by the courts, so watch this space. It makes it a very interesting area to be involved in and we’re on the cutting edge of those decisions.”  Mills Selig is based in Arthur Street in Belfast’s city centre. Through association with leading Dublin firms, it offers an all-Ireland


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Emma Hunt, Head of Litigation and Partner at Mills Selig

service and many of its lawyers are qualified to act in both NI and England. It has been involved in high-value corporate and commercial transactions in Ireland, GB, mainland Europe and in the other parts of the world. It was in 2009 that Emma rose through the   ranks to become Partner. It’s a move that has seen her play a big role in expanding the firm, which she says is on a “growth journey”. In the past three years the litigation team has driven an increase in its share of revenue for the firm up by 44%.  The firm, which currently employs 54 people, has also promoted five of its team members to senior positions, three of which are within the litigation team. It is a

“Social media is a whole new dynamic and can be very difficult to navigate. It is an area that will evolve and will be informed by the courts, so watch this space.” reflection of the firm’s continued success and commitment to its future. “You can’t achieve this success alone,” Emma adds. “And that’s always been my ethos. We have a strong litigation team here

and that’s at all levels, from trainee right up to head of department and when you have that surrounding you, you are fortunate and you can adjust to all challenges.”


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05/07/2021 14:38

UPDATE Chamber Chief’s

During such an uncertain period, NI Chamber is committed to helping you and your business deal with the current situation and the challenges ahead. NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor provides an overview of what’s coming up and what’s taken place recently.


he half-way point of the year seems an appropriate time to acknowledge the efforts of business people across

Northern Ireland, who approached another challenging six months with a great degree of pragmatism. With all sectors of the economy gradually re-opening and the prospect of practical solutions to cost and administrative issues with the Protocol, we all hope that the second half of 2021 will present significantly less challenges. At NI Chamber, this month saw the election of a new President and Vice-President. I would like to warmly congratulate our new President, Paul Murnaghan, Head of BT in Northern Ireland and Gillian McAuley, Group HR Director at Devenish Nutrition, who takes on the role of Vice-President. They bring a breadth of experience which will become a great asset to this organisation and the Executive team looks forward to working with them both. We extend our sincere thanks to Past President Ian Henry of Henry Group, who made an immense contribution during his term. As our new President, Paul has wasted no time in getting to work and his first engagement, hosting the Annual President’s Lunch, took place on his first day in office. Around 100 guests attended the virtual event, hearing from inspirational guest speaker, champion jockey Rachael Blackmore in an interview with sports broadcaster, Holly Hamilton. The Annual Lunch is usually a much anticipated event

Louise Turley (NI Chamber); Gillian McLean (Ulster Weavers) and David Fusco (Electric Ireland).

in the business calendar here and while

the critical role strong leadership will play

we certainly missed hosting many more

in economic recovery and growth. I would

guests in person, it was a really enjoyable,

like to thank guest speakers Gillian McLean,

optimistic afternoon and I know a great

Managing Director at Ulster Weavers and

many people enjoyed it a lot.

Mairead Meyer, Director at Openreach NI

On the theme of welcome, I am also pleased to say that Pinsent Masons is our newest International Champion and we

for sharing their experiences and inspiration with us. The most recent Future of Skills Forum

are delighted to have the firm on board. As

was all about collaboration and attendees

a professional services firm with a global

joined a discussion led by Carol Fitzsimons

reach, Andrea McIlroy-Rose and her team

MBE, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise

bring a truly international outlook and

NI; John Healy OBE, Vice-President &

members will benefit enormously from

Managing Director, Allstate NI; and Gordon

what they have to offer.

Parkes, HR Director, NIE Networks. The

June saw the return of our popular

focus of that session was about how, by

Leadership LIVE series, delivered in

working together, industry, educators

partnership with Electric Ireland. That event

and government can ensure that young

was about getting ‘back to the future’ and

people and employers can access the


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06/07/2021 10:16

chamber chief’s update

NI Chamber President Paul Murnaghan.

NEW ESSENTIAL MEMBERS Belfast Central Apartments GIA Surveyors Gray’s The Growth Company Tyrone Fabrication William Clark & Son Zenith Networks

NEW GROWTH MEMBERS Rachael Blackmore in an interview with sports broadcaster, Holly Hamilton.

skills required to succeed and grow both

The Business Support team continue

now and in the future. I would also like to

to deliver a huge variety of other events.

acknowledge the contribution of everyone

In the last few weeks alone, this has

who attended an additional skills strategy

included a session on technology and

consultation workshop – your feedback

digital transformation under the Boosting

will form a critical part of NI Chamber’s

Productivity with Ulster Bank Programme,


a tendering workshop with Cleaver Fulton

Learn Grow Excel has continued to deliver a host of opportunities for SMEs

CIOB Frylite John Pye Mathys & Squire NIAVAC Ted & Co


Veolia Wilson Nesbitt

Rankin and a sales workshop with Bank of Ireland.

too, including the first event in our new

Our calendar of events takes a short

Business Breakfast Series with Bank of

recess during July and I hope that over the

Ireland. The employee wellbeing event

summer season, all our members are able

was extremely successful and received

to enjoy some time out to recharge and

excellent feedback from the HR managers

reset too. NI Chamber’s other business

in attendance. That series will focus on a

support services are operating as usual and

number of other business functions later in

we’ll continue to be here to help in any way

the year, so do keep an eye out for those.

we can.

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


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06/07/2021 10:16

Sara Venning is CEO of NI Water. In episode three of NI Chamber’s In Conversation podcast, delivered in association with Narratology, Sara speaks to Mark Devenport about how her early years influenced her attitude to work, the hidden challenges of keeping Northern Ireland’s taps running through the pandemic and NI Water’s bold ideas to tackle climate emergency.

Growing up in the 1980s, Sara tells listeners: “My early years had a strong influence on my attitude to work and how I conduct myself. We didn’t have much disposable income, so the notion of ‘if you want something, you work for it’ was engrained in us. We were encouraged to work hard in school and I remember my mother saying that qualifications were the route to an easier, more affluent life.” During the episode, Sara reflects on her career path and the importance STEM subjects played in this. “At school I loved maths and science. With maths and science, the beauty for me was it was either right or, if you got an answer wrong, you got marks for method. The leaflets in the careers library said that anyone who liked maths and science should be an engineer. “When I was trying to pick where I would go to university and what I would study, I wanted something that would give me a good chance of getting a job and that would pay well. Electrical engineering ticked those boxes. I studied at Queen’s and was one of about ten girls in a class of over 100.” Like most organisations, NI Water has come through a challenging year and at the height of the pandemic, it encountered a unique set of issues as water usage increased. “This time last year we were enjoying the sunny weather, which was super, but NI Water saw a huge increase in the demand for water. People were leaving hoses on overnight and filling pools, consuming the same amount of water a family of four would use in one day.


CEO, Northern Ireland Water (NI Water) 28

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05/07/2021 14:37

NI CHAMBER IN CONVERSATION WITH IN ASSOCIATION WITH NARRATOLOGY About Narratology Narratology Executive Search is a boutique headhunting firm appointing leaders to C-Suite, Director, Senior Manager and Board positions. Our expertise in managing bespoke executive recruitment solutions spans across industry sectors including manufacturing, agri-food, engineering, construction, technology, banking, insurance, legal and professional services, healthcare, retail and wider business services. We have successfully delivered for clients from multinationals, PLCs and NI Top 100 to family-owned firms, SMEs and start-ups, introducing key executives to make

“We were close to being unable to produce the amount of treated water in quantities that matched the demand. There was a huge company-wide coordination where we were maximising production, moving water across our network and working with the public to appeal for their support in water conservation. “The dry weather progressed and our concern turned to the amount of water available in our reservoirs, which was beginning to drop sharply. The great news was that we were able to protect consumer supplies across the province.” Looking to the future, Sara shares some of the bold ideas NI Water is implementing to tackle its carbon footprint and the climate emergency. “Climate change is significant for us. When we set out our strategy, nature was one of our strategic priorities and sustainability is one of the company values. “Ireland is one of the most deforested parts of Europe and Northern Ireland is more deforested than the Republic. We have been planting trees in the Mournes, in conjunction with the Woodland Trust, with a target to plant one million trees over ten years. “Renewable energy is also important and we are looking at how we facilitate renewables on our land. There is potential on some of our elevated sites for us to host the largest wind farm in Northern Ireland.” Addressing years of underfunding in our water system, Sara explains the need for investment in waste water infrastructure. “Over the last ten years, local government hasn’t made the level of

individual impact and strengthen existing leadership teams. Narratology understands the sensitivity and discretion required in approaching often complex assignments and in engaging with senior level candidates. We are committed to successful outcomes and a positive experience for all. We have the capability to recruit for corporate and industry-specific specialisms for roles in Northern Ireland and further afield, with the local understanding to truly appreciate our clients and their cultures. For further information please contact Ruth McDonald MD at: or on 02890446336

investment needed available to us. Instead, money has gone into ensuring that our public water supply is safe, so we haven’t been able to grow our waste water treatment capacity and networks. It’s this infrastructure that is vital in supporting economic growth. “The current investment profile simply isn’t sustainable and that’s where the phrase ‘drains before cranes’ was coined. If we want to see cranes in the skyline, we have to invest in the drainage infrastructure. “We have set a six-year investment programme that starts to address those development constraints. The overall capital plan over the next six years is over £2 billion and we are working with the government to try and secure that funding.” Sara highlights the important role of apprenticeships in facilitating an orderly handover to the next generation. Frontline apprenticeships and higher level apprenticeships are how NI Water is growing the workforce for tomorrow. “Our people are really loyal and many in our team have greater than 20 years’ experience. As a result, almost 50% of our workforce is over 55. That workforce has a wealth of experience, but we are now planning for a handover to the next generation. We are bringing in apprentices for both our frontline and technical roles. “This pandemic year, we have recruited 30 apprentices. We intend to continue to add to that and we will soon be launching higher level apprenticeship schemes for Northern Ireland.” Reflecting on her time at NI Water, Sara shares her greatest challenge so far. “I joined in 2011 and I was there less

than six months when Northern Ireland had its worst winter in decades. There was a widespread impact on the water network. Temperatures were sub-zero for almost a month. On Boxing Day, the temperature rose by over 15 degrees. As a result, pipes thawed out and burst in businesses and customer homes. There was widespread customer impact. “As the leader of that part of the business, this was challenging for me. As a team in NI Water, we looked at what happened, we embraced it, we learned from it and when I look at some of the systems we have put in place and the things that we can do today, we really built back better. It certainly had a lot of benefits coming out the other side. We are all stronger for it.” Sara concludes the episode by providing advice for other business leaders on how to get through challenges of their own. “Have confidence in yourself and in your team and keep calm – devise your plan and work your way through it.” Episode three of the In Conversation podcast is available to listen to now on the NI Chamber website, as well as on Spotify, iTunes and Google Podcasts.

Hosted by Mark Devenport


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05/07/2021 14:37

LEARN GROW EXCEL AN AGILE APPROACH TO BUSINESS SUPPORT Learn Grow Excel is NI Chamber’s suite of business support programmes, designed to stimulate SME growth and development. It is open to organisations across all business sectors in Northern Ireland. Established four years ago, the initiative is delivered with

we are delighted to continue our support of the Learn Grow

the support of private sector partners, including SME

Excel initiative as SME Partner.

Partner Power NI, who share NI Chamber’s commitment to developing businesses and the economy by supporting their

“Power NI is Northern Ireland’s leading energy company

aspirations. The year-round suite of individual programmes

supplying around 500,000 homes, farms and businesses.

are supported by the continued backing of AIB, Bank of

We remain the largest supplier to the business sector with

Ireland, Barclays, Danske Bank and Ulster Bank.

around 40,000 connections on our books. However, being

Reflecting on the role and importance of Learn Grow Excel progammes in the current climate, Tanya Anderson, Head of International and Business Support at NI Chamber said:

the largest supplier means nothing if it doesn’t translate into great value for money and excellent customer service for our customers. We have a range of competitively priced, easy to understand tariffs, specially designed for small

“2020 saw a huge change in business operations, with

businesses. Our local Business support teams in Antrim,

remote working and a short term shift in business priorities.

Belfast and Omagh are on hand to provide specialist energy

Learn Grow Excel has always been responsive to business

advice to help businesses grow.

need, so it quickly adopted a digital delivery method for all progammes.

“We are committed to the communities we serve and actively involved in grassroots sponsorships, supporting

“Operating remotely opened the programme up to new

the work of local Chambers of Commerce and business

audiences across Northern Ireland and allowed NI Chamber

representative groups. With competitive prices, great

to host speakers from an even greater variety of exemplary

discounts and outstanding customer service, it’s no wonder

companies. The responsive format was welcomed by

54% of local businesses here choose Power NI than any

members and has led to strong levels of interaction across

other supplier.”

all sectors. “As focus turns to economic recovery and growth, we know that Learn Grow Excel has a really important place in Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and are committed to continuing to develop this important offering.”

In extremely challenging circumstances, Learn Grow Excel has continued to meet the needs of member businesses. In 2020, 96% of attendees told us that they learned from other companies and 42% made valuable connections by attending online events. 44% of people attending

Speaking about Power NI’s support of the initiative, Jack

programmes like Grow Internationally with Danske Bank

Ferguson, Commercial Business Development Manager said:

identified new markets by getting involved.

“With a history and heritage going back 90 years, Power

Member feedback confirms that Learn Grow Excel events

NI has provided the energy behind many business export

in 2020 were some of the most impactful to date, with

success stories from this part of the world. We are

companies benefiting greatly from opportunities to connect

committed to helping the local business sector prosper and

and learn from each other’s experiences of the challenges.

Boosting Productivity with Ulster Bank focuses on increasing productivity levels and overcoming the related challenges facing businesses. To date, the programme has covered themes including supply chain innovation, data analytics, digital transformation and automation. Senior staff from leading enterprises including Encirc, Smiley Monroe, Terex, Moy Park, Aflac and Microsoft have shared their vast experience with others.


Successful sustainability with AIB encourages the sharing of best practice between companies around how to develop successful strategies for business sustainability. The programme has covered a range of important topics including creating a culture of sustainability, communicating your commitment and the journey to becoming a sustainable business. Companies who are leading the way in this area have shared their experiences, including Hyster Yale, Coca Cola, Henry Group and Sodexo.

So what’s next? Learn Grow Excel 2021 hit the ground running and plans are in place for an equally successful second half of the year. Members will be able to benefit from more events across all programmes, including the flagship annual Meet the Buyer event, which will see suppliers pitch their products and services to major local and international buyers. The Autumn and Winter seasons will see the launch of new training courses and more opportunities to delve into important issues like sustainability, productivity and export growth. There will also be sector and function specific events too, with more in the pipeline for marketers and finance experts, as well as for those working in some of the region’s biggest and emerging sectors.



1, 91


If you would like to find out more about Learn Grow Excel and opportunities for your business to get involved, please contact our Business Support team.

Grow Internationally with Danske Bank seeks to encourage export activity in Northern Ireland through the inspirational stories and shared learning of successful exporters. With a refreshed interview format for 2021, this programme has already hosted leading exporters, Denman and Camlin in conversation with host Jamie Delargy. Winning Business with Bank of Ireland was created to connect local businesses with new buyers. It hosts practical workshops which cover sales techniques and strategies businesses need to grow, before an annual Meet the Buyer event. In 2020, 24 major buyers were in attendance at that event including Applegreen, Harland & Wolff, Randox, Ryobi, MJM marine, Seagate, Thales and Translink. The Sector Club with Barclays focuses on the issues facing key business sectors. It brings businesses together with their supply chains to consider trends and opportunities and facilitate peer learning. Each event hears from a Barclays Sectoral Expert. To date, this programme has shone a spotlight on sectors including Technology, Manufacturing and Agri-Food sector, with speakers from TTEC, BLK Box, Ulster Carpets and Fane Valley.










Legal workshops with Cleaver Fulton Rankin over legal issues which are of particular relevance to SMEs. Another new addition to the suite of Learn Grow Excel programmes, these sessions cover topics including procurement, HR, succession planning and innovation. They enable businesses to access both technical information and legal experts in particular fields.




The Business Breakfast Series with Bank of Ireland brings managers from different business functions together at shared practice forums. New for 2021, this year’s events will host people working in finance, HR, sales and marketing. These sessions provide attendees with the opportunity to discuss emerging thinking and new trends, whilst making useful connections and learning from exemplars working in similar roles. The first event of the year hosted speakers from Frylite, GES Group, CDE Global and Bank of Ireland who shared insights and best practice on the theme of HR.


The Learn Grow Excel Training Academy was established to help SME businesses address common skills and knowledge gaps. To date, it has hosted courses on sales, digital strategy, ecommerce, and communication skills. The prospectus for the Academy is updated regularly, with new courses added in response to trends and local business need.

Columnist Lynsey Foster, International Trade Executive at NI Chamber

Cause For Optimism Around Exports

Saudi Arabia Following China, most of Northern Ireland’s global traders are currently exporting to Saudi Arabia, with approximately 300 shipments having been processed up to the start of June 2021. Key exporting sectors were pharmaceuticals and unsurprisingly, those manufacturers supplying into the oil industry. Saudi Arabia is likely to continue to be a target export market for NI business with investments in flagship tourism projects and infrastructure driving demand for machinery, vehicles and equipment. Pharmaceuticals will also remain a key import for the region.

Lynsey Foster, International Trade Executive at NI Chamber provides an insight into the emerging trends the business support organisation is observing from its ongoing work with over 200 leading export companies.

Egypt During the first six months of 2021, Egypt has been the third most popular export destination for NI Chamber export documentation customers, with a total of 270 export shipments processed to date. As with Saudi Arabia, the main sectors trading with Egypt are manufacturing and engineering, pharmaceutical and agri-food. These figures are on a level with the first six months of 2020, which demonstrates the impact of the UK-Egypt association agreement (in place between the UK and Egypt from 1 January 2021) in delivering seamless export trading conditions.


hile economic disruption resulting from COVID-19 has been widespread, the Global Trade Update reports that global trade has held up relatively well. The positive trends evidenced in Q4 2020 continued into 2021, with the value of trade in goods and services increasing by a further 4% in Q1 2021. Of course, NI businesses have had the added complication of changes to international trade through the impact of Brexit and the NI Protocol; however, export volumes have held strong and export documentation volumes processed by the NI Chamber team have been comparable year-on-year. The export documentation service is one of a suite of services NI Chamber provides to help businesses trade internationally. We also provide practical guidance and support to our members through expert advice, international collaborative events and technical training. The scope of our offering enables us to deeply understand the export landscape first-hand. We have real-time insights into where NI businesses are exporting to outside of the EU, including which sectors are seeing traction in the international arena and what volumes are being exported. Export documents are required when exporting outside of Europe and looking across the profile of our current clients, we can see that the top five export destinations outside of the EU are currently China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.

UAE For the first six months of 2021, the volume of exports from NI to the UAE from across NI Chamber’s exporting clients has been on par with the same time in 2020. Key sectors include equipment suppliers, agri-food and those within the commercial fit-out supply chain. USA Export documentation trends have demonstrated a notable increase in exports from Northern Ireland to the USA in the first half of 2021. This appears to be driven by a few key customers within the food and drink sector. The scale of the USA means that there are plenty of opportunities for NI businesses but there are of course vast regional differences across the 50 states, which NI businesses need to be aware of. The US legal culture, where litigation is common, is another important consideration, as is the need for business insurance, while obtaining work visas can be expensive and time consuming. As a target export market, the USA presents significant opportunity however, NI businesses should ensure they have carried out their research in terms of which territory fits their product / service best and build credible in-market connections. NI Chamber and its international champions will focus on the USA as a target market at the next International Collaborative Forum, scheduled for Thursday 9 September 2021. The online forum will provide attendees with practical information and guidance for trading with the USA and the opportunity to learn from our experts, as well as the chance for collaboration with similar companies.

