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Northern Ireland's expanding digital sector one of the UK's best

By Margaret Canning

Published 20/05/2015

Connect said the province's digital sector had doubled in size in the past five years
Connect said the province's digital sector had doubled in size in the past five years

Northern Ireland is number two in the UK for fast-growing companies in the digital sector, according to a report released today by the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP).

Connect, the NISP organisation which promotes entrepreneurialism, said the province's digital sector had doubled in size in the past five years and was the sixth biggest in the UK.

Members and supporters of Connect include medical devices firm Eakin Holdings, aerospace giant Bombardier and medical diagnostics giant Randox.

The successes of Connect were detailed in the organisation's annual report.

Steve Orr, director of NISP Connect, said growing numbers of companies were accessing funding - a key measure of the growth of the digital economy.

Around 20 companies had succeeded in their ambition to raise more than £1m each to fund their growth ambitions, and two firms had taken less than £1m.

Mr Orr said: "The pipeline is now so strong that I would not be surprised if another 22 companies raised similar amounts over the next 12 months."

And he added that 16 tech companies had joined a mission to Silicon Valley, where they were found equal to firms there.

"After an exhausting week of pitch forums and customer pitches, one thing was clear: our companies were Valley-standard and able to hold their own with many of the great companies on the Californian circuit," Mr Orr said.

One of the highlights of the year for NISP Connect is the Invent competition, which aims to find a new generation of young inventors.

The shortlist for this year's competition includes Growing Concept, for soil-less growing of fruit and vegetables, and a synthetic hurling stick from Reynolds Sports.

NeuroCONCISE Medical, another shortlisted invention, is a form of wearable neurotechnology that translates brainwaves into control signals to allow people to communicate with computers without moving.

The 24 finalists will present their prototypes to 200 people in a quick pitch event at W5 in Belfast on May 28.

Northern Ireland has a healthy tradition of inventions, from the defibrillator - the work of Professor Frank Pantridge - to the ejector seat, invented by Sir James Martin.

 A major part of the activity of the Northern Ireland Science Park is to publicise a new wave of innovators, and its annual Invent competition looks for the best inventions in a number of categories. The 2014 winner was Plotbox, a cloud platform for cemeteries and crematoria to manage their records. It was set up by husband-and-wife team Leona and Sean McAllister from Co Antrim.

Further reading

Video: Russian company designs 'one of a kind' ejector seat seventy years after Northern Ireland man James Martin's invention  

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