By Olivier Vallez

New York, NY – Like many people, my perception of Northern Ireland conjures images of dreary weather, stone thatched houses, and when it comes to industry, perhaps the gantry cranes and shipyards that built legendary vessels like the RMS Titanic.  But the modern-day reality is a far cry from that picture, as the team at Invest Northern Ireland highlighted during a recent networking reception they hosted at The Dead Rabbit NYC, a Northern-Irish pub in Manhattan’s Financial District.

It may be a little known fact, but Northern Ireland is the #1 international investment location for US cybersecurity development projects (FT fDi Intelligence 2018.)[1] It is now home to an impressive cluster of international companies, renowned university research, and innovative start-ups delivering global cybersecurity solutions.

Companies in Northern Ireland have built upon expertise in advanced persistent threats to national security, critical infrastructure networks, capital markets, and web applications. The region’s global success can be attributed to a blend of world-class talent, leading forensic science expertise, tech research excellence, and highly competitive costs including attractive R&D incentives. Northern Ireland’s cyber start-up and SME tech community is thriving due to harnessing talent through incubation, a highly developed entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a vibrant networking scene.

For nearly two decades, Northern Ireland has been investing heavily in its people and infrastructure. Early on, the need for cybersecurity education was foreseen, and a triangulated initiative began, in which government, academia, and the private sector joined forces to effectuate widespread adoption of cybersecurity training across various levels and institutions.

Northern Ireland’s emergence as a cybersecurity hub was born a decade ago when, in 2008, Queen’s University created the UK’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) located in Belfast’s docklands area, with a mission to help companies commercialize emerging cybersecurity technologies. Now home to an impressive hub of security verification and authentication technology businesses, CSIT is a place where top-level academic researchers and startups regularly collaborate with some of the largest U.S. firms in Northern Ireland.

As a result, the investment in CSIT and in developing a robust cybersecurity talent pool has already reaped significant dividends. A competitive recruitment market has driven U.S. tech companies to look overseas for talent, and Northern Ireland has taken advantage. Companies have been pouring into the area over the last few years, enticed by the hard-to-find skillsets being developed at Queen’s and Ulster University.

Picture: Mark Reid, Head of Trade, Americas for Invest NI

One of the biggest hurdles, however, is overcoming outdated misconceptions of the region. That’s where Invest NI, a part of the government’s Department for the Economy, comes into play.

“As the regional business development agency, Invest NI’s role is to grow the local economy. We do this by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally, and by attracting new investment to Northern Ireland. Our mission is to promote awareness of our client companies, and Northern Ireland generally, as a vital resource for cybersecurity technologies and services,” says Michael Conlon, business development manager at Invest NI.

With offices all over the globe, Invest NI has positioned itself to effectively spread the word: Belfast is the place to be. Their support continues to deliver real benefit and impact to the Northern Ireland economy, with £660 million invested in the economy and 5,900 jobs created in this period across a broad range of sectors including agri-food, digital and creative technologies, and advanced engineering and manufacturing.[2] With such impactful support from Invest NI, the economic future of Northern Ireland is bright and sunny… even if the weather is still gray!

About the Author

Olivier Vallez, JD, MBA – Lead Writer/Cybersecurity Reporter
Cyber Defense Magazine

Olivier Vallez is a contributing writer for Cyber Defense Magazine, covering various cybersecurity topics and events. He is the Head of Business Development at The CyberHero Adventures: Defenders of the Digital Universe, a groundbreaking comic platform that distills complex cybersecurity information into a fun and engaging superhero stories and makes cyber hygiene easy-to-understand for non-technical people.

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