40,000 now working in Northern Ireland's £5bn knowledge economy
Almost 40,000 people are now employed in the so-called 'knowledge economy' in Northern Ireland, boasting £5bn in sales each year.
That's according to the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), which also predicts that as many as 160,000 roles, including indirect jobs, will be created here by 2030.
Today's publication of the annual report, supported by Bank of Ireland UK, also shows Northern Ireland's knowledge economy as the second-fastest growing in the UK for the third consecutive year.
Companies involved in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, software, electronics, aerospace and financial technology are among those driving the knowledge economy.
Firms in Northern Ireland contribute 30% of the total exports, while 70% of its sales are based outside the EU - avoiding the potential impact of Brexit.
Steve Orr, director of Connect at Catalyst Inc, which draws up the report, said: "Our priority recommendations are focused on becoming world-class in research and development in specialist clusters of healthcare, cyber security and data analytics as well as advanced engineering.
"Secondly, education modernisation and investment up to PhD level, and thirdly immediate implementation of existing venture capital recommendations from the Economic Advisory Group."
Wages in Northern Ireland's knowledge economy are 25% above the average, with salaries of £28,000.
Northern Ireland is performing strongly in a number of areas. That includes the number of new start-ups, the number of venture capitalist deals, and innovation.
However, it says areas of improvement include the overall level of investment, the number of publicly listed companies and the volume of science and technology graduates.
Richard Johnston, associate director of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, which compiled the report, said: "...the challenge for Northern Ireland going forward is to translate these record levels of activity into more jobs, better wages and higher profits."
And Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland's regional director for Northern Ireland, said: "Northern Ireland continues to see great examples of value creation through innovation."