Belfast Telegraph

Our hope for the future: Northern Ireland's brightest young students gather to inspire new generation of IT entrepreneurs

BY JACK BRENNAN

Some of Northern Ireland's most innovative and entrepreneurial schoolchildren from a wide range of backgrounds attended the annual Generation Innovation event held in Belfast's Ulster Hall.

The initiative seeks to stem the flow of the most talented young people out of Northern Ireland by building networks of the country's best young talent before, during and after their third level studies or initial career choice.

It seeks to find talented students in sixth form who are capable of becoming leading figures in a wide range of industries including engineering, medicine, software, law and languages.

One of the speakers on the night was Co Antrim-born Sarah Friar, director of San Francisco tech giant Square, who spoke to the students via Skype.

Sarah now works alongside Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of social media website Twitter.

The aim of Generation Innovation is to change the aspirations of Northern Ireland's teenagers, those most likely to succeed in the new economy, to become leading entrepreneurial figures and business people.

Claire Burgoyne, Generation Innovation programme manager, said: "We recognise that innovation has to be a fundamental part of the culture and psyche in Northern Ireland to make us more competitive in a global marketplace.

"Generation Innovation is dedicated to supporting young people who want to lift their ambitions and aspirations and encourage them to be their own role models in the future.

"An event like the 'Night of Ambition' is not only about joining a network and getting connected, it is mostly about inspiring a 'can do attitude'."

One of the supporters of the event is business software firm SAP (UK) Ltd.

Maarten de Vries, one of the employees behind the project, said the event helped "make ambition second nature".

He said: "Qualifications are just part of the story in our working lives.

"What really makes the difference in a company is an inspired young person with ambition and an entrepreneurial approach.

"As a company we applaud this kind of approach from NISP CONNECT and Generation Innovation. It's getting to the heart and soul of young people and helping them to make ambition second nature," he added.

Sheree Atcheson from Kainos, who has started up a Women Who Code Belfast group, is helping to inspire young people to become more tech savvy.

She said: "At Gen we will be developing more events like this for young people.

"We would love to hear from young people who are interested in getting involved.

"Do contact us at info@generationinnovation.co.uk."

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