Some of Northern Ireland’s most innovative and entrepreneurial students from a wide range of backgrounds, deemed most likely to succeed in the new knowledge economy, have become the first members of the exclusive Generation Innovation network at a launch event in Belfast City Hall.
The new initiative delivered by NISP CONNECT in partnership with representatives from the local business community is designed to stem and eventually reverse the brain drain from Northern Ireland by building a physical and online network of Northern Ireland’s best young people, before, during and after their third level studies or initial career choice.
Following a nomination process open to all Northern Ireland secondary schools and colleges, over 100 budding entrepreneurs and innovators attended the inaugural networking event where they were inspired by leading global technology experts such as Gail Power, Director of Online Sales Operations for Facebook, herself originally from Northern Ireland.
The launch event was also attended by over 20 local private sector technology company founders including Hugh Cormican from Cirdan Imaging, Brendan Mooney, Kainos, Des Speed, PathXL formerly of Lagan Technologies and Sheena Lewis from Lewis Fertility who shared their experiences and insight with Generation Innovation members and their parents/teachers.
Speaking at the event Director of NISP CONNECT, Steve Orr, said: “The Generation Innovation initiative is about developing a relationship with the young people of Northern Ireland and highlighting to them, through the use of positive role models, the opportunities that are available on their doorstep.
"Too many of NI’s gifted young minds and natural entrepreneurs are leaving our shores for what they believe are ‘bigger and better’ career opportunities. Recent research published by the Department of Employment and Learning, suggests that as many as 6 out of 10 who leave to study in Britain never return here to work.
"Many others only retain fleeting relationships with home and subsequently miss out on opportunities to pursue their careers or start a business here. If our economy is to grow we need to establish a thriving entrepreneurial eco-system where innovation, vision and talent flourish and where our young people can play their part in creating a positive economic future.
“The initiative aims to encourage more young people from a wide range of backgrounds to either study, work or stay here and we will also encourage those that do move away to continue a closer relationship with home to help develop our innovation economy.”
Gail Power, Director of Online Sales Operations for Facebook said: "My hope for the students of ‘Generation Innovation’ is that they look to the wide range of opportunities available to them. I want them all to think big.
"This amazing bunch of young students have been selected because they have shown an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and through the application of these qualities and strengths each one of them can contribute to Northern Ireland's economic success."
Membership of the Generation Innovation Network brings with it significant benefits including invites to a number of annual high profile ‘Generation Innovation’ Networking Events for the student, their parents and school representative as well as access to an exclusive managed online social network which allows members to exchange ideas, post news about their development and seek out internships and valuable business relationships.
Throughout their membership of the network students will also regularly gain access to and have the unique opportunity to be guided by some of Northern Ireland’s top business people from a range of Science and Technology companies here and internationally.