Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Making a case for innovation

Northern Ireland business can deliver, says managing director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin Karen Blair

Managing director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin Karen Blair

Why has Cleaver Fulton Rankin chosen to sponsor the excellence in technology award?

As a leading local law firm which has been around for more than a 100 years we have exceptionally strong links with the Northern Ireland business community.

We represent dozens of companies across a range of sectors including technology which is arguably one of the most dynamic of all. It's great to be part of these awards which profile and celebrate the very best of Northern Ireland business and, given the exciting things that have been happening within the technology sector, it's a pleasure to be sponsoring this key category once again.

Northern Ireland is capable of delivering highly successful and profitable businesses, especially within the technology sector. A great example of this is last year's category winner, Andor Technology, which is the subject of an unconditional offer by Oxford Instruments to buy the company for £176m.

How important is the technology sector to the Northern Ireland economy?

The technology sector is the driving force of a globally competitive economy, underpinning innovation, competitiveness and long term prosperity.

The technology sector in Northern Ireland is extremely important and is continuing to grow. It is estimated that we have approximately 16,500 jobs in the sector, contributing 3.6% of total Northern Ireland Gross Value Added and more importantly, wages in the sector are one third above the private sector average.

Technology has helped existing companies compete more successfully on a global scale, but also to act as catalyst to attract significant numbers of companies and high quality jobs to Northern Ireland. Over the past decade, the computing sector, and particularly software development, has shown strong growth. Its share of overall ICT employment has more than doubled and now represents over half of all ICT employment.

NI's burgeoning financial services and composite materials sectors are good case studies in how investment in certain technology has helped create sectors which did not exist at all only a few years ago. These sectors have experienced indigenous growth and continue to show expansion through attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). They are now acknowledged as world class in their own right and a crucial part of our economy that rightly receives significant support from Government.

How has technology impacted on CFR as a major local law firm?

Our firm has always recognised the importance of keeping pace with technological change. We simply couldn't function in the way our clients rightly expect us to without making full use of the technology available. Technology is integral to everything we do.

Nowadays we can provide clients with direct electronic access to their files which assists transparency and their ability to monitor progress 24/7.

Commercial confidence appears to be on the rise – would you agree?

Good economic data is never to be frowned on and the recent UK economic data and to some extent that for NI has all been encouraging. We would agree that general levels of confidence are also on the rise.

The real challenge for Northern Ireland is to ensure that it experiences the same rate of recovery as the rest of the UK. The property market and construction sector will struggle to regain their pre-2008 activity levels for some time and this together with the on-going weighting of the economy in favour of the public sector means it could be argued our recovery may well lag behind that of the UK.

How important are initiatives like the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards?

These awards, and others like them, are great showcases for the very best of Northern Ireland business and provide the benchmarks to which we should all aspire. Every year I'm amazed to hear the success stories from companies of all sizes and sectors.

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