Northern Ireland leading the way in ICT R&D

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Northern Ireland is keen to promote its ICT sector as a driver of growth and high-value jobs that can stimulate other sectors of the economy.

There are more than 700 companies in the ICT sector in Northern Ireland, with around 15 per cent being international investors including names such as Microsoft, HP, Fujitsu, Openwave, SAP, Allstate and NYSE Technologies. These companies benefit from the opportunities the region offers for R&D, software development and business development.

Northern Ireland provides research and development facilities at thirteen ICT-related research centres. These include the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) which is one of the leading centres in the UK for security technology and the Electronics, Communications and IT Research Institute (ECIT), which specialises in areas including broadband wireless communications, electronic data security and image and speech processing.

Other centres include Nanotech NI, which focuses on the design, fabrication and commercial exploitation of nanotechnology processes as well as SAP’s Campus-based Engineering Centre which works on next generation enterprise service-oriented architecture and advanced web technologies. Queen’s University and Ulster University also have strong IT programmes for both under-graduates and post-graduates.
In addition investors such as Citi, based near Northern Ireland’s technology hub, are aggressively recruiting graduates from IT courses and placing them on in-house fast track career development schemes.

Educated workforce
The IT Professional Academy (ITPA) offers a number of career routes in the ICT sector, including a faster and more work focused alternative to university for school leavers as well as a conversion course for non-IT graduates. Government, industry and academia have implemented a number of collaborative initiatives in training and eduation, ensuring the workforce continues to meet the needs of the global ICT industry.

Cost competitiveness
Invest NI estimates that R&D costs in Northern Ireland are almost 40 per cent below the European average, a saving that is enhanced by the R&D tax credit scheme. Companies are delivering software solutions to their US parent companies saving up to 50 per cent on London costs and 35 per cent on US costs. The body also highlights that the region’s compact size makes it attractive for testing new technology systems.

Infrastructure
One of the most high profile developments in Northern Ireland is Project Kelvin, a new international telecommunications link providing direct, high-speed communication from Northern Ireland to North America and Europe, with guaranteed reliability of 99.999 percent. Northern Ireland will also be the first region in the UK to complete BT’s 21CN network upgrade – a next generation network offering a fully enabled IP infrastructure, high speed, secure and versatile communications network.

One of Northern Ireland’s most notable successes in the field of technology and innovation is Andor Technology. The company specializes in high-value end of the global scientific digital camera market. Until it was de-listed from the AIM stock exchange in 2014 it was one of only three publicly traded companies in Northern Ireland. The company started life as a spin out from Queen’s University.

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