The North West Region Profile - Derry and Donegal

The North West Region Profile - Derry and Donegal

This section will provide a snapshot of the North West region focusing on education, employment and enterprise.  For more detailed information contact our Enterprise Officers here.

County Donegal

County Donegal, is Ireland’s most northwesterly county with a population of 146,956 (Census 2006). The principal towns in Donegal include Letterkenny,  Buncrana and Donegal Town. County Donegal is accessible by road and air.  National Primary routes N15 to Sligo, N13 to Derry, N14 Letterkenny/Lifford which links with the N2 to Dublin.  Air access is provided by regional airports in Carrickfinn, Derry and Sligo and the International and City Airports in Belfast with daily scheduled flights to Dublin and UK for onward connection to Europe and US destinations.  Continental Airlines have direct flights from Belfast International Airport to Newark Airport in the US. 
The Donegal Region has a well developed network of IDA developed quality Business Parks and a range of community-owned enterprie centres and private sector enterprise accommodation, with the necessary telecommunications, utilities infrastructure and buildings/site options to cater for the needs of multinational clients, indigenous and local businesses.  Overseas companies in Donegal include, UnitedHealth (US Healthcare Claims Processing); Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd (US Software Development Centre); Medisize Donegal Healthcare (US Medical Products); Boston Scientific (US Medical Devices); Zeus Industrial Products (US Medical Devices); SITA PTS (Swiss Software Development); Abbott Laboratories (US Medical Devices).  Indigenous businesses are strong in the engineering, construction, food and service sectors. In recent years the county has had finalists in nationla the Ernst & Young Entrepreneu of the Year Competition and there are a range of business network within the county. 

Third level education requirements are supplied by the North West’s two Institutes of Technologies at Letterkenny & Sligo with a combined student enrolment of almost 7,000 students and c. 2,580 graduates each year.  A broad range of courses is provided in Business, Engineering, Science, Nursing, Computing and Design.  Both Institutes demonstrate excellent flexibility and responsiveness to meeting the skills needs of business and industry located in the area. Other Third Level Colleges include University of Ulster with its Campus at Magee College (3,800 students) which is located approx. 40 Km (25 miles) from Letterkenny and it is estimated that over 12% of students are from Donegal and the North West Institute located in Derry. FAS the National Training Agency have a Training Centre located in Letterkenny.    

The region has a highly skilled workforce, with a very good work ethic and competitive labour costs.  In addition, residential property costs in Donegal have been identified as the lowest prices in Ireland (Sunday Times Jan 2006).  These factors make the County attractive for skilled graduates and inward investors.  Donegal is one of Ireland’s most beautiful counties and is noted for its beautiful scenery and its picturesque landscape and coastline.  Donegal has excellent choice of golf courses with 15 Championship links and 3 Parkland Courses and all courses both inland and coastal are set in areas of outstanding natural beauty.  Major tourist events take place in Donegal each year including the Donegal International Car Rally, the Earegail Arts Festival and various festivals throughout the county.   The county’s striking sceneray and coastal landscapes ar complimented by a wide range of quality accommodation, including hotels, guesthouses ann bed and breakfast accommodation. 


Derry Regional City

Ireland’s unique Walled City of Derry is the legacy of the investment by the merchant adventurers of the City of London in the early 17th century.  That same spirit of enterprise is now going global in the city’s business parks and University Science campus.  The riverbanks, where trading ships once moored have been rediscovered as work places and living spaces.  Londonderry, or Derry as it is also known, is the Regional City for Ireland North West, a cross-border region with a population of over 300,000 people. At the heart of Ireland North West is a fast developing knowledge corridor stretching from Letterkenny in County Donegal to Coleraine in County Derry. As the second largest urban settlement in Northern Ireland (95,167 urban core) and the fourth largest on the island of Ireland, Derry is the hub of this corridor. The NI government’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment have designated Derry as the “Broadband Flagship Project for Northern Ireland”. The purpose of this project is to implement in Derry broadband applications and services that showcase Northern Ireland’s broadband innovation.

As the hub of Ireland North West’s Knowledge Corridor, Derry has an impressive portfolio of homegrown and overseas companies in the software development, financial services, medical technology and shared services sectors. Among these international names are Fujitsu, Seagate, Perfecseal, Invista, Du Pont, BT, Firstsource, AXA, HML, Stream, InVision Software, and Northbrook Technologies.  The Historic Walled City of London-Derry has been designated as one of only five Signature Tourism Projects by the NI Tourist Board. Signature project designation seeks to achieve international standout for the NI tourism product by creating a world-class visitor experience at key tourist destinations. The signature projects are recognised as being capital intensive and over £47M of public and private investment has been committed to the Walled City Signature Project. 

The city is also geared up to provide a workforce skilled for modern business. The North West Regional College has campuses in Derry, Limavady and Strabane with around 28,000 students chosing full-time or part-time courses in order to enhance their career prospects or progress to higher level study. The College has commenced  a £ 10m estate development programme. A University city, Derry is also home to the University of Ulster, Magee campus. Over the next five to ten years, UU Magee Campus plans to expand enrolement numbers to approximately 10,000 students. Courses are offered from certificate to post-graduate research level.


The University of Ulster’s Magee campus new £20 million Intelligent Systems Research Centre (IRSC) is the largest single research investment in the Magee’s 150 year history and can accommodate up to 100 top researchers. The University, Council and Altnagelvin hospital are now pursuing the ABC project (Academic, Business and Clinical Research) worth £2 million in the push to synergise research, business and healthcare. In the private sector Seagate Derry is now recognised as the most advanced nanotechnology manufacturing facility in the UKunderpinned by a 50-strong R&D centre Derry has UK’s most westerly deep water port, whilst the City of Derry Airport flies directly to Glasgow, London, Dublin, Nottingham, Bristol and Manchester. In addition, Derry is well linked to three important national road corridors through arterial routes. These include the N2 to Dublin, the M2 to Belfast and the N17 to Galway to ensure transportation of people and goods around the whole of Ireland .