The Northern Ireland Centre for European Co-operation (NICEC) project

In working to promote "Shared Learning: From the Local to the Global and Back Again,” the University of Ulster' Northern Ireland Centre for European Cooperation (NICEC) delivered over 60 activities in more than 20 countries in Europe and beyond, and directly engaged over 2,000 participants. The Centre produced more than 60 position, policy, best practice and information reports, as well as academic and commissioned works.

The Northern Ireland Centre for European Co-operation (NICEC) based at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus and funded by Peace II (Measure 4.1) through the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is a joint venture between the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences of the University of Ulster. NICEC engaged in activity under two core themes: Cultural and Social Regeneration and Diversity and Conflict Management.

Unifying both themes as the common title and philosophy – ‘Shared Learning: From the local to the global and back again’, the overall aim to develop new and build on existing networks that support reciprocal learning between Northern Ireland and the EU, accession countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States. All activities undertaken in the course of the project involved the participation of politicians, policy makers, practitioners, NGOs, professional analysts and academics. Through its programme activity of shared learning, NICEC actively worked to create sustainable long-term partnerships between relevant stakeholders in Northern Ireland and targeted EU states and regions, to promote applied policy learning in Northern Ireland and in Europe and to facilitate the building of sustainable self-sufficient networks in recognition of the value of their activities.

Documentary Reports From the NICEC Programme are available at < >


Culture Regeneration Programme

The Cultural Regeneration programme operated under the strategic vision and direction of the University’s Cultural Development Department (UUCD) led by Kate Bond and Nollaig Ó Fiongháile (UU/NICEC). The programmme based its activities on the knowledge that cultural and creative industries are increasingly at the heart of regeneration programmes of our urban and rural spaces and on the understanding that these industries are increasingly core to current dialogue underpinning sustainable development and planning in the 21st century economy. The NICEC Cultural programme offered the opportunity to consolidate investigations to date in this field and to consider challenges and relevance for Northern Ireland.


I. Culture in the Regeneration of Post - Conflict Urban Centres

In 2004 - 2005, an exchange programme was undertaken with the provincial region of Toledo to explore social, economic and cultural regeneration with the specific aim of identifying mechanisms to support the City of Derry in establishing how culture can be at the heart of regeneration and development. The exchange encompassed a series of reciprocal visits that focused on key development issues to do with securing World Heritage status and establishing the City of Derry as a heritage city. Toledo and Cuenca are both noted for successful regional cultural policies, cultural tourism and cultivation of their cultural resources. Both are UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites and have succeeded in accomplishing regional infrastructural development that has repositioned the region within Spain, while established as centres of cultural excellence within Europe.

The exchange programme with both regions was a mechanism for developing governmental partnerships through networking, and participation in wider professional European networks. In particular, the partnerships increased our capacity towards developing a locally based and multi-agency approach for attracting financial investment for cultural regeneration in the City of Derry. This involved two core developments, i) the potential to formulate agreement for a mentoring process between Cuenca City Council and Derry City Council for the application for World Heritage Status & EU City of Culture in Derry and ii) partnership with Toledo agencies addressing cultural regeneration, cultural tourism, heritage management and access to European funding initiatives. Subsequently, finance was secured to commission research undertaken by EUCLID UK to provide a ‘Survey of Cultural Policy Instruments in European Regions’ with a guide on primary funding sources towards financing like-developments in Northern Ireland. The networks established and accessed, facilitated and supported practitioner participation in the EU to include ‘AVEC, Cultural Tourism Network’ and ‘Creative Cities Network’, (Derry City Council) HERITUR (UU Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages), Future Search Network, (Practitioner & Policy Makers), European Cultural Foundation (Practitioner & Policy Makers), European Federation of Arts & Heritage, (Practitioner & Policy Makers).


   Pascual, J (2004) ‘Frameworks, Histories, Policies and Futures of Creative Cities’, NICEC Policy Paper. Available at < >


  NICEC L'Derry - Toledo Study Visit, Delegates L - R. Angel N. Garcia , Jose M. Tofino, Ms De Los Angeles Diaz Vieco, Eugenico S. Garcia.


  NICEC L'Derry - Toledo Study Visit, Delegates L - R N. Livingston (ACNI), M. Durkan (SDLP), Prof. R. Welch (UU), N.Ó Fiongháile (UU.NICEC)



II. Observing Culture: Cultural Observatories.

From October 2005 to May 2006, a sequence of meetings, study visits, conference attendances and seminars were undertaken to support our investigations on the theme of cultural observatories and how  to contribute to a professional, confident, and outward looking cultural environment in Northern Ireland. During 2004, NICEC had worked closely with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and DCAL to explore the key issues relating to cultural policy development in the region, the potential ways of exploring best practice and identifying ways of working with cross-sectoral partners to support this theme. Initially, a seminar was held during the ‘Creative Clusters’ conference in Belfast 2005 with specialists from Barcelona exploring ‘Creative Cities’ and ‘Investing in Entrepreneurial Professionalism in the Creative Field’. This was followed with the formation of high-level delegations for a study visit to the Budapest Cultural Observatory, and two specialist think tank meetings in Budapest 2005 and in Belfast 2006. In addition, a commissioned research was undertaken by EUCLID UK to provide models of cultural research units in Europe with a financial proposal on establishing a unit in Northern Ireland.