China Northern Ireland’s relationship with China is extremely important and it’s much more than completing one-off business deals. Doing business in China requires a focus on building strong working relationships with partners who will deliver positive outcomes for both parties. For the first six months of 2021, China was the top country NI that Chamber export clients shipped to, with a total of 430 shipments processed and the agri-food sector leading the way. Key export regions include Shenzhen, Taiwan and Beijing, which reflects the growing importance of the UK’s red meat industry to the Chinese market. While travel restrictions were imposed due to COVID-19, local businesses continued to promote their products virtually through videos and via virtual platforms at the China International Meat Industry Exhibition (CIMIE) in September 2020. That event is scheduled to run again from 15 – 17 September 2021. Businesses in Northern Ireland have been resilient and have continued to connect with influential buyers in China, consolidating already established relationships and building strong links for ongoing trade.

In conclusion To date, international trade for NI businesses has held strong in 2021 and the outlook for the second half of the year is optimistic. NI businesses have remained resilient, adapted to the new working world and focused on customer relationships by adding value and building strategic partnerships with both customers and suppliers. NI Chamber will continue to support exporters by ensuring their goods travel uninterrupted and within efficient lead times and, in doing so, help maintain their competitive edge.


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NI Chamber: Government’s ability to move at speed key to success of future NI Energy Strategy

Patrick Anderson, Chair of the NI Chamber Infrastructure Committee and Chief Financial Officer at Translink.

The government’s ability to move at speed, particularly in making key strategic planning decisions, will be key to the success of Northern Ireland’s future Energy Strategy. Responding to the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy consultation,

which closed on 2 July, NI Chamber has also stressed the need for a dedicated budget for the Strategy and a strong pathway of actions, timelines and measurable achievements – commenting that a failure to do so will risk the Strategy’s chance of success and impact on Northern Ireland’s attractiveness as an inward investment location. Patrick Anderson, Chair of the NI Chamber Infrastructure Committee, commented: “NI Chamber strongly endorses the draft Energy Strategy’s detail and ambition in driving forward the net zero agenda for the Northern Ireland economy and society. Everything that is set out in the Energy Strategy sends a clear signal locally, nationally and internationally about Northern Ireland’s commitment to achieving net zero through energy reform. This in our view can only enhance Northern Ireland’s attractiveness as an investment location and is something that will be increasingly demanded as part of that competitive environment to attract sustainable businesses and sectors. “The planning process will be key to the successful delivery of this Strategy. Northern Ireland needs to accelerate what we are doing if we are to keep up with our peers nationally and internationally. There are projects in the system that can be ready for 2024/25 – projects which will support the 70% 2030

renewable electricity target – therefore the ability to move through key strategic planning decisions at speed, for all aspects of the Energy Strategy, including projects and grid infrastructure, is extremely important. “There also needs to be consideration given to the budget allocated to deliver the Strategy. The fact that it will sit within the various stakeholder Departments makes it more difficult to focus funding to the areas of the strategy that need it most such as a transport transformation and to decarbonise to more indigenous renewables, keeping people better connected for a cleaner, greener future and a thriving competitive economy. A more effective mechanism for budget/resource exchange should be considered to ensure that funding is available quickly. We need to think beyond budget and policy cycles to make this Strategy work. “Finally, we would like to see a much more explicit focus on the business economy in the final Strategy. This would set out more clearly the role of business in driving the vision and priorities of the Energy Strategy forward in terms of innovation, investment and skills and provide a better understanding of what Government will do to support the indigenous business community to maximise the opportunities presented.”

NI Chamber and Pinsent Masons announce new international partnership NI Chamber has announced that Pinsent Masons is its newest International Champion. This partnership will see the professional services firm support NI Chamber’s International Division over the next 12 months. Pinsent Masons joins current Champions Grant Thornton and Queen’s University Belfast. Together, they will help NI Chamber members to grow their international footprint with a mix professional expertise, technical advice and access to global business networks. Welcoming the announcement, Tanya Anderson, Head of International and Business Support at NI Chamber said: “Pinsent Masons has come on-board at a really critical time for anyone who trades internationally from Northern Ireland. Whilst we are continuing to provide importers and exporters with important practical support under new trading arrangements, our International Division is also helping businesses across all sectors to confidently think and grow globally. “Encouragingly, businesses are looking at

new markets and are making inroads in target markets such as the USA and Asia. NI Chamber is the lead private sector provider of export support and in partnership with our Champions, we are leveraging our combined international networks to introduce local firms to new markets, territories and customers. Laura Gillespie (Partner, Pinsent Masons); Ann McGregor (Chief “As a highly regarded Executive, NI Chamber); Andrea McIlroy-Rose (Partner and professional services firm with Head of Office, Pinsent Masons); Tanya Anderson (Head of a truly global reach, we are International and Business Support, NI Chamber) and Joanna delighted that Pinsent Masons Robinson (Partner, Pinsent Masons). has come on-board and know that our members will benefit international outlook to businesses operating enormously from what they in Northern Ireland. We look forward to have to offer.” working with Chamber members and sharing Andrea McIlroy-Rose, Partner and Head of our experience to help them grow their Office at Pinsent Masons Belfast, added: international footprint.” “As a multinational professional services For more information on the advice, business we are delighted to become NI technical training and events offered by NI Chamber of Commerce’s International Chamber’s International Division, visit the NI Champion. With 26 offices across the world, Chamber website. Pinsent Masons is able to bring a truly


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CREATING THE FUTURE WORKPLACE HOW WILL THE OFFICE ADAPT? Article written by Almanzo Peel The pandemic has become a catalyst for change in how businesses operate. As disruptive as Covid-19 has been to businesses, it has also highlighted the benefits of a more flexible working environment and wellbeing in the workplace. As your company plans to return to officebased working, now is a perfect opportunity to consider how those benefits can reshape your workplace. OFFERING EMPLOYEES A CHOICE OF WORKING ENVIRONMENTS WILL IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY People-focused workplace designers know that offering employees a choice of working environments will improve productivity. Height-adjustable desks or a combination of traditional desks and standing-height worksurfaces that allow them to regularly change posture will improve blood circulation and oxygen absorption. In the standing position and with the chair moved out of the way, a height-adjustable desk can also create a convenient place for teams of two or three to collaborate. Comfortable lounge seating in breakout areas encourage creative thinking and more open communication whilst providing an informal space to work away from the desk. This is also useful for field-based salespeople who spend little time in the office, but need somewhere to work when they do come in. Booths help small teams to focus on project collaboration without distraction, and solo pods create the perfect environment for intense

short-term projects, videoconferences, or webinars. 64% of employees believe their office environment enables them to work productively. TEAMWORK IS THE SECRET TO ALL BUSINESS SUCCESS Teamwork is the secret to all business success, so it’s important to create areas where your teams can meet easily and collaborate efficiently in the post pandemic workplace.

If a boardroom is used frequently, meetings may need to be scheduled ahead of time, and interrupted by another meeting if they overrun. A series of small booths that can accommodate groups of six to eight people is more spaceefficient, less formal and more accessible. A whiteboard wall or interactive widescreen is excellent for daily team huddles, presentations, brainstorming sessions and other collaborative groups. A small auditorium area with soft bench seating surrounded by standing room can keep presentations short or longer presentations comfortable, bond small gatherings and accommodate larger ones. STAFF THRIVE WITH SOCIAL INTERACTION & SUPPORT Humans are social beings and need social interaction to thrive. This has been highlighted during the lockdown period and is only increasing as we consider the return to the workplace where staff will want to catch-up and socialise with their colleagues in a supportive environment. Breakout zones such as coffee points, canteens, dining and soft seating areas will let your people switch off, recharge and socialise during break and lunch times, and then return to their work revitalised. 65% of employees say socialising is what they miss most when they work remotely. How can you plan the right office for your company? Book your workspace consultation with our team of space specialists today: +44(0)28 9442 5200


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Columnist Laura Jackson Partner, BDO

Making Sustainability Count As businesses begin to emerge from the COVID pandemic, events of the last year have brought about an increased focus on sustainability, environmental and ethical concerns.

Making it count Partnering with the Belfast Chamber, our “Rethinking Doing Business; a Sustainability Awareness” survey sets out to ascertain how aware and prepared businesses are of the challenges posed by climate change, and to gauge what kind of support is needed. In committing to further assisting local businesses understand what they can do to help tackle climate change and make their businesses more sustainable, this survey also provides optional practical initiatives that may be of use for those within businesses tasked with navigating the ESG agenda. While the results of the survey are yet to be published, at BDO NI we know that the concerns around preparing for sustainable business practices are complex. We also know that many businesses are calling out for help and support in how they can practically address the requirements and the many different requests placed upon them by external stakeholders, employees and the local communities in which the operate under the ESG principles, all while trying to manage and run the business dayto-day. At BDO we assist organisations of all sizes; supporting them in identifying key considerations in relation to climate change/ ESG factors, relevant to the nature of their business and can help advise on ESG reporting requirements.


he consideration of these ESG factors (standing for Environmental, Social and Governance), hasn’t just become of sharper focus, but critical to the success of organisations across all sectors. Key stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers, regulators and local communities are demanding organisations consider how their operations impact the world, their contribution to society and how they conduct themselves. What is ESG? ESG has immense meaning in terms of how the world is to adapt and change and our role in shaping this direction. However, this acronym also has different meanings to those that use it. Environmental criteria, where every organisation creates positive and negative impacts, encompasses carbon emissions, waste, water and wider climate change considerations subject to specific industries. Social criteria consists of the relationships your organisation has in your local community and the reputation it fosters with people and those communities. It also includes all workforce relations such as diversity and inclusion. Governance criteria, those internal system of practices, controls and procedures your organisation adopts in order to govern itself, make effective decisions, comply with the law, and meet external stakeholder needs, is the third part of the ESG picture.

Contact us today if you would like to talk about your business and it’s ESG agenda and sign up to receive the findings of our ‘Rethinking Doing Business; a Sustainability Awareness’ survey via

“ESG considerations are also driving significant changes in reporting and you’ll find a plethora of diverse reporting frameworks, some industry specific, which organisations can choose to adopt in order to meet these requirements.”

ESG Reporting ESG considerations are also driving significant changes in reporting and you’ll find a plethora of diverse reporting frameworks, some industry specific, which organisations can choose to adopt in order to meet these requirements. In the UK, decisive action has also been taken to mandate TCFD reporting between now and 2025. Governance, strategy, risk management and metrics/targets are the foundations of these requirements and are designed to interlink and inform one another. The recommendations across these four areas have also been mapped across all non-financial reporting frameworks already in existence, and consequently, even if an organisation is already reporting information under another existing framework, the recommendations can be integrated into its existing disclosure systems and practices without conflict. As a result of these ever-increasing reporting and operational requirements being placed on businesses and those who run them, now and into the future, at BDO we felt it had become critical to address the gap between knowing and doing in relation to the ESG agenda and embracing sustainable business practices.


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The Social and Economic Influence Queen’s University Belfast’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Greer, talks to Emma Deighan about how the educational institution is making its mark on the economy and the business landscape here and why the Belfast Region City Deal will be instrumental in strengthening that impact.


ueen’s University Belfast took first place on the Entrepreneurial Impact Ranking (EIR), a UK-wide report that reveals universities’ success at turning their academic achievements into thriving companies. It was the second year running that Queen’s was ranked as the best performing University. The EIR, a list collated by Octopus Ventures – an investor in early stage businesses – lays bare the link between universities and the economy. The report states: “For every £1 invested in research the Government gets around £3.60 back in terms of economic benefit. The closer that investment is to market, the greater that economic benefit becomes”. It added: “Queen’s success emphasises the importance of quality of spinout – it consistently yields a high proportion of successful exits. The university’s most recent exit saw cybersecurity and data analytics spinout, Titan IC, acquired in April 2020 by Mellanox, an IsraeliAmerican supplier of networking technologies.” QUBIS, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Queen’s and the commercialisation arm of the university, has been involved with the development of over 90 spinout companies since it was launched in 1984.

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Professor Ian Greer, Queen’s University Belfast’s Vice-Chancellor.


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This includes some high profile stock exchange listings, such as Kainos, Andor Technology and Fusion Antibodies. “Spinout firms have always been a real strength for us,” Ian begins. “We are very good at creating and supporting new spinouts and we also lead the way in the UK for knowledge transfer projects which means if there is an industry problem, we have a university solution.” And, he says, while the past year has been a challenging one for many spinouts, particularly those seeking to raise equity, most ventures have been able to successfully progress and he is optimistic for what the future holds when looking at the quality of the commercialisation opportunities that continue to emerge from the research at Queen’s. The university also works with established industry names to create solutions for sectorspecific issues. Ian continues: “That is one of the things that makes us distinctive – our ability to have an impact on society and the economy – and that delivers a significant number of jobs and opportunities here.” During the pandemic, the university doubled its efforts to contribute to the economy by addressing skills gaps and providing solutions to unemployment. “We established a new suite of courses supported by the Department for the Economy to upskill and retrain those individuals whose employment had been impacted by COVID-19. Over 500 people enrolled on the courses which enabled them to transition into new sectors including software. That help is needed to grow the knowledge economy here and to meet the industry needs of Northern Ireland.” That suite of courses includes Advanced Composites and Polymers, Energy Management and Green Technology, Professional Software Development (Data Science), Artificial Intelligence and Biomedical Engineering, amongst others. Ian says the Belfast Regional City Deal (BRCD) – the bespoke package of funding and decision-making powers negotiated between central government and local authorities – will further intensify Queen’s economic output. Alongside Ulster University, Queen’s will lead the development of five innovation projects that fall within the “Innovation and Digital” strand of the BRCD, designed to be the catalyst for investment in research and development in the region. The result should be the creation of 20,000 new jobs. “If we want the economy to grow, we need better jobs and to get that it’s important to invest in R&D. The City Deal is important as it supports us and business, creating a cycle of investing and attracting more investment, leading to more jobs, better jobs and higher paid jobs. That’s the approach we’re trying

“If we want the economy to grow, we need better jobs and to get that it’s important to invest in R&D. The City Deal is important as it supports us and business, creating a cycle of investing and attracting more investment, leading to more jobs, better jobs and higher paid jobs. That’s the approach we’re trying to take. We’re not just producing a skilled workforce but an expansion of key areas.”

to take. We’re not just producing a skilled workforce but an expansion of key areas,” Ian continues. Queen’s makes a significant contribution to the NI and the UK economy, contributing £1.9bn, with every £1m invested in research generating an additional £3.9 million to the UK economy (London Economics 2018). It has a strong track record of turning R&D into economic impact so it’s not surprising that Ian wants to expand its reach by addressing the exodus of students from Northern Ireland every year. “There are some significant inequalities in the provision of higher education that we have here. We have 70 places for every 100 applications meaning over 5,000 students leave every year and only a third come back. “If you compare that figure to Scotland, it loses 5% of its students, we lose 30%. In Scotland, they have an influx of large numbers coming in and have a net gain of 18% in university intake: we have a net loss of 30% but we can fix it immediately,” he says. “We can do that by getting the tertiary education sector to work together to maximise opportunities. What I’d like to see is greater movement across the sector with an extensive range of routes into higher education available to students.” Admissions during the pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges for Ian and his

team. With no exams to go by, and fewer students taking a gap year, demand increased with Queen’s taking in an extra 650 students from Northern Ireland alone last year. “It was important for us to be as flexible as possible to best support students during this difficult year. We also welcomed an increased number of international students who have enhanced our diverse student community.” Sustainability is another priority for Ian, with a strong carbon management plan in place. “More importantly, we believe we have to embed an understanding of sustainability in all courses. Students are asking for it and employers are asking for it.” Equality in education is another top theme, he adds. “Thirty per cent of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and we have a wide range of Widening Participation initiatives to support young people from post primary school to their transition into university. We do this through philanthropic funds and it’s a very tangible approach. “As a university, we feel that we not only deliver economic impact, but we have considerable social responsibility. Within our new strategy, the social and economic impact is seen as an overarching theme: we want to help society and the economy progress. We want to be a socially important organisation.”


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4th Floor Glendinning House 6 Murray Street, Belfast BT1 6DN

05/07/2021 14:44


John Campbell Economics & Business Editor, BBC Northern Ireland

Standing in Line BBC NI’s Economic & Business Editor, John Campbell, discusses the surge in demand for semiconductors and the political impacts.


SMC is not a company which will be familiar to many consumers. Even some of the discerning readership of this publication may not know what it does. But it’s a business which is emblematic of the supply chain disruptions of these post-pandemic times. It also sounds a warning about how climate change and geopolitics could cause much more serious disruption. TSMC is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and it is the world’s biggest contract manufacturer of computer chips. Those chips are inside all sorts of consumer products, from cars to iPhones. There’s a very good chance you use its products every day. Like lots of manufacturers it has seen very volatile demand from its customers as the pandemic did all sorts of strange things to economies. The global semiconductor market actually shrank a bit in 2019 but in early 2020 it took off. With much office work and education moving to the home, the demand for laptops, tablets and smartphones surged. The deployment of cloud systems also increased demand for high end server chips. With people stuck at home, games consoles and smart TVs were also sought after and this surge in demand has persisted. The US-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) says worldwide sales of semiconductors hit $41.8bn in April 2021, a whopping 22% higher compared to April last year. Annual global sales are projected to increase by 19.7% this year and a further 8.8% in 2022. In a complex, capital intensive business like semiconductor manufacturing it is not easy to just turn on lots of extra capacity to address that demand. So some customers have to wait and it’s mainly the car industry

which is standing in line. At the start of the pandemic demand for cars fell so manufacturers cut back on their semiconductor orders; then when demand bounced back strongly, the car companies found themselves at the back of the queue behind the consumer electronics industry. This has had significant effect, with car manufacturers having to cut production and even temporarily close factories. In turn this is feeding through to increased demand and price rises for second-hand cars as consumers baulk at the prospect of long waits for new vehicles. A change in demand should go some way to easing this problem later this year and into next year. Official data already suggests that consumers are switching spending from chip-laden physical products into reopened services like hospitality. In the medium term, supply will also be addressed: TSMC said in April it plans to spend $100bn over the next three years to increase capacity at its factories. Work has already started on a new facility in the US. Its main rivals, Intel and Samsung, are also going to invest many billions. But this issue has highlighted is how dependent we all are on just a few large factories for such vital components. And there are other aspects of the TSMC story which should give us pause for thought. Aside from the pandemic-induced demand surge, TSMC has also been battling with a drought in Taiwan. The chip manufacturing process requires prodigious amount of water, so drought is bad news. TSMC says that while supplies are tight its contingency plans, which include trucking in tankers full of water, means production has not been impacted. But production was impacted in Texas, the centre of US chip


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“In turn this is feeding through to increased demand and price rises for second hand cars as consumers baulk at the prospect of long waits for new vehicles.”

manufacturing, in February when a fierce winter storm knocked out parts of the state’s electricity grid. Samsung and NXP were among the companies to temporarily stop production at their Texas facilities which only added to supply delays. With climate change expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, these sorts of supply chain disruptions could become more frequent. The consultancy firm McKinsey has carried out some recent work in this area and concluded: “Supply chains and the infrastructure that supports them are designed for a stable climate. As hazards evolve, it will be necessary to increase investment in adaptation, possibly at the expense of efficiency.” Those adaptations could include disaster-proof plants and the stockpiling of key parts, which would run contrary to the just-in-time, lean inventory philosophy of much contemporary manufacturing. The geopolitical supply chain risk in Taiwan is the fact that it’s a major area of contention between the US and China. China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province which it

reserves the right to retake, by force if necessary. Taiwan’s leaders say it is a sovereign state, one that enjoys a security guarantee from the US. In the opening days of the Biden presidency, China flew a large number of military jets into, or close to, Taiwanese airspace. In response, US Admiral John Aquilino, head of the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific command, warned that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan “is much closer to us than most think”. In this context, we should see bipartisan support in the US for a vast public subsidy programme to boost semiconductor manufacturing. Such a programme could see incentives of up to $52bn for domestic production. This is not just about reacting to the post-pandemic supply crunches; rather it is a strategic move to increase US autonomy in semiconductors and hedge against the risk of a much worse relationship with China.


