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Sixty-one businesses across Northern Ireland have been selected to share in a £3.3million government investment to drive forward innovations on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Innovate UK’s Business-led Innovation Competition aims to fast-track the development of innovations borne out of the coronavirus crisis while supporting businesses of all sizes across the UK.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “Covid-19 made 2020 a very challenging year for our economy. However, it also led many Northern Ireland businesses to be extremely innovative and creative.

“I am very impressed by the wide range of local projects selected for this competition and look forward to seeing how they develop and grow.”

The Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption competition was launched in April 2020.

Twenty projects in Northern Ireland were funded within the original UK government support package for the scheme. The Department for Economy secured a further £2.3million in funding for another 41 projects.

The successful Northern Ireland projects include the provision of online educational support for children with special needs, the development of virtual reality games to help people in isolation stay active, and the creation of a platform for live streamed concerts.

Two of the company’s awarded funding were Arbarr Electronics in Limavady and St Columb’s Hall Trust.

James McCorley, Managing Director of Arbarr Electronics, said: “This award has been a sensational boost during one of the most challenging years in Arbarr's 30 year history.

“Winning this competition and associated funds has enabled us to research and develop new technologies that allow the most compact packaging of UVC LED lights to produce the Sterallite Disinfecting Wand - a portable and effective irradiation device of minimal size and weight.

“As well as providing products that combat the spread of Covid-19, the funding has helped secure the maintenance of our research, development and digital marketing facilities whilst protecting vital jobs for the specialised team employed in these areas throughout the pandemic and beyond.”

Anne-Marie Gallagher from St Columb’s Hall Trust said: “St Columb’s Hall is a landmark site in our city. It has been an intrinsic piece of the cultural, architectural and historical fabric of Derry since 1886.

“We now need to revive it and St Columb’s Hall Trust are delighted to receive this funding from Innovate UK and the Department for Economy.

“It will aid our efforts to transform this Victorian building into a 21st century smart building that will lead the way in providing virtual events, conferences and civic discussion in these challenging times for the cultural sector.”

Stewart Miller, Interim Chief Technology Officer at Innovate UK, said: “We really welcome the opportunity to support more innovative Northern Ireland businesses, through this partnership with DfE. The response to this competition has been phenomenal, and we hope that this will enable thousands of companies to innovate their way to a brighter future.”