Derry occupied by technology
THROUGHOUT the past few years, Northern Ireland has firmly established itself as a hotspot for technological talent and digital flair.
More than 630 additional jobs were confirmed over the course of summer, not only providing new opportunities for graduates but also prompting questions on how we shape and design rethink office space as well as how we best utilise the existing space we have to make it fit for modern occupiers.
Global firm PA Consulting recently launched their Northern Ireland operations from StepSpace in Center House and intends to create 400 new roles in Belfast as it expands it's digital team. The business is has experienced unprecedented growth and their choice of Belfast as the location for their latest digital innovation hub stands testament to the depth of talent the city has to offer.
That said the trend for tech occupiers to come to Northern Ireland is not just confined to Belfast, with a growing number of technology firms choosing locations in the north-west with a particular focus on Derry as another vibrant digital hub.
The central location of the Ulster University and the Catalyst Inc campus creates in the city creates an attractive business environment for both indigenous and foreign direct investors, with Derry City and Strabane District Council expecting to see 15,000 new jobs created by 2032.
One firm taking advantage of the increasing prosperity in Derry is US company Alchemy Technology Services. Bringing over 256 posts to the region, Alchemy is setting up a European Centre of Excellence in a former shirt factory, citing the impressive talent coming from Ulster University as one of the major draws to the city.
Future Screens NI - a partnership between Ulster University and Queen's aimed at building the future of the creative industry in Northern Ireland – has recognised Derry as a key location for accelerating growth through product development, services and high value skills.
The largest single investment in the creative industries, Future Screens NI wants to transform innovation and job creation through collaboration, strategies to increase productivity and a £400 million upsurge in gross value added (GVA) to boost the local economy.
Another draw to the north-west is the proposed City Deal for Derry which, if successful, will see significant investment in the region enhancing both job opportunities and in turn property values. Whilst it is early days there is a head of steam building and the impact of the City Deal on infrastructure and investment will be a ‘game-changer' if it goes ahead.
Undoubtedly forward looking firms see this possibility on the horizon with Danske Bank announcing the creation of 67 jobs in Derry, based in the customer protection centre, that will work closely with teams in Lithuania and Poland – not to mention handling global accounts daily.
The firm chose Derry to launch its new ‘assured skills academy' rather than expanding one of their other European centres. This is expected to generate £1.5 million for the economy through salaries.
There is no doubt that the technology, digital and creative industries will continue to flourish in Northern Ireland as the region benefits from the ripple effect emanating from Belfast.
The challenge for commercial property owners and landlords will be to ensure office accommodation meets the requirements as Northern Ireland becomes increasingly occupied with technology.
:: Declan Flynn is managing director of Belfast-based commercial property agency Lisney, which works on behalf of many of Northern Ireland's most significant investors and developers as well as major retailers and businesses.