According to Tech Nation, Belfast’s thriving digital tech sector employs more than 60,000 people, which equates to a fifth of the city’s workforce.
The roundtable, which brings together local high-growth tech companies, universities, policy makers, venture capitalists and investors, aims to solve the talent challenges faced by tech companies through collaboration and skill sharing.
The Bright Future Tech tour gathered evidence on the skills shortage that companies in tech are facing in Belfast, to use the findings to inform recommendations to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The tour also raises awareness of the Bright Tech Future Awards which is an initiative run by Tech Nation and the Northern Irish government’s Digital Economy Council, which recognises the critical role non-executive tech workers play in creating successful, growing tech companies.
According to Tech Nation, Belfast’s thriving digital tech sector currently employs 60,041 people in the city, which equates to a fifth of the city’s workforce. Last year, there were 16,853 jobs advertised for tech roles in Belfast.
Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 143pc rise in digital business births in the city. Tech Nation also found that in Belfast, the median average salary in the tech sector is £40,000, compared to £34,000 across all sectors.
The city, which is historically associated with shipbuilding, textiles and aerospace, is seeing its economy being transformed by its expanding digital sector. Tech Nation is now discussing ways in which the city can nurture its digital skills base, local entrepreneurs and investors.
The report found that for developers in particular, Belfast is the best place to live in the whole of the UK when an individual’s income is compared to the cost of living.
The research found that start-up companies are the main driver for tech sector job growth in the city, although there is an increasing demand from more traditional companies that are undergoing digital transformation
Tech Nation said: “Belfast’s experience demonstrates that the benefits of innovation economy growth are being enjoyed in every region – not just in well-publicised hubs such as London, Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol.”
In Tech Nation’s report highlighted the fact that the majority of the Belfast cluster’s digital businesses are start-ups. A spokesperson said: “They are already having an important economic impact on Northern Ireland’s economy”
“Belfast’s new generation of technology businesses and entrepreneurs are being supported by a range of initiatives, started by the public and private sector. In addition to the province’s two universities – Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University – Northern Ireland is home to a number of programmes created to directly support digital innovation,” Tech Nation added.
These programmes include the Government-sponsored Immersive Technology Catapult, the innovation labs and co-working spaces such as the Pixel Mill and the Catalyst Springboard. Barclays has also set up the Eagle Lab innovation centre, while Ulster Bank runs its own accelerator for entrepreneurs.
Nicky Morgan, digital secretary of Tech Nation, said: “Belfast has established itself as a leading tech hub in the UK, employing over 60,000 people in well-paid, highly skilled jobs.
“I’m thrilled that the Bright Tech Futures tour is bringing together so many of the region’s experts to discuss how we can help further strengthen the UK’s reputation as a leading player in the global technology sector. I also urge Belfast chief executives and founders to nominate their staff for the inaugural Tech Nation Bright Future Awards.”
Head of insights at Tech Nation, George Windsor, said:: “What is apparent from our Bright Tech Futures report is that the digital sector is transforming the UK economy. That’s true in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, and it’s also true in Northern Ireland.
“Belfast is a city often associated with traditional industries, but today one in five workers are employed in tech and that number is growing. The city’s digital tech sector may have started with back office and customer-focused work, but it is rapidly becoming home to fast-growing start-ups and scaling businesses that have emerged from the vibrant ecosystem.”