Londonderry e-learning specialist wins £20m in South Africa

Learning Pool, the Londonderry based specialist in e-learning solutions in the public sector, has signed an agreement with the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) to market its product for public sector procurement internationally starting in South Africa and neighbouring regions early next year. Invest Northern Ireland has assisted the company to actively move into export markets.

The agreement, signed yesterday at Learning Pool’s offices in Clarendon Street, was announced by Director Paul McElvaney and welcomed by Donal Durkan, Invest NI’s Director, Life Sciences and Creative.

The company develops the content and software for e-learning courses and also provides training and support services to clients on an annual subscription basis. Clients can take advantage of Learning Pool’s technology to develop their own content.

Mr McElvaney said: “The agreement in South Africa is the outcome of a decision to explore business opportunities beyond the United Kingdom especially in nations that have public services influenced by UK tradition and procedures.

“Since all our business is currently with local authorities in Great Britain, it made sense for us to seek expansion by looking at countries such as South Africa, where we identified an opportunity to sell our ‘Passport to Procurement’ product for more effective and secure procurement of public contracts.

“Passport to Procurement is among a suite of products that we have developed for aspects of public sector activities such as induction and health and safety. Our expertise and knowledge in this area has made Learning Pool the leading provider of e-learning solutions to the public sector in Great Britain.”

Chris Gallagher, Director of Customer Solutions at CIPS, said: “Effective public sector procurement is the number one priority for many developing countries. By offering a web based service, CIPS and Learning Pool will be able to reach tens of thousands of individuals in the next few years, increasing capacity and improving public services.

“We are excited about the relationship with Learning Pool whose credentials in the public sector are unrivalled and to be admired.”

Mr McElvaney continued “Invest NI has assisted and encouraged the growth of the business here in Derry through a range of programmes including export development. In South Africa, for example, Invest NI helped us to identify an experienced trade adviser who has provided crucially important information about the market and business procedures there.

“The forthcoming Invest NI trade mission to Johannesburg will enable us to support CIPS as it seeks to build business for our procurement product throughout the country. CIPS estimates that the business there could be worth around £20 million over the next four years,” he added.

Invest NI’s Donal Durkan said: “This is an immensely important development for this growth focused company which has established itself as the UK market leader in e-learning for the public sector over the past three years.

“The suite of innovative products that the team in Derry has pioneered clearly has significant potential in the global marketplace especially in nations wishing to improve the skills, capability and competence of their public services. This is a developing market which Learning Pool is now perfectly positioned to exploit.

“Learning Pool’s commitment to growth through innovation for export markets is in line with Invest NI’s strategic focus for the long term economic development of the North West and wider Northern Ireland economy. The company has worked closely with our Trade team in other markets such as the U.S.”

“Learning technologies is a growing sector with international opportunities. We are planning a further event this year for local companies in the sector with two more proposed for next year,” he added.

Learning Pool currently employs 24 people and a further 10 on a freelance basis on activities such as content development and training services. The company counts 88 per cent of local councils in England among its clients, including 20 of the 33 London Boroughs, Manchester City Council, Birmingham City Council, Essex County Council and Norfolk County Council. In addition, Learning Pool products are used by public bodies in Wales and Scotland.

Learning Pool was acquired by Mary McKenna and Paul McElvaney in 2006 from the Improvement and Development Agency, a body established by the Local Government Association in London to help local government improve how it delivers services.