The primary thematic, the sequence of events and research accomplished were undertaken to raise awareness of cultural policy as an area of political and administrative relevance to Northern Ireland and to facilitate debate in the cultural sector on how best to professionalize, engage and extend cultural policy development for N. Ireland. A core objective of the exchange was to promote the idea of a Cultural Policy Research Unit in Northern Ireland as part of a longer term and wider commitment by various public bodies to the needs of the sector. The sequence of meetings and study visits that took place functioned as a guide to the issues at stake and the potential for the development of an improved cultural policy framework in Northern Ireland. A series of recommendations were proposed and agreed as an outcome of the final think-tank meeting in Belfast that are being actioned by the University of Ulster’s Cultural Development Department.

    Euclid (2006) 'Cultural Policy Instruments in the EU'. Available at < /archive/sunesis_lab_Ulster:NICEC/Euclid.CulturalPolicyInstrumentsIII.IV.Final.pdf >

      McElroy, A (2005) 'Observing Culture'? NICEC Report. Available at <>

   Brown, G (2005) 'Culture in the European Union', NICEC Policy Report. Available at < >

  Inclusive Europe Conference, Budapest 2006. Delegates L - R N.Ó Fiongháile (UU.NICEC), Elona Kish (EFAH).

  Brussels Policy Briefing: Delegates L - R G.Brown (EUCLID), P. Ramsey (SDLP), F. Ó Brollaig (SF) B. De Brúin (MEP), N. Ó Fiongháile (UU), K. Bond (UU), C. Jack (DCAL).



III. Creative Industries: Innovative Models for Growing the Economy

Over the period March - September 2006, the cultural regeneration programme worked with high level delegations that include sectoral experts and representatives from cultural and creative industries in Northern Ireland with a view to influencing the development of Northern Ireland’s knowledge economy and creative industries. The programme of work included a series of policy briefings held in Vienna, Austria; conference delegation at the Tate Gallery in London; delegations to Finland and Iceland; and a research commission from Colin Stutt Consulting to identify and assess innovative policy to assist developments in nurturing the creative industries. The programme culminated in a three day event held from 26 - 28 September 2006 that included a European conference event, a consultation meeting on the development of a strategic framework for the University of Ulster's developmental role in relation to the creative industries and peer to peer mentoring sessions with Icelandic representatives active in creative arts and digital media in Iceland.  Our delegations had a particularly high profile engaging practitioners, policy makers and economic development agencies addressing the creative industries  in N. Ireland, Iceland and Finland. Organisations represented included the Dept of Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Dept of Culture, Arts & Leisure, NORIBIC, INVEST NI, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts and Business Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission, Northern Visions Television, Channel 4’s IDEASFACTORY Northern Ireland, University personnel along with digital media and design entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland. Internal debate among the Northern Ireland delegates focused on issues relevant to our development needs in Northern Ireland and the potential to establish partnership and networking opportunities. This debate directly influenced the content of the University of Ulster’s conference on the creative industries 'Creative Industries: Innovative Models for Growing the Economy' Conference, Belfast, September 26 - 28, 2006.


Bond, K (2006) 'Creative Industries: Innovative Models for Growing the Economy' Belfast, Available at <>

  Creative Industries: Innovative Models for Growing the Economy, UU - European Conference Programme, Belfast 2006 <>

  N. Ó Fiongháile (UU NICEC Programme Specialist), Kari Raina (Arabianranta, Finland), Irina Blomqvist, (Digital Media) Finland, UU NICEC Belfast 2006.jpg

A. McELroy, NICEC Consultant Addressing Creative Industries Development in Iceland & Finland, 2006.

Ari Magnusson, Director 'Screaming Masterpiece: 1000 Years of Icelandic Popular Music', DVD <>




From 2004-2006, UUCD/NICEC has held an intensive programme of events including policy briefings, study visits, specialist sectoral focused seminars, funding briefings, networking and think-tank meetings and conference events. Each of these events has been documented carefully and the information disseminated through our website

A significant level of feedback has been received on the crucial role that the NICEC programme has played in Northern Ireland. Delivered through an international programme of study and best practice visits, policy briefings, commissioned works and conference delegations, participants have welcomed the following output: Frequent, focused events disseminating current intelligence on and for the cultural sector; Consistent, quality briefings for politicians, policy makers, and sectoral representatives; Opportunities for politicians, policy-makers, government officials, academics and practitioners to meet and engage in dialogue internally and with external expert groups; Significant learning outcomes from a high level, highly relevant exchange programmes,  Presentation of tangible next step scenarios with focused interventions and credible outcomes emerging.

A collection of highly detailed position papers, policy papers, practitioner papers and commissioned reports have been developed to support further work by specific agencies on these core themes and for wider dissemination to the cultural sector. The University of Ulster was particularly interested to host these events as part of a larger programme within the Faculty of Arts addressing cultural heritages and the cultural and creative industries. The University has made a particular contribution to the dissemination and development of culture by promoting cultural reflection, research, experimentation, creation and innovation, through its Schools, Research Institutes and specialist units such as the Cultural Development Department, the Interface Centre for Research in Art, Technologies & Design, the Centre for Media Research and the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages.

The University of Ulster also has a significant role to play as a university that has a physical profile throughout the region and as an intellectual and practically applied force committed to playing its part in furthering processes of understanding in the society in which we all seek to live.

Nollaig Ó Fiongháile, Programme Specialist, NICEC (2004 - 06)