Bounce-back plan for Northern Ireland's tech sector outlined

Northern Ireland’s flourishing tech sector stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of “Bounce-Back” plans to help firms recover from the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking to business owners from the country at a virtual event today, the UK Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, and Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker, outlined a series of measures aimed at turning the UK into a global digital powerhouse.

Around 28,000 people are employed in Northern Ireland’s tech sector, which is worth approximately £1bn, across 1,200 companies, with Belfast becoming Europe’s leading destination city for new software development projects.

The new measures jointly announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last month, will seek to increase tech exports to fast-growing international markets, including Asia-Pacific, strengthen scale-ups’ readiness to export, and attract investment to drive innovation and create jobs.

The comprehensive package includes the creation of a new Digital Trade Network for Asia-Pacific, which will support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to break into the Asian market.

The plans also include the launch of a new Tech Exporting Academy, which will provide expert advice to UK scale-ups on subject areas essential to expansion, including regulation, intellectual property, and compliance. The Academy will be led and delivered in partnership with leading professional services firms.

Northern Ireland is fast becoming a global cyber security hub, delivering expertise on threats to national security, critical infrastructure, capital markets, e-commerce and child safety online. The Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT), based at Queen’s University Belfast, is the UK’s largest cyber security research centre.

In addition, its creative and digital media sector has a wide range of talent and state-of-the-art technology, hosting a dynamic cluster of companies who are working with global clients within animation, audio technology, mobile content and e-learning.

Exports Minister, Graham Stuart, said:

As a global hub of digital excellence, the UK is perfectly placed to grasp the huge opportunities ahead for tech growth - and nowhere more so than Northern Ireland, home to one of the most vibrant tech ecosystems in the country.

This country’s tech sector is a huge success story, driving innovation, boosting growth and generating well-paid jobs. I am fully confident that, with the measures we have set out, a tech-centred recovery will allow the UK, and particularly Northern Ireland, to overcome the challenges of coronavirus and reinforce our status as a leading player in digital trade.

Minister of State for Norther Ireland, Robin Walker, said:

I’m very excited about the opportunities the Bounce Back Plan presents for Northern Ireland, which already has very strong foundations in the industry. Northern Ireland is set to benefit hugely from this new scheme as it has an established £1 billion tech sector which is vital to the local economy. These new measures will help these tech businesses prosper in the post-coronavirus economy, not only here in the UK, but internationally.

Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds, said:

I welcome these bounce-back measures from the UK Government, which will assist Northern Ireland’s tech sector push forward the economic recovery. The tech sector is a cornerstone of the NI economy. I am keen to build on the success that companies in the sector have had, and continue to have, propelled by our world class skills and innovation ecosystem.

Central to this aim is the ability to access key markets such as Asia Pacific, as well as marketing of the world-class tech services that NI companies can deliver. These measures will provide valuable advice and support for our tech firms as they look to compete globally in the current economic climate.