Innovation in the Belfast Region City Deal – Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Innovation strand of the Belfast Region City Deal?
The Innovation strand is a suite of five projects with a common theme: interventions to equip the Belfast Region to succeed in a future digital, data-driven economy. The projects are designed to provide complementary offerings to business across a wide variety of sectors, creating a network of facilities and expertise that generates a new innovation ecosystem for the region.
The Innovation strand is being developed by the region’s two universities, together with the Digital strand led by Belfast City Council, form one of the investment streams of the Deal. The others are: Tourism and Regeneration, Infrastructure, and Employability and Skills.
2. Who is involved in delivering the Innovation strand?
Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University are leading the development of the Innovation projects, working in close partnership with the councils and FE colleges within the Belfast Region. Each of the projects is being developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders across the private, public and voluntary sectors.
3. How is the Innovation strand being managed?
A dedicated Innovation Programme Management Office has been established by the universities with support from EY to manage the development of the Innovation Business Cases, liaising closely with the overarching City Deal Programme Management Office at Belfast City Council, and relevant regional government departments.
The Programme Management Office reports regularly to the Innovation Pillar Board, which is accountable to the Belfast Region City Deal Executive Board.
4. How can I contact the Innovation team?
Contact details of each of the Innovation Project Leads can be contacted through the contact information listed on the dedicated project pages.
5. What funding is available for the Innovation strand?
The total funding for the Belfast Region City Deal is a £1 billion package, spread over 15 years.
- £350m from UK Treasury for the Innovation and Digital projects
- £350m match-funding from the NI Executive for Tourism and Regeneration, Infrastructure, and Employability and Skills
- £300m co-investment from private sector, councils, and universities. Queen’s University and Ulster University have together committed £30 million towards the Innovation projects
6. What is the timeline for delivery of the Innovation projects?
The formal signing of the Heads of Terms by the Secretary of State and City Deal partners in April 2019 established the funding envelope for the Deal. The release of this funding is dependent on the approval of Outline Business Cases for the projects, evidencing the need and economic benefits.
The Innovation projects teams are currently conducting wide-ranging engagement with regional, national and international stakeholders, to inform the final proposals within the business cases.
It is anticipated that the Outline Business Cases will be submitted in early 2020, and that approval can be expected later in the year to enable the projects to enter the capital build phase early in 2021.
7. How does the Innovation strand relate to other parts of the Deal?
22 projects are being developed through the Belfast Region City Deal, categorised under 4 “cogs”:
- Employability and Skills
- Tourism and Regeneration
- Innovation and Digital
All of the projects being developed are aligned to the overarching aims of the Belfast Region City Deal: to deliver a step change in our region’s economic fortunes, help achieve a 15 year programme of inclusive growth, an increase of £470m Gross Value Added and create up to 20,000 new and better jobs, accessible to people from all communities.
The Universities, via the Innovation Programme Management Office, are working very closely with those developing the other strands, particularly Digital and Skills, with which there are very clear synergies.
8. How does the Belfast Region City Deal relate to the other City/Growth Deals across Northern Ireland?
The City Deal model as developed in England, Scotland and Wales, is based on the definition of a “city region” as a geographical area surrounding a single urban hub, on the basis of factors such as commuting distance. This model has driven the definition of the “Belfast City Region”, which comprises six council areas. City Deals are designed to enable investment in economic development priorities identified by partners at this local level.
In a region the size of Northern Ireland – in terms of both geographical area and population – the very close economic relationship between the two city regions, as well as the areas for which Growth Deals have recently been announced, is clearly relevant to the development of all of the Deals.
The Innovation Pillar Board, while directly responsible to the Belfast Region City Deal Programme Board, has agreed that one of its core principles should be to work to ensure complementarity across Deals.
It will be key to the economic success of all of the regions that NI as a whole is able to articulate its offering coherently to potential international investors.
Economic analysis conducted as part of the development of the Business Cases will ensure that projected growth is genuinely additional, and not the result of displacement from another part of the province.
9. Will environmental sustainability be taken into account in developing the projects?
Both Universities are committed to environmental sustainability as a key underpinning principle not just for the design of City Deal facilities, but in all Estates projects.
In 2009 Queen’s University, Ulster University and Health Estates Northern Ireland introduced the Sustainable Development Design Brief (SDDB).
The Brief is designed to enhance the existing BREEAM environmental sustainability assessment method, in monitoring design proposals and construction practice against the highest sustainability standards.
It is an integral part of the tender process for major projects and is included in the brief issued to design teams.