New £28.6m BT Belfast innovation centre to create 50 graduate jobs

Howard Watson, CEO of BT technology, service and operations, with Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest NI, and Ulster University vice-chancellor, Professor Paddy Nixon, at the launch of the multi-million pound BT Ireland Innovation Centre in Belfast.
Gareth McKeown

IN a bid to retain local IT talent, telecoms giant BT has opened a new multi-million pound Innovation Centre in Belfast, which is set to create up to 50 graduate jobs and 25 university research posts.

The BT Ireland Innovation Centre (BTIIC) will undertake an extensive programme of research and development that is set to cost an estimated £28.6 million over the next five years and will play a crucial role in the company’s global research and development capability.

The new Belfast centre will also see BT and Ulster University collaborate and undertake more than £7m worth of joint research, which will lead to the creation of 25 university research posts, alongside up to 50 graduate roles in the BT Belfast Global Development Centre. The new roles will generate an additional £1.4m of annual salaries into the Northern Ireland economy.

Howard Watson, BT technology, service and operations CEO, described it is an “exciting and significant investment” for BT and for Northern Ireland.

“Our new innovation centre will operate alongside our existing Belfast Global Development Centre, the BT Labs in Suffolk and our global network of technology scouts to further strengthen our research and innovation capability, bringing together industrial engineers and university researchers,” he said.

“The areas of expertise in the new hub will include the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and data analytics for customer experience and cyber security. We hope the opening of this world-class facility will help attract and retain Northern Ireland’s considerable IT talent.”

The major investment is being supported by £9m of funding from Invest NI towards the R&D programme. Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the new centre was a further demonstration of BT’s commitment to Northern Ireland.

“The centre will become an internationally recognised centre of excellence for innovation and will complement BT’s international research centres,” he said.

Ulster University vice-chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon added that the ambitious industry partnership with BT is a “unique collaboration opportunity” and builds upon the university’s recent £4m investment in a new data analytics research institute.

“Computing and engineering at Ulster University is at the forefront of diverse research excellence in data science and networks, equipping us to play an integral role in transformative telecommunications. Creating 25 research posts – including 12 at PhD level – the new centre offers unrivalled higher education opportunities alongside industry leaders. Through our research and skilled graduate talent we are proud to support indigenous industry and the region’s ability to attract foreign direct investment.”

BT Group currently employs 3,495 people in Northern Ireland, including contract staff, and is the largest investor in communications and IT infrastructure, services and skills in the market.

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