It was good to be in London to take part in NI Business and Innovation with my colleagues at Datactics where we celebrated 100 years of NI entrepreneurship and business success.
I grew up in Belfast. I remember attending the 1971 festival which marked Northern Ireland’s first fifty years. I was eight years old that summer. My parents allowed me to walk the three miles from home with my older friends, to Botanic Gardens, where the event took place. The country had gone decimal earlier that year and my Dad gave me two 50p coins which I made last all day at the funfair. I had my first ride on a helter-skelter that day. I think that it cost just 5p.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how much NI has changed since that time and how far we’ve come as an economy and as a society. I work at a tech company where we have thirteen nationalities on the staff. We are of all faiths and none. The median age at Datactics is 28. We employ a wide range of staff in software and data science – from young apprentices just starting their technical education to PhDs. Our clients are mostly outside Ireland and this year we’ve won new customers in places like London, New York, and Singapore. Belfast has become a world-class location for #fintech and #regtech with 7000+ people working in the sector.
At breakfast, the Prime Minister spoke about how NI, for such a small place, always punched well above its weight in terms of technology and innovation. He talked about the creativity and engineering prowess of NI – from Ferguson’s tractor, through the Wrightbus Routemaster replacement, and up to Axial3D’s ability to 3D print an exact replica of a human heart.
Like the helter-skelter ride, the history of NI has had many twists and turns. Yesterday was a day to celebrate how far we’ve come and look forward to our future with hope and confidence.