Ties to China Develop

On 8 June, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, MLA met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi at Stormont Castle ahead of the inauguration ceremony of the Chinese Consulate in Belfast.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th June 2015 -
First Minister Peter Robinson, and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, today met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi at Stormont Castle ahead of the inauguration Ceremony of the Chinese Consulate in Belfast.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Speaking after their meeting with Minister Wang Yi the First Minister Peter Robinson:

I am delighted to welcome Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Belfast. Over recent years Northern Ireland has developed a strong and increasingly positive relationship and bond with partners in China. This will be further enhanced with the establishment of the Consulate in Belfast.

In April 2012, Vice-Premier Madame Liu Yandong visited Belfast and launched the Confucius Institute which has flourished and developed remarkably. As a result, eight classroom hubs have been established and thousands of local children in over one hundred schools are learning the Mandarin language and about Chinese culture, as part of the Confucius programme. These relationships have brought considerable mutual benefit to students and teachers in both our regions.

We are hopeful that this will extend to agriculture, economic cooperation and increased trade. The potential for Northern Ireland companies to prosper in the Chinese marketplace is endless. Invest NI recognises this opportunity and has established offices in Beijing and Shanghai. Along with the Executive Bureau in Beijing, this represents a long term commitment by the Northern Ireland Executive to develop and grow our relationship with China.

The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said:

I welcome Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the new Consulate in Belfast. This is a very exciting development for all of us in the north of Ireland with the Chinese government demonstrating a firm commitment by establishing a Consulate here led by Madam Consul-General Wang.

We are keen to strengthen government to government relations and to further develop, trade, investment, cultural and education links with China. Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, has just returned from a hugely positive visit to Beijing. The developments in the agricultural sector have been helped by the invaluable work of the Bureau with the Chinese Government in Beijing, the Consulate in Belfast and the Chinese Friendship Association.

Our relationship with China continues to grow and we look forward to working with China to help create jobs, promote prosperity and at the same time promote mutual understanding of our different cultures.Northern Ireland Ties with China

British Council Study in China Programme

This programme is not running for the 2020/21 academic year.

Please check back later for any updates and details of available scholarships for the 2021/22 academic year.

You can also email us to find out more about studying in China and for information on other scholarship opportunities.

We would also encourage you to sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest opportunities in China.

About the scholarships

Academic scholarships can be used at any mainland Chinese institution approved by the Ministry of Education to accept foreign students. You can decide where you want to be based and which subjects (at a non-degree level) you wish to study. The majority of students choose to study in Beijing.

All scholarships cover tuition fees, accommodation, and a monthly living allowance to help with day-to-day expenses.

Am I eligible?

Generation UK academic scholarships are available to anyone who is:

  • aged 18 and above
  • a British passport holder (or a British or Irish passport holder if you are domiciled in Northern Ireland).
  • a full-time student enrolled at a UK university or a recent graduate (applying within one year of your graduation date)
  • on track to receive or have achieved a 2:1 grade at university.

Students already holding offers from Chinese universities can also apply.

Do I need to speak Mandarin?

There are no language eligibility requirements for this programme.

However, please check the course requirements of the Chinese institution you wish to study in. All language courses are suitable for complete beginners in Mandarin. However, there is the opportunity to be placed in classes for intermediate and advanced learners. In this case, you can expect an informal language test upon arrival to make sure you get put in the right class.

If this is your first experience with the Mandarin language, we strongly recommend that you learn a few of the basics before you go.

Why should I go?

With 1.4 billion speakers worldwide, Chinese truly is a global language. Graduates who speak more than one language are highly sought-after, and with China’s increasing role in the world market, Mandarin is becoming a favourite among employers.

Chinese universities attract many international students for their high-quality teaching and offer various scholarships.

This is an opportunity to experience life in a completely different culture, gain new skills and improve your career prospects.

Which courses are available?

This scholarship can be used for any non-degree study of your own choice, at any mainland Chinese university with a tuition fee allowance up to 30,000 RMB.

The majority of students choose to take an intensive course in Chinese language, with extra modules where possible to learn about Chinese business and culture. There are also many non-degree English-taught programmes now being offered in a range of subjects at Chinese universities.

To find out more about universities in China and which courses are on offer, you can take a look at CUCAS .

How long does it last?

Programmes are flexible and vary, with courses lasting from a single semester (five months) to a whole year. You can choose to start your programme in either September or February, within the same academic year.

How much does it cost?

