Skip to Content


KTP Associate, Justin McHenry with VU.CITY is awarded ‘Future Leader’ status at the 2021 KTP Awards

On Thursday 23rd September the most positive impacts of collaboration between businesses and Knowledge Bases throughout the UK were celebrated. Queen’s KTP Associate Justin McHenry, with VU.CITY was awarded 'Future Leader' status at the ceremony.

Justin McHenry is now undertaking a prestigious ESRC NINE PhD in October 2021 with support from both Queen's University Belfast and VU.CITY.

The highly anticipated ‘Future Leader’ Award is presented to Associates who have shown exceptional skills, above and beyond the normal expectations of a KTP Associate.

VU.CITY is a game-changing, powerful digital twin of our cities that supports its users in creating, refining, and sharing the journey of city transformation to create the best possible city for all, saving time and money throughout the planning and design process, aiding better decision making. As the KTP Associate leading the project, Justin's overarching aim was to develop a 3D interactive model which can instantaneously evaluate planning development proposals, identify problems and offer solutions in order to facilitate fast, effective, high-quality decision making by planners and other public sector authorities.

Academic Supervisors for the project, Dr Phil Boland and Dr Stephen McKay from Queen’s School of Natural and Built Environment commented on Justin’s drive in delivering the innovation strategy; demonstrating great teamwork and outstanding leadership,

“This is an astonishing award for Justin McHenry. It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with him on this digital technology and city planning KTP. His desire and drive was absolutely fantastic, and his energy and enthusiasm was truly infectious. He fully deserves this Future Leader Award. A word for our partners too. VU.CITY and in particular CEO Jamie Holmes deserve huge credit for their commitment to the KTP. It has been an incredible experience working with VU.CITY on this KTP. This collaboration between Queen’s and VU.CITY will continue as Justin begins his PhD on the Planning-Technology Nexus”. Dr. Phil Boland

Dr. Stephen McKay added,

 “Justin Mc Henry, the Associate, has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in taking both professional practice and planning education to a new level. In developing the digital model for industry whilst simultaneously designing and delivering university modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, a major challenge in itself for experienced academics, he has applied the cutting-edge digital technology that he has developed and taught the professional practitioners of tomorrow how the previously cumbersome process of forward planning, development management and enforcement can be delivered with supreme efficacy to the highest standard.”


Not only has Justin, with support from the KTP team and KTN Advisor, Joel Ferguson, extracted academic and practical planning information during the project to incorporate this within the digital VU.CITY platform, he has enriched operational practice and the structure of education to ensure that Queen’s University Belfast students are equipped to become leaders of tomorrow.


Jamie Holmes, CEO of VU.CITY believes that academic support for real-world business brings long term benefits to all parties,

“The amount of benefit that can be gleaned from this process comes down to the quality of the student, the quality of the academic partner and the commitment to make this work from the business. We have been fortunate to have had the brightest student and the most competent people in the University supporting this process. We would have been completely foolish to have not committed to them to make this work. It has been an excellent experience.”


 Kevin Francis, Managing Partner of GIA Surveyors, Co-Creators of VU.CITY was honoured to partake in such an outstanding project,

 “It is a great privilege as Justin’s Manager at GIA Surveyors, for us to be involved in this unique partnership between VU.CITY and Queen’s University Belfast. The amalgamation of academic expertise with cutting edge digital technologies will undoubtedly lead to better, faster and more democratic decision making. Justin’s character, intellect and drive was the key factor behind the project’s outstanding classification. I could not think of someone more deserving of the Future Leader award. ”


This Knowledge Transfer Partnership provided the opportunity to link the theoretical and practical application of planning policy with the product, engineering and leadership teams within the business and together, this has brought clarity, accuracy and relevance to the business strategy.


The final words lie with KTP Associate, Justin McHenry, who is thrilled to have been awarded the ‘Future Leader’ title and attributes the success to the proactive nature of all the collaborators in not only achieving the objectives but exceeding all expectations.

“I am absolutely delighted to have received the Innovate UK KTN Future Leader award. This achievement is testament to the incredible guidance and support which I received from Dr. Boland and Dr. McKay at Queen’s University Belfast and Mr. Holmes, Mr. Francis and Mr. Jenkins at VU.CITY. Working with, and learning from, such an outstanding team of leading academics and top professionals had a tremendous influence on my personal, academic, and career growth and equipped me with the knowledge, skills, and experience to achieve this fantastic award. I cannot thank the entire team enough for their commitment to supporting me and the KTP project’s success.  

The KTP has been a remarkable experience, allowing me to lead a novel project exploring digital innovation in planning and the development of a PlanTech platform which is already having a significant impact on the planning profession across the UK and Ireland. I am honoured to have been involved in this project and to have received this Future Leader award.  I look forward to continuing to investigate digital planning as part of my PhD under the excellent supervision of Dr. Boland and Dr. McKay at QUB and to VU.CITY’s long-term impact on the built and natural environment professions.”


With support from VU.CITY and Queen's University Belfast, Justin will be undertaking a prestigious ESRC NINE PhD this month.

The understanding that VU.CITY have gained and the plans that have formed as a result of the KTP are central to the company's future success, and we look forward to watching the business grow.


Partnership Information

Philip Boland, School of Natural and Built Environment

Stephen McKay, School of Natural and Built Environment

Justin McHenry, KTP Associate

Jamie Holmes, CEO VU.CITY

Kevin Francis, Partner, VU.CITY

Joel Ferguson, KTN Advisor


KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward, contact us at or visit KTP FOR BUSINESS