An ambitious partnership between the aerospace, defence and security industry in Northern Ireland is aiming to create 4,000 jobs here within 10 years.
The tie-up – between industry body ADS NI, Invest NI, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, and Department for Education and Learning – expects to double revenue in the sector within that time to £2bn as well as increasing direct employment to 12,000.
The Northern Ireland Partnering for Growth (NIPG) is part of a plan to grow the UK's slice of the global industry and propagate one of the fastest growing parts of the Northern Ireland economy.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, who is set reveal the plan at a launch at Stormont today, said the industry was positioned for growth.
"I welcome the strategic themes and focus contained in this document – Northern Ireland Partnering for Growth – and particularly the emphasis that is being placed on skills development, supply chain excellence, research and development, as well as the extension of global reach," she said.
It sets out six themes which individual working groups from both industry and government will develop in an attempt to meet the growth targets. They include skills development, supply chain excellence, R&D, sales and export markets, defence and security, and the space sector.
Industry is well represented under the ADS NI umbrella with 61 companies on its books, including Thales representing defence, Bombardier aerospace, European Space Propulsion representing the space sector, and Core Systems security.
David Beatty, ADS NI chairman, said the sector was developing fast but needed a concerted approached.
"This industry is vital to the Northern Ireland economy, contributing 20% of our annual exports," he said.
"Key characteristics of the sector are the high technology involved and long-term nature that can bring benefits to our economy for many years to come.
"Having said this, it is a rapidly changing market and we recognise the need to build on successes and plan for the future in a partnership alongside government."
Among the goals set out in the paper, the NIPG wants to establish Northern Ireland as a global aerospace and space hub, boost the apprenticeship programme in the industry, target overseas markets, attract inward investment and leverage the research capabilities of the universities.
Both Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster are backing the plan. University of Ulster Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said research and development was crucial to the industry's success.
"R&D plays a critical role in ensuring continued strategic technological developments in industry resulting in their long-term competitiveness," he said. "This is best achieved by focusing on key R&D collaborative activities and their associated intellectual property.
"Principal aims must be to increase investment in R&D in collaboration with academia and industry, and to embed novel concepts within industry including the provision of a highly skilled workforce."
The blueprint, The Northern Ireland Partnering for Growth wants to:
- More than double revenues from the aerospace, defence, security and space industry in Northern Ireland to more than £2bn a year
- Increase direct employment from 8,000 to 12,000 high value jobs