The scholarship should cover all your basic living needs while you are on the programme. The cost of living in China varies greatly depending on the city you choose to study in and your lifestyle. To get the full experience of all that China has to offer, it would be a good idea to have some extra cash handy to cover any additional costs during your time on the programme, such as travel and leisure activities.

You will receive:

  • accommodation at the university
  • tuition fee allowance of 30,000 RMB a year or less
  • a monthly living stipend of 3,000 RMB

You’ll need to cover the costs of flights (GBP 400-700) and arrange the necessary visas, travel and medical insurance, and vaccinations.

I have a question

If you couldn't find what you were looking for, please email the Generation UK team.

The British Council launched the Generation UK campaign in 2013. By 2020, the campaign aims to help 80,000 students from the UK boost their employability and long-term job prospects, and develop a global mind-set through study and work experience opportunities in China.

Chinese Chamber of Commerce Charity Work

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce NI, Chinese Language School NI and Oi Kwan Women’s Group are among the groups that carried out the fundraising to support the fight against COVID-19.

Lord Mayor Councillor Daniel Baker said: “On behalf of the city of Belfast, I want to say thank you for this hugely generous donation from our Chinese community.


“We enjoy a very unique relationship with our Chinese community here in Belfast, and in China, thanks to our Sister Cities connection, and I would like to extend my thanks to them for their ongoing support and friendship during this time.

“I know that this donation will be much appreciated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust whose staff are working tirelessly to provide the best possible care for all those who need it most.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been so overwhelmed by the generosity and selflessness of so many people as we pull together as a community to help each other and support our most vulnerable.

“In coming together, we will get through this. We’re all in this together.”

Chinese Business Leaders in Belfast

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor John Finucane has welcomed Madame Zhang Meifang, NI Chinese Consul General and a high profile delegation of Chinese business and media leaders to City Hall in his first international engagement.

Guests at City Hall yesterday evening included representatives from the Ministry of Commerce, the Commercial Office of the Chinese Embassy in London, the CCIC London Company Ltd which provides policy briefings to the Chinese government departments, the Jiangsu Economic and Trade Office in the UK, the travel industry and reporters from a range of Chinese broadcast outlets including China Daily, which has the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in China.


The Lord Mayor commented: “It’s a great honour for me to host Madame Zhang Meifang and our Chinese guests and to showcase the investment opportunities, tourism offer and the excellent quality of our educational offer here in Belfast.

“We’ve been developing links with China since the 1990s when we signed a Sister City agreement with Hefei. We also became a Sister City of Shenyang in 2016 and as a result, we’ve been establishing strong academic connections through the Confucius Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, and Belfast Metropolitan College – welcoming ever increasing numbers of Chinese students here to study with us.

“A key part of our Belfast Agenda centres on growing Belfast’s economy.  Our tourism industry is benefiting significantly from an influx of Chinese visitors and we’re keen to further develop trade opportunities. We’ve had a fantastic opportunity to shine the spotlight on our compelling visitor and investment propositions and to discover firsthand how we can help our colleagues do business, invest and visit here more easily.

“We’re also working towards participating in an Innovation mission to China later in 2019, led by the NI Executive Office and China Bureau, in partnership with Invest NI and regional councils, so this evening has given us excellent information and contacts to build on.”

Members of Belfast City Council were joined by colleagues from the Belfast Region City Deal partnership, Invest NI, Tourism NI, local government, academia and wider China stakeholders.

For more information on Belfast City Council’s international work, go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/international

Belfast is Back in Business

The skyline of Belfast has changed radically ally over the last decade with new hotels, office blocks and many of her heritage buildings given a new lease of life. The city is home to hundreds of international companies alongside traditional firms. The city is constantly evolving and has so much going for it, with regards to business opportunities, talent, and support.

Here’s everything you need to know before doing business in Belfast.


Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and the second largest city on the island of Ireland after Dublin, which it is less than two hours from. It is just six hours from New York and one hour from London, making it ideally placed at the centre of global markets.

The city offers a unique location for businesses looking for a new base to set up in. It has great infrastructure, world-class telecommunication links (Belfast has the best availability of superfast broadband in the UK.), a highly educated workforce, a strong retail centre and, of course, a rich history and culture to enjoy when you aren't working.


Property costs in Northern Ireland compare very favourably with other regions in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Prime office rents are among the lowest in Western Europe.

Regarding salary costs, they are lower here than in the rest of the UK, and around 30 per cent lower than other European locations such as London and Paris.

Cost analysis show that overall, operating costs in Belfast are over 50% lower than London and 17% lower than Dublin.

