In higher education Northern Ireland is best in the world
Advancing knowledge, changing lives - words which inspire the work of our universities. They are also the theme of a unique showcase being held in the Long Gallery at Stormont today.
For the first time, the Open University, Queen's University and the University of Ulster have teamed up for an event which demonstrates to politicians the importance and the impact of our higher education sector.
Each year higher education generates more than £1bn-worth of economic activity. Our universities employ almost 7,000 people directly, leading to a further 7,000 jobs indirectly. They educate 54,000 students each year. In doing so, they refresh and enrich a whole range of skills vital to the development of Northern Ireland.
There's impact in discovery and innovation -- to date, there have been no fewer than 550 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, through which highly-skilled graduates share their expertise with local business and industry.
There are enterprises which our universities create themselves -- spin-out ventures which commercialise the ideas generated by our researchers.
So far, there have been 100 of those -- with a combined turnover of £260m and providing almost 1,500 high-value jobs across Northern Ireland.
Our universities compete at many levels, but they are united in their approach to delivering public benefit.
Queen's and the University of Ulster work together in the £4m Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility, which will focus on key areas of public health -- cancer, nutrition, vision science and respiratory research.
They also collaborate on leading-edge aeronautical engineering in the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre. And they have worked together on the Science Shop for almost 25 years, linking university expertise with community need.
Northern Ireland is developing a reputation as a place of innovation and ambition, extending its influence beyond these shores, and our universities are enhancing this reputation every day.
In higher education we compete with the best in the world -- and we're winning.
Dr Stephen Farry is Minister for Employment and Learning