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Many sectors fast-tracked the adoption of new technology during the pandemic, but in the legal sector Cleaver Fulton Rankin was already working behind the scenes to facilitate the integration of the latest legal technology and to take the lead in introducing a whole new dedicated Legal Technology Group. Managing Director, Jonathan Forrester, and Director of that new group, Kerry McCloy, talk to Ambition magazine.


leaver Fulton Rankin is held in high esteem in the UK commercial law field. It is the legal brawn behind some of the most prestigious projects currently in progress here, including the redevelopment of Dundonald Icebowl, the new £40m Northern Regional College Campus and Microsoft’s new Belfast cyber security centre. It has been recognised for that commercial excellence and leading expertise in the Chambers UK Legal Directory 2021 guide too, in what is its largest edition to date. This includes recognition for its specialisms across 19 practice areas where it takes a client-centric approach providing innovative solutions for their clients’ complex legal issues. So it’s not surprising that it is the first in NI to heartily embrace innovation in the sector by adopting the latest technology and investing heavily in that area to ensure it sustains the latter standing. “The process began before the pandemic, about two years ago,” Jonathan Forrester, managing director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin begins. “Back then we looked at a number of factors, including the increase in the amount of electronic documents our clients hold. There was, in particular, exponential growth in the amount of data we had to deal with during the commercial litigation discovery processes,” he adds. Client demand also fuelled the set-up of the new team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin; meanwhile the commercial court supporting the move towards a more digital legal setting, where e-Discovery and legal technology will play a central role, also prompted action at the firm.  


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John McDonald, Managing Director of GRAHAM.

The Evolutionary Legal Practice 45

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“Mr Justice Horner, Head of the Commercial Court in Northern Ireland, is driving Northern Ireland forward as a centre of excellence in commercial litigation and he is very keen to promote legal technology too,” Jonathan continues. The establishment of a specialist group to deliver e-Discovery services which, in simple terms, is the process of legally reviewing and sharing electronically stored documents, traditionally in the context of litigation, is just part of the firm’s move to the digital side. The newly appointed Director of Innovation and Legal Technology, Kerry McCloy, and her initial team of eight are another facet to the digital evolution at the firm.  “We will be providing our document review services in the context of commercial litigation matters as well as regulatory investigations, data subject access and freedom of information requests, corporate due diligence, real estate lease review and in many other ways. The list is ever evolving,” says Kerry. The new software has many efficiencies Jonathan says, and moves away from the traditional approach of engaging large teams to manually review a high volume of hard copy documents in cases. “This technology is not about replacing lawyers but about enabling them to do their job in a more efficient way. It allows us to deliver on time, on budget and deliver real value to our clients,” Jonathan is quick to point out. And testament that tech is not and will not be replacing manpower, Kerry, who joined the company in April to head the Legal Technology Group at the business, explains: “Discovery is probably one of the most difficult, yet vitally important, aspects of litigation. It can be an onerous process. However, we can use the technology’s advanced analytics and search filtering technology to conduct early case assessment, identify patterns and trends

in the documents at the outset and reduce the document pool to a much smaller, more manageable set for review. This presents the client with a high quality, more efficient offering in terms of time and cost. “When the technology comes into play it allows our lawyers to focus on where they can add most value in the discovery process – the legal review and advising the client. It allows them to get to the most important documents faster, to get to the core of the issues in the case and in order for them to advise our clients.” Kerry’s mission as head of the new Legal Technology Group at Cleaver Fulton Rankin will include the development of the department to leverage legal review technology in order to deliver bespoke, innovative solutions to clients, but she will also lead the digitisation of the firm’s other departments. “Our aim is to streamline and digitise our internal processes in order to drive efficiency gains and increase our capacity across all practice groups”. “The obvious areas that will embrace e-Discovery first are litigation and dispute resolution which often involve large scale document reviews and discovery exercises, but we will also be using the technology and working with other practice areas across the firm including our employment team, for example, in responding to data subject access and freedom of information requests and the corporate team on due diligence matters,” she adds. “New use cases arise all the time and there is no limit to the scope of the group. We very much see this as a growth area and fully intend to expand the team in the very near future. There is a huge market out there for these services.” Kerry adds: “We will be delivering our services to our Northern Ireland corporate clients and to those outside of NI.” Cleaver Fulton Rankin is ahead of the curve when it comes to the employment of such tech and the introduction of a dedicated specialist team, Jonathan adds: “We are the first indigenous law firm that has decided to take this step,” he says. “And I strongly believe that, in time, this investment in our digital strategy will enhance our service delivery across our full suite of practice areas.” It’s only the beginning of that technological movement too, he continues: “This is a very significant investment for us, in terms of people, technology and in training”.” E-Discovery isn’t the first time the firm have embraced revolutionary technology. During lockdown, the firm made headlines when it led the way in alternative dispute resolution

using the Consumer Code for Online Dispute Resolution (CCODR) platform, to resolve a client dispute using remote mediation and to deliver their legal services seamlessly and without interruption. It was the first here to do so. Launched in May this year, the CCODR platform enabled alternative dispute practitioners at Cleaver Fulton Rankin to work whilst practicing social distancing. “Legal Tech is at the heart of our company and it has, undoubtedly, enabled us to streamline our services and grow our business. Legal Tech enables our company to compete with larger firms and deliver our legal services on time and on budget. Being the first to use the CCODR platform is one of many strategically important initiatives we have been involved in recently. We have ensured that all of our team has the ability to work remotely anytime, anywhere and developed e-playbooks for our transactional services. We are also the only law firm in Northern Ireland to offer client businesses a range of selfpaced eLearning courses delivered through Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Learning Management System,” Jonathan continues. “We saw an opportunity to create efficiencies and after a great deal of hard work, we have set up our Legal Technology Group, headed by Kerry, our Innovation and Legal Technology Director, being the first in the NI legal sector. She has hit the ground running and we are confident the Group will open up significant opportunities for us,” he adds. An exciting and innovative time lies ahead for Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

“Legal Tech is at the heart of our company and it has enabled us to streamline our services and grow our business”.


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AWARD-WINNING INNOVATORS Belfast-based PAC Group has been awarded the 2021 Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation, the UK’s highest accolade in recognising success in business. Received in recognition of the outstanding innovation and commercial success of their carbon composite hot drape forming technology, the Group support companies in the aerospace, automotive, and marine sectors with their innovative machines. A total of just five companies from Northern Ireland were awarded Queen’s Awards in 2021, with PAC Group being the only NI winner of the Innovation category, and the first Northern Ireland Innovation category winner for three years. Established in 2018, the electrical and mechanical engineering company have had a remarkable growth journey, doubling their turnover and employee numbers since 2019, and in 2020 investing almost £500,000 in a new premises in Dargan Crescent, Belfast. Darren Leslie, Business Development Director at PAC Group, said: “We are thrilled to receive a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. It is a fantastic endorsement for our company to be recognised as world-class, and it is welcome recognition of our team’s capabilities and hard work”. Holding 42 patents on their preformer hardware and software, the team have designed, manufactured, and installed bespoke Hot Drape Formers for companies

L-R: Elwyn Agnew, PAC Group Engineering Director, Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research & Development, and Gavin Rankin, PAC Group Technical Director.

such as Spirit AeroSystems, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield, and McLaren Automotive. Earlier in the year, PAC Group were also awarded the prestigious Platinum Level Innovator status from Innovate NI, the highest accolade available in the programme. Congratulating PAC Group on its achievements, former Economy Minister, Diane Dodds, said: “As we emerge from the global pandemic, innovation will be vital to our economic recovery, and it is businesses like PAC Group who are leading the charge and using innovation to drive growth in their business.” “Winning a Queen’s Award for Innovation and achieving Platinum Level Innovator

status are major achievements and should be celebrated. I would like to congratulate the team at PAC Group for their hard-work, commitment, and drive, which have helped them to achieve commercial success and create real value in the global aerospace and automotive industries.” Elwyn Agnew, Engineering Director at PAC Group, added: “We are delighted to have achieved these awards. We seek to collaborate with customers to help them find cost-effective solutions to their problems using the latest technologies. Our team specialise in thinking differently – we are constantly innovating and coming up with new ideas, applications, and solutions to help our customers reduce process cycle time, streamline processes, improve output quality, and boost their bottom line.”

Dianne Dodds, the former NI Economy Minister and Darren Leslie, PAC Group Business Development Director.

For more information on PAC Group, visit T: 02893 364600 | E: Find us on social media:

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Columnist Jane Shaw The Elmfield Institute

How Can Radical Acceptance Help Our Wellbeing? “I was born when all I once feared, I could love.”

My business partner at the time questioned using a promotional photo of me without hair, suggesting it portrayed a picture of sickness which wouldn’t be good for the brand image of our wellbeing conference. I was enraged. However, this experience also helped to confirm my inner belief that I should hide away. I felt I wasn’t good enough, or well enough, to be seen. Over the last five years, I have really noticed what it feels like to look different. In this way, this experience has also been a great opportunity to learn. I have had to dig very deep to connect with a deeper, stronger part of myself.  Pre-COVID, I was invited to present at a NI Chamber networking event. Just before I arrived at the meeting, an old picture of me flashed up on my Facebook page. It had been taken 10 years ago, showing my long, healthy, abundant hair. In that moment, I realised just how much my lack of hair made me feel anxious and fearful. I still truly hated not having hair. It was still gnawing at the core of my being, telling me to hide away and separating me from others.  What does radical acceptance mean? On that occasion, for me, it meant not having to be perfect and feeling okay enough to stand up – with no hair – and be present to the business group. I felt vulnerable and nervous. But when I shared my story, the warmth reflected back to me from the room told me that it is okay to be vulnerable. It was an empowering act of connection which reminded me of Rabia’s words: “I was born when all I once feared, I could love.”

(Rabia of Basra, c. 717-801)


hese words of Rabia of Basra speak to the need to accept ourselves more through radical acceptance. The concept of radical acceptance originates in Buddhism and was highlighted through the work of psychologist Carl Rogers but the idea is very simple. Acknowledge what is happening and move on. It tells us not to get attached to the current situation nor the story behind it. It is not an easy practice, but to my mind, one worth pursuing. I lost my hair to alopecia a few years ago. I used to have long, thick, silky brown hair with a few greying streaks. I was devastated when it all fell out, but there was little I could do. I chose not to wear a wig. I hate having things on my head. For me, it also felt false, a fake version of myself. And yet, I hated being seen without hair.  Seemingly small changes in our physical wellbeing can apparently have large effects on our functionality and behaviour. I struggled with how I could be authentic, dropping protective personas such as wearing a wig, and express more of my true self while having no hair. This was a process of learning how to stay true to my nature without disappearing and hiding away. Radical acceptance is not about giving up or giving in, rather acknowledging and accepting what is happening in the present moment. This is not to say I don’t strive to improve myself, learn new skills, work on my personal growth and development rather it is to not diminish myself unnecessarily. I am a continual work in progress, evolving and growing as a plant might. A tree doesn’t worry about what other trees think of it. It grows to be the best tree it can be given the environmental conditions. Thinking back over the last five years, I see now that my alopecia initially caused me to withdraw inward and I stopped going out. Fewer people would see me if I didn’t go out. My alopecia reflected a disconnection – a splitting off and fragmentation. Luckily, some ease developed when I was teaching groups of therapists, so I could continue my work. But in big groups or in general public environments, I still felt anxious and overexposed. I felt different and separated from others. I recall running a large conference soon after I lost my hair.

“Radical acceptance is not about giving up or giving in, rather acknowledging and accepting what is happening in the present moment.” 48

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Staff from Belfast Met’s Centre for Skills and Apprenticeships: LR: back row – Lee Breen, Mark Dorman, Ryan Manning and Neil Whiteside. Left – Right Front – Emma Morrison, Andrea Kearney, Tracey Patterson.

What are the college’s specialisms - what sectors does it focus on? Belfast Metropolitan College is the largest FE College in Northern Ireland and one of the leading providers of training and education throughout Northern Ireland. As a key deliverer of the skills and knowledge our economy requires, our work with industry, business, and local communities is fundamental to our purpose. The College has a wide range of courses, apprenticeships and business support programmes. At Belfast Met’s Centre for Skills & Apprenticeships we are fully committed to supporting employers to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities. We work collaboratively with employers at a national and regional level to co-design and deliver a wide range of skills, apprenticeships and workforce development programmes that help people develop the skills and attributes they need to be successful in the world of work. We provide a tailored responsive approach for employers working with employer partners across a range of industries to

support economic recovery and workforce development, and grow the supply of apprenticeship opportunities in Northern Ireland across diverse industries including Professional & Business Services, Banking & Financial Services, Retail & Hospitality, Creative, Digital Industries, Health and Social Care, Leadership & Management and Engineering and Construction. The College’s Centre for Economic Development and Social Inclusion (CEDSI) provides training, knowledge and support to develop innovative product ideas, improve competitiveness and help to grow individual businesses. With extensive experience of working with businesses of any size, we review training needs and develop a tailored and flexible delivery plan that increases growth and innovation and a more productive and skilled workforce. CEDSI works across multiple industries delivering training and increasing innovation and growth within businesses in the Creative, Digital Industries, Health and Social Care, Food & Hospitality, Professional and Business Services including Leadership & Management and Engineering and Construction.


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How and what kind of links with the local business community support your learning programmes? CEDSI works directly with approximately 1500 businesses per year ranging from start-ups, SME’s to multi-nationals across our programmes and intervention, providing tailored training and support. The feedback from the businesses we engage with helps to shape our future support and ensures that we are providing the most relevant training. We value our memberships with key business networks and have worked collaboratively on programmes based on feedback, such as the Belfast Chamber webinar series, a Women Returners Programme with Women in Business, and developed a Customs Training programme with Northern Ireland Chamber.

How do you expect it to impact your intake? Could we see more mature students seeking to learn new skills? More demand in specific areas? Over the past year we have seen increased engagement from businesses, employees and individuals who have been investing in their skills development. Our ability to be agile and responsive to their learning needs has supported that continued engagement. Many learners have upskilled whilst furloughed or reskilled in new areas when made redundant. We have seen a huge demand for training in a range of IT qualifications, in Digital Skills, Leadership and Management and professional business services, as well as in Health and Social Care. We hope that this interest in Lifelong Learning will continue as we emerge from the pandemic.

Have there been any new support initiatives with the NI Executive to further support learning opportunities at the college? We have been fortunate to be able to deliver a wide range of initiatives to support businesses, funded through the Department for the Economy such as: Skills Focus for businesses with less than 250 employees; InnovateUs providing support to businesses with less than 50 employees; and Skills Intervention Fund developed to support those impacted by the pandemic. The Department for the Economy is also providing financial support to employers through its Apprenticeship Recovery Package for Northern Ireland which channels investment into local businesses to help the apprenticeship system respond to the impact of the pandemic. Employers are offered £3,700 for every apprentice they bring back from furlough and retain until they have completed their apprenticeship, and £3,000 per apprentice is available to employers for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022.

What kind of activity has been ongoing at the college? What kind of setups are in place for remote learning? Over the past year we have continued to deliver the majority of our business support provision online, enabling us to ensure continuity of provision at a time of uncertainty. We are very well placed to support remote learning and were able to adapt this provision to move online, using a range of methods such as video conferencing, virtual classroom delivery and virtual interaction tools to ensure that service continued as normal.

How has the pandemic shaped your course programme? Amidst the crisis caused by the Covid-19, we have developed our digital learning solutions to ensure the continuity of our traineeship and apprenticeship provision, and continue to work collaboratively with employers to create new apprenticeship programmes. We have had to adapt our delivery model in order to provide our range of programmes and support throughout the course of the pandemic. Our staff have a wealth of experience in their vocational areas of upskilling, reskilling and mentoring and we were able to adapt this to go online using a range of methods such as video conferencing, virtual classroom delivery and virtual interaction tools.

Are there future developments in the pipeline? We will continue to innovate and deliver a range of programmes and interventions to support businesses, employees and individuals to re-skill and up-skill in the year ahead, firmly embedding our offer in the context of the new DfE strategy ‘A 10X Economy: Northern Ireland’s Decade of Innovation’. These initiatives, which are delivered by all Colleges across the region, are fully funded by the DfE. To find out how Belfast Met can support your business please contact or for further information on apprenticeships contact apprenticeships@

Louise Warde Hunter, Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Met.

Outside TQ campus.


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ERC Hospitality & Catering Lecturer Ruth Doherty hosted a Chocolatier Workshop, part of a series of free Management webinars and Technical masterclasses being delivered across all six FE Colleges, funded by the Department for Economy, to support the tourism and hospitality sector. student placements and enable real, work-related, projectbased learning to be incorporated to courses.

What are the college’s specialisms? What sectors does it focus on? Our work covers many sectors including health and care, hospitality, construction, plumbing, engineering, IT, business and management, science, digital skills, property, manufacturing, refrigeration and air conditioning – to name a few. Our courses are structured to prepare people for work and contribute to the economic growth and development of Northern Ireland. This includes introducing specialist programmes to meet the needs of dynamic industries from diagnosis, testing and repair of electric and hybrid vehicles to fenestration installation, to the development of new apprenticeships which will support the polymer processing and automatic door industries, to cybersecurity and ethical hacking.

Have there been any new support initiatives with the NI Executive to further support learning opportunities at the college? Supported by the Department for the Economy (DfE), our Business Services team has worked collaboratively with the other FE Colleges to develop a suite of short-term, intensive courses to elevate and increase professional qualifications in different sectors, targeting identified skills gaps and encouraging confidence and knowledge in learners. Training opportunities have been developed in areas of leadership and management, digital skills (analytics, cyber, cloud), green technology, advanced manufacturing, health and care and graduate interventions. Alongside this, our innovation and mentoring support for SMEs continued, helping many to diversify, introduce new digital systems and adapt to the challenges of lockdown. The move to online support for SMEs enabled more flexible engagement for businesses and their employees and we intend to continue to offer this option as COVID restrictions ease. Funding allowed SERC to introduce new provisions such as the Institute of Export Level 3 Award in International Trade Documentation. We are also the first NI FE college to become an academic partner and accredited training centre with E-Council, the world’s leading provider of technical cybersecurity certifications. And the coveted Certified Ethical Hacker v11 training will be delivered online by the college.

What kind of links with the local business community support your learning programmes? We work directly with around 3000 businesses. Our dedicated Business Services team provides support, innovation and growth for businesses, helping them to develop technological innovation, upskill employees and develop new products, markets, services or processes. We provide access to funding which can make the cost of training more affordable and, as well as advertised courses, we can offer bespoke courses delivered in college or at the workplace that are tailored to specific needs of the local business community. Strategic partnerships with industry-led groups such as RETAIL NI, Manufacturing NI, Tourism NI, Social Enterprise NI, Institute of Export, CITB and local council economic development teams, have helped shape and inform provision. In addition, our lecturers bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to the college and maintain links with their specialist areas, which support teaching, enhance

How has the pandemic shaped your course programme? We have been dynamic in our response, particularly to those most affected by the pandemic, providing upskilling and retraining opportunities. Bespoke courses, delivered to suit


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Heather McKee Director of Strategic Planning, Quality and Support

portfolio. This enables students and tutors to submit and review evidence of their learning and skills and, more importantly, is available to students and staff anywhere and on any device. This has enabled us to successfully deliver training online throughout the past year of sporadic lockdown and these tools will continue to be used. We also have the in-house capability to produce broadcast quality webinars which can be viewed at a time convenient to our business clients, such as our Technical Skills Masterclasses for the Let’s Do Hospitality and Tourism Recovery programmes.

the needs of businesses and their employees, have been part and parcel of our offer here at SERC. We have ensured student achievement has been kept on track and learners have been prepared for their next steps in education or employment. Short, intensive courses that give people the opportunity to reskill or retrain in a matter of weeks or months are proving popular. Over the past year, SERC has been proactive in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering training and support to businesses and students, demonstrating the resilience and creativity needed to safeguard the future of our economy. How do you expect it to impact your intake? Could we see more mature students seeking to learn new skills? More demand in specific areas? We have noted that people across a range of ages, not just the more mature, are seeking to future-proof themselves for work by upskilling or reskilling. Our short intensive courses have proved popular this year and applications from adults are high for the next academic year. This past year has given many people the opportunity to take stock and rethink what they are doing in terms of work. People who have felt vulnerable in their current jobs are exploring training opportunities which provide them with a more stable career. Multiple pathways are available for those who want to change direction, or study at a higher level. Those with limited qualifications can enrol on our Restart or Access to University programmes. Advice is available from our careers team for anyone who wants to get in touch.