Business Support

One major positive of doing business in Belfast are the brilliant organisations that offer business support. Invest NI support business development and attract inward investment, while helping to increase productivity and export levels. Invest NI help achieve business success through financial support, tailored guidance and information. Enterprise Northern Ireland, is another great business support initiative. Between them, they have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs helping them set up their business in Northern Ireland, enabling them to grow and develop.


Whether you’re heading to work in the city or going to a meeting abroad, Belfast is quite transport friendly.

There are many bus services within the city that provide convenient access to residential parts of the city as well as a rail service that extends across Northern Ireland and into the Republic of Ireland. A typical bus journey within the city will cost you £1.90.

And, with it being a small city, getting around Belfast can often be done on foot.
George Best international airport is just outside the city and flies to several locations across the UK, including London, Manchester and Glasgow.


Belfast is ranked in the top 10 local areas in the UK for productivity, and any company that sets up in Belfast will have an abundance of talent on their hands, as Belfast has two great universities- Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.
They have a combined student population of 45,000.

Queen’s is ranked in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive universities.
Ulster University was in the top 100 new universities in the world according to The Times Higher Education Supplement and is currently investing €323 million on a new state of the art 75,000 square meter city centre campus.
Belfast Metropolitan College is the largest provider of further and higher education and training in Northern Ireland and has strong links with local businesses across all sectors.


Networking is essential part of business, and thanks to Belfast Chamber of Trade Commerce, there’s lots of it. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce which runs the Business Consultancy Centre as a non-profit organization set up to promote and facilitate investment and trade between Northern Ireland and China.  We focus on delivering value by connecting the small and medium-sized enterprises with the Chinese market and creating opportunities for Northern Ireland companies.

We are committed to provide a range of professional services which include facilitating global trade by opening up new Chinese markets for Northern Ireland SMEs, offer SMEs the highest possible quality of service and business and financial consultation.

They organise events like speed networking, wine tasting evenings, business Awards, focus groups and business breakfasts/lunches with guest speakers.
These events keep members informed of the latest developments in the city and create opportunities to establish new contacts, strengthen existing relationships and generate new business in a relaxed environment.

It’s not all about work…

There are lots of things to do in this city when you’re not busy working.

Belfast’s interesting history has lead to it becoming a melting pot of cultures. Despite Belfast being a part of the UK, Irish culture is very evident within the city. Due to exciting job opportunities and impressive third level education programmes, Belfast has attracted people from all over the world in recent years. This has created a unique mix of cultures, foods and festivals.

Belfast is of course where the infamous Titanic was made, and the Titanic Quarter of the City contains the Titanic Museum, which is well worth a visit.

It also contains Titanic Studios, home to one of the world’s largest stage sets and the official home of the Game of Thrones production.

After having a look around the studios, you can take a tour bus and set off to see various locations where the series is filmed, including famous landmarks like Carrickfergus Castle.

The world famous Giant’s Causeway is also just over an hours drive from Belfast City centre.

A Skilled Workforce

Northern Ireland has two world-class universities Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University and an extensive network of further education colleges providing excellent academic and vocational training.

Both universities are responsive to business, creating graduates with skills, competency and acumen in business-relevant areas.

Over 4,000* people graduate each year with business qualifications in Northern Ireland.

* Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency

Northern Ireland is a great choice for overseas students seeking a high quality education abroad. It also provides a great offering for overseas governments, ministries and education providers who are looking for a partner region to support the development of their own education provision or to forge research partnerships.

Signs of Growth

Feature China leads the way with green shoots of economic recovery - Shanghai cityscape

Recognised as the second largest economy worldwide, China is one of the first countries to begin its economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting significant export opportunities for both small and medium sized enterprises (SME) and large businesses from Northern Ireland.

Exporting opportunities

The Chinese market has potential business opportunities in the materials handling, life and health sciences, education, and food and drink sectors. Invest NI’s Asia Pacific team can help local companies compete there with location and sector specific research, local market advice and entry strategies, and information on supply and distribution networks.

There are also a number of in-market trade fairs and exhibitions planned in the upcoming months and although global travel restrictions are still in place, our in-market team can provide a physical presence for Northern Ireland companies, delivering vital promotional opportunities in China.

Following the relaxation of strict quarantine measures and continued government support, China’s economy is starting to recover. Currently most of the country’s large businesses and 80% of its SMEs have successfully returned to work and the economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter of FY 2020.21. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the global economy will shrink by 4.9% in 2020, they expect China’s economy to grow by 1%, making it a very attractive market for Northern Ireland businesses.

