27 June 2018

  |  CBI Northern Ireland

Press release

Building a local innovation culture that paves the way for future prosperity

Business leaders from across Northern Ireland, gathered at Ulster University’s Belfast campus this week to share ideas on how firms and the Executive can work together to develop the innovation culture required to bolster economic activity across the region.

Building a local innovation culture that paves the way for future prosperity

While there remains huge promise, the innovation landscape in Northern Ireland is not currently living up to its full innovation potential. With only 40.2% of NI companies actively engage in innovation compared to a UK average of 50%, NI ranks 12th out of 12 UK regions on innovation measures.  

The CBI’s Innovation Conference demonstrated to local businesses just how essential innovating as a business is to deliver economic growth in Northern Ireland, lift sluggish levels of productivity and lead to greater long-term prosperity.

The conference, sponsored by Rainbow Communications, set out the challenges, opportunities and solutions to get more than 60 firms innovating, with expert speakers, including:

  • Nick Whelan, CBI NI Innovation Chair and Chief Executive of Dale Farm
  • Mike Brennan, Deputy Secretary Strategic Policy Group, Department for the Economy
  • Amanda Fullerton, Knowledge Exchange Manager - KTP, Ulster University
  • Dr Terry Quigley, Ulster University
  • Gareth Weir, Technical Manager, Moy Park
  • Dr Michael Alcorn MRCVS, Group Technical Director, Devenish Nutrition
  • David Beatty, Director of Technical Sales, Rainbow Communications and 8 x 8
  • Lorraine Acheson, Manager for Northern Ireland, Innovate UK
  • Diarmuid McLean, Director Strategic Policy, Department for the Economy

Speaking at the event, Nick Whelan, CBI NI Innovation Chair and Chief Executive of Dale Farm:

“Innovation can mean many different things to different businesses but there is a common thread: turning new ideas in to business growth. It is at the heart of economic, social and cultural development here in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK.

“With the previous Executive setting an ambitious target for NI to climb into the top 4 innovation regions by 2025, we can’t afford to lose our way when it comes to building a forward thinking and sustainable innovation culture. To achieve that, we need business and government pulling in the same direction and focused on delivering results.

“There’s also a tendency in innovation to look to ‘the next big thing’, but too many firms are missing out on what is already invented and available. Failing to adopt the nuts and bolts technologies of today is creating a huge gap in productivity and pay between businesses. Getting this simple thing right could be worth £100bn plus to the UK economy – that’s surely an opportunity that we need to grasp.”

David Beatty, Director of Technical Sales at Rainbow Communications, said:

“We are delighted to be involved in this event and thank the CBI for its continued championing of key business initiatives and thought leadership. As independent leaders in the development of new technologies for the benefit of our customers, at Rainbow we are well aware of how vital innovation is to businesses of all sizes in order to maintain relevance and a trajectory of success. It is important that Northern Ireland continues to look for new opportunities to develop itself, its global offering and local expertise, growth and potential, and this event provides the ideal platform from which to do this.”