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Today, Ulster University welcomed U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, a delegation of some of the most innovative, influential and successful senior U.S. business leaders to have ever visited Northern Ireland, and over 200 local industry leaders, to Ulster University’s Belfast campus.

An event to promote Northern Ireland as a compelling investment proposition, was held in the very same atrium where President Joseph R. Biden delivered his key address just six months ago, when he pledged to organise this business delegation to Northern Ireland.

Vice-Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paul Bartholomew commented:

“It was only a few short months ago when I stood in this very atrium and had the honour of welcoming President Joseph R. Biden to this campus and indeed to NI. As I said in my address then - our new campus reflects the hope and promise of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. It brings 16,000 students and staff from across NI, and indeed the world, to research and study together the subjects that will shape our tomorrow and drive our prosperity. This new campus stands as a beacon for aspiration, as an engine of innovation and as a symbol of what has been achieved.  But we cannot, and we will not, stand still. That is why it is of such import to welcome U.S and local business leaders here today. There is so much more to do, and so much more of our potential to realise – socially, culturally and economically.

“We aspire to inspire, to work together with each other, with businesses and political leaders, with wider communities – anyone who shares our vision of a brighter future. In this 25th anniversary year of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, Ulster University is renewing our commitment to this place and its people, not only through research and innovation, but also through our transformational leadership programme, 25@25, that is developing the change-makers and leaders of tomorrow.”

The Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady commented:

“Today’s event at Ulster University enabled this Senior Business delegation to get a real understanding of why NI is a compelling proposition for investment. Our talented, educated and innovative workforce is world class and delivering locally made solutions to global problems, particularly in our leading-edge sectors such as digital, software, cyber and fintech; life and health sciences and net zero technologies…as well as our renowned creative industries. Our world-leading R&D in these areas, flows from our pioneering Universities, which alongside our Further and Higher Education institutions ensure that NI has a skills base that is second to none.  

“The very best of what this place has to offer was showcased and it was a truly collaborative effort between academia, business and government.”

About the event

On campus, the U.S. delegation and wider audience took part in two panel discussions promoting Northern Ireland as a compelling investment proposition, including our world class clusters of strength through the perspectives of international investors and globally focussed businesses from NI. They focused on the value to business of committed $2bn+ investment through the City and Growth Deals, of which Ulster University has a lead role in several.

This event also highlighted NI’s innovation ecosystem ‘triple helix’ of business, academia and government – many of whom were in the audience, offering significant networking opportunities.

Panel One entitled: ‘This is NI,’ focused on demonstrating Northern Ireland’s key sectors of global strength with the second panel entitled: ‘Innovation and R&D with the Universities (City and Growth Deals).’ Additionally, a closed Investor Session was facilitated in the University’s Boardroom which was a roundtable discussion to provide delegates with an overview of the funding landscape in Northern Ireland, insights from prestigious long-term investors in the region, and details as to how Venture Capital and complimentary funding has grown in recent years, fuelling the success of Northern Ireland businesses and input from both Universities on the commercialisation of innovation and research.

Ulster University’s Academy Restaurant was a fitting venue for a lunchtime Skills Panel session: ‘NI Skills – Powering Our Economy,’ which delivered insights on the unique approach to NI skills provision including further and higher educational institutions, industry perspectives and real-life experience.

Following the event, delegates were offered a choice of bespoke sectoral experiences, one of which was for Creative Industries and included a site visit to the futuristic Virtual Production Suite in the Ulster Screen Academy, followed by a visit to the soon to be opened virtual production facility, Studio Ulster.


From Wednesday’s event it was announced that Ulster University, working alongside the Alan Turing Institute, Cambridge and Exeter Universities, have secured £3.2m in UKRI funding to establish a new UK-wide digital twin research network to help transform the UK’s national capability.

The network community has been identified as urgently needed to fill gaps in the underpinning research relating to digital twins.

