Special Report
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

Bright new future for Derry and Strabane

Fourth-largest city poised to lure more people and jobs under major investment drive

The Derry and Strabane City Deal is the single largest ever government investment in the northwest region of Northern Ireland and will see partners from the education, health, business and science sectors joining Derry City and Strabane District Council to work collaboratively to deliver £250 million (€294) million) worth of investment in a range of innovative projects to bring a transformative boost to the region’s economy.

“The city deal has the potential to bring an additional 7,000 jobs to the region by 2032 and leverage hundreds of millions in investment over the next decade,” says John Kelpie, chief executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

“We aim to increase our output growth by £230 million per annum in gross value add, along with an additional £126 million in wages. This transformative plan will grow our digital capabilities to support economic investment and regeneration as well as boosting tourism and culture in our walled city. The investment will build on the objectives of the council’s existing Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan that has already delivered up to £100 million on community initiatives to date.”

Among the strategic projects included in the investment package is the delivery of centres of innovation and research in artificial intelligence and data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA) at Ulster University. It will also see the creation of the school of medicine at the Magee campus and the establishment of a Health Research Institute (HRI) in the city.


A key element of the investment package is the delivery of urban regeneration projects. These include the provision of mixed-use civic, health, leisure, and educational facilities as part of a major regeneration plan for Strabane town centre, the creation of an interactive maritime attraction and an enhanced walled city tourism experience in Derry’s city centre, as well as major regeneration investment along the riverfront and Queen’s Quay in Derry.

Business offer

“We strongly believe that the City Deal projects will help and strengthen the region’s business offer in growth sectors such as health and life sciences, digital industries and smart technology, and will support our digital capabilities to support economic investment and regeneration as well as boost tourism and culture,” says Kelpie. “A funding package of this scale and magnitude will be felt across the wider northwest region and beyond.”

The council is working with its delivery partners to promote the city region as a place for investment, and encouraging the diaspora who have moved away to consider relocating back, he adds. “Already we have rapidly expanding start-ups, cutting-edge tech firms and multinationals, all attracted by our amazing people, the fantastic quality of life and unique location.”

Among the city’s attractions for business are an abundance of high-quality office, manufacturing and industrial space at very competitive prices located in a competitive cost location with access to both the UK and European markets, according to Kelpie.

“We have lower rental and construction costs compared to most other parts of Ireland and the UK and have seen a huge shift in our life sciences, technology and advanced manufacturing and engineering markets,” says Kelpie. “Thanks to our first-class, third-level education institutions we have a well-educated, skilled and youthful workforce.”

Quality of life

The key selling point, however, is the quality of life the city region can offer people.

“As we come out of the pandemic and reexamine our lifestyles and priorities, we believe the Derry city region is the perfect location for people to enjoy a perfect work-life balance where they can combine working with living life to the full,” Kelpie notes. “Our location offers a beautiful natural landscape with a wealth of history and culture, close to an amazing coastline and golden beaches as well as endless unspoilt countryside. The fact that we have lower costs of living than other parts of Ireland and the UK also makes our city and region a very attractive location for business.”

Work on delivering the investment programme has now begun in earnest. “Last year we formally signed the heads of terms on this landmark investment by the Northern Ireland and UK governments, and have now embarked on an exciting journey with local partners including Ulster University, the Western Health and Social Services Trust, North West Regional College and C-TRIC to take these projects to the next stage of delivery,” says Kelpie.

“As the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland, the city deal investment puts us in a prime position for a buoyant new future that will allow us to play our part in an entire Ireland economy that everyone can benefit from,” he concludes. “It will bring life and people back into our city and town centres and with this investment we can bring life, culture and opportunity to people’s doorsteps and create an environment that is safer and more attractive to our communities right across the board.”

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times