Growing Belfast digital sector generated £875m last year
MONEY generated by new digital businesses in the north has grown by over 140 per cent in five years, with Belfast establishing itself as a tech hub, new figures show.
Research from Tech Nation has revealed that the capital of new digital firms born in Northern Ireland accelerated by 143 per cent between 2011 and 2016, with a total of 97 new businesses created in Belfast in 2016 alone. The figures show that Belfast is the main driver for the digital boom, with turnover in the sector in and around the city climbing to £875m last year. The number of jobs in Northern Ireland overall also climbed to almost 9,000 (8,970) in 2017.
The skilled workforce coming out of the two universities, low cost of living, funding support and the highest density of fibre (broadband) in Europe are cited as the key factors for Belfast attracting startup tech firms, while the opening of co-working space Ormeau Baths last year has also facilitated access to new networks, funding and expertise.
Gerard Grech, chief executive at Tech Nation, said Belfast is one of the "most exciting tech clusters" in the UK right now, with strong connections to the area's transport manufacturing and service heritage.
"There is a fantastic talent pool here, as well as lower cost of living and our Tech Nation survey showed that the best things about the area are considered access to funding, a helpful tech community and the proximity of large companies.”
Irene McAleese, co-founder of Newtownards-based see.sense,which uses Artificial Intelligence to create intelligent bike lights, said: “We moved to Northern Ireland specifically to start our business because we knew that there is a great education system here and therefore a great pool of talent. When we got here we were pleasantly surprised to find the fantastic support and ecosystem that exists for startups. We have benefited from funding schemes including InvestNI and from Catalyst and from InterTrade Ireland which have all helped us develop as a business.”
Tech Nation on Tour arrives at Ormeau Baths today and will see entrepreneurs, founders and tech ecosystem experts assemble to debate the opportunities for developing startups in Belfast and the surrounding area.