Game-changing £250m investment deal puts city on global AI, medical research map


Business and healthcare leaders in the Northern Ireland city of Derry are celebrating this week after the single largest-ever Government investment in the region will allow for expansion of pioneering research projects across health, medicines, artificial intelligence and robotics and technology – spearheaded by Ulster University.

Among the strategic projects included in the £250m Derry & Strabane City Deal investment package is the delivery of Centres of Innovation and Research at Ulster University in artificial intelligence and data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA), together with the key smart/ digital City and Region initiatives, as well as the delivery of The School of Medicine at the Magee campus and the creation of a Health Research Institute (HRI) in the city and the expansion of CTRIC at the Altnagelvin Area Hospital site through a pioneering health-innovation project entitled THRIVE.

The key delivery partners of the City Deal led by Derry City and Strabane District Council are the Ulster University, the Western Health and Social Services Trust, the North West Regional College and C-TRIC.

Dr Aaron Peace, CEO of C-TRIC and Director of Research and Development for the Western Trust said: “COVID-19 has reminded everyone of the importance of clinical research. The health innovation project, THRIVE, which is a unique equal partnership between the Western Health & Social Care Trust (WHSCT), Ulster University (UU) and Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC), will be of major benefit to the people of Derry/Londonderry and Strabane and is funded from the Inclusive Future Fund.

“THRIVE, as an expansion of our local research facility C-TRIC, is building on an established track record in personalised medicine which is a global priority. Our personalised medicine researchers, currently working at the cutting-edge of clinical research, will grow in the new expanded C-TRIC/THRIVE building, based at Altnagelvin and into the new Health Research Institute/THRIVE building which will be located beside the School of Medicine at Magee.

“The THRIVE initiative will seek to increase the number of talented graduates, serving the burgeoning Life and Health Science District in Northern Ireland. Our ability to better understand, treat and predict outcomes for patients with long-term medical conditions will be supported by a pioneering community owned Healthcare Research Company. THRIVE in partnership with our community will study the secrets of long-term medical conditions through their DNA. This rich repository of healthcare information will help attract more investment to the DCSDC area and across Northern Ireland. We look forward to bringing this brave vision to life in the years ahead.”

Welcoming this huge milestone, Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice Chancellor of Ulster University said: “Ulster University’s projects will further enhance Derry’s reputation as a centre for excellence for Research and Innovation and a hub for Health Sciences. The University already has a reputation for excellent research, and as such, we are well placed to deliver courses at the Magee campus in priority growth areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Smart Manufacturing Systems and Personalised Medicine which support these wider City Deal ambitions.”

So what is the City Deal?

The funding is as follows :

City Deal UK Government City Deal £50m – City Deal NI Government match funding £50m = £100m

Future Fund UK Government £55m – Future Fund NI Government match funding £55m = £110m

Total UK and NI Government investment = £210m

Project partner commitment = £40m

Total investment = £250m

Key funding to be allocated as follows:

CARL – Centre of Innovation and Research at Ulster University in artificial intelligence and data analytics (CARL) – £16.5m

CIDRA- Centre of Innovation and Research at Ulster University in robotics and innovation – £22.5m

NIGEMS/THRIVE – expansion of CTRIC at the Altnagelvin Area Hospital site through a pioneering health-innovation project – £45m

Key generation projects in the City Deal also include the provision of mixed use civic, health, leisure and educational facilities as part of a major regeneration of Strabane Town Centre.