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Northern Ireland Science Park rebranded Catalyst Inc as 10-year plan seeks to be the catalyst for economic boost

By John Mulgrew

Published 20/06/2016

Bright future: the new name for the Science Park, where it’s hoped 5,000 new jobs will be created
Bright future: the new name for the Science Park, where it’s hoped 5,000 new jobs will be created
Ambition: Norman Apsley
Targets: Dr Joanne Stuart

Northern Ireland's biggest burgeoning tech hub is being given a rebrand as it unveils an ambitious 10-year plan to target £100m of investment.

The Northern Ireland Science Park will now be known as Catalyst Inc, and says it will expand its huge Belfast base, along with two new developments in Londonderry, as part of its new growth plans.

And it hopes to increase the size of Northern Ireland's knowledge economy by as much as five-fold in the next 15 years.

Set up in 1999 to grow and expand the province's emerging knowledge economy, the science park aims to create 5,000 top jobs, and a total of 1 million sq feet of office space.

It's already created around 2,600 jobs for the Northern Ireland economy, and has worked closely with the universities, Stormont and the private and public sectors.

It's already home to some 160 businesses across the world of technology, science and other fields.

That includes some of Northern Ireland's top home-grown businesses, such as Novosco, PathXL and 8over8.

Norman Apsley, chief executive of Catalyst Inc, said the newly rebranded business-building organisation is "built upon the deep belief that in Northern Ireland we have a community of innovators so powerful its people can change the world".

"We provide the home, networks and empathy to support this talent and ambition to develop world leading products and services that will transform Northern Ireland into one of the most entrepreneurial knowledge economies in Europe.

"Everyone talks about the need to grow the economy and drive our expertise and skills in technology as it is applied to every business sector. What we have done at Catalyst Inc is to provide the right environment for that ambition to take hold and to prosper. Through our collaborative approach we have developed significant and successful partnerships."

He said the success in securing key EU funding for the development of the North West campus in association with Letterkenny Institute of Technology was one such example.

Dr Joanne Stuart, director of development, said the park had "exceeded all targets" since its creation in 1999.

"We are ready at this next stage of evolution, and accelerating the programmes and providing the physical infrastructure," she said.

Dr Stuart said it was an "exciting time" for the organisation, adding that she hoped Northern Ireland could be "one of the most entrepreneurial knowledge economies by 2030".

She said that within 15 years Catalyst would have one million square feet of space throughout several campuses across Northern Ireland.

She added: "It would be a bigger community-led ecosystem, and more people engaged in that network, which could be three to five times that size - enabling Northern Ireland to have a much more balanced economy."

The latest Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) revealed that almost 36,000 people were employed in the sector which pays higher than average wages and is worth around £3.4bn annually, representing 10% of the Northern Ireland economy.

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