The Chinese government and local economic development agencies have also initiated a number of economic recovery measures.

Economic recovery measures include:

  • Reducing tax, rent and medical insurance
  • Introducing free-trade zones across the country
  • Boosting consumer spend through voucher schemes
  • Creating loan extension and credit loan support tools for SMEs
  • Delivering virtual trade fairs and exhibitions

Materials Handling

The Chinese government has already invested £1.15trillion in new infrastructure with over 20 provinces committing to increase their infrastructure investment. These commitments have contributed to a 62.9% growth in sales of excavators in China, providing significant export opportunities for Northern Ireland companies in the materials handling sector.

At the height of the pandemic in April, we represented six local companies at Asia’s most popular environmental technology solutions trade fair, IE Expo. At this event, we promoted Northern Ireland’s materials handling proposition to 73,000 delegates.  Moving forward, we will also attend November’s Bauma China 2020 exhibition and IE Expo 2021 in April.

China will undoubtedly be one of the largest potential markets for waste recycling in the coming years. It presents enormous business opportunities for Northern Ireland companies. We are glad to see increasing interest in the Chinese market from the materials handling industry in Northern Ireland. IE Expo has been a successful start as the first physical exhibition for waste recycling sector in 2020.

Damon Peng, Materials Handling China: Sector Head, Invest NI

Life and Health Sciences

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the strengths and weaknesses in China’s life and health sciences sector. The Chinese government is now encouraging foreign collaboration on health and life science projects to help address these weaknesses, providing opportunities for local companies.

In August, we represented six Northern Ireland companies at the China Association of Clinical Laboratory Practice Expo (CACLP), providing valuable promotional platform. CACLP is the largest, most influential in vitro diagnostics exhibition in China, attended by 50,000 delegates.

To help develop trade opportunities and generate business leads we will represent a number of local companies at China’s largest medical device exhibition, CMEF from 20th to 21st October.
As part of this exhibition we will host a seminar in partnership with the Department for International Trade for the neuroscience, medical technologies and diagnostic sectors, which will showcase the skills and expertise available from Northern Ireland companies.

China is already the second largest life and health sciences market globally, and will undoubtedly be one of the largest global IVD markets. The country’s in vitro diagnostics market exceeded $14.5 billion in 2019, and there is vast opportunities for Northern Ireland companies to export and trade with this sector in China.

Monica Ren, Life and Health Sciences China; Sector Head, Invest NI


Social distancing measures have had a transformational impact on the education sector globally. Distance learning is the norm with many academic institutions opting for virtual delivery as the default teaching method, presenting opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses offering collaborative online learning solutions.

Northern Ireland companies catering for the education sector (particularly teacher training), which have developed, or are in the process of developing sophisticated online delivery models are particularly well-placed to capitalise on these opportunities.

Online education is flourishing in China:

  • International schools require online tutoring resources for almost 200,000 pupils
  • Around 60,000 pupils enrolled in UK schools are currently studying remotely from China due to travel restrictions
  • The Department of International Trade in China predicts 35% traditional delivery schools will close
  • 40% of businesses offering online learning are expected to hire more staff
  • Demand is rising for online teacher training courses

To highlight the benefits of choosing Northern Ireland as overseas study destination, we will be attending the virtual China Education Exhibition (CEE) between 24 October and 1 November, showcasing what our local universities and colleges can offer students from China.

Food and Drink

China has seen an increase in sales of red meat, dairy, seafood and drinks and has used imported products to help meet local demand. This, along with a new emphasis on healthier eating, is paving the way for new export opportunities for Northern Ireland food and drink businesses. We are attending the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in November and are looking forward to promoting our local companies to the Chinese market.

Opportunities in China

Medical devices

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world and transformed our way of life. From the speedy development of vaccines to a more digitalised approach to working, humanity has learned just how agile it can be in a crisis.

As the saying goes, out of adversity comes opportunity, and nowhere has that proved to be more evident than in the medical technology sector in China which has grown, in part, due to high demand from China for mid to high-end equipment. This growth presents a significant opportunity for Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences industry to export its cutting-edge products to meet this demand.

Devices that simplify the prevention, detection and treatment of illness and disease are not new, yet the pandemic has increased demand for these products. From wearables and implants that can detect and treat health problems to artificial intelligence-enabled imaging and track-and-trace technology, the Med-Tech industry in China is predicted to experience explosive growth over the next five years. This increase in growth offers ample opportunities for Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences industry to export to China.

