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2008 ICT Report

In Northern Ireland the ICT sector contributed approximately £500 million to the economy in 2008, making it the third largest sector after Advanced Manufacturing and Sustainable Production and Consumption.

There are approximately 750 companies in the ICT sector in Northern Ireland, employing 11,200 IT-specific employees. These 750 companies represent a blend of inward investment and indigenous companies. Over 100 foreign ICT companies have now invested in operations in Northern Ireland. The remaining 600 companies are indigenous companies in the sector including world-class technology companies like Kainos, Meridio, Aepona, First Derivatives, Singularity, Asidua, Latens and Lagan Technology.

These companies are particularly active in technology areas including wireless/internet software, financial services software, CRM software, and information management software.

This MATRIX foresight panel reviewed current research in the ICT sector at a local, national and international level. Based on current trends, three areas where Northern Ireland has the potential to make significant advances, achieve global leadership and establish new platforms of growth that would have high commercial impact were identified.

The aim of the foresight panel was not simply to augment mainstream ICT themes in northern Ireland but also to achieve a step change in thinking, with the potential to offer significantly more to the economy in terms of global leadership position and economic growth.

The changing global ICT market

The ICT sector is a globalised sector that is constantly changing based on customer and market demands. These changes tend to be brought about by two drivers – firstly, the technology itself makes radical evolutions, and secondly, the market dynamics change in all sectors. Irrespective of this, the following are global characteristics of this sector;

The focus areas for Northern Ireland ICT

This foresight work identified that Northern Ireland needs to transform the existing sector into a centre of higher value-added activities with three specific focus areas that will support the achievement of global recognition. Achieving global recognition in these focus areas requires extensive collaboration at a local and international level and between industry, academia and government. The three focus areas are:

Creating leadership positions for Northern Ireland

Given the changes in the global ICT environment and the developments in the Northern Ireland ICT sector in the past 10 years, the potential for exploiting the collaboration between industry, academia and government is great and with this comes a significant opportunity for economic impact in the next decade. This report concludes that:

Key recommendations

The ICT sector is important to Northern Ireland and the areas of focus are well within the capability of the sector. The recommendations in this report seek to create an ‘eco-system’ for the ICT sector whereby Northern Ireland can look to collaborate, both nationally and internationally, in the focus areas to create an evolving knowledge-based specialist sector
which can become a reference point for the global sector.

Northern Ireland will focus on the areas of Package Application Software, nearshoring and High Performance Embedded Systems. In these areas, a number of distinct themes have been identified for leadership positions. To achieve these leadership positions, Northern Ireland needs to create industry led international collaboration projects with leading ICT centres globally, with a focus on the specific themes. These focus areas should be sustainably-funded (five to 10 years) and create an international leadership position for Northern Ireland in the specific focus areas within the timescale.
Northern Ireland will remain a net importer of commercial intelligence about the global ICT
environment and it will be essential to create networks of commercial intelligence on what is
happening within the specific focus areas. This commercial intelligence needs to be organised around the development of specific ‘roadmaps’ for the sector in Northern Ireland that complies with the global roadmaps. These would need to be developed with the relevant stakeholders within Northern Ireland and identified international partners.
The skills agenda is a critical aspect of the ICT sector and within this report a specific roadmap for addressing this is presented.
The policy infrastructure concerning the ICT sector in Northern Ireland needs to be reviewed
and re-organised within the context of the creation of an ICT cluster to address the key
framework conditions identified. The overall promotion of ICT as a rewarding and interesting career for employees in this sector and other industries, will be important.

The panel

Ed Vernon


Ed Vernon OBE founded B.I.C. Systems in 1984 which became a leading technology systems integration business and was acquired by BT plc in 2004.  He is a former board member of the Software Industry Federation, Invest Northern Ireland, the IoD Northern Ireland Committee and the CBI Northern Ireland Council.

Bryan Keating


Dr. Bryan Keating is Managing Partner of CIP Partnership. He co-founded CEM Computers Ltd, and over the last 30 years, he has chaired the boards of Amacis, Andor Technology plc, Omiino, Amphion, Axis Three, SOPHIA Search Limited, Mail Distiller and James Leckey Design.

Bikash Mathur


Bikash Mathur is Head of Europe Middle East & Africa Business at Polaris Financial Technology. He has also been an Executive Director of Maverick. He studied at Wharton School with a Masters degree in Business Management.

Brian Baird


Brian was a founder of Meridio, an Enterprise Document & Records product company in June 2001. As CEO he grew the company to 175 staff and in excess of $20m p.a. revenue by 2006. In November 2007 he led a trade sale of Meridio to Autonomy plc and following a six month integration programme left the Autonomy group in May 2008.

Bro McFerran

Northbrook Technologies

Bro McFerran has a computer services background and since 1999 has been Managing Director of Allstate Northern Ireland (formerly known as Northbrook Technology); he was previously the owner and Managing Director of Logicom Ltd.

Denis Murphy

Mobile Cohesion

Denis Murphy was Chairman of Mobile Cohesion, a company he had co-founded after leaving Openwave in 2002. At Openwave he was Country Manager for Ireland and also responsible for the development of the company’s field organisation in Europe.

Elizabeth Hull


Elizabeth Hull is Professor Emerita of Computing Science at University of Ulster.

Gary Burnett


Dr Gary Burnett has nearly 30 years’ experience in the IT and software industry, doing business in Europe, India and the US. He has worked for major companies such as IBM and ICL-Fujitsu, as well as a number of SMEs.

Kevin Donaghy

F5 Networks

Kevin Donaghy was Director of Product Development at F5 Networks, responsible for product development team and product direction in WAN Optimization sector.

Padraig Canavan


Padraig Canavan is the founder and chief executive of IT firm Singularity. Singularity was established in 1994 and is a major business process management software company. It employs 250 people worldwide, including 80 in Derry.

Pat McKillen


Senior Vice President at Citigroup.

Patrick Corr


Dr Patrick Corr is Director of Education School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at QUB and a teaching fellow at the University of Ulster.

Ponsailapathi Viswanathan


Project director at Polaris. Incorporated in 1993, Polaris Software Lab Ireland Limited specializes in application development for the banking, financial, and insurance sector, offering products, legacy modernization services, and consulting.

Steve Brankin


Dr. Steve Brankin is CEO of software consultancy and services company Asidua Ltd. Asidua, who employ over 130 staff, is headquartered in Belfast and has offices in Dublin and Birmingham.  As a current Investor in People (Gold), the company delivers world-class software consultancy and services to clients across a broad spectrum of business sectors.

Sylvia Alexander


Sylvia Alexander is Director of Access and Distributed Learning at the University of Ulster.

Ian Graham


Ian Graham was CEO of Momentum, Northern Ireland’s ICT Federation.