The Derry~Londonderry and Strabane City Deal is being developed in close alignment with the regional and national policy context.
The City Deal projects will enable and complement the region’s access to other funding mechanisms aligned to these documents including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
This multi-year Programme for Government, underpinned by a multi-year budget and legislative programme commits to bringing positive changes in areas that impact greatly on people’s lives such as the economy, overcrowded hospitals, struggling schools, housing stress, welfare concerns and mental health.
In relation to Ulster University, the Executive identifies as objectives the need to expand university provision at Magee in line with commitments made by the previous Executive, including through the establishment of a Graduate Entry Medical School.
The New Decade, New Approach document articulates support for the City Deal packages for Derry & Strabane and Belfast and also notes that top priority of the Executive will be to develop a regionally-balanced economy with opportunities for all. It says, the Executive will invest strategically in ensuring that NI has the right mix of skills for a thriving economy.
The Northern Ireland Innovation Strategy is based on a vision for Northern Ireland to be recognised as an Innovation Hub: one of the UK’s leading high-growth, knowledge-based regions. The Strategy’s priority areas are Cultural Change, Knowledge Generation, Knowledge Exchange and Knowledge Exploitation. The Strategy suggests that Northern Ireland has potential to become one of the most innovative regions in the UK. However, if NI is to achieve this, the Strategy highlights that more companies need to be proactively engaging in innovation, collaboration, and exporting, and working towards becoming more globally competitive.
The City Deal is a key element of the delivery of Derry City and Strabane District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan – Our Community Plan, 2017 – 2013 published in November 2017.
The Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) is the overarching plan that sets out the social, economic and environmental wellbeing aspirations of the City and District up to 2032.
The Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan process drives inclusive, sustainable growth and prosperity across our City and entire District.
The plan sets out plans to improve our City and region’s global competitiveness. It commits to enhancing our skills, retaining our talent base, addressing poverty, social exclusion and patterns of deprivation. It expresses a passion for our built and natural heritage and sustainably enhancing our environment to develop a connected and vibrant City, Town Centres and rural areas.
This Strategic Growth Plan was presented as the result of an extensive period of engagement with citizens, organisations and businesses. This plan was informed by a robust evidence base helped develop the themes, outcomes, indicators and actions.
The vision set out in the Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan is:
a thriving, prosperous and sustainable City and District with equality of opportunity for all.
Published in January 2017, Economy 2030 commits to the ambition for Northern Ireland to ‘be a globally competitive economy that works for everyone’. To do so, it sets out five priority areas. These are:
- Accelerating Innovation and Research
- Enhancing Education, Skills, and Employability
- Driving Inclusive, Sustainable Growth
- Succeeding in Global Markets
- Building the best economic infrastructure
The strategy sets an objective of increasing expenditure on research and development to £1.5 billion by 2030.
While the Strategy recognises that Northern Ireland is making progress in terms of its innovation activity, it states that ‘further significant improvement is needed if we are to close the gap with top performing economies and to realise our ambition of establishing Northern Ireland as an innovation powerhouse on a global stage’.
The Strategy identifies Northern Ireland’s strong and emerging sectors: Advanced Manufacturing, Materials and Engineering, Life and Health Sciences, Agri-Food, and Constructions and Materials Handling.
The UK Industrial Strategy sets out the aim to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries, and infrastructure leading to a transformed economy.
The strategy identifies five components of every successful economy:
- Ideas (aiming to develop the world’s most innovative economy)
- People (aiming to create good jobs and greater earning power for all)
- Infrastructure (aiming to implement a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure)
- Business environment (aiming for the UK to be the best place to start and grow a business)
- Places (aiming to develop prosperous communities across the UK).
Four Grand Challenges areas are set out in the Strategy, with the aim of putting the UK at the forefront of Industries of the Future:
1. AI and data – The importance of data to the economy, and the increasing prevalence of AI provide an opportunity for the UK’s high skilled economy to become a world leader in these fields;
2. Mobility – The opportunities presented by modernising the transport network and infrastructure are great. This includes improving the connections between cities, encouraging the growth of electric vehicles, and ensuring automation can be adopted safely;
3. Clean growth – Ensuring that the UK is able to continue the move towards a less carbon reliant economy with the adoption of ‘clean’ technology across the economy; and,
4. Ageing society – A rapidly aging society poses a number of health and labour market challenges across the UK economy.
The 5 Foundations of the UK Government’s economic policy are:
1. Ideas (R&D, innovation);
2. People (skills and education);
3. Infrastructure (broadband, energy, transport);
4. Business environment (support for specific sectors and SMEs); and,
5. Places (tackling regional disparities).
To help deliver the strategy, the government has established the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This will provide funding to tackle the Grand Challenges, strengthening science and business innovation in the UK, forming part of the government’s £4.7 billion investment in research and development.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy identifies Northern Ireland’s existing core strengths in the life sciences sector, one of the dominant sectors in the UK. These include regional excellence in diagnostics, clinical trials, and drug development, as well as expertise in health analytics. This is aided by Northern Ireland’s unique dataset and Electronic Healthcare Record which incorporates unique patient identifiers for over 500,000 individuals.
The Strategy outlines an ambition to exploit these strengths through a vision for Northern Ireland to become a ‘living lab’, as well as to build our life sciences industry into a global hub that makes the UK the home of clinical research and medical innovation’.
To ensure that these aims are implemented, the Strategy makes a recommendation for the workings of industry and health care systems to be more closely aligned. The need for collaboration was further underlined in the February 2019 report of the Topol Review.
Conducted by Professor Wendy Hall and Jerome Resenti, this report is written around the vision of seeing the UK becoming the best place in the world for businesses developing and deploying AI to start, grow, and to realise all the benefits.
The report identifies that the UK has combined historical and current strengths which enables it to be a leader in this area. For example, the UK now has 1.64 million tech jobs in the tech industry, and the growth rate of the market was more than double of the non-digital market between 2011 and 2015.
The report also estimates that AI will add an additional £630bn to the UK economy by 2035. As well as having benefits for industry, it will be a very effective tool in addressing public sector challenges, and improving efficiency in mainstream services. Ultimately, AI is widely seen as having enormous potential to improve the functioning of many sectors.
However – this amazing potential can only be retained and improved if changes are made in how AI is used. The report’s main recommendations are as follows:
- Improve access to data
- Improve supply of skills
- Maximise UK AI research and commercialisation
- Support uptake of AI
The report emphasises that pursuing AI excellence in the UK must be a joint effort, which can only be achieved by government, academia, and industry collaborating to implement and develop AI into the future.
Published in 2016, the AMME Report identifies much potential for the Advanced Manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland. It recognises the sector’s status as the largest in Northern Ireland as well as a palpable critical mass in materials handling.
In order to maximise this potential companies are encouraged to seek opportunities for collaboration wherever they lie and to look beyond localised networking.
The report identifies that limited access to up-to-date equipment is currently a challenge to Northern Ireland’s competition in global markets.