Belfast Telegraph

Talent pool is praised as Google opens innovation lab in Belfast

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's "amazing talent" pool was one of the main reasons for Google setting up its first European innovation lab alongside PwC in Belfast.

And top Google man Murali Sitaram said there was "a lot of activity" across Northern Ireland's own tech scene.

He was speaking during the launch of Google and PwC's new innovation lab or 'hive', the third of its kind in the world, at PwC's Belfast base.

And while not in position to say whether Google could one day spread its wings from Dublin to Belfast, Mr Sitaram - who is managing director, partner strategy and global alliances with Google for Work - said: "...I can tell you, the race for talent around the world is acute. One of the decisions we go through is looking for where talent is.

"This is a place which has got amazing talent, so we'll see how the decisions go in the future."

And the dozens of tech heads, staff and journalists who packed into the Waterfront Plaza building's new hub were also treated to live big screen streaming from Google's operations in Sydney, along with conversation from PwC's Tom Archer, all the way from Washington DC.

Also on show during yesterday's launch was some of the latest virtual reality consumer-ready technology.

And it was a Northern Ireland firm, Retinize, which was helping bring some fully immersible experiences for the user, in this case, with the help of Samsung's near Gear VR - yet to be released in the UK.

The new site is just 100 miles from Google's European headquarters in Dublin. It's understood additional jobs could be created down the line as a result of the multi-million project.

Mr Sitaram, who is based in California, said the new hub could help businesses and individuals of all sizes.

"We think it can make decisions faster, hire better talent, we think they can collaborate better and help change the culture in some of these companies," he said.

"We've done a couple of these around the world... the opportunity to bring customers in, to have this broad dialogue.

"You can bring your business issues and have PwC and our tech sense help you.

"You come to a professional setting, when you can have these open discussions."

There are a number of different tech-laden rooms, including private pods for a variety of business interests.

There's a host of Google hardware on offer, from the latest Chromebooks and cyber-security, to big-screen live Hangout meeting and conversations, linking businesses and individuals across the globe. "You'll see Google Glass, Chromecast, and some virtual reality," Mr Sitaram said.

And on the reasons for choosing Belfast, he added: "I think from our perspective, it's 100 miles away from our European headquarters.

"The other reason, PwC has a very strong affinity of bringing people from other parts of the world into this region.

"We see a lot of activity taking place in this part of the world, especially in Northern Ireland."

Paul Terrington, PwC's chairman in Northern Ireland, said: "The decision to site the first PwC and Google Innovation Lab in Belfast is a huge vote of confidence in Northern Ireland as a location and PwC as a partner."

Belfast Telegraph