Northern Ireland's IT success story is only set to continue

FLASHBACK: Pictured at the announcement of the Novosco acquisition by Cancom in October 2019 are Thomas Volk, Patrick McAliskey and John Lennon

THIS month officially marked the rebrand of Novosco, which I co-founded almost two decades ago with my long-time business partner John Lennon, to Cancom UK (hence the change in the byline of this regular column).

The journey started with a small team in a business unit in Carryduff and through many twists and turns led to the acquisition by Cancom of a 300-strong team of some of the very best people in the IT business in October 2019, and now the change in name.

The rebrand is not without some emotion. But my overriding feelings are actually of pride. Pride in that Novosco and its people became so good at what they do that they were able to win some of the largest IT contracts in the UK and Ireland. Indeed, they were so good that a large German headquartered Plc wanted to buy the company, and did.

Today the former Novosco business is a core part of Cancom UK & Ireland and is in a really strong position to further develop its expertise, its client-base, and its team here in Belfast, now under the Cancom name. The acquisition brought together two really strong and complementary businesses and created something even better.

Under the Cancom brand, I am certain the business here will go from strength to strength. I’m delighted that Peter Russell, a well-known face in the IT sector in Northern Ireland has joined as managing director here on the island of Ireland. And I am really pleased to continue working in the business alongside Peter as a strategic adviser.

There are many indigenous Northern Ireland companies that have gone on a similar journey of growth and been acquired by larger businesses from overseas. This is a positive story for Northern Ireland as it highlights the calibre of company we can create and the talent that exists in the local market. Indeed, I know of several smaller technology businesses that could very well go on that journey in the years ahead.

Whilst last year was of course a very difficult year for many businesses in the IT sector, and 2021 has begun in a challenging way too, the outlook for the IT sector here overall is very strong and it has a very bright future.

The sector has played a key role during the pandemic in ensuring businesses, households, government and public services were connected and in many cases were able to continue operating. And the sector’s work and expertise now underpins so many aspects of our lives, our economy and our society.

We know that Belfast is now a real global hub for cyber security and is seen as the number one international investment location for US cyber security firms. Other areas of IT strength in Northern Ireland include data analytics, healthcare IT and IT services. All of these areas are likely to see growth and create jobs into the years ahead.

We have great schools, universities and colleges producing talented and skilled people, we have many entrepreneurs with the potential to create and grow great businesses, and we have many up and coming companies who will scale in the years ahead. Northern Ireland’s IT success story is only set to continue.

:: Patrick McAliskey is a strategic adviser at Cancom UK, a multi-national IT company headquartered in Munich, with 4,000 employees worldwide and 350 based in Belfast.

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