Microsoft to significantly expand Belfast operation with new cyber-security centre

L-R: Kevin Holland, chief executive of Invest NI; Economy Minister Diane Dodds, and Darren Dillon of Microsoft
Ryan McAleer

MICROSOFT has announced plans to significantly expand its presence in Belfast with a new cyber-security centre.

The US tech-giant currently employs 28 people at the Catalyst technology hub in the Titanic Quarter.

It plans to triple its headcount to 85 with a centre that will service Microsoft's largest enterprise customers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The Department for the Economy has announced an £800,000 funding package for an assured skills training programme, set to be run from Belfast Met.

Invest NI is also offering £150,000 towards the creation of 25 of the 85 planned roles.

Microsoft is the latest US tech firm to set up a cyber-security centre in the city. Imperva, Constrast Security and Signifyd are among the north American companies to set up similar operations in Belfast over the past 14 months, joining more established firms including Proofpoint, Whitehat and Rapid7.

There are now more than 1,700 people employed within the sector in the north, compared with just a handful a decade ago.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “This expansion by Microsoft in Northern Ireland is exciting and welcome news. Not only is it a direct result of the skills and talent available here, but it is also an indicator of the strength and vibrancy of the local IT sector, particularly in the field of cyber-security.

The academies will be open to anyone with a 2:2 degree or above in any discipline, or a level five qualification in an IT related subject. All participants who complete the programme will be ensured a job interview with Microsoft for consideration for the new positions.

“Assured skills academies have a track record of ensuring local employers have access to the skilled people they need in order to grow, while also upskilling local people and developing the capability of further education colleges,” added Ms Dodds.

“Bringing this project to fruition has been a result of a successful partnership approach between my department, Invest Northern Ireland and Belfast Met.

Darren Dillon of Microsoft said: “We're delighted to be able to establish this new cyber-security centre here in Northern Ireland which will provide support to Microsoft's largest enterprise customers across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“An added advantage to this project is the focus on upskilling people to give them the opportunity to work in this dynamic area of the technology industry and over time we hope to be able to grow the team that works with us here in Northern Ireland.”

Invest NI chief executive, Kevin Holland, added: “Microsoft is one of the world's most innovative companies and its decision to choose Belfast for this new cyber-security centre is a vote of confidence for both Northern Ireland and the talented people here.

“This investment represents a significant boost for the Northern Ireland economy and will provide a range of opportunities for people to train for exciting new hi-tech roles.”

Damian Duffy, director of development at Belfast Met, added: “Belfast Met is a leading provider of pre-employment training that is industry-relevant and equips participants with hard and soft skills that will help them operate in the business world. We look forward to welcoming the first cohort of participants.”

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