Daily Digest

Dear Colleague,


Dixons’ Irish sales grow (Irish Examiner)

Electrical goods retail group Dixons-Carphone has reported strong sales growth in its Irish operations for the Christmas trading period. The group trades here across the Currys-PC World, Carphone Warehouse, and Dixons Travel chains. It said Currys-PC World saw a 22% year-on-year jump in sales in the 10 weeks to January 5. This was helped by a 17% increase in footfall on the ‘Black Friday’ sales day in November. Carphone Warehouse saw a 10% increase in sales, here, during the period, with a 48% rise on Black Friday alone. The group’s Irish-based online sales, over the period, grew by 70%. “We continued to grow faster than our competitors in every single segment,” said Dixons-Carphone Ireland managing director Mark Delaney. “Our investment in our online presence has brought class-leading innovation to our customers, who demand we deliver the best retail experience online,” said Mr Delaney. Read more: 

IDA chief: Brexit can help lure investment from UK (Irish Independent)

Brexit presents an opportunity for Ireland to win foreign direct investment (FDI) that would otherwise have gone to the UK, according to IDA boss Martin Shanahan. However, UBS chairman Axel Weber, formerly the head of Germany's Central Bank, warned the World Economic Forum that a no-deal Brexit would have "real spillovers" for the global economy. "An unmitigated, uncontrolled Brexit is the worst outcome we could imagine. Nobody wants this kind of tail-risk," he said. Speaking about the uncertainty surrounding the UK, Mr Shanahan said companies were more likely to look further afield. "We are the market for mobile investment. So if multinationals decide that they need a footprint within the remaining 27, we are in the business of making sure that Ireland is the beneficiary of that," Mr Shanahan said. He added that he didn't think this could be characterised as stealing business away from the UK. "All investment that comes into Europe, Ireland is pitching for. We make no apologies for the fact that we are pitching for what is mobile investment." Mr Shanahan said he'd take part in around 25 meetings and events at Davos as he seeks to win FDI. "Part of our message is clearly that Ireland is stable, and that they can be confident investing in Ireland. To be honest with you, investors believe Ireland is a very stable environment." Read more:

Nestle opens global R&D centre in Ireland (Business World)

Nestle yesterday opened its first Research and Development Centre in Ireland at its existing manufacturing facility in Limerick, marking the completion of a three-year building programme with a capital investment of €27million. The new R&D centre will focus on scientific research to support innovations in the development of milk-based maternal and infant nutrition products for the global market. The Centre was formally opened by Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and Thomas Hauser, Head of Global Product and Technology Development for Nestle S.A. The R&D Centre will concentrate on developing premium, science-based products for mothers and infants. It incorporates state-of-the-art laboratory facilities as well as a full pilot-scale manufacturing line to facilitate the development, and testing of new products from initial concept through to product deployment. The project investment was supported by Enterprise Ireland. Read more: 

New Northern Ireland 100-bed hotel could create up to 500 jobs (Belfast Tel)

A new multi-million pound development plan for Newtownabbey, which could create up to 500 jobs, has received the green light despite teething issues. The proposed £13m office and hotel complex, to be located next to the Valley Leisure Centre on Church Road, Rathcoole, is expected to proceed to the construction phase after Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council granted planning approval on Monday evening. The hotel will span three storeys with approximately 100 bedrooms. Comtec Development's plan includes a residents' ground floor bar/café and restaurant within the main entrance and lobby area. The separate office block is also intended to be three storeys in height. The developer said the complex could eventually garner £230,000 a year in rates for the local authority. Comtec, which is owned by developer Alan Wilton, said up to 200 people could be involved in the construction phase, with an estimated 280 permanent jobs created. The original proposal for the site had included a cinema. But that aspect was dropped in November 2018 after local objections. A number of petitions were also submitted against the development, gathering 4,692 names in total. The areas of contention included the potential impact on the Movie House cinema in Glengormley, displacement of custom from Glengormley, as well as road safety and traffic concerns. Read more: 

And Finally..

Microsoft's pods teach blind children how to code (BBC)

Theo Holroyd and Ollie Gerety share a common passion - they both love coding. But until recently it was hard for the two pupils at King's College School, Cambridge, to work together on a program. Theo is blind and the method used by the school to introduce children to simple coding concepts just did not work for him. Scratch, used in hundreds of primary schools, is a visual program, which involves dragging coloured blocks of code around a screen and then watching an animation. But now Microsoft has developed a physical programming language to make coding accessible to anyone with a visual impairment. Code Jumper consists of a series of pods, each of which contains a single line of code, representing a set of commands. They can be joined together in different sequences to create a program - and Theo and Ollie have helped test and refine the system. The woman leading the project is Cecily Morrison, a computer scientist at Microsoft's Cambridge research laboratory. She had a personal reason to think about the problem of teaching visually impaired children to code - her son was born blind six years ago. "We wanted to understand the world that he was going into," she explains, "and we found very quickly that many of his older friends wanted to learn to code and there were no options available to them to learn to code at this young age." Read more: