Texas-based medical tech firm announces plans to create 120 jobs in Belfast

Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton with Chris Dillie, president and chief executive of ESO Solutions
Ryan McAleer

A TEXAS based company that develops software for emergency services and hospitals has announced plans to create 120 jobs in a new software engineering centre in Belfast over the next three years.

ESO, which says the posts will attract salaries averaging just under £40,000 a year, is the latest US tech firm to set up in Belfast.

The company has been offered £780,000 by Invest NI towards the move. The economic support agency said all 120 jobs could eventually be worth £4.7 million in wages for the economy.

ESO's software has primarily been designed for use by emergency medical services, fire departments and hospitals in the US and Canada. Its products include electronic health records, data analytics, asset management and scheduling.

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, ESO currently employs 270 people its three bases, which includes Dallas and Des Moines, Iowa.

Its new software engineering centre in Belfast represents its first expansion outside the United States.

The firm has already recruited seven people in the north. It expects to use flexible office space offered by StepSpace in Centre House on Chichester Street initially before opening its own dedicated centre in the city.

President and chief executive Chris Dillie said the company had narrowed its search to two potential offices. It expects to take on a lease for around 14,000 sq ft, which will be capable of housing most of its planned 120 staff.

“We'd like to get into our long term permanent home in place as quickly as possible,” said Mr Dillie.

“We typical put less folk in per square foot than a lot of companies do. We like to have a lot of extra creative space and for meet-ups.

“We have seven employees thus far, we'd like to ramp to 30 as quickly as possible and then over the next 36 months, we'd like to see 120 or so.

“We're looking for product managers, business analysts, software and testing engineers. It will be a full scale software engineering shop. We're going to give complete applications to Belfast to work on.

“At 24 to 30 months we'll start looking at whether more than just research and development would make sense for us here in Belfast as well.”

Mr Dillie revealed he was encouraged to investigate Belfast by the chief executive of digital publishing platform Highwire. It's 13 years since the Standford University spin-out announced a £6m investment in Northern Ireland.

The ESO boss said the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit had not deterred the company's announcement.

“Obviously you want to be aware of any of the factors going on at any time, and that would include in any of my US markets as well. But for us, this is about talent.”

ESO is the latest in a string of US software companies to set up in Belfast, drawn by the number of university graduates.

Despite the competition for talent and concerns from some industry insiders of a skills deficit in Northern Ireland, Mr Dillie said he believes ESO status as a ‘mission-based' organisation will set it apart from other tech firms.

“Us coming in with a mission-based organisation that's here to improve community health, we seem to be pretty different, and we're really excited about that opportunity to differentiate ourselves.”

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