Heather McKee Director of Strategic Planning, Quality and Support

Are there future developments in the pipeline? SERC continues to work directly with industry-led groups to develop tailored support. Our Business Engagement teams are currently working on future provision based on the recent NI strategic requirements outlined in the Skills for a 10X Economy and Economic Recovery Roadmap. We will continue to develop skills and innovations with a particular focus on manufacturing, green technologies, digital transformation, trade and export, health, wellbeing and care and any emerging skills gaps. This responsiveness is key to our curriculum development.

What kind of activity has been ongoing at the college? What kind of setups are in place for remote learning? SERC staff use a variety of electronic tools to facilitate online learning. The main platform is MS Teams, which incorporates MS Class Notebook, used by many courses as an electronic

SERC are working in partnership with H & J Martin and the Automatic Door Suppliers Association to develop new apprenticeships for the Automated Entrances Industry supported through the Department for the Economy’s Apprenticeship Challenge Fund. (L - R) William Greer, Chief Training & Contacts Officer and Tony Watson, Operations Manager, H & J Martin Asset Management Services.


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Diane Dodds MLA (centre) with from left, student Christian Megaw, Vice Chair of SRC Governing Body John Nugent, SRC Chief Executive Brian Doran and student Caitlin O’Hara at the official opening of the college’s new campus in Armagh.

What are the college’s specialisms? What sectors does it focus on? Southern Regional College (SRC) has campuses in Armagh, Banbridge, Kilkeel, Lurgan, Newry and Portadown. The college offers first class education and an exciting learning environment for further and higher education. SRC, supported by the Department for the Economy, invested over £100m in two new landmark campuses in Banbridge and Armagh. These developments coupled with a future £45m Craigavon campus will help transform vocational education and training across the region. The new Armagh Campus will offer a wide range of vocational education opportunities through to degree level as well as offering a comprehensive A level portfolio. Our new £15m Banbridge campus is an industry-leading centre for multimedia and digital design which includes teaching and learning facilities such as an animation studio, dark room and photographic studio. Plans are also well underway on the development of a Higher Education and Innovation Centre in Newry. Focusing on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum, our STEM Assured Status validates our expertise in this area ensuring that our courses keep pace with emerging technology and the evolving needs of employers. What kind of links with the local business community support your learning programmes? SRC is recognised as the life and health sciences hub for the NI FE sector. The curriculum hub plays a lead role with other regional colleges in the development of new science curriculum from traineeships to higher level apprenticeships. The hub worked with a range of leading pharmaceutical companies including Norbrook Laboratories, Almac and Randox to develop the first higher level apprenticeship in life science to provide a pipeline of skilled and qualified staff.

Have there been any new support initiatives with the NI Executive to further support learning opportunities at the college? The college houses a dedicated Business Support & Innovation Centre which identifies and responds to the needs of local businesses helping them to innovate, compete and grow through the provision of a unique mix of technical and business know-how, research and development services, skills development and talent acquisition. Our specialist staff work exclusively with businesses to design and deliver bespoke training solutions to many industry sectors. Delivering the DfE funded InnovateUs programme enables SRC to provide support to SMEs to upskill in areas of innovation within their business, thus embedding an innovation culture within the business for future growth. Some of our specialist areas include design engineering, new product development, food innovation and creative and digital technologies. We also deliver a range of fully funded accredited training programmes to SMEs from Level 2 upwards, through the DfE funded Skills Focus programme. A new flexible skills fund will also be launched soon to improve the skills level of the NI workforce and we are looking forward to playing a key role in its delivery. This new programme will enable us to launch a range of programmes in September 2021 from Level 2 to Level 5, including those aligned to key priority areas such as life and health sciences, advanced manufacturing and engineering, digital skills, health and social care, green technologies and leadership and management. SRC is committed to working in partnership with economic development stakeholders to match skills programmes with local business need and is an active member of the employability and skills steering groups in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Newry Mourne and Down district council areas and is a partner in the employability and skills strands of the Belfast Region City Deal and the Mid South West Growth Deal.


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The college offers a range of apprenticeship, higher level apprenticeship and traineeship courses which provide the opportunity for learners to gain quality training and a recognised qualification while in paid employment. Our curriculum design is closely aligned to the skills demands from employers, including the integration of transferrable skills and industry-based, project-based learning. How has the pandemic shaped your course programme? Pre-pandemic, we had already embraced digital technology in the delivery of our teaching and training, resulting in the smooth transition to remote learning for staff and students. The sudden shift away from face-to-face delivery has enabled us to design a curriculum portfolio which follows a hybrid learning approach, with both remote and face-to-face delivery. During lockdown our teaching and training never stopped! We had to remodel our delivery approaches but this transition was a relatively smooth process as we had already made significant investments in our infrastructure which included the procurement of laptop devices for staff and students and the provision of Wi-Fi SIM cards and dongles to students. This was supported by lecture delivery via MS Teams and the college’s virtual learning environment, Moodle.

Pictured: Shera McAloran, Karri Kitchen, Managing Director, & Brenda Kelleghan, SRC Food Innovation Technology Specialist.

Are there future developments in the pipeline? We are launching new higher education and higher level apprenticeship courses this year. SRC is the first NI FE college to introduce a new Certificate of HE in Healthcare Practice enabling students to progress to the 2nd year of the Open University Adult Nursing degree. We are also excited to launch the Open University foundation degree and degree level programmes in biological and pharmaceutical science in September. The value placed on skills has never been greater and with our recent investments in new campus developments, resources, the recruitment of experienced and qualified staff, SRC is perfectly placed to deliver on the skills agenda for the southern region.

How do you expect it to impact your intake? Could we see more mature students seeking to learn new skills? More demand in specific areas? This hybrid approach has been received very positively by many of our current students and it will suit many new learners who are balancing work and family commitments, as well as those who wish to have the blend of both face-to-face and remote learning. This new flexible approach will ensure we meet the needs of all our learners, particularly our business clients. The current pandemic has led to the development of our Oirtual Campus, which aims to provide an increased range of online courses from September 2021.

Thomas Hamill, Glen Dimplex Production Engineer & Bobby McBurney, Glen Dimplex Maintenance Department.


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Focusing on the Future firmus energy’s Eric Cosgrove tells Ambition how the existing natural gas network is suitable for sustainable, renewable gas and will assist Northern Ireland transition to net zero carbon.


hilst converting to natural gas from oil reduces a household’s carbon footprint by 48%* immediately, firmus energy is working with industry experts to introduce renewable gas sources into the existing natural gas network, which will make a significant contribution to Northern Ireland transitioning to a net zero carbon future. As Director of Engineering and Sustainability Eric Cosgrove explains, utilising biomethane from anaerobic digesters and eventually hydrogen will help decarbonise transport and heat, improve the environmental credentials of local agri-food and manufacturing businesses and provide an environmentally friendly heating solution to homes and businesses connected to the network now and in the future. Having invested over £140 million since 2005, firmus energy has constructed and maintains over 1,800km of new underground polyethylene (PE) pipe in its Ten Towns natural gas network area, connecting more than 50,000 customers across 35 cities, towns and villages stretching from Warrenpoint to Derry/ Londonderry. Supplying gas to over 105,000 customers in all the natural gas networks in Northern Ireland, it employs more than 120 staff and sustains over 300 indirect roles through contractors in construction, installation and other support services. Sustainability is a strategic priority for firmus energy. To embed that in the culture of the organisation, it is the only UK energy provider to put all its staff through City & Guilds Energy Efficiency training, in the belief that it puts them in a better position to give advice and guidance to its customers to reduce their bills and help alleviate fuel poverty. This culture of sustainability has also been recognised by Business in the Community which awarded it an Environmental Benchmarking Gold Standard. Eric explains: “Having recently taken on the expanded role of being responsible for driving the company’s sustainability agenda, we have

a three-point plan to decarbonise heat by 2050. Maximising Connections “In the first instance, between now and 2030 the priority is to maximise connections on the existing natural gas network and delivering on our planned network growth to ensure as many customers as possible have an opportunity to move away from home heating oil and realise an immediate CO2 reduction of 48%*. “By the end of next year 320,000 out of the total 550,000 connectable properties in all of the natural gas network areas in Northern Ireland will have converted from oil to natural gas. If we can expedite conversions for the remaining 230,000 properties which are already connectable, that will provide a total carbon reduction saving of 1.7million tonnes of CO2 each year. Decarbonising Gas “The natural gas network is a ready-made decarbonisation solution” “The second stage will then be to introduce indigenous renewable gases into the network to assist the transition away from fossil fuels. “Because the natural gas network in Northern Ireland has been constructed using polyethylene (PE) pipes since the commencement of operations in 2005, we are uniquely placed to accept other gases without having to make significant changes to upgrade our network. “Our sizeable agri-foods industry also presents a further opportunity, to utilise agriculture, retail and hospitality waste in anaerobic digestion to produce biomethane. Generating renewable gas locally will have a range of benefits for the environment and for our customers.” “In addition to injecting biomethane into the natural gas network to heat homes, and businesses and to generate electricity, the byproduct of the process can be used as biofertilizer and applied onto fields, closing the loop on a circular economy to help decarbonise industries and reduce the need for farms to buy in additional nutrients to grow crops.

“The natural gas network is a ready-made decarbonisation solution”

“Providing a sustainable energy supply which is clean and affordable will be critical to sustaining jobs and industry in Northern Ireland and prevent jobs in manufacturing and food production being relocated elsewhere. “Our sustainability team are involved in a number of projects which are exploring the potential to inject hydrogen into the network, produced from untapped renewable sources such as wind and solar. “Northern Ireland can become a leader in hydrogen technology and we could eventually have a natural gas network which carries 100% hydrogen – removing carbon from the network entirely. “This makes the natural gas network a ready-made decarbonisation solution and although the molecular make-up of the gas flowing through the network will change, it will still perform the same function for customers, with the added benefit of being an even cleaner and more environmentally friendly product. Delivering Net Zero Carbon “Stage three of the company’s plan to assist the transition to net zero carbon will be to


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Eric Cosgrove, Director of Engineering and Sustainability.

continue maximising connections and network growth and increasing the percentage of renewable gas utilised on the network. “We have been engaging with the stakeholders on the future Energy Strategy to ensure the full potential of the local natural gas network can be realised for the benefit of consumers, businesses and the environment. “Politicians are also in the process of developing the first local climate change targets to contribute to the overall UK commitment to achieve net zero by 2050, so any environmental advantage we can offer will play a key role in delivering that. “The Northern Ireland Executive is committed to decarbonising transport, but battery technology isn’t suited to HGV, buses and other heavy vehicles. Natural gas provides the solution in this transport sector whereby compressed natural gas (CNG) can

be utilised via refuelling stations to assist the transition away from petrol and diesel.” firmus energy is leading by example and is collaborating with Granville EcoPark in Dungannon to install a compressed natural gas refuelling facility at its head office so it can start using gas powered vans for its engineers. There are further investment plans to build over 350km of pipeline and connect over 12,000 additional customers in areas which have already been passed by firmus energy’s network. With an estimated spend in excess of £30m in the next two years, firmus energy is on target to have connected 65,000 customers in the Ten Towns network area by the end of 2022. * Estimate based on converting from inefficient oil boiler to efficient gas boiler and assuming annual average fuel consumption.

“Generating renewable gas locally will have a range of benefits for the environment and our customers.”


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06/07/2021 12:01

Columnist Peter Russell Ireland Managing Director of CANCOM UK&I

The Future’s Hybrid, But Businesses Must Shape It By now, I think we’re all agreed that hybrid working is here to stay for many companies.

can help leaders to understand employee wellbeing and job satisfaction, whilst helping to ensure that remote working is enjoyable and sustainable for all. Given how drastically the pandemic has changed the way we work, it is promising to see that the majority of businesses are planning to run a hybrid work model post-COVID: but it’s key that this is implemented in a balanced way. Hybrid working is more than just a blend of employee locations; it’s a mix of different dynamics, including software and hardware that revolve around the office ‘hub’. In order to be successful, business leaders must provide employees with the ability to collaborate in an inclusive, and collaborative tech-enabled environment.


ndeed, research conducted into the views of HR professionals about post-COVID work habits revealed that just one in 10 organisations in the UK does not intend to run a hybrid way of working. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of HR professionals are of the opinion that employees will divide their time between the office and home after all COVID restrictions have lifted. Worker sentiments about going back to the office full-time have shifted drastically, with the pandemic having had a huge impact on attitudes towards commuting and work-life balance. This is as true in Northern Ireland as it is in the rest of the UK and Ireland. As we come out of lockdown restrictions, businesses need to offer employees flexibility to ensure they can work in a way that maintains productivity, staff wellbeing and work life balance. I firmly believe that organisations will look to build in this balanced hybrid approach as part of their competitive “people” value proposition. For those wanting to switch to a hybrid model the right kind of IT investment is key. Without it, employers will struggle to maintain team engagement, both for technical and inclusivity reasons. The community and collaboration element of the office has been difficult to replicate during the lockdown period. For businesses looking to create this in a hybrid environment, it is important to use technology to enable seamless collaboration and integration. Connectivity issues between those working remotely and those in the office could limit collaboration and idea sharing, and ultimately may put those working from home at a disadvantage. There are huge operational hurdles around hybrid working that business leaders must be aware of and prepare for. HR professionals say that poor network connectivity between those working at home and in the office (51%) and maintaining security through a corporate network (30%) are two of the biggest tech challenges around running a hybrid workspace model. It is therefore clear that moving forward the right tools will be fundamental for successful hybrid working. Technology will also be key in creating new ways of working in the future, with 96% of survey respondents saying that behavioural analytics tools and AI will impact the future of work. By analysing employee activity, behavioural analytics tools

CANCOM UK&I helps private and public sector organisations maximise business success through technology and leads companies into the digital future. It has over 25 years’ experience in the IT sector and our comprehensive range of services and solutions cover consultation, implementation, management and support.

“As we come out of lockdown restrictions, businesses need to offer employees flexibility to ensure they can work in a way that maintains productivity, staff wellbeing and work life balance. I firmly believe that organisations will look to build in this balanced hybrid approach as part of their competitive “people” value proposition.” 58

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EXPERTS IN KEEPING YOU SAFE Your primary duties include: • Ensuring a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is undertaken for the premises. The competency of the person undertaking the FRA should be proportional to the risks associated with the premises. • Identify through the FRA process, persons who may be especially at risk if there was a fire; this can include disabled people, lone workers, those in confined or remote places etc. • Ensure adequate fire safety measures are in place and are maintained to protect people from the risk of fire. • To appoint a competent person or persons to assist the organisation in understanding the measures necessary to comply with fire safety duties. It is important that Directors and Managers of organisations understand their obligations under the “Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006”. If you are an employer, or a person who has control to any extent of a premises, you have duties under the NI Fire Safety legislation. Even where your directorship is unpaid e.g. on the board of a charity, you can be accountable under the legislation for your actions or inaction, as a person with control of the premises; it is therefore, your duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of

people in and around the premises for which you have control. Failure to comply could lead to enforcement action by the NIFRS. This can in extreme cases, include a prohibition notice, which will prohibit the continued use of the premises and/or prosecution. In addition, where there are reasonable grounds, alleged failure to have in place appropriate fire safety measures could lead to a separate police investigation into offences of corporate manslaughter and/or individual gross negligence manslaughter.


We provide specialist advice to clients across a range of sectors, including:


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Patrick Doody, Henderson Group.

Serving the Community 60

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Henderson Group reflects on SPAR NI’s community impact over past 60 years. As a business established over 120 years ago, Henderson Group is part of the fabric of Northern Ireland. With a presence in every town, village and community through the SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO retail brands as well as connections with multiple local farmers, growers, suppliers, community groups and charitable organisations, each facet of the group makes an impact here.

In 1961, the SPAR brand came to Northern Ireland, meaning 2021 marks 60 years of SPAR stores becoming part of these communities and making their own impact in terms of charitable support, contribution to local economies and enabling entrepreneurship for local families. Patrick Doody, sales and marketing director at Henderson Group, says the impact of SPAR here cannot be underestimated: “It is easy to dismiss a brand as just that, however, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that the SPAR brand is more than just a familiar place to shop. “Since coming to Northern Ireland 60 years ago, SPAR has raised over £7 million for local charities, supported foodbanks and local care homes, and over 24,000 other local organisations and even saved lives.” Twelve lives have been saved since 2015 thanks to the installation of 242 defibrillators

In the past decade, SPAR’s local credentials have grown to reflect the increasing number of locally sourced fresh products and ranges available instore, from familiar big brand names to own brand lines such as enjoy local and The CHEF.


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“In this 60th year, we are celebrating all the good our stores, teams, shoppers and owners have done for their communities and we look forward to a summer of reconnecting with groups and clubs as restrictions ease and they are able to start operating again. Our birthday celebrations will see a continued boost of support for Marie Curie, and we will celebrate our local suppliers with the launch of more locally produced own brand products available at superb value for our shoppers.”

outside stores here, the largest network of public access defibrillators in the UK. “Our shoppers have raised over £360,000 to help our local retailers install these lifesaving devices, which are available to the public 24/7. Engaging our retailers and shoppers in this initiative has given a sense of ownership and pride, and ensures there is a device available in every town in the country. We are working to get them all registered with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) on The Circuit, which is the National Defibrillator Network launched by the British Heart Foundation. This will allow a quicker connection between NIAS and the public to our network of devices.” In the past decade, SPAR’s local credentials have grown to reflect the increasing number of locally sourced fresh products and ranges available instore, from familiar big brand names to own brand lines such as enjoy local and The CHEF. Fresh food sales at SPAR now account for almost 50% of retail sales, ensuring millions of pounds go back into the local economy, yearon-year. In the past year alone, the company’s locally made pre-prepared products have experienced sales of over £14 million. And so impressive is the quality and unique standing of SPAR’s local sourcing that an agreement was entered at the beginning of the year with Sainsbury’s for Henderson Wholesale to provide local SPAR products for Sainsbury’s shoppers due to disruption in the supply chain. “This is a prime example of the benefit in local sourcing of certain products. Brexit disrupted the supply chain from GB to Northern Ireland at the start of the year, but we were able to supply Sainsbury’s so their shoppers were still able to buy the products they expected –only this time they are buying local produce and supporting local farmers. It’s win-win for our agri-food industry.” With a unique proposition available, it has led to the growth of local entrepreneurs buying into the franchise. There are now almost 300 SPAR stores in Northern Ireland and Henderson Wholesale supplies to almost 500

outlets throughout the company-operated and independently owned network. Patrick continued: “Our SPAR retailers engage with their local schools and community groups to provide support for their own initiatives, sponsorship for sporting events and encourage healthy eating and staying active. That is a huge responsibility as a local retailer, and one we take very seriously.” In fact, SPAR NI supports sporting initiatives from grass roots community programmes to globally recognised sporting events, such as the SPAR Craic 10K, The Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon right through to its partnership with Healthy Kidz more recently to provide Virtual Sports Day activities during lockdown. “We have supported Sports Days in schools for over 10 years, providing bottles of water, runners’ number bibs, finisher medals... everything needed to create a fantastic end of term event, and of course provide even more support to local primary schools. “We have been title sponsor of the SPAR Craic 10K since its inception and in recent years, SPAR has awarded grants of £40,000 to sporting community groups through our People’s Podium initiative. We are very much looking forward to the return of the Deep River

Rock Belfast City Half Marathon and Marathon this May and September. “In response to the COVID-19 emergency, we launched the Community Cashback Grant where we distributed funds of £20,000 to 16 deserving groups, charities and community organisations.” SPAR has recently hit a milestone of more than £400,000 raised for its most recent charity partner, Marie Curie. Since 2017, the brand has created multiple campaigns to provide support to community nurses on the frontline and towards the running of its Hospice services. Most recently, SPAR shoppers raised £30,000 thanks to the Henderson initiative Buy a Bunch to Give a Bunch, which supported the organisation’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal. The total surpassed the team’s expectations and target by 66%. The aim is to raise £60,000 in line with the 60th birthday this year, which saw SPAR NI hosting celebrations in flagship stores last month. Patrick finished: “June saw the return of Marie Curie’s Blooming Great Tea Party, which we turned into a birthday celebration for SPAR, with bumper fundraising plans in partnership with Tayto. “In this 60th year, we are celebrating all the good our stores, teams, shoppers and owners have done for their communities and we look forward to a summer of reconnecting with groups and clubs as restrictions ease and they are able to start operating again. Our birthday celebrations will see a continued boost of support for Marie Curie, and we will celebrate our local suppliers with the launch of more locally produced own brand products available at superb value for our shoppers. “It may have been 60 years, but this is also a new beginning as SPAR is front and centre in those communities rebuilding after the challenges of COVID-19. We look forward to growing alongside them for many more years to come.”


