With Northern Ireland’s long history of engineering dating back to the early 19th century, it is hardly surprising that technology is a powerful driving force behind the success of business in the region today…
Northern Ireland’s pedigree, coupled with a talent pool of young, well-educated people and a superb infrastructure has been key to attracting hundreds of overseas investors hungry for high tech expertise.
One recent arrival is Citi – one of the world’s largest banking corporations – which set up its first office in Belfast in 2004. Attracted by Northern Ireland’s strong reputation in software and financial services technology, it has since opened a second facility and now employs 900 staff to provide technology and other services to its international offices and clients. That headcount is to be increased by a further 500 people following a further expansion announced in late 2010.
Typifying the calibre of high tech skills that Citi can draw is the neighbouring Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology. Established by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to exploit its longstanding excellence in ICT and electronics, the world-ranked centre is also home to the £25m Centre for Secure Information Technologies – the UK’s lead centre for developing technology to counter malicious ‘cyber-attacks’. QUB – along with the University of Ulster – works closely with a large number of local and international companies. In 2010, Seagate – the world leader in hard disk drives and digital storage – announced two major R&D investments totalling almost £60 million. The SAP and Intel Collaboratory at the SAP Research Centre in Belfast marks another important milestone in the strong collaboration between SAP, Europe’s largest software organisation and Intel, the world’s largest processor company.
In other recent developments, Northern Ireland has been chosen as the location for an R&D facility as part of what has been described as one of the world’s most complex telecoms developments.
Intune Networks, a Dublin-based firm has developed technology that could soon boost the efficiency of the world’s optical fibre networks from just a few per cent to more than 80.
Intune CEO Tim Fritzley says the company chose Belfast in preference to California’s Silicon Valley for the project, primarily because of the city’s strong R&D capabilities produced by companies such as Nortel and Flextronics.
“We wanted to move forward with commercialisation which is incredibly expensive and complex because big carriers have very specific requirements,” he says. “In Dublin there isn’t a culture of developing this type of equipment but we found it in Belfast.”