Invest Northern Ireland: Growth through innovation
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Invest Northern Ireland: Growth through innovation

Invest Northern Ireland: Growth through innovation

Northern Ireland is supporting businesses in the Middle East through a range of advanced technologies, says Conor Dunbar, digital ICT sector lead at Invest NI


Give us an overview of Invest Northern Ireland’s (Invest NI) operations in the Middle East?

Invest NI started its operations in Dubai over 25 years ago. Since then, we have used our hub in Dubai to reach markets across not only the Middle East, but also India and Africa. We’re proud to work closely with Middle Eastern companies to find how they can be best supported by Northern Ireland business. In recent years, NI has exported up to £43m worth of products and services to the UAE alone, with over 100 companies active in the Middle East.

Over recent years, technology companies from Northern Ireland have produced a range of global success stories across a diversity of industries, spanning enterprise software, sports tech, IT services and govtech, agritech, healthtech and life sciences, edtech, fintech, cybersecurity, data analytics and smart cities. Today, around 30,000 technologists are employed in the country’s tech sector and in other sectors, such as advanced manufacturing and financial and professional services, with technology attributing to 3.3 per cent of Northern Ireland’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Added to that, in the last four years alone, there has been a 64 per cent increase in the value of digital exports from Northern Ireland to the Middle East. 

Northern Ireland’s companies are already active in the region. Can you share more about the type of work they are doing?

There is a range of Northern Ireland companies working across the Middle East, supporting the region’s businesses. SLA Digital, which bridges the gap between mobile operators, merchants and mobile identity providers globally, creates additional revenue streams for all parties and helps to support operators in the Middle East maximise their revenues. SLA Digital supports entities including Etisalat and Ooredoo in their day-to-day operations.

Skurio is an innovative digital risk protection platform which automates monitoring of the surface, deep, and dark web for critical business data and potential cyberthreats. These are just two examples of how NI tech businesses are enabling digital infrastructure in the Middle East.

How do you see Northern Ireland’s tech expertise contributing to the Middle East’s technology industry over the next five years?

Northern Ireland is home to a plethora of technology firms that provide a wide range of services. One of those entities is Kx, a division of FD Technologies, which provides real-time continuous intelligence through a technology platform. Kx works with key organisations in the Middle East, supporting the fintech and financial services ecosystem. Collaboration of this type ensures that Middle East entities and businesses have access to technology solutions, supporting the wider growth of the region.

What makes the region an attractive destination for tech investment?

Northern Ireland has become a global cybersecurity hub, with specialist university research centres, innovative startups delivering global cybersecurity solutions, and a cluster of international cybersecurity investors. International cybersecurity companies, like Rapid 7, Anomali, Synopsys, Imperva, Proofpoint and Contrast Security have located here.In addition to these cybersecurity product development companies, Northern Ireland is also home to international financial services companies such as Allstate, Aflac, CME and Citi.

Global professional services firms such as PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and BDO, and technology companies, like Microsoft, BT, IBM Security and Nvidia all have significant security operations in the region and have developed a range of cybersecurity solutions. Northern Ireland has extensive tech sector expertise, which has been recognised internationally and will continue to consolidate its reputation as a strong and innovative contributor to the global economy.    


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