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TRANSLINK – ‘RACE TO ZERO’ By Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive.

Public transport is central to Northern Ireland’s recovery, connecting people and communities to opportunities and helping to revitalise our society in the aftermath of the pandemic. Bus and rail travel has a fundamental role to play in a green recovery, giving us our greatest chance to effect a modal shift away from the private car and take genuine action to tackle the climate emergency, which remains with us despite the pandemic. Translink is investing in public transport for future generations with a range of new and exciting developments to make bus and rail everyone’s first choice for travel, for today and for tomorrow – this includes new fleet investment, new and upgraded sustainable passenger facilities and a new Translink ticketing system, improving choice and accessibility for everyone. Support for Safe, Sustainable Public Transport Greater reliance on bus and rail travel will be essential to combat climate change, but in light of the pandemic, it is clear that people must feel safe in order to make the change. Recent research commissioned by Translink reveals that 79% of respondents intend to return to their normal workplace by the end of 2021, with 50% of those surveyed also saying they would be happy to use public transport immediately as restrictions ease. The research also revealed that Translink is recognised by local people for keeping our economy moving and keeping communities connected, something which takes on a greater focus as people return to the workplace and shoppers to the high street. Significantly, over two thirds agreed that public transport is a better option for the environment. It is clear that an enhanced reliance on bus and rail transport has a positive impact on our environment, helping to reduce congestion and air pollution. The significant improvements in air quality witnessed on a worldwide basis during 2020 occurred while public transport continued to operate and one key lesson that must be drawn from the pandemic is the need for modal shift away from the private car. Translink’s Road to Zero Translink will operate a Net Zero emission bus and rail fleet across the entirety of our network by 2040, with fleets in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry achieving this by 2030. Our initial hydrogen-powered and batteryelectric double-deck buses – the first anywhere in Ireland - have entered service, with another 100 Zero Emission buses set to join the fleet in the coming months. By the end of 2021, Translink will operate the UK’s 4th-largest Zero Emission bus fleet. All Metro, Foyle Metro and Goldline vehicles will be operating at a minimum on the latest Euro 6 environmental standard engines by 2022 with progress to 100% roll-

out of Zero Emission services continuing up to 2040. We also have ambitious plans for the NI Railways network, with 21 new intermediate Class 4000 train carriages entering service on local routes in the coming months, helping to increase capacity by providing an additional 1,600 seats on the network per day and allowing us to operate 6-car ‘walkthrough’ trains. In the coming years, we will also introduce a fleet of new bi-mode trains for use on the NI Railways network, as well as work towards the potential electrification of the rail network. With colleagues in Irish Rail, we are working to procure new bi-mode fleet for our cross-border Enterprise service, allowing us to move towards the operation of an hourly service between Belfast and Dublin; we are also co-operating to improve infrastructure on the corridor, enhancing journey times. We are also participating, along with Irish Rail, in an all-Island Strategic Rail Review, announced by the relevant Ministers in both jurisdictions. This Review will consider how the rail network across Ireland can improve sustainable connectivity between major cities, enhance regional accessibility, including to the North-West, and support balanced regional development. In addition, the Review will consider the feasibility of higher speeds on the network and whether there is a potential to increase use of the network for freight. Infrastructure Fit for the Future Pre-pandemic, record numbers were travelling by public transport in Northern Ireland; in 2018/19, over 84.5m passenger journeys were recorded across the network, the highest such figure in 20 years. This was testament to increased investment in services and infrastructure over preceding years. As Northern Ireland seeks to rebuild from the pandemic, enhanced investment in public transport will be a key driver of the green economic recovery. The Belfast Transport Hub is a transport-led regeneration project centred in the southwestern part of Belfast city centre and a replacement for the existing Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street Train Station. Essential site preparation work is progressing well ahead of an anticipated start to main works in early 2022, with completion scheduled for late 2024. The facility will significantly increase capacity on our network, delivering 26 bus stands and 8 railway platforms (including provision for the cross-border Enterprise service, which will relocate from Lanyon Place Station), as well as bus maintenance and stabling, cycle provision, a new public square, public realm improvements and infrastructure improvements. The scheme will also provide up to 400 jobs, delivered via a Buy-Social partnership with Belfast City Council and will act as a catalyst for redevelopment and regeneration in the area to the south and west of Belfast city centre. Translink will shortly commence work on a replacement train station at Yorkgate, acting as a northern rail gateway to Belfast and serving the new Ulster University complex as well as local communities in North Belfast. We also have plans to improve Ballymena Bus and Rail Centre in the coming years. Connections with the North-West will also improve in the period ahead, with the progression of additional enhancements to the railway line between

Derry~Londonderry and Belfast, facilitating greater service frequency. Park and Ride will be a key component of a ‘green’ recovery, helping to encourage greater use of public transport. In recent years, we have provided significant additional capacity across Northern Ireland and have plans in place to provide further capacity at Ballymena, Moira, Lurgan, Mossley West and Trooperslane, near Carrickfergus, where work recently commenced on a 200-space facility. The new Translink ticketing system is programmed to get underway later in 2021 and will provide customers with better integration, flexibility and convenience on-board all services. Key enhancements will include contactless Credit/Debit card payments, mobile and app payments and an ePurse Stored Value ‘Oyster style’ Smartcard. Work is underway to implement new on-bus ticketing machines for Metro and Ulsterbus, including the ability to accept contactless credit/debit card payments on all Metro and Ulsterbus vehicles, as well as the introduction of new hand-held ticketing devices on NI Railways. Around 300 ticket vending machines will be rolled out to bus and rail stations across Northern Ireland. Following the enormous success of Glider since 2018, we are working with the Department for Infrastructure and Belfast City Council to deliver Glider Phase 2, providing Belfast Rapid Transport services to North and South Belfast. Translink at the heart of the Recovery Public transport sits at the heart of Northern Ireland’s economic and environmental recovery, and Translink has a clear vision to make public transport everyone’s first choice for travel, with additional capacity, new fleet investment and a move to new technologies, ensuring that transport delivers net zero emissions by 2040. We hope to inspire businesses across Northern Ireland to join us on the Race to Zero and make public transport their first choice for travel, today for tomorrow. Find out more at


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Structural Integrity Activity has remained hearty at Hillsboroughbased construction behemoth, GRAHAM, despite the backdrop of a pandemic and Brexit. Here John McDonald, managing director of the company’s investment projects, talks about why the development of its people and a strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) proposition are pivotal to its continued success.


ith a turnover of £800m in 2020, the workload of GRAHAM has evidently been buoyant. From Aberdeen to London and across virtually every sector, the business has been making its mark during an unforgiving climate for many industries.  From the £135m A6 dualling scheme in NI to a £160m acute healthcare project in Aberdeen (The Baird Family Hospital and The ANCHOR Centre), situated in Europe’s largest healthcare campus, plus the £106m Port of Tilbury expansion along with an influx of schemes within the fast-emerging build-to-rent sector, the company has been kept extremely busy.  It is also actively participating in a range of major frameworks, including ProCure22 (P22), a construction procurement framework administered by NHS England and NHS Improvement for the development and delivery of NHS and social care capital schemes in England. Its pipeline of work is equally as impressive. “Using clear procedures, and through the adoption of stringent health and safety processes, we were able to continue to operate safely during the pandemic, keeping our 2,000-strong workforce safe and healthy while simultaneously ensuring that we continued to meet the objectives of our clients and partners,” John begins.  “I would say the construction industry has been a real driving force for the economy throughout COVID-19.” The construction industry believes the pandemic could mark its reinvention and allow for a renewed focus on modern methods of construction, off-site advanced manufacturing and productivity. It could also accelerate the pace of change in the wider economy as industries – including aviation and tourism – struggle in stark contrast to the fortunes of e-commerce, pharmaceuticals and logistics. Indeed, the UK Government’s plan for growth, Build Back Better, lends weight to this argument. With a £100bn investment earmarked for infrastructure, as well as cash injections into skills and a focus on


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John McDonald, Managing Director of GRAHAM.

“I would say the construction industry has been a real driving force for the economy throughout COVID-19.”


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the drive to net zero carbon, GRAHAM and its peers are likely to benefit from this pipeline of opportunity. “The UK is targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but we’ve aligned our strategy to reach that goal by 2045,” John continues, in his first reference to the sustainable targets at the firm. He says the business works in line with and alongside the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focussing “on positively influencing the SDGs most applicable to us in our role as a leading national contractor.”   This means everything – from CO2 emissions, water reduction, social value, health and wellbeing, community engagement, apprenticeships and safe working – feed into and align with these SDGs. “We have established four core pillars which form the basis of our CSR strategy; the environment, communities, people and ambition,” John continues. “Reducing our carbon emissions as part of our environment pillar is our number one priority and we are working hard to remove carbon from our business. We project a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.” He says, as a leading national contractor, the influence of GRAHAM also extends deeply into the design properties behind building and infrastructure projects. It encourages the use of intelligent design while monitoring its own emissions with tracking and verification for each project available. “Capturing that data allows us to continually improve. Building sustainably is no longer about building energy efficient projects. We need to understand the carbon created through our methods and we can assess this.” To support this ambition, GRAHAM has rolled out “carbon literacy training” to help its staff make informed decisions on everything from selecting materials to cost impacts.  Platinum status in this year’s Northern Ireland Environmental Benchmarking Survey –for six years running, no less – provides external and independent validation of its efforts. GRAHAM was also identified as the top scoring contractor in the construction sector in the survey, which is run by BITC (Business in the Community). Another priority for the business is building strong community relationships in the villages, towns and cities where it operates. Its goal is to consistently leave a legacy that is much broader than the individual projects it delivers.  “We are committed to maximising social value and making a real difference in

“Using clear procedures, and through the adoption of stringent health and safety processes, we were able to continue to operate safely during the pandemic, keeping our 2,000-strong workforce safe and healthy while simultaneously ensuring that we continued to meet the objectives of our clients and partners.”

local communities. This is why our teams passionately set about creating work placement opportunities for young people and those in hard-to-reach sections of the community. We also support local supply chains, particularly SMEs, and we partner with schools, community groups and social enterprises, helping them in a number of ways through, for example, the provision of expertise to achieve mini refurbishment projects,” says John. “When people realise that our people are

from, and based within their communities, then that builds and strengthens relationships.” In-house, the company places an emphasis on nurturing staff. John stresses that it’s not just an obligation but a commitment the business fully believes in. “Recently, Investors in People (IIP) reaffirmed our excellence in people management with the re-award of both Platinum and Health & Wellbeing accreditations. Platinum level is the highest level that can be achieved by a company, and we are continually investing in new initiatives to ensure that we maintain this standard,” he says. “We look at every area of wellbeing and mental health, including financial as well as physical wellbeing. We have also trained over 100 mental health first aiders,” he continues. A comprehensive training and development programme, a full calendar of wellbeing activities and initiatives, and a series of support mechanisms, including health assessments, are also part of the wideranging investment offer that all staff can access. The CSR strategy at GRAHAM is much more than a box-ticking exercise, but rather a consistent drive or a pledge to improve the company’s social impact. “The principle is understanding that we need to give back and that’s where we demonstrate our social value. Central and local government increasingly ask businesses to demonstrate social value, but we don’t do it because it’s asked of us, we do it because we want to. “We have established goals, such as reducing carbon to net zero, five years ahead of the government’s target. We drive the creation of a local supply chain and we invest in people, and our ambition ensures we continue to do that, which has been central to our sustainable and responsible growth. We’ve experienced 350 per cent growth in the 10 years since I’ve been here. “Strategically, GRAHAM nurtures people, and this means people feel valued; they stay and then they become firm advocates of the business. This is pivotal to our continued success,” he concludes. John says its ambitious CSR strategy “proves success comes in many forms at GRAHAM.” For him and the cohort of more than 2000 employees, the measure of this success is not just monetary, but based on delivering lasting impact for the environment, its people and the local communities where it operates.


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Dr. Ian Smyth Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Ulster University Business School

4 Tips for Effective Leadership Communication During a Crisis Dr. Ian Smyth discusses the keys to effective communication for leaders.

• Give your team what they need, when they need it In the early days of the crisis, people’s capacity to absorb information may have been limited, so the message should have been focused on keeping the listener healthy and safe. As information evolves, so should a good communicator’s messaging. Different forms of information can help listeners to stay safe, cope mentally, and connect to a deeper sense of purpose and stability.


he phrase “You’re on mute” has become synonymous with the changing nature of work and working lives throughout the Covid pandemic. Leaders of businesses both large and small have faced unprecedented challenges around disrupted business models, customer expectations along with keeping staff engaged and energised - all while our normal patterns of communication have been disrupted so significantly. In a recent all-Ireland study carried out by the DCU National Centre for Family Business in partnership with Ulster University Business School (UUBS), Northern Ireland Family Business Forum and the University of Central Florida, research found that 54.7% of family businesses reported having to shift to remote working for the very first time. This statistic alone highlights just why effective communication is vital for leaders to get right, particularly when they can’t speak to their team face-to-face. Additionally, 75.5% of firms reported planning either temporary or permanent layoffs during the pandemic, proving just how fundamental communication is in ensuring continued engagement with staff. So what are the key communication strategies to help leaders and managers navigate this emergent new normal as effectively as possible?

• Create the right conditions With many leaders and managers involved in the day-to-day running of businesses, it’s imperative that intentional time and space is created for safe and effective communication, both one-on-one and as a group. As we emerge from lockdown, for businesses owned and controlled by families, this may be a useful time to consider a family business council or family charter to help set out the rules of engagement. Regardless of industry, sector or company size, communication is a critical function of effective leadership and leaders who practice transparent, empathetic and trustworthy communication are much better placed to move forward effectively during challenging times. At UUBS, we are committed to helping the workforce adjust to new working practices and our partnerships with business and government are focused on helping individuals and organisations respond to this new reality. Our recent Upskill programme, an initiative fully funded by the Department for the Economy, has been designed to upskill and retrain people who have been affected by Covid-19. For example, the postgraduate ‘Leading Change, Innovation and Transformation’ programme has been developed to help leaders and senior executives more readily succeed in the face of change and intense competition, dealing with how to communicate successfully through change and the challenges it brings.

• Clarity and candour over charisma Trust is vitally important in times of crisis and it helps when leaders can be honest about where things stand. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, transparency and provide reassurance where possible. • Develop robust and flexible communication systems that facilitate hybrid and flexible working Find an appropriate balance of digital and ‘traditional’ communication methods for your team that optimises team members’ capabilities. Remember your target internal audience and consider what are the most effective means to engage with them. Digital is instant, convenient and can be relayed across the organisation with ease. That being said, it fails to capture the human senses or the importance of the “how are we doing?” conversations over a coffee (when safe to do so).

If you are interested in enhancing your personal or organisational leadership capabilities, UUBS’s portfolio of executive education and leadership development programmes provides current and future business leaders with the skills, tools and confidence to become highly effective and adaptable leaders. Get in touch with our Business Engagement team at for further information.


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Supplying Skilled Talent Launch of New Supply Chain and Logistics course for Higher Level Apprentices at the Northern Regional College (NRC)


new Supply Chain and Logistics course for Higher Level Apprentices has been launched at Northern Regional College. The course, funded by the Department for the Economy, is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland and will ensure a pipeline of skilled talent flows to this important sector. Launching the course in June, then Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “Skills are a key priority as we begin the process of rebuilding the economy and apprenticeships are at the centre of my department’s longterm strategic plans. “With over £8 billion in annual external sales to Great Britain, logistics is integral to Northern Ireland’s economy and its importance will continue to grow due to the interconnectedness of supply chains across the UK. “This new Higher Level Apprenticeship will supply the relevant skills and provide high quality career opportunities in an important and growing sector.”

Fifteen places will be available on the Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) Supply Chain and Logistics programme in the first year. Training will be delivered at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus from 13 September 2021 and will include modules in transport, logistics, supply chain, compliance and warehousing. Due to the specialist nature of the course, students will be taught by industry experts working alongside Northern Regional College lecturers to ensure full compliance with current sector regulations. Logistics plays an important role in Northern Ireland’s economy and helps keep goods moving into, out of and around the region. Across the UK, the wider logistics industry employs over 2.5 million people. Northern Regional College has worked closely with sector representatives and local businesses to ensure the innovative course meets their specialist requirements. Among those involved in the development of the course were Logistics UK Northern Ireland,

the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, DFDS, Henderson Group, Ryobi, Caterpillar, Woodside Logistics Group, Lynas Foods and McBurney Transport. Professor Terri Scott, Principal and Chief Executive of Northern Regional College, said the increased awareness of the importance of the supply chain and logistics in the wake of both Brexit and the COVID pandemic meant it is an opportune time for the college to launch the new Higher Level Apprenticeship. She said: “The HLA in Supply Chain and Logistics will be a game changer for anyone interested in pursuing a career in this sector. Northern Regional College is delighted to be able to partner with local stakeholders to provide real-world knowledge and expertise to the apprentices as they look to further their career. “There is a growing demand for skilled professionals in this fast paced and influential business environment.” The new HLA has been warmly welcomed by those working in the industry.


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Pictured at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus are (l-r) Stuart Stevenson, Operations Director, Woodside Logistics Group; Professor Terri Scott, Principal and Chief Executive of Northern Regional College; former Economy Minister Diane Dodds; and Nick McCullough, Managing Director of DFDS.

Nick McCullough, Managing Director of DFDS, said it would help narrow the skills gap in what is a very diverse industry with endless opportunities. “There is a significant shortage of skilled people in our industry, so this HLA is very welcome especially as we continue to grow and enter new markets across Europe and beyond. We look forward to supporting the ongoing development of the HLA in Supply Chain and Logistics and welcoming skilled people into our business in the years to come,” he said. Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland Policy Manager at Logistics UK, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic and our exit from the EU have shown the importance of logistics as an industry. The fact that our economy relies on the efficient connectivity of supply chains demonstrates the need to have people with relevant skills and training in logistics management. “Coupling these factors with new technology and other disruptive forces driving

change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.” The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport’s Pamela Dennison said: “Logistics, transport and supply chain operations maintain a country’s economic integrity. The sustainable movement of goods provides an ever-important link to the global market, underpinning business activity in supporting and allowing for a thriving economy. “Professionals in the sector must continue to innovate in a fast paced and influential environment in jobs that enable products and services to be created, distributed and used by customers and businesses alike.” Irvine Abraham, Enterprise & International Manager at Northern Regional College, explained how the HLA in Supply Chain and Logistics is just one way the college has developed new courses and pivoted existing ones as a mechanism of supporting those who wish to upskill, reskill or future-proof their skillset.