China’s desire to build a world-leading healthcare infrastructure, reflective of the country’s ‘Healthy China 2030’ vision, has led to significant investment in the medical devices sector, which currently accounts for nearly 20% of the global market. According to Deloitte, the China market was on track to be worth RMB800 billion (US$124.2 million) by the end of 2020. This upward trend was evident even before the pandemic. Since 2015, China’s medical devices sector’s average annual growth rate has remained above 20%, significantly outpacing its GDP.

A post-COVID upgrade of the public health infrastructure is high on the agenda of the Chinese local and central governments. Some provinces have injected up to RMB 150 million (USD 23 million) into health projects. Echoing the central government’s push to increase China’s biosecurity capacity, provinces have announced their own policies to establish a minimum requirement for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – a reliable method for detecting viruses - laboratories and ICU equipment by both region and hospital.

"Invest NI provided invaluable support as we further expand into China. They acted as an intermediate in finding potential partners, scheduling virtual meetings, and identifying opportunities suitable to our increasing product range for the medical simulation market"

Aisling Fitzpatrick, TruCorp

The pandemic has also brought healthcare into sharp focus for China's citizens. Demand for online medical consultations soared, along with the emergence of drugs retailing on some of China’s leading e-commerce platforms.  Tech giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com leveraged their big data expertise to enter the healthcare sector, establishing new distribution models for medical devices and health services.

However, there is undoubtedly room for Northern Ireland’s medical devices companies to take advantage of China’s desire to overhaul its health systems. There are currently more than 26,000 medical device manufacturers registered in China, with the medical equipment sub-sector dominating the market, accounting for nearly 57% of the entire medical devices' market.

Due to a shortage of R&D and advanced manufacturing capabilities, most Chinese manufacturers are producing low value-added products, and therefore China still relies on imported mid to high-end medical devices. Deloitte recently revealed more than 80% of high-value medical devices used in China’s top Tier 3A public hospitals [1] are produced by international companies such as Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, GE and Philips. This reliance on overseas products provides an excellent opportunity for Northern Ireland’s R&D intensive, innovative and high-tech medical device manufacturers to enter the market.

Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences sector is uniquely placed to provide quality technology solutions for China’s healthcare sector. It has built a strong reputation in recent years, offering cutting-edge research in medical device technology - underpinned by its robust collaborative approach between industry, academia, and clinicians. The industry also boasts a highly developed R&D ecosystem, and its innovation in this sector has seen the emergence of a growing list of companies exporting overseas.

How can Northern Ireland’s medical devices companies bridge the gap and begin exporting to China?

Invest Northern Ireland’s Asia Pacific team can provide insights into the Chinese marketplace through market research, market scoping, market entry planning, and identifying and targeting potential customers and distributors.

“With the help of Invest NI, we were able to carry out 25 meetings in one week on a recent visit to China. On top of this, their continued help with translation, cultural nuances, and even marketing and display material is invaluable, and as a result the outcome of any trip is successful and positive"

Dr Jason McKeown, Neurovalens

We provide a presence for Northern Ireland companies at international trade and networking events in the region and we can secure vital meetings and pitches for clients. For example, in May 2021, we represented several Northern Ireland companies at the China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF), a medical equipment exhibition that connected international brands with potential clients, including private companies, regulators and government agencies.

At this event we facilitated a webinar where two Northern Ireland companies (TruCorp and Randox Toxicology) pitched their products and services to over 200 leading medical devices companies, investors, and distribution partners in China.
Invest NI’s in-market team in China is also engaging with Life and Health Sciences sector associations, participating in key conferences, and collaborating with Chinese state-owned companies.

We also support leading private companies to further promote Northern Ireland’s sector offering in China.

Upcoming events within the life and health sciences industry in China include:

  • A diagnostic focused webinar with CACLP (China Association of Clinical Laboratory Practice Expo) in September 2021;
  • Clinical Trial, an industry-focused event for global clinical development leaders in November 2021 and
  • A virtual sector visit to China in January 2022

To find out more about these events, China’s Life and Health Sciences sector and the support we can provide to NI companies, visit investni.com, speak to your Client Executive or email beijing@investni.com.

[1] The Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China - hospitals in China have been classified in a 3-tier system that recognizes a hospital's ability to provide medical care, medical education, and conduct medical research. A Public Hospital Tier 3 Class A is the top tier.

