Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Science Park to expand in the New Year after turnover hit £4m

Turnover hits £4m as leading firms flock to site

By Clare Weir

The Northern Ireland Science Park - which once looked like "something from the aftermath of World War Three" - is to expand in the new year after turnover hit £4m.

Pre-tax profit grew from £226,039 to £612,083 in the year to March 2014 and occupancy is at 100%, ahead of a move into the Concourse III development in 2015.

The Science Park (NISP) is home to companies of all sizes and from all sectors, from major banking firm Citi, which runs a training centre in White Star House, to two-man renewables firm Pure Marine, which has pitched to Prince Andrew and will travel to the World Economic Forum in January, thanks to links fostered at the facility.

Other tenants are Queen's University's cyber crime-fighting unit CSIT, or the Centre for Secure Information Technologies - and ESIT - the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology - which carries out groundbreaking research.

The Science Park's "business angel" network Halo, a Dragon's Den-style funding mechanism, and networking vehicle NISP Connect also experienced success throughout the year.

Plans are being laid out to build on the remaining land bank in Belfast in support of sectors including bioscience and advanced manufacturing.

As well as physical expansion, NISP is also aiming to attract further private investment and will launch a global marketing campaign.

NISP has already opened new headquarters in Londonderry in September, with 23 tenants moving in immediately.

A new Belfast tenant is San Diego tech firm QualComm, which recently acquired Cambridge Silicon Radio, which itself acquired APT Licensing Ltd, a CSIT spin-out company. Chief executive Dr Norman Apsley said that this sort of multiplier effect was key to what the Science Park was all about.

He added that the success of the not-for-profit body was a vindication of the early vision of those who founded the facility.

"When we first came to this area of Belfast, we were showing prospective investors around an area which looked like something from the aftermath of World War Three," he said.

"Some people almost screamed and ran away, Some didn't even get out of their cars and just told us to contact them when we were ready.

"But most of them had faith in what we wanted to do here, they saw through the grot.

"For instance, when Citi first came back in 2004, the original intention was that Belfast was to be a back office.

"But now they are training people to a very high standard at the Science Park and they are employing thousands of people in the nearby Gateway building.

"While there are a diverse bunch of companies here, from life sciences to manufacturing to IT, they can all learn from each other in a shared space.

"When companies become successful and get cash, they can invest in other companies in the Science Park, and this commonality creates more wealth."

Story so far

The Northern Ireland Science Park has become home to companies in the technology sector, which are becoming increasingly important to the economy. The recent 'knowledge economy index' said around 5% of the workforce was employed in the knowledge economy - compared to 6% in the UK as a whole. The index grew around 21% between 2005 and 2013.

Company is making waves

One of the smaller firms at the Science Park is poised to make big waves in the renewables market.

Pure Marine, founded by Dr Paul Brewster in June 2007, helps to develop technology and engineering solutions to harness wave and tidal energy resources to produce more energy at a lower cost.

A recent report has suggested that offshore wind, wave and tidal technologies could be worth

around £76bn to the UK economy cumulatively by 2050.

Last month, through participation in NISP’s HALO initiative, the firm won the Pitch at the Palace at St James’s Palace in London, securing a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“There is no way we would have got these opportunities or this level of exposure without being based at the Northern Ireland Science Park,” said Dr Brewster.

Belfast Telegraph