“The continued development of courses highlights how the college is emerging from the pandemic because of innovation-driven entrepreneurship approaches to engagement that provide both students and businesses with the relevant services to meet their respective needs,” he said. Higher Level Apprentices will work with their employer four days a week and attend the college one day a week to complete a foundation degree in Supply Chain and Logistics, validated by Ulster University. On successful completion of the foundation degree, they can progress to undertake a BSc degree in Business Studies at Ulster University.

To learn more about the Supply Chain and Logistics course, visit: https://www.nrc.


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New Division Is Fit For Purpose When Henry McLaughlin and William Harvey launched their small building company and yard, based at Belfast’s York Street in 1853, few would have envisaged the fledgling firm would grow to become one of the UK’s most successful construction and civil engineering brands.


oday, McLaughlin & Harvey employs more than 800 people and has a group turnover in excess of £500m. The business has delivered signature projects the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland in the construction and civil engineering sectors. The privately owned business remains as ambitious and outward looking as ever – evidenced by the recent launch of a new fit-out led division that will be known as WorkSpace. This new division was created to provide a dedicated provision for projects outside the scope and scale of those traditionally associated with McLaughlin & Harvey. WorkSpace will offer clients a range of services spanning build, fit-out, facilities management, bespoke joinery, and commercial furniture under one composite brand. WorkSpace Director, Richard Cheevers, said: “For quite a few years our fit-out, FM, bespoke joinery and commercial furniture departments had been operating separately, when in fact very often those teams are working together on project delivery. So, it made sense for us to bring them under one umbrella and market them accordingly. “WorkSpace provides our clients with the focus and responsiveness of an experienced and agile team, with the reassurance that they’re working with one of the most trusted construction companies in the UK and Ireland. We are providing a specialist option for projects, with a market-leading fit-out capability at our core, but also encompassing build, bespoke joinery, commercial furniture

and hard facilities management services. We are delighted to have secured an order book of £12.7m across fit-out, build and facilities management which is a testament to the hard work of our team and the appetite for our offering. The feedback from the market has been exceptional since our launch in late May. “We believe WorkSpace can deliver a proposition that combines all of McLaughlin & Harvey’s traditional strengths with the freshness, energy and nimbleness of what effectively is a new enterprise, aimed at enabling the company to deliver a full range of projects of all sizes. “Whilst the focus of WorkSpace will be as a main contractor delivering build and fit-out projects, there is a lot of potential for us to provide integrated packages that also include specialist joinery, commercial furniture, and aftercare. Our team has extensive experience delivering projects for prestige brands such as M&S, ITV News, NatWest and Charles Hurst Aston Martin and Bentley. We plan to extend our reach further in other key areas such as commercial, hospitality, leisure, education, heritage, and visitor centres,” he continues. WorkSpace and McLaughlin & Harvey recently completed a major project at Jewish Care in Stanmore. A unique interior feature of the project was the bespoke wall and ceiling panelling, which was manufactured in-house. Each panel had a unique olive tree design which was CNC engraved and finished with a painted gold leaf. The division has also recently handed over the library interior fitout at the highly acclaimed Seamus Heaney HomePlace Visitor Centre in Bellaghy.

Richard Cheevers, Head of WorkSpace in the Seamus Heaney HomePlace.


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“WorkSpace provides our clients with the focus and responsiveness of an experienced and agile team, with the reassurance that they’re working with one of the most trusted construction companies in the UK and Ireland. We are providing a specialist option for projects, with a market-leading fit-out capability at our core, but also encompassing build, bespoke joinery, commercial furniture and hard facilities management services. ”


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Its order book includes work on ITV’s Gerry Corrigan Parliamentary Studios at Millbank, London; of Ilimex. ongoing facilities management with M&S throughout the UK; a major FF&E project at a leading English university and a range of other Framework education schemes across Ireland and Scotland. While acknowledging the many postpandemic challenges the construction industry will face over the coming years – with particular concern around skills shortages and availability of materials – Richard remains optimistic: “It’s encouraging to see predictions for a rapid uplift in construction activity as we emerge from lockdown but the industry will have challenges to face,” he says. “One of the great things about being part of McLaughlin & Harvey is the brand awareness that already exists. We can attract the best talent in our industry and benefit from established Apprenticeship and Graduate Schemes – this means that we have access to a pipeline of strong talent for many years to come. We are also privileged to have built up a robust supplier base and material sourcing model that we believe will protect us against many of the risks out there.” As Richard and his senior leadership team of Kathy Patton (Operations Director) and Richard Carron (Head of Business Development) embark on an exciting new chapter under the WorkSpace brand, the future is bright with live sites ongoing including a Ferrari Showroom. To find out more about WorkSpace log on to

Some of the intricate bespoke joinery delivered by WorkSpace at the Jewish Care Centre, London.



n the first half of 2021 we’ve moved from heightened lockdown to a gradual reopening of the economy, and in recent weeks this expansion has been accompanied by a renewal of business confidence. From recent Northern Ireland, UK & Republic of Ireland economic reports and our interactions with customers, they all support the expectation of a strong rebound over the summer and are already evidencing positive trends, accompanied by some new and interesting challenges. Many businesses are rebooting as restrictions reduce and are seeing a changed trading environment, with new competition from market diversification, increased costs of raw materials, fuel and shipping and in some sectors, a squeeze on labour which in turn has created an increased need for talent management. That said, the last couple of months have seen true progress, with recovery in sectors including retail, manufacturing and services with all reporting an increase in both activity, output and employment. Manufacturing businesses have increased their headcount, with local companies benefiting from a notable pick-up in demand, albeit against some supply chain disruption and a rise in input costs.

Hospitality and domestic tourism, where businesses have been hit hard with long periods of closure, have restocked, reopened and are experiencing a massive boost through pent up demand and a huge appetite for staycations whilst foreign travel restrictions remain. The key will be retaining these levels beyond the summer and meeting the new challenge of recruitment and retention of staff. Many are experiencing situations where their staff have retired, there is a lag in developing and training new talent and also where staff have been persuaded to move on to other occupations in the search for more secure employment. All of this is making talent acquisition, training and retention vital. Looking at the housing market we’re seeing significant changes with increases in demand, driven by the “race for space” as people upsize and /or relocate for working from home. As many companies introduce or retain new ways of working including hybrid and fulltime working from home, this is enabling people to make a larger lifestyle decision as this removes or reduces ties to a physical job location. This is creating further opportunities for house builders with this type of demand expected to continue for some time. At Bank of Ireland we are seeing these trends reflected through our business cus-

tomers’ requirements, with demand for funding shifting away from the UK Government backed COVID-19 Business Lending Schemes as they closed for applications, to a steady increase in enquiries and lending requests as SME’s look towards more normalised investment and growth opportunities. We are also seeing some larger value capital expenditure programmes and investment plans that had been put on hold now being revisited. Alongside this, there has been increased activity where investors are taking acquisition opportunities, viewing it as a good time to buy and be able to bring added value assets to their existing business. I am incredibly heartened by some of my recent customer engagements, with a more positive outlook coming through, having bravely confronted COVID-19 and ongoing Brexit disruption. It’s not by any means all “rosy” by any means, but they remain optimistic despite continued challenges. Our team at Bank of Ireland continue to support local businesses, working as a valued partner not only in providing funding support, but also in offering access to advice and support, building business confidence for growth.


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FEATURE Alistair Brown , founder and CEO of LUMENSTREAM.

master collaborator. LUMENSTREAM’s business model was born out of collaborating with other creative-minded people within the renewable energy and finance sectors. Collaborating stimulates inspiration, innovation and opportunity.


For a long time, I would have described myself as a workaholic and probably suffered from putting too much pressure on myself. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, I began meditating every day and started using mindfulness as a tool that provided context and clarity. Taking as little as a 10-minute break to meditate and gather your thoughts each day will refresh your mind and give you more energy.

5. NEVER COMPROMISE ON YOUR VALUES Probably the hardest thing to do as a start-up when trying to generate sales and grow the business. However, it’s essential to understand what your company stands for, know the red lines you are unwilling to cross and learn how to say no. It may seem counterproductive at times, but if your goal is to focus on a specific niche and offer an unwavering level of quality, you must know your values and stick to them.

Stairway to Seven


My seven steps for business success Alistair Brown is the founder and CEO of LUMENSTREAM. The former Weightmans and Slater & Gordon legal advisor switched from law to sustainability before launching LUMENSTREAM, an energy service company that upgrades large energy users to energy-efficient technology for zero capital cost via its innovative LED Lighting as a Service platform.


This will resonate with any business disruptors who have launched an innovative product that breaks the mould. Unfortunately, many people have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos. Therefore, it is critical to persevere. Use the word “no” as an opportunity to educate your audience and help them

understand the problems that your product solves.


I have benefitted from several mentors who have offered me experience and wisdom at critical stages along my journey. Sometimes it’s vital to have someone who has seen it all before to use as a sounding board for pitching ideas and discussing strategy. You can’t always make the correct decisions as a start-up business, but you can make educated decisions by drawing on the experience of mentors.


Connecting with other businesses and collaborating to provide innovative solutions is crucial. Start thinking of yourself as a

Innovation is the key to success – think outside the box. The German-American economist Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Thinking outside the box is one of the core principles at LUMENSTREAM. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to do it; there’s always room for improvement.


Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the sustainable practices of businesses to the point where the commitment to environmentally friendly policies will decide brand selection. Deploying a sustainable strategy will earn you credit with your customers, increase efficiency and save money in the long run. At LUMENSTREAM, we take great pride that what we do every day accelerates the shift to a more sustainable, carbon-neutral future for our planet.


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Marketing Executive at NI Chamber

Business Development Executive at NI Chamber

Partner at Harbinson Mulholland

Sales Director at Kilwaughter Minerals





Tax Senior at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

Marketing & Communications Manager - Ireland at Whitemountain

Audit & Assurance Senior at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

Director of Legal Technology and Innovation at Cleaver Fulton Rankin


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Pictured in Belfast (L-R) are Paul McGuickin, Neasa Quigley, Roger McMillan and Chris Phillips of Carson McDowell. Belfast-based law firm Carson McDowell has announced the appointment of two new partners, bringing its partner headcount to 30, the largest of any legal practice in Northern Ireland. The firm announced that Paul McGuickin has become a partner in its corporate team and Chris Phillips has been promoted to partner in its real estate practice.

A graduate of Queen’s University, Paul qualified as a solicitor in 2007 and practised as a corporate and commercial lawyer with an international law firm before joining Carson McDowell in 2018 as a senior associate. He has extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, private equity, corporate restructuring strategies and corporate governance issues.

Chris studied at the University of Oxford before joining Carson McDowell as an apprentice in 2007 and qualified as a solicitor in the real estate team in 2009. He is involved in all aspects of commercial property, including acquisitions, disposals, landlord and tenant work and providing asset management advice to clients with large property portfolios.


Danske Bank UK Chief Executive, Kevin Kingston, has decided to retire later this year. Current Deputy CEO, Vicky Davies, will then take up the position, subject to regulatory approval. Vicky Davies (45) will become the first female chief executive in the Bank’s 200-year history. A Cambridge graduate, she started her career as a management consultant at Accenture in London. After gaining her MBA at the renowned INSEAD business school in France, Vicky joined Ulster Bank in 2005.

She moved on to become part of Danske Bank’s senior management team in 2012, initially as Head of Business Development, then becoming Managing Director of Strategy & Corporate Development. She joined the Board of Danske Bank UK in 2016, becoming its first ever female executive director. In 2019 she was appointed Deputy CEO. Vicky is also a Board member at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Proud of her Welsh roots, Vicky has lived in Northern Ireland for sixteen years, is married to a Northern Irishman and has four young sons.

Kevin Kingston and Vicky Davies.


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d a e h a g n i r o t Mo

MB Motors is your local friendly business, owned and run by Malcolm Beattie who has been selling cars in Ballymena for 20 years. Stocking over 150 cars, we have a wide range of vehicles including cars, vans and 4x4’s to suit all budgets.

We put customer care at the centre of everything we do, endeavouring to provide an excellent service at all times. Have a look at our Facebook page to see what customers say about us, with over 400 5-star reviews. We are situated at 4 Woodside Park, Woodside Road, Ballymena (between Ballymena and Broughshane). We can arrange pick up from the airport or train stations.

Our standards have built our reputation and we are proud that our customers Malcolm Beattie, proprietor

recommend us, trust us and come back to us when they want another car. We are passionate about delivering a high quality service and building trust with our customers. The cars we offer are excellent value for money and prepared to a very high standard. We make sure every car is fully serviced, multi point checked, valeted, valid MOT and ready to drive away today.

#SourceIt At MB Motors, we make it our mission to match each and every customer with a car they love, and if we don’t have the one for you in stock, we are prepared to go the extra mile to find it. That’s why we launched our own vehicle sourcing service, #sourceit.

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after a team of experts scrutinised our business in everything we do from the moment you make contact with us, right throughout the buying process. We fought off some stiff competition from over 500 other dealers throughout the UK that were in our category to come away with this award.

We have a vast network of industry contacts, which gives us access to a huge range of used cars and a strong chance of locating exactly what you are looking for. Since we introduced #sourceit, it has been highly successful, allowing us to respond to the requirements and preferences of our customers to deliver their ideal motor.

Our cars are prepared to highest standard

A car is a big purchase and at MB Motors, we believe you shouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect, so why

Right from the start our cars are handpicked based on their quality and

6. The car will be prepared, with servicing, multi-point checks and a full valet being conducted to make sure it is in peak condition. 7. Make your way to MB Motors, where you can complete the paperwork and drive away in your dream car!

not let our dedicated team #sourceit and save you the legwork?

Josh Lowry (sales executive), Mike Brewer (TV Presenter) and Malcolm Beattie (proprietor).

How #SourceIt works

desirability. We only select cars that have been thoroughly pre-checked ensuring they have never been stolen, no serious accident damage and are HPI checked. Our trained technicians give the car a comprehensive 95-point vehicle health check and service if required then it is passed to our valeting team who leave the car in as close to new condition as possible.

At MB Motors, we want your vehicle sourcing experience to be enjoyable and hassle free, and with #sourceit, you’ll be able to get behind the wheel of your perfect car in seven simple steps: 1.It all starts with a conversation, where you can tell us exactly what you are looking for in a car.

Highly Commended Car Dealer of the Year We are proud to have picked up one of the most prestigious awards in the Used Car Industry: “Highly Commended Car Dealer of the Year” for the last two years. This was awarded to us

We stock cars that you want to buy We buy cars with you in mind! Being an independent dealer means we are not tied down to buying from certain sources, instead we buy only the best cars with the most attractive specifications with you in mind.

2. Our team will set off in search of vehicles that match your requirements, using our trade contacts around the UK. 3. We will send you images and full descriptions of the available options, along with the upfront price and finance quotes if required. 4. You decide whether any of the options we provide are right for you and if you like a car we have sourced, you can put down a deposit. 5. We will go and inspect the vehicle to ensure it meets our high standards.

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4 Woodside Park, Woodside Road, Ballymena BT42 4HG T: 07784 088292 E:

30/04/2021 12:13


World Class Belfast Drew Nesbitt, Partner at Wilson Nesbitt

Drew Nesbitt, Partner at Wilson Nesbitt, has been talking to Belfast’s most successful business pioneers and organisation leaders, to find out their insights, how they are helping to deliver a World Class Belfast and what support they feel is needed. Nigel Wright, CEO of Converge Technology Specialists, is part of the growing diaspora to return to Northern Ireland. From his new base, Wright explains that he was born just down the road. He decided to start a business in Manchester aged 33 and, with £2,000 in his back pocket, began to build what is now CTS, one of the largest providers of IT services to law firms in the UK. What sets Northern Ireland apart on the world business stage? “It’s an attractive, friendly place: career skills, low operating costs, a business-friendly Government, a great place to live and work. Our biggest strength is our people. We just need to believe that we could do something exceptional - we have the opportunity to be world class. Our people are at the core of our potential success, the people that you

Nigel Wright, CEO of Converge Technology Specialists

employ here will be more loyal to making you successful, because you’re bringing them into a small area and giving them a great opportunity to succeed. People like doing business with us. They love our honesty, our openness, and the craic. It’s a compelling proposition to the world.” Is it a matter of encouraging businesses to flourish in a free market? “It only works if more of our people have a growth mindset. The lack of that ‘yes we can’ attitude is going to be a challenge to any entrepreneur starting a business here. One of the things I would love to see is us fostering that growth mindset in schools, at university, and with young business people.” Will it take a vision and a force of personality to make this happen? “We need an identifiable brand - a great value proposition - for who we want to be on the world stage. There needs to be a really clear, communal focused aim across the board, which we bring to the table, that resonates round the world. We are small enough to be able to do something collectively, and we’re

big enough to be able to do something that puts us firmly on the world map.The whole success of my business has been about specialisation. Our aim, fundamentally, has to be global. We have to state clearly, we want to be the global leader in these areas, not the best in Ireland, the UK, or Europe, but the best globally.” What else is needed? “Ecosystem building has to be part of the picture. The stronger the ecosystem, the more innovation is derived. There’s an exciting cyber cluster growing here, we need more examples like that.”

Wilson Nesbitt will be hosting its second webinar in the series; ‘Growing a World Class Belfast’ focusing on Entrepreneurship, on Wed 11 Aug at 2.30pm. Register your place via the Wilson Nesbitt website/ Linkedin / Eventbrite.

“It’s an attractive, friendly place: career skills, low operating costs, a business-friendly Government, a great place to live and work. Our biggest strength is our people. We just need to believe that we could do something exceptional - we have the opportunity to be world class 78

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Business Class Motoring

By James Stinson

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

Sponsored by


James Stinson

Peak Petrol

The Fiesta ST underlines the joy of petrol motoring, writes James Stinson.

You never know the value of what you have ‘til it’s gone or so the saying goes. And when we look back at these years in a decade or so, we’ll likely lament the passing of the last of a great breed of petrol-engined cars. The fuel that’s powered cars for more than 140 years is giving way to electric. The process is slow at the minute, but it’ll gather pace and in a few years’ time, zesty performance-driven cars like this Ford Focus ST will be a thing of the past. And we will miss them! Sure, electric cars are awfully futuristic and on-trend but they are by no means the best of way of getting from A to B. Range is still a worry for many. They are heavy, because of those batteries, and relatively expensive while

performance versions are thin on the ground. By comparison, this Ford Fiesta ST (Sports Technologies) can be had for around £22,000 – a whopping £5,000 less than the electricpowered and, by comparison, somewhat limited Vauxhall e-Corsa. If anything, given the relative capabilities and desirability of both cars, the prices should be the other way round. The little Fiesta is light, powerful and handles like it’s on rails, the product of years of honing by Ford engineers. Powered by a terribly efficient three-cylinder 197bhp 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine, it delivers spritely numbers. From a standing start, 60mph comes up in around 6.5 seconds… and with some fanfare. The engine is raucous and bassy, a key element of the ST experience along with the low-slung driving position, weighty steering and a notchy six-speed gearbox. It’s also rather good at putting that performance on the road. The Fiesta’s steering is sharp and nimble, providing plenty of feedback as you make your way along winding B-roads, where the car is at its best. The suspension is necessarily firm but not uncomfortably so. Still, you shouldn’t be expecting a quiet, elegant ride. It’s a mechanical experience, albeit one aided with lots of electronic driving aids, that connects you to the car and the car to the road. How quick you want the car to go is determined by which of the three selectable drive modes you choose. These enable engine, steering and stability controls to be configured to Normal, Sport and Track

Agnew Fleet Manager

settings, shifting the vehicle’s character from flexible everyday hatchback to trackfocussed sports car at the push of a button. Indeed, if you have one of these hot hatches and wish to extract the most pleasure from it safely and enjoyably, you should probably use it for track days, where you and others pay for the privilege of being able to drive on a proper race circuit. If you don’t, you can still just about pass it off as an everyday runaround. There are three and five-door versions while the cabin boasts a decent amount of room. Up front, driver and passenger will find plenty of space, and visibility all around is good. The rear is a little more cramped thanks, in part, to the Recaro sports seats in the front but it’s hardly limiting and does include things like ISOFIX fixings. At 311 litres, the boot is useful and easy to lift stuff in and out of. There are three versions to choose from: ST-2, ST-3 and ST Edition. The ST-2 comes fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control selectable drive modes and an 8-inch SYNC3 touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. More expensive versions add things like bigger wheels, leather trim, more colours, better sound systems and performance enhancing gadgets like a limited slip differential and launch control function. In whatever trim, the little Fiesta ST is gloriously driver focussed with smileinducing performance and you can’t say that about a lot of new cars these days.

