Cathal Geoghegan, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Next week, we expect that more than 100 global investors will assemble in Belfast for Northern Ireland’s Investment Summit, which has been billed as an opportunity to showcase the region’s strengths and abilities to an audience of international investors. There is no doubt that as a place to do business, we have plenty to offer them and much to share over the course of the two-day event.
Potential investors will hear about our entrepreneurial eco-system and global reputation for innovation, our world-class universities and skilled, youthful workforce. They will likely also hear the stories of why big-name firms like Allstate, Aflac, Citi and Spirit (to name but a few) have established roots for the long-term in Northern Ireland and in doing so, have contributed substantially to the economic vibrancy of the region.
NI Chamber’s vision is to create opportunity for NI business and drive the growth and prosperity of the economy. So, we look forward to this Investment Summit to focus the spotlight on the potential for significant growth here; showcasing some of the most innovative business and shouting about the unique economic advantages that we have.
Not least of these advantages is created by the fact that Northern Ireland is a gateway to two of the world’s largest markets. With unique, unfettered and flexible access to the EU and UK, this is the only jurisdiction in the world where business can sell into GB and the EU free of customs and regulatory barriers.
Our digital infrastructure is another major asset, which in today’s global market, is critical in terms of where and how companies do business. We’re already a smart choice in that regard, with next-gen telecoms delivering 100 gigabytes per section telecoms links to Europe and the US, 5G and wireless districts and the roll out of full-fibre broadband across the region. That digital connectivity means we’re primed and are consequently already supporting high-growth sectors including cyber-security and financial services, fintech and software development.
As a place to do business, Northern Ireland is often described as neither too big nor too small, and in many respects is just right for testing new and innovative ideas. From medtech, to low carbon technology, advanced manufacturing to regtech, we are already leading the way by using size and proximity to our advantage. Here, it is easy to establish close connections and create ecosystems between funders, professional services, industry leaders and academia, which new investors and our growing businesses can easily tap into.
And we are investing more in providing centres of innovation excellence through our City and Growth deals, to boost, health and life sciences, medtech, manufacturing, film and TV and data analytics.
Of course, investors and businesses alike value political stability, so we in NI Chamber are doing all we can to encourage that to happen as quickly as possible. To properly put our best foot forward when positioning Northern Ireland as an attractive location for global investors, we need to have devolved government in place. It’s regrettable therefore that next week’s Summit will happen without the presence of local ministers.
However, with or without an Executive, the important message is that Northern Ireland is not just open for business but is poised for growth and has huge potential. We’re well connected, uniquely positioned, young, innovative and talented. With a united political front, local decision making to create optimal trading conditions and a coherent global growth plan, it will be so much better.
At NI Chamber, we will continue to play our role in promoting the advantages of investing here and growing from here at every given opportunity, so that we can shape the future landscape for increased trade and innovation and realise the game changing opportunities that make NI stand out as a place to grow and invest.