A digital twin can be described as a computational model designed to replicate a physical object or process. This can range from a virtual copy of a single structure, such as a bridge, to more complicated infrastructure, such as an entire city. They can help offer insights into how an object or process is working, allowing the opportunity to drastically improve its functionality.

The funding will encourage new collaboration and innovation in the application of digital twin technologies through a UK-wide research network across academia, industry and government.

Ulster University will play a leadership role in the project that will see coordination of a range of network activities over the course of the next 5 years. These activities will include networking events, special interest group activity such as white papers and roadmaps, sandpit events, and outreach activities.

The project will also fund pilot and feasibility studies that will enable proof of concept work on digital twin topics, relevant to the project themes. The Network will initially focus on several opportunity sectors - a number of which are aligned with significant ongoing activities at Ulster.  This includes the Ulster University led £38 million Centre for Digital Health Technologies (CDHT) and the £90 million Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), a joint project led by Queen’s University Belfast.

Over the next five years the award will help develop game-changing breakthroughs that will lead to a new generation of intelligent, resilient, and trusted digital twins.

Professor Dewar Finlay, Ulster’s lead investigator of the project and Head of School of Engineering said:

“The project is a timely development for us as it aligns with our ongoing activity in building our capacity to conduct digital twin research. An example of this is our recent investment in the installation of digital twin infrastructure in conjunction with Dell Technologies. These developments reflect our recognition that digital twins have the potential to play a key underpinning role across our entire research portfolio .

“The Network+ format is particularly appealing as it not only provides funds for networking and dissemination activity, but also provides funds for pilot research activities. This will provide an excellent opportunity for our researchers, and particularly those at an early career stage, to secure funds to support their work relevant to digital twins”.

Professor David Wagg, Project Principal investigator and co-director of the Turing Research and Innovation Cluster for Digital Twins (TRIC-DT) at The Alan Turing Institute, said:

Digital twins offer exciting new possibilities across a wide range of sectors from health, environment, transport, manufacturing, defence, and infrastructure. They are a key technology to help address many of the societal challenges we face. 

“Our ambition with this award is to build a broad community of stakeholders to expand digital twin research to address key challenges such as trust, interoperability and the societal aspects of digital twinning. We hope that the NetworkPlus will help to address clear gaps in the current research landscape and will allow us to transform the UK’s capability in digital twinning.” 

As well as this major project, Ulster’s pioneering digital twin research has been recognised further with £300k in funding awarded from UKRI-EPSRC to enhance High-Performance Computing (HPC) and related software resources for digital twining which also involves £105k in funding from the Department for the Economy’s Higher Education Research Capital (HERC) funding.

In addition to multiple research projects and industry collaborations with applications of AI across healthcare, education, automotive, cybersecurity and business, Ulster University is the only university in Northern Ireland to offer a Masters degree in AI, which is growing at a rapid rate in terms of demand and places as the sector grows at pace.

UU Campus Belfast Panel 2 Innovation and R&D with the universities (City and Growth Deals).png

UU Belfast campus Panel 1 This is NI - evidencing NI's key factors of global strength.png

Ulster University's Belfast campus welcomes US Trade Delegation and Joe Kennedy III 3.png

Ulster University's Belfast campus welcomes US Trade Delegation and Joe Kennedy III 2.png

Ulster University's Belfast campus welcomes US Trade Delegation and Joe Kennedy III 1.png

Ulster University welcomes US Trade Delegation with Prof Ian Greer QUB, Joe Kennedy III, Prof Paul Bartholomew UU and Dr Jayne Brady HOCS 2.png

Ulster University welcomes US Trade Delegation with Prof Ian Greer QUB, Joe Kennedy III, Prof Paul Bartholomew UU and Dr Jayne Brady HOCS 1.png

Prof Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor of Ulster University welcomes US Trade Delegation and Joe Kennedy III to Belfast campus.png

Joe Kennedy III chats to Ulster University Chancellor Colin Davidson at the US Business Delegation visit to Belfast campus.png