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


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Fleet Manager

Manage By Exception 18 Boucher Way, Belfast, BT126RE W: | T: 028 9038 6600




W didn’t become one of the biggest car makers in the world by sitting on its laurels… So while the likes of Tesla are making plenty of headlines for being electric car pioneers, VW and others aren’t going to let them have it all their own way. VW Group alone, which also includes Skoda, Seat, Porsche and Audi, plans to sell more than three million electric vehicles (EVs) a year by 2025 with 50 fully electric cars across all its brands. The new VW ID range is built on an entirely new platform that will morph into multiple, possibly dozens, of new model shapes and styles in the years ahead. Last year, we were given the first of these, the Golfsized ID.3, and here’s the new ID.4, the first SUV-sized EV from VW. The ID.4 comes with two battery pack options – a larger 77kWh unit, which VW calls ‘Pro’ and a smaller 52kWh ‘Pure’ option. The battery size determines your range. The smaller Pure battery offers a claimed range of up to 213 miles while the pricier Pro version raises this to 323 miles. There’s also a choice of electric motors. The bigger Pro battery comes only with a 201bhp motor while Pure can have either a 146 bhp or 168bhp version. So, the more you spend, the further and faster your ID.4 will go. The Pro version is capable of 0–62mph in 8.5 seconds while top speed is sensibly limited to 99mph. Charge at home with a 7kW home charging unit and it will take around 11 hours to fully charge. There’s also a quick charge option using a rapid charger though these are thin on the ground in Northern Ireland. If you do find one, you can put around 200 miles in the batteries in around 30 minutes. As with the ID.3, the ID.4 has a rear-mounted motor, single-speed transmission and rear-wheel-drive.

Though similar in size to the Tiguan, VW insists clever packaging and the benefits of an all-electric drivetrain means it has more interior space along with that all-important lofty driving position. The ID.4 is also the first electric VW that can be fitted with an optional tow bar, suitable for trailers weighing up to 1,000kg, while a four-wheel drive version is also in the pipeline. Prices start from £32,150 for the entry-level City Pure version after the plug-in vehicle grant is applied. The longer range, higher-spec Pro performance versions start from £41,570 with features like a 10-inch infotainment screen, wireless phone charging, LED headlights and heated front seats as standard.

E-POWER FOR THE NEW QASHQAI The new Qashqai is a little longer, wider and taller which means more head and legroom, with Nissan saying this is particularly the case in the back seats. Boot volume has grown by more than 50 litres to 504 litres. For now, a 1.3-litre mild-hybrid petrol with either 138bhp or 156bhp is offered. The more powerful engine can be specified with four-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission. The exterior has seen only minor tweaks, with the addition of LED headlamps contributing to a sharper looking front end. Standard Qashqai trim levels start at Visia and rise through Acenta Premium, N-Connecta and Tekna to Tekna+. Prices start at £23,535. The new E-Power version that will follow will likely generate a lot of interest. This uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine, battery and electric motor combination but it’s not a traditional hybrid. The petrol engine doesn’t drive the wheels but generates electricity for the battery with the wheels driven by the electric motor only. Nissan says it means the engine can always run within its optimal range, leading to superior fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions compared with a traditional internal combustion engine. It means drivers get the electric car experience without the range anxiety drawbacks of fully electric cars. Prices for this version haven’t been released yet but it’s sure to be more expensive.


new version of the ever-popular Nissan Qashqai has gone on sale. The market for high-riding, family-friendly SUVs is a little more crowded these days so there’s a raft of improvements to keep buyers rocking up at Nissan showrooms including a novel new E-Power version.

Agnew Fleet Manager

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


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VERSION 1 ACQUIRES NEUEDA Leading technology and digital transformation provider, Version 1, has accelerated its growth and added to its global customer base with the acquisition of Northern Ireland based digital services specialist, Neueda. The purchase, for an undisclosed sum, is the twelfth for Version 1 to date and will help it meet ambitious growth plans, particularly in capital markets where the newly-acquired company Neueda specialises, and create one of the largest expert technology businesses in Northern Ireland. Founded in Belfast in 2002, Neueda has long-standing relationships with customers across the public and private sectors. It has particular niche sectoral expertise in capital markets, partnering with leading companies including J.P. Morgan, Citi, Liberty I.T., Credit Suisse and Microsoft. Version 1 said as its customers accelerate their digital transformation, the acquisition adds additional scale and capabilities to its rapidly growing Digital and Cloud business to meet this demand, with Neueda bringing expertise in Digital Transformation, Trading Technology, Data Analytics, Cloud Services, KDB+, and Accelerated Delivery Platforms. Combined, the businesses will have almost 2000 employees, more than 500 customers and projects revenue of €200 million in the next year with operations in Ireland, the UK, Spain, and India. Following the acquisition, the Neueda executive management team, including Chief Executive Officer Paddy O’Hagan, will join the Version 1

team, focusing on bringing technology leadership to grow its Digital and Cloud Practice in Northern Ireland. It follows the announcement earlier this month of the creation of at least 180 new high-quality technology jobs by Version 1 in Northern Ireland, of which 120 will come through a new Assured Skills Academy being run by Belfast Met.



Neueda Chief Executive Officer, Paddy O’Hagan, and Version 1 CEO, Tom O’Connor.

SONI’s Shaping Our Electricity Future consultation, which sought views on the future development of the electricity transmission grid, markets and the operation of the electricity transmission system has now closed. Launched in March, the consultation is a direct response to the climate crisis and sets out ways the transmission system can be developed to facilitate at least 70% renewable electricity by 2030 – a Alan Campbell, target proposed by Department for Managing Director of SONI the Economy in its Energy Strategy policy options paper. SONI’s focus over the past three months has been to inform as many people as possible about the consultation so they could have their say. During that time, SONI engaged directly with hundreds of stakeholders across Northern Ireland. Early analysis shared by SONI shows a number of emerging themes, including: • The role of micro-generation and the possibility of domestic customers generating their own electricity and exporting the surplus on to the distribution system • New and emerging technologies and their future role. These include hydro, nuclear, hydrogen, biomass and batteries • Power security and the reliability of a grid based on wind and solar energy • The cost of achieving the 2030 renewable targets • The merits of putting electricity infrastructure underground • Concerns regarding the impact of local grid infrastructure projects All submissions will be analysed in detail by SONI and will be incorporated into the final Shaping Our Electricity Future strategy. It is anticipated that this will be published later in the year, setting out the final roadmap to achieving renewable electricity goals.

The £12.2 million restoration and development of the Grand Opera House in Belfast has been completed, allowing the Grand Opera House Trust and its Chief Executive to plan for its full reopening in line with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of the restoration project were recently unveiled and the theatre will reopen to the public with bookable theatre tours in July. These tours will precede the full reopening of the theatre for performances later in the year, subject to the COVID-19 public health guidance at that time. The restoration project, which is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Communities, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation, has seen the auditorium’s paintings and decorative and ornate plasterwork painstakingly restored and conserved, as well as new seating, carpets, curtains and drapes installed. The design of the foyer and public spaces has been totally reimagined, with a new bar installed in the restored 1980 glass extension overhanging Great Victoria Street, as well as beautifully refurbished stalls and circle bars. As part of the project, the theatre’s technical infrastructure has been upgraded and a permanent heritage exhibition installed telling the fascinating story of the theatre’s 125-year history. Facilities for those customers with access needs have also been greatly enhanced throughout.

RoisÍn McDonough (Chief Executive. Arts Council of Northern Ireland), Ian Wilson (Chief Executive, Grand Opera House); Colin Loughran (Chairman Grand Opera House Trust) and Paul Mullan (Director, Northern Ireland, National Lottery Heritage Fund).


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Fully Booked CEO of fonaCAB, William McCausland, says the taxi industry is facing a crisis and he is calling on Stormont to recognise the role it plays in the economy and why a lack of support to encourage new drivers could spell carnage on the streets of Northern Ireland. 84

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rior to the pandemic Ireland’s largest taxi firm, fonaCAB, was celebrating its biggest year to date. Driver numbers and turnover were up, around 30%, thanks to new acquisitions that took the firm further out of Belfast and along the M1 corridor. The sector always had its challenges, William McCausland says, but they’ve been compounded by COVID-19 and have now reached crisis point, which could have lasting damage on what he calls “the fourth emergency service”. “Before the pandemic we were completing around 120,000 jobs a week, which equates to around 14 million passengers a year,” the businessman begins. “We also established a real foothold in areas like Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown, with the guts of 200 cars in the area. In total we had 1400 drivers but fast track to today and we are sitting with around 900 and that’s a problem” he says. Now the economy is slowly reopening, William and his peers are unable to meet demand, such was the haemorrhage of drivers out of the industry during the pandemic.  An ageing driver population contributed to that loss of drivers, many of whom were already considering retirement pre-pandemic. But the flow of incoming drivers is far from accommodating that exodus, for many reasons he explains.  “We need new drivers to come into the industry but the problem is there were very few new drivers coming in over the last five years, even before COVID-19 happened. “The theory and practical tests put drivers off, but now you have that and a lot of other issues deterring them. “The pass rate for that test is low – last year there were only 22 passes from 111 tests. We’ve even had a qualified teacher fail that test on the first go. It’s not easy.”  Anyone applying to become a taxi driver must pass a two-part theory test before they can apply for the practical test. The process before becoming a taxi driver can also be costly, William says, sometimes reaching £400, which is another obstacle for incoming drivers. “We are asking that the Department for Infrastructure temporarily rolls back taxi assessments to a pre-2016 position before the current tests were introduced and when you just had to do a medical and a background check with your standard driving license. The important thing is that you are healthy and a

“At the weekend at times we are refusing around 80% of our calls because we don’t have the drivers to meet demand. That can spell carnage on the street. Think about it, would you want to go out if you knew you would have great difficulty getting a taxi?“

safe driver. You don’t need to be Einstein to drive, you need to be a safe driver, have a good mental attitude and a good way about you,” he adds. “The test needs to be suspended or, at least, made easier and we feel in this post pandemic time we need drastic action, we need decisions made quickly to get the driver numbers up. “We are all losing staff to delivery firms because why would you choose to drive a cab when you can drive for Yodel or Amazon without having to sit a test?” If his and other depot owners’ requests to simplify the test – albeit temporarily – are not met, William anticipates many challenges ahead that will be felt by not just the paying public but businesses, the night-time economy, emergency services and more.  “At the weekend at times we are refusing around 80% of our calls because we don’t have the drivers to meet demand. That can spell carnage on the street. Think about it, would you want to go out if you knew you would have great difficulty getting a taxi?  “If we continue with this shortage then we are looking at needing extra policing on the street to cope with anti-social behaviour, or we could see the rise of illegal taxis that aren’t regulated and put out ridiculous charges. “We would also like to see the cap on maximum taxi tariffs lifted to encourage drivers to work at the weekends too. For the majority, they can make enough during the week that they don’t need to work weekends. The difference between weekday and weekend rates isn’t substantial enough to make it attractive for drivers. We need to see a fare difference there or we could see drivers leaving depots to charge £40 or £50 for a 10 or 15 mile journey.” The taxi boss also hits out at loopholes in the system that have seen other firms operate using Class C categorised licences meaning they do not have to abide by many of the rules and regulations his company must adhere to.

This includes companies like Uber, whose drivers are defined as chauffeurs under a Class C licence. They also don’t have to display a traditional taxi sign. “That’s unfair competition and it drives people towards unregulated fares,” he adds. Beyond the shortage of drivers, William is still gearing up for a bright and sustainable future with a green agenda on the cards. “We are embracing electric and hybrid vehicles and we’re working with the EV sector and other associations but there is a real problem with the charging infrastructure out there.  “We need bigger, faster chargers and more of them to support our needs,” he says. fonaCAB has come a long way since its launch in 1962 when William’s father, Sidney, set up the firm. Today it is the largest service provider of its kind on the island of Ireland. Even comparing the business to a decade ago, William says: “Ten years ago we were seeking customers and now drivers are the most valuable resource. We recognise that and offer a system that allows drivers to work as seamlessly as possible. There are no shifts, drivers come and go when they like. “Even in spite of the pandemic, we’re still here and in operation, but the industry is in crisis and it needs the minister for our sector to be responsible and act to help.  “We believe that the taxi sector is a barometer of the economy and community at large and it’s vital if the Executive is to realise its aspirations for the recovery of the hospitality and tourism sectors.  Regardless, our bread and butter work is in transporting elderly people to a hospital appointment, a family home from the supermarket, kids to school and parents to work. We are needed by the public but we need support to entice more drivers into the job if we are to deliver the high standard of service that we and our customers have come to expect.”


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06/07/2021 16:40

Columnist Niamh Campbell, Sync NI

Techie Talk Time

NI’s tech sector is not only thriving, but helping other industries survive post-lockdown

As lockdown restrictions further ease and businesses begin to get back on their feet in Northern Ireland, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, the local technology community has been on standby with lots of concepts and products to help wider sectors get to grips with a post-COVID future. The digital and IT industry itself is continuing to flourish in the region too, with many more expansion plans and new jobs on the way. Free cybersecurity resources for NI businesses – A recent survey has suggested that the UK is the third worst nation for increased cyberattacks, since remote working began. This is according to Carbon Black, a company that provides workload protection services. No business can be careful enough when it comes to protecting data, being aware of phishing scams and keeping their employees as up-to-date as possible with cyber tips and tricks. Luckily, there are plenty of new initiatives to combat this, such as the NI Cyber Security Centre’s ‘Pocket Guide to a Cyber Secure Business’ for SMEs ( A government-funded cybersecurity training programme has also been launched for anyone in Northern Ireland (aged 16 or over) to become more familiar with the growing industry (

Boom in tech hires and looking further abroad

– The past month has been full of job announcements and investments. For example, PwC is investing £40m and creating 771 new tech and operational jobs in NI over the next five years, with a new Advanced Research and Engineering Centre. Version 1, which recently acquired Neueda to become one of NI’s largest expert tech businesses, has also promised 180 new Belfast-based roles. There has additionally been increased demand from tech companies looking to now secure a sponsor licence with the Home Office, to recruit global talent to NI. Holywood-based cloud company 3EN has secured one, which will allow it to grow significantly and have an overall wider pool of talent. Conor McCrory is an Associate Director specialising in Business Immigration at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. He added that the demand seems to be for software engineers from abroad, who can be paid £15K – £25K less and perhaps with even more experience working at multinational companies.

Belfast solidified as global tech hotspot

The capital city has grown to be a vibrant microcosm of the overall tech community here, particularly over the last five years. Events such as BelTech, AICon and the Digital DNA Awards have been a key representation of that. However, the introduction of EmTech Europe is “an indication of how we matured from being an interesting technology hub, to being a global leader in digital services and product development,” says Bazaarvoice NI’s site lead, Seamus Cushley. The conference brings together tech leaders and enthusiasts from around the world, connecting top minds in cuttingedge fields such as artificial intelligence, connected health, and green energy. It is to be hosted in Belfast annually over the next three years and although held virtually this year, is intended to be an immersive in-person event from 2022 onwards.

Local start-ups helping local industries

Now more than ever probably seems like the most difficult time to start your own business, whether it’s a tech start-up or a new hospitality venture. Nonetheless, with organisations like Catalyst, IgniteNI and Startacus giving helpful hands to innovative digital scale-ups, the sector is going through a real boom and many of the said startups have been born out of the desire to help other industries impacted by the pandemic. For example, pop-up space and idea lab, Hill Street Hatch is welcoming entrepreneurs within the Belfast hospitality sector, who are looking to test and launch new concepts. Gratsi – an NI fintech recently acquired by Strikepay – is facilitating contactless gratuity and tipping for workers within the hospitality and food industries, and Linc is a digital measuring app, providing solutions to the e-commerce and retail industries. It offers integrable API that can increase engagement, reduce returns, and provide vital data insights to retailers. All of these companies and more were handpicked to take part in IgniteNI’s Propel programme, which commenced in January 2021, and they are progressively building more momentum and funding as business picks up nationwide. You can find out more tech resources, news and updates on NI cybersecurity, start-ups and more on


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orthern Ireland’s job market showed significant signs of improvement in May as the economy reopened. HMRC payroll data for the month of May indicated the highest number of employees since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) had its first quarterly increase since December 2010, following four consecutive quarters of decline. This data is certainly encouraging, and a rebound of any sort is to be welcomed, but positive indicators won’t come as a quick fix to all of Northern Ireland’s economic challenges. As ever, top of the to-do list for business leaders and other important stakeholders is to try and tackle our longstanding problem of low productivity relative to other regions. While this is a problem facing the UK economy as a whole, it cannot be ignored that the situation in Northern Ireland is significantly worse and undoubtedly contributes to underperformance across the region. We are all familiar with the stats that the average German worker would have produced by around 2pm on Thursday what their UK counterpart completes in a week. But do we know that employees in Northern Ireland would have to work to almost 4pm on Saturday to match this same level of output? Many have tried to identify the potential causes to try and explain why firms in Northern Ireland are less productive than those in other parts of the UK, yet attempts to address this imbalance have

not been entirely successful. The reality is that the issues are so deep-seated that a quick-fix solution can only scratch the surface and the macro challenges such as our geographical location, reliance on the public sector, and our economic structure, make finding a solution all the more difficult. That said, it should not be an excuse to allow the productivity gap to become even wider. Put simply, productivity growth is important to businesses because it means they can meet obligations to workers, shareholders and to the local economy. It’s an issue Ulster Bank has been focusing on for some time and thanks to a successful partnership with NI Chamber, we have been delivering our Boosting Productivity series to business leaders across Northern Ireland to try and help them achieve this. At each session, attendees were given the opportunity to hear from leaders who have successfully transformed their businesses and made them future fit. By sharing their firsthand experiences and learnings, it is hoped these business owners will have inspired other entrepreneurs and shown how advancing productivity can be replicated in smaller companies right across Northern Ireland. From feedback collected post-event, we learned that 96% of attendees gained key learnings that benefited their company while almost 70% widened their business network including new contacts, potential suppliers and customers. Often looking inwards, reinvesting in workers and demonstrating a commitment to retraining and

upskilling can lead to sizeable productivity gains. It sounds like a simple solution and while it may not immediately improve the future prosperity of the region as a whole, when implemented in enough businesses it will certainly have a positive impact. Of course, there are new challenges emerging all the time for businesses and it is still not clear what permanent impact COVID-19 will have had on working patterns, but while we wait for policymakers to address the underlying causes of low productivity, there are solutions and structures that companies can introduce to manage their own levels of output. With things tentatively opening up again, we hope to deliver some further events on this topic and make additional resources available to businesses who are interested in learning more. Keep an eye on the NI Chamber website for more information or visit to find out how we can help boost the productivity of your business.

