Business

North's knowledge sector growing faster than Britain

THE knowledge economy - companies whose operation is based on intellectual capital - is growing faster in Northern Ireland than in Britain.

Jobs in the sector have increased by 6.2 per cent inside three years - ahead of the UK average of 2.5 per cent - according to the latest Knowledge Economy Index.

There were 295 new innovative start-up businesses formed in the period covered by the report from 2009 to 2011.

The index is produced by the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy at the University of Ulster in conjunction with Oxford Economics and was commissioned by NISP Connect.

According to NISP Connect programme director Steve Orr the results "represent excellent news for the both the knowledge economy and wider business base".

"Typically, jobs in the Knowledge Economy pay 25 per cent more than the average wage, and the more growth we see in this sector the greater the ripple effect across Northern Ireland," he said.

"The investments being made by Deti and delivered by Invest NI and other economic support organisations, including NISP Connect are evidently working".

Richard Johnston, associate director of NICEP, said that "those in the knowledge economy should look to the future with optimism. The sector has been growing since 2009 and with a number of economic indicators looking more positive in recent months; there are clearly opportunities for growth."

Although growing at a faster rate than the sector in Britain, the north's knowledge economy is still proportionally much smaller.

Firms in the sector represent 4.2 per cent of all businesses in Northern Ireland compared to 9.7 per cent for the whole of the UK.

There are also more than three-times the number of start-up businesses per head of population in the UK than Northern Ireland.

The average weekly salary for knowledge economy firms in the north is also much lower than the UK.

Workers in the north can expected around £544 compared to the £761 UK average.

However, Mr Orr concluded that the knowledge economy is "vitally important in driving growth in Northern Ireland".

"Over the next year we will work tirelessly with the business sector and government to further develop an environment that will continue to prioritise support for new start-ups as well as growing and diversifying companies within the knowledge economy," he said.

"I believe we have the capacity locally not only to continue to grow more quickly than our UK regional counterparts but to be much higher in the ranking in real terms."

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