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IT firm eyes drive for autistic staff to gain edge on rivals

The German IT firm SAP wants to employ people with autism to give itself a competitive advantage over its rivals.

The company, which has an office employing 50 people in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, said it has targeted jobs in software testing, programming and data quality in particular which it said some autistic people can excel in.

"By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents," Luisa Delgado, member of the executive board of SAP AG, said

The global company said it will work with Specialisterne to find the candidates, a Danish organisation which specialises in harnessing the talent of people with autism to work in technology-oriented jobs.

"With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the 'edges'," Ms Delgado said. "Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century."

SAP said it has carried out two pilot projects which showed the positive impact which empowering people with autism can have in a company environment.

One was carried out in India while the other was carried out in the company's offices in the Republic of Ireland.

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"We are very excited by this opportunity to enable SAP global access to a huge pool of untapped talent and, therefore, help strengthen SAP's position as a global leader in innovation," said Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne and chairman of the board, Specialist People Foundation. "SAP is the first multinational company to partner with us on a global scale. The partnership will position SAP as thought leader and motivate the ecosystem to follow its example."

SAP's Belfast office, its Global Research and Business Incubation division, has been in operation since 2005 and is situated close to the Northern Ireland Science Park in the Titanic Quarter.

It also works closely with Queen's University and the University of Ulster and focuses mainly on research and development.