REWARD, RETAIN, RECRUIT Attract the best talent and make sure your employees feel valued with exceptional employee benefits. At no cost to the business, Agnew Leasing’s Affinity Car Scheme offers companies a great way to reward employees/ members, without any risk. Agnew Leasing’s Affinity Car Scheme has been designed to enable companies and organisations across the UK to offer their employees/members a secure, online quotation system to help them find their perfect car. Simply choose your vehicle along with a term and mileage to suit your circumstances, you will see the rental options and you can place an order for the vehicle. We will help you to secure finance approval. The finance documents will be sent to you electronically and we will be on hand to liaise with you regarding vehicle delivery when the time comes. At the end of the contract, simply hand your vehicle back, without any hassle or concerns over depreciation. If you are interested in integrating our Affinity Car Scheme into your company’s benefits package, please get in touch with our Affinity Team on 028 9009 7108 or email on


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05/07/2021 15:05

Columnist Mark Owens Managing Director (Northern Ireland), Civica

NI Should be at the Forefront of Digital Transformation in Public Services


n 2017, the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive launched Making Lives Better, a strategy to help deliver more modernised public services through better use of technology, work processes and investment in people. At the time, no one could have imagined that this new approach would be put to the ultimate test within only three years. Nevertheless, over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a radical shift towards digital tech, as our vital public services have supported us through the pandemic. People of all ages across NI, from children to senior citizens, have embraced digital technologies to keep life moving forward. As a community, we’ve moved from offices to home working, from classrooms to home schooling and kept in touch with loved ones via video call for well over a year. Now, as we emerge from the darkest days of the pandemic, citizens and communities of all ages and backgrounds have a newfound appreciation for, and very different expectations from, digital public services. According to Civica’s latest ‘A Word from the Wise’ research, over two-thirds of citizens over the age of 70 in NI recognise the role technology has in helping elderly or vulnerable adults live independently for longer. Nearly three quarters feel confident that they would be able to use devices such as iPads, smartphones, and wearables to improve their health, safety and wellbeing. In other words, one of the biggest barriers to the digitalisation of our public services - digital literacy - has effectively disappeared over the past year. For the Northern Ireland Executive and local councils, this means we now have a unique opportunity to accelerate the delivery of more digitally enabled, streamlined and personalised public services.

70% of all citizen transactions with government via digital channels by 2019. By 2024, all citizens in Northern Ireland will have a single ‘digital care record’ that will replace the outdated patchwork of digital and paper systems used at the moment, providing easier, more tailored access to medical care. As we begin to return to some semblance of normality, the Executive and local councils have a unique opportunity to expedite the digital roadmap for NI so we can become a true world-class digital economy. The public sector must work with the private sector to harness the tried, tested and trusted technological solutions which already exist to meet the demand from citizens to provide more digital services. Data is the catalyst Data is critical to this. The NI Executive and our other public bodies already have access to a wealth of data. But raw data sitting on spreadsheets and hard drives across various departments is of little value. Unlocking the true value of data depends on how we collect, manage and use it. The Executive has launched the Open Data Strategy for Northern Ireland 2020–2023 to drive a transparency agenda across government and create a resource which will improve the economy and lives of people in NI. With more availability of data, organisations from both the private and public sector can generate better insights to improve decision making. The availability of this information will help public bodies develop robust services that deliver maximum value for citizens and communities. NI led the way on embracing digital tech to support people and business during the pandemic. For this, we should feel pride, but also a sense of ambition for what the future could hold. If digital technologies can keep vital public services running during a global pandemic, imagine what they could do during less challenging times.

Building on a solid foundation The pandemic laid bare the key role of digital technologies in maintaining our vital public services, from healthcare to education, during times of crisis. The pandemic may have been a catalyst for an increase in technology adoption, but NI has been at the forefront of digital transformation for years. Back in 2016, the government launched the Northern Ireland Digital Transformation programme which aimed to increase the number of government services accessible online and deliver

We have a unique opportunity to fundamentally transform the relationship between citizens and the vital public services they depend upon to live their lives. Let’s embrace that opportunity with both hands and build a better future.


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05/07/2021 15:05


Medical Director, Dr Pamela McHenry

Sun Awareness is the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer. At Belfast Skin Clinic we believe in prevention and early detection to reduce your chances of getting skin cancer. Here are some skin safety tips. • Tanned skin is damaged skin • Never let your skin burn, whatever your skin type. • Every time you use a sunbed you damage your skin. This damage ages the skin causing wrinkles to appear and can lead to skin cancer. Using a sunbed once a month or more can increase the risk of skin cancer by more than half.

Children burn more easily. Sunburn in childhood can lead to skin cancer later in life. Protect them with a hat, t-shirt and factor 50+ sunscreen.

View Tanorama on the BBC iPlayer now. july 21 ’sunscreens you can rely on’ For more information or to book an appointment visit or email:

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMES THAT ARE READY TO ADAPT Tourism A key ingredient for prospering in recovery is “agility and adaptability”. Professor. Ahearne also explains SMEs need to find a way to tap into consumer savings. The tourism sector has been heavily challenged, but continued restrictions will encourage domestic travel. For companies who wish to avail of these opportunities InterTradeIreland’s E-Merge support can help your business develop its online sales and marketing. The Green Economy Climate change is a pressing issue and governments need to enable a green recovery in order to become low-carbon. This means opportunities exist for firms to re-brand and “ride the tailcoats of the green economy”.

Susan Dempsey and Fiona Craul, founders of Sweetspot Sourcing, a company who benefitted from InterTradeIreland Elevate programme.

InterTradeIreland has committed to enabling businesses to adapt to a low carbon economy, including our Synergy programme. which has supported projects such as the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation on an all-island biomap

The pandemic has had a huge impact on economies globally. As we begin the recovery stage, now is the time for SMEs to re-enter productive phases in their businesses, according to Professor. Alan Ahearne, special economic adviser to Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.

Localised supply chains Global supply chains were interrupted during the pandemic and many think this may lead towards de-globalisation, meaning a shift towards more localised supply chains, with businesses producing locally and consumers buying more locally.

Speaking on the important business impacts and opportunities associated with Covid-19, Professor Ahearne’s webinar forms part of a content series from InterTradeIreland’s All-island Innovation Programme, which aims to give crossborder SMEs access to cutting-edge thinking through practical business advice.

For companies looking for ways to drive growth and recovery, cross-border trade can be a lucrative opportunity and both InterTradeIreland’s Acumen and Elevate programmes can provide funding to do so.

As we exit a second lock-down we examine why his message is still relevant. Industries most critically impacted by the pandemic were consumer-facing sectors, but as the economy reopens, signs of growth are the reason for optimism.

For more information on InterTradeIreland support, contact us today.


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ACCORDING to the latest statistics released by CBRE, take up of office space across the UK has fallen significantly during the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same period in the previous year. In the UK, take up of office space fell by 74 per cent, whilst Belfast was 41 per cent lower when compared to the same period in 2020. The impact of the pandemic has forced many businesses to reconsider the way in which they operate and in VenYou Client Services Director, Donna Linehan’s opinion, the serviced office sector could provide the perfect answer. Donna writes… The upheaval created by the coronavirus pandemic has left many businesses searching for an appropriate way forward which accommodates both staff and company needs. With the uptake of offices falling across the UK and here in Belfast, it’s becoming more and more apparent that conventional office spaces do not offer the flexibility or cost effectiveness required for the hybrid working arrangements that will likely become the ‘new normal’. For many years, the serviced office sector has promoted itself as a flexible option for businesses and what may have been viewed as somewhat of a fad in the past, now finds itself leading the conversation regarding the future of office working. The Scottish Provident Building, located in Belfast’s Donegall Square and managed by VenYou, a bespoke serviced office provider which also manages Ascot House and Northern Court, is currently noticing an increased interest from local business owners. A number of new companies have moved into the building in recent months, rendering its current occupancy level at a strong mid-80 per cent compared to last March when it dipped to 70 per cent having been in the high 90s pre-pandemic.

We know that one of the biggest attractions for businesses is the fact that the serviced office sector offers the utmost in terms of flexibility. At VenYou, we offer our tenants short-term lease contracts, meaning that businesses do not have to commit to lengthy contracts, which can be especially beneficial if they’re a new start-up or emerging business. In terms of cost effectiveness, there is a common misconception that the serviced office sector is expensive, however it certainly gives great value for money when you consider what is included in the cost. For instance, with VenYou serviced offices, our tenants pay one manageable monthly payment, which includes rent, internet usage, housekeeping, reception services and other sundries; for a small additional cost you can avail of our state-of-the-art meeting rooms and video conference facilities.

that more businesses are searching for flexible, supportive and cost-effective alternative office spaces for the future. I firmly believe that the serviced office sector has much to offer and will continue to buck the trend of conventional office spaces well into the future. For more information, contact the VenYou team by calling: 028 9091 8500 or visit the website: www.

This, coupled with flexible contracts, means that serviced offices can provide the perfect environment for companies to grow and expand. Alongside new tenants joining the Scottish Provident Building, several of our existing tenants have also experienced such business growth that they have needed to move to larger office space within the building. As a serviced office provider, one of our main missions is to provide a supportive environment where our tenants’ businesses can grow and expand. Therefore, if a business requires a larger, or indeed a smaller office space, we guarantee to try our very best to accommodate them. One further advantage of the Scottish Provident Building is the fact that it boasts a traditional layout from the early 20th century, which means that our offices can safely and comfortably accommodate between three and eight members of staff, whilst some of our larger offices can fit up to 20 desks. With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, it’s no wonder


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05/07/2021 15:04


Chris Rees, Head Chef at the River Room Restaurant at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, serves pan roasted monkfish with spring greens and devilled shrimps.

Dine & Wine Serves four

Place the fish stock and white wine in a small saucepan and reduce to about 20% of the original quantity. At this point, start to whisk in the flavoured butter until all of it has been incorporated into the stock creating a butter sauce. Add the shrimps, herbs and cucumber and set aside. For the fish: Preheat your oven to about 110°C. Trim the monkfish using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors and season with a little salt. Place the fish into a hot pan and cook until one side is lightly golden. Add half of the cooking butter to the pan then use a spoon to turn the fish and baste with the foaming butter. Once the fish has a nice golden colour, transfer it to a tray and set aside. This dish is the fish course on the latest menu at The River Room, Galgorm. It consists of some lightly cooked local spring greens with slices of monkfish tail carved on top and is served with a complex sauce which is slightly spiced with citrus and herb flavours. Brown shrimps are warmed through in the sauce. This is perfect as a light main course on a summer’s day. Some boiled and dressed jersey royal potatoes are an excellent accompaniment. Ingredients For the fish: • 100g brown shrimps • 800g–1kg piece of monkfish (all our fish can be bought at Ewings fishmongers in Belfast) • 100g fresh peas • 100g broad beans • 2 heads of gem lettuce • 50g samphire • 100g butter for cooking • 1tbsp oil • Salt for seasoning

For the sauce: • 200ml fish stock • 100ml white wine • 100g butter • 2 cloves garlic • 4 anchovy fillets • 1 large shallot • Juice and zest of an orange • 1 tbsp capers • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper • 3 tbsp freshly ground nutmeg • A splash of Worchester sauce • A pinch or two of chopped chives and parsley • 100g finely diced cucumber Method For the sauce: First, make a flavoured butter. Blend all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor except the stock, wine, butter, herbs and cucumber, until a paste is achieved. Mix the paste with the butter at room temperature, and then fold in the herbs. Allow this to set hard in a small container then cut into cubes.

For the greens: Pick the peas and beans out of their shells then cook in boiling salted water for approximately 1 minute. Cool under running cold water or in a little ice water: the skins or husks can now be easily removed. To cook the lettuce, first wash it then remove and discard the outer leaves. Cut the lettuce in half or in quarters, depending on size. Place in a saucepan with the rest of the butter and gently poach along with the peas and broad beans. To assemble the dish: Place the basted fish in the oven for around 5-6 minutes until cooked – it should feel just firm – then allow it to rest. While the fish is resting, heat up the sauce and place a couple of spoonfuls into the bottom of a bowl followed by a spoonful of the peas, beans and samphire. I like to drape the wilted lettuce to the side of this. At this point the fish should have rested and will be ready to carve into nice slices, each of which can be laid across the top of the sauce and greens and garnished with a few final herbs.

Need the perfect pairing?

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

Wine Pairing: Bricco dei Guazzi Gavi Di Gavi DOCG Gavi is considered Piedmont’s white jewel in the crown and Italy’s first white wine to gain an international reputation. Made with 100% estateowned Cortese grapes, this Gavi is a wine that reflects its terroir with a crisp, flinty and fresh acidity, coming from the mineral-rich soils of the area. Cortese grapes come from a native vine that boasts very ancient origins and it is widespread throughout the Alessandrino area. Known for its easy drinkability and for its immediate pleasantness, it gives rise to wines that are clean, fresh and vital. In the municipality of Gavi, where this wine gets its name, its production is protected by the DOCG label which guarantees the product’s high quality. Pale yellow in colour, this Gavi offers intense floral notes on the nose with hints of melon and citrus. It is a well-balanced wine, distinctly fruit driven with underlying hints of almonds on the finish. To the palate it is elegant, very fresh and tasty, balancing the variety’s typical acidity with a genteel profile with good drinkability.


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05/07/2021 15:04

A harmless mole, or potential skin cancer?

At Belfast Skin Clinic we offer general skin checks, mole scanning and skin cancer screening services.



For more information or to book a consultation call Belfast Skin Clinic on 028 9066 7077 or email



Joanne Harkness

Summertime Style OMNES


Ulster Tatler Woman Editor, Joanne Harkness, gives her top picks for summertime fashion.

Iris dress by KNITTS.

Alexia wrap skirt, Isabel Manns.

Linen shirt, Very £16.

Polo shirt in rose, M&Co, £16.99.

Small Amberley satchel, Mulberry, £695.

Sophie metallic strappy sliders in orange, Accessorize, £29.


Fashion Page.indd 2

06/07/2021 14:34


IT’S TIME TO PRESS THE RESET BUTTON The Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission, chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC, has recently published forward-looking, pragmatic proposals for NI and Belfast to press the reset button on how prosperity and growth is delivered. The ‘Reset for Growth’ report stresses that urgent and radical action is needed to turn around Northern Ireland’s struggling economy and deliver better future opportunities for people living here. It sets out a wide range of propositions to amplify the city and region’s future success under four focused action areas: • More globally relevant – Belfast and the region needs to up its game in supporting trade and investment successes. The opportunity exists for the region to punch well above its weight, but it must seize it. • Immediate action on climate change and turning this into an economic opportunity – the report recommends starting with retrofitting homes across the region and decarbonising transport to reduce demand on fossil fuels, with a target for Belfast to be Carbon Neutral by 2050. The Commission also believes that Belfast needs to grow its GreenTech industries at pace. • Housing development – Housing development needs to sit at the core of the city’s renewal plans. The provision, quality and affordability of housing is a key ingredient to a city’s attractiveness as well as offering a significant economic benefit. • Stronger core city – Belfast and other economic hubs need investment to bounce back from COVID-19 and other underlying economic and social challenges if they are to drive the region’s recovery.

Members of the Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission: Suzanne Wylie (Belfast City Council); Grainne Long (NI Housing Executive); Ann McGregor (NI Chamber) and Cllr Áine Groogan.

• A laser focus on building world-renowned business clusters – through large scale investment in research and innovation and developing capability and talent. A copy of the Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission report is available by emailing

HYSTER-YALE GROUP CELEBRATES 40 YEARS IN CRAIGAVON WITH MULTI-MILLION EXPANSION Hyster-Yale Group is celebrating 40 years of manufacturing lift trucks at its plant in Craigavon with a multi-million dollar site expansion. The Craigavon facility, which opened in 1981, was built and equipped with the most up-to-date robot systems and equipment. Over the years the plant has grown, and now manufactures thousands of forklifts each year for export throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It employs hundreds of people from the local area and is recruiting dozens more as the site expands in preparation for future manufacturing demands and new product lines. Jim Downey, Plant Manager for Hyster-Yale Group EMEA in Craigavon, commented: “The success of our plant at Craigavon is driven by our incredible people who have worked together to conquer challenges, embrace new opportunities, and maintain forward momentum. With our site expansion and talented team, we are excited to be laying the foundations for the next 40 years of success.” The company has invested millions of dollars over the past two years developing the factory, which incorporates leading technologies and automated systems. The new 60,000 sq. ft. extension to the factory will be known as the Sands Building, in honour of Harry Sands, former Senior VP and Managing Director, EMEA, for Hyster-Yale Group, who retired in 2020 after 40 years with the company, most recently based in Craigavon. It has been built with environmental specifications in mind, as the site aims to reduce carbon emissions by 30%, in addition to realising

Hyster-Yale Plant Manager Jim Downey and Invest NI Chief Executive Kevin Holland.

targets for reducing water consumption, waste, and landfill. The latest plant extension also incorporates an environmentally friendly Sustainable Urban Drainage System, and the plant continues its commitment to biodiversity.


News Round Up pg95.indd 1

06/07/2021 16:14

Columnist Jim Fitzpatrick, Journalist and Broadcaster

Necessity is the Mother of Invention Journalist and broadcaster Jim Fitzpatrick discusses how industries have adapted and innovated during the pandemic.

disease, an improvement that is surely worth maintaining as we emerge from the pandemic. How many times have you sat for a prolonged period in a crowed doctor’s waiting room with all the coughs and sniffles around you, just knowing that you’re getting sicker the longer you wait thanks to the generous sharing of viruses from your fellow patients? I’ve heard medics in other areas talk enthusiastically about how they’ve reformed certain processes in days that would otherwise have taken years, due to the basic need to just “get it done” during this crisis. They’re mindful of the tsunami of need that awaits them, but they do not want the old bad habits to return as things return to “normal”. And in other areas of life we’ve seen the innovation with our own eyes. I’ve been hugely impressed and heartened with the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by our hospitality sector. Who knew that outdoor dining and drinking could be a thing in rainy old Northern Ireland? It’s a joy to see people outside enjoying life and bringing life to our towns and cities. This innovation has required imagination on the part of restaurateurs and publicans, but also a certain amount of flexibility on the part of planners and regulators. Despite some tension, they’ve worked things out. So as we hope society continues to emerge from this awful year of plague, we know that things will never be quite the same again. And in some cases, that will be for the good.


t was reporting on the fast-moving tech industry where I first encountered references to a “burning platform” in a business context. The idea that innovation only really happens when you realise that because of change or competition, the ground beneath your feet is not solid but is disappearing in flames. In other words, necessity is the mother of invention. One positive aspect of the pandemic is that we have seen how a real crisis can prompt incredible innovation and prompt the kind of progress that might otherwise have taken many years. The obvious example is the development of vaccines. It’s easy to forget now that when the virus first swept the globe back in March last year, even the most optimistic of assessments did not envisage that we would be so far advanced with successful vaccine production with not just one, but several, potent options from which to choose. The delivery of the vaccines – from purchase to jabs – is another area where successful innovation is obvious. The Vaccine Taskforce was chaired by venture capitalist Kate Bingham. Initial reaction to this appointment was largely negative as many commentators worried about “crony capitalism” with jobs for the well-connected (Ms Bingham is married to a Conservative MP) and contracts based on political patronage. Yet Kate Bingham proved them wrong. Her venture capitalist experience, combined with a deep scientific understanding, gave her the skills necessary to manage risk and match the level of risk (with taxpayers’ money) to the anticipated need. She planned for a 50% failure rate. In the end, the vaccines were better than could have been predicted. Unlike PPE at the start of the pandemic, supply was never an issue for the UK’s vaccine rollout. But purchase is just one part of the complicated equation. Delivery is the second, vital element. Here the innovation came from the public sector and the NHS. From the booking system, to the delivery via GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and mass vaccination centres; the vaccine rollout has been a wonder to behold. But consider too how other elements of healthcare have stepped up to the challenge of the last year. With GPs unable to conduct the usual surgeries, appointments moved online and onto zoom or telephone. It’s not ideal for some cases, but in the vast majority it allowed doctors to diagnose and treat patients effectively and efficiently without the risk of spreading

“One positive aspect of the pandemic is that we have seen how a real crisis can prompt incredible innovation and prompt the kind of progress that might otherwise have taken many years.” 96

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THE NEXT STEPS FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY Ambition talks to new NI Chamber president Paul Murnaghan and vice-president Gillian McAuley.

06/07/2021 11:52

Profile for NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ambition Issue 57 (July/August 2021)  

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