Belfast is an exciting and historic city, known for its vibrant theatres, world-class musicians, great nightlife and of course, the Titanic. But more than this, Belfast has also established itself as a world leader for technology and has become a thriving tech hub over the last decade or so. In fact, in 2017, digital tech businesses in the capital of Northern Ireland turned over £875 million and there are now more than 1,200 tech companies in the city.
What’s more, as the city is made up of an exciting mix of tech and digital firms, it is rightfully celebrating a new era of innovation. But with many still unaware of just how relevant and important Belfast is in the tech sector, we thought we’d pull together this guide to look at exactly how and why the tech sector is thriving in this wonderful city.
1. Belfast is one of the most connected cities in the world
Believe it or not, Belfast was the first European city to have 100% broadband and is therefore one of the most connected cities in the world (4th, in fact). This incredible level of connectivity has enabled the city to become a hub for technology and a home for thousands of professionals, entrepreneurs and digital companies.
2. The city is home to some serious talent
An idea is all well and good but you need the people behind you to make this idea become a reality. Belfast is home to some of the most talented and skilled professionals in Europe, possibly even the world. This is largely due to its large, younger population of digital natives, as well as its close proximity to top universities such as University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast.
The result of this is that many businesses snap up this fresh new talent before graduates and other young influencers have a chance to pack up and head to some of Europe's other digital hubs. And this is much easier given Belfast’s reputation for providing a happy and healthy lifestyle to those that live there, meaning many are happy to stick around and start a life for themselves there.
3. The city is designed for collaboration, creativity and privacy
In order for businesses to succeed and for entrepreneurs to let their creative juices flow, they need the right space and setting to do so. Belfast is the perfect location for this. With many warehouses, particularly in The Linen Quarter, small businesses have plenty of space to get themselves established. They have beautiful spaces to welcome clients, shared working areas to collaborate with like-minded professionals and many secret spaces that are ideal for privacy. These are all aspects that are important to budding tech startups and something that Belfast has in abundance.
4. Belfast is already a centre for excellence
Even before the city became a tech superstar, it was already a centre for excellence and innovation. With huge US cyber-security leader WhiteHat Security and Fin Tech firm First Derivatives already based there, Belfast is no stranger to tech firms. And not only that, but the BBC has a hub there at Broadcasting House and this is currently undergoing a transformation to become a ‘technology centