Belfast Telegraph

'Knowledge economy' drive could generate 25,000 jobs

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland could eventually have 25,000 new jobs from the so-called 'knowledge economy,' a report has claimed.

Research launched yesterday by the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) said an economy based on innovative businesses could generate an extra £3bn in gross valued added (GVA).

NISP said their knowledge economy index could be used for setting targets over 20 years and as a guide to policymakers and businesses for delivering an innovation-based economy.

Steve Orr, director of entrepreneurial organisation NISP Connect, said creating a knowledge economy was about providing an engine for growth, "not just creating jobs for a few people in white coats".

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the knowledge economy index.

"It is a strong statement from the business community in Northern Ireland that it's committed to playing a role in transforming our economy into one that is knowledge-based."

She said the report came at a point when the Executive was considering "a new economic strategy at the heart of which will be innovation".

That entailed rebuilding and rebalancing the economy from "one which is overly dependent on the public sector to one which is knowledge-based, with manufacturing at its heart".

The minister also praised long-established companies like WrightBus and Almac for their innovation, as well as newer firms like Intelesens, Learning Pool and Creative Composites for their successes.

And she said she believed the report's promise of a leading knowledge economy for the province could be fulfiled. "Sometimes we lack confidence in Northern Ireland within ourselves to believe that something can be achieved. I'll quote the report here: 'Don't let the naysayers win'.

"That would be a good way to give this report a good wind and we hope that it works very well."

Economist Neil Gibson of Oxford Economics, whose research underpinned the report, added: "The solution to our problems is very much our own. It's not about putting our hands out for more benevolence."

Angela McGowan, chief economist of Northern Bank, which supported the report, said: "This report presents Northern Ireland with a challenge and an opportunity to raise our economic game and strive to become one of Europe's leading knowledge economies."£3bn

The extra GVA an economy based on innovative businesses could generate