Good Relations Week

Good Relations Week 2021 takes place from will run from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September 2021.

This year we have re-introduced physical events, alongside an expanded virtual offering.

The theme is ‘Brighter Days Ahead’ as we shine a light on the peace building and cultural diversity efforts of young people and the challenges they are facing.

Our programme of inspiring community relations events will celebrate the work of people and communities in creating and sustaining good relations.

Huge thanks to all local groups and organisations who’ve helped us put together a dynamic programme of highly impactful events for you to enjoy

Whatever you do, don’t miss it!

Good Relations Week 2021 will celebrate the peace building and cultural diversity efforts of young people and the challenges they face with a creative programme of over 200 cross-community and multicultural events. Co-ordinated by the Community Relations Council, Good Relations Week 2021 will run from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September with a highly impactful programme of over 200 face-to-face events, virtual events and online content. For more information on the Good Relations Week 2021 programme of events visit www.goodrelationsweek.com.
Pictured with Peter Day from the Community Relations Council (front, left) and Clare Kearney (front, right) and Conor Valente (front, centre) from the Belfast Skate Collective, a local group that is providing a voice for the skating community, is local skaters Nicole Smallwood; Adam Patton, Caleb Court, James Ferris, Taylor Allen, Reuben Hughes, James Hannigan, Jake Murray and Matt McCopippin.

It s a Walk in the Park

A new ‘Civic Dollars’ mobile phone app, developed with support from Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice means that people can now earn rewards for the time they spend in their local parks and open spaces.

The Connswater Community Greenway will be the first area to go live in the free pilot scheme, followed by other parks across the city. Funded through the ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project, the scheme is part of the council’s Smart Belfast programme, which is exploring how data and innovative technologies can create smart solutions for urban challenges and help to improve city services.

Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “Exercising outside and connecting with nature really can help our mental wellbeing. So it’s fantastic that, thanks to this pilot scheme, people can now earn Civic Dollars for the time they spend in our parks and open spaces.  They can enjoy rewards including Translink DayLink passes and tickets to visitor attractions or support their local community group by donating Civic Dollars to them.

“The Civic Dollars app also provides a promotional platform for local businesses, services and events - and the insights we’ll gather will help us to better understand how people use green spaces, improve park management, reduce vandalism, littering and anti-social behaviour and enhance the visitor experience.”

A number of Belfast-based community groups can benefit from donated Civic Dollars, exchanging them for various services such as business training, professional advice and activity centre sessions.

The ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project is jointly funded by Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice via the Department for the Economy’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which enables the public sector to tap into new ideas and technologies created by innovative local businesses. It also gives innovators a great opportunity to trial and test their prototype in a supportive real-world environment as part of their product development.

Justice Minister, Naomi Long said: “Effectively managing public open spaces is a key element in developing a safe community, where we respect the law and each other.

“The Civic Dollars pilot scheme holds the potential to deliver real benefits to local communities by using technology to improve the safe use of our parks and open spaces; something that is so important for both physical and mental health. Congratulations to all involved in this innovative pilot scheme and I look forward to hearing how it has progressed as more people use it in the coming weeks and months.”

Stephen McPeake, CEO of local company Moai Digital Ltd and creator of the Civic Dollars app, added:“It’s been fantastic to have this opportunity to apply a tech based solution to Belfast City Council’s challenge of better managing their parks and open spaces.  And it’s wonderful to know that local people, businesses and community groups will all benefit as a result when people download and use the Civic Dollars app.  Life these days is about so much more than just money – it’s about improving our communities, and our own health and wellbeing – Civic Dollars provides the perfect solution with a new social currency. It’s a win win all round!”

The CivicDollars app can be downloaded free from the App Store or Google Play Store.  The pilot will run until the end of Summer 2021.

For more information about the project, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/amazingspaces

You can now earn rewards every time you visit Waterworks, Falls and Ormeau Parks by downloading the CivicDollars app.
They're the latest green spaces to join our Smart Belfast project, co-funded with the Department of Justice through the Department for the Economy’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).
Sign up to get one 'dollar' for every 30 minutes spent in the popular spaces - running, walking, cycling or just meeting up with mates!
Then swap your rewards for Translink day passes, tickets to visitor attractions and more, or earn extra dollars by reporting issues like littering or vandalism.
The scheme is already up and running along Connswater Community Greenway where it's proven a big hit, with lots of users also donating their dollars to local community groups who can, in turn, use them for free training and other services.
Download the free Civic Dollars app now from the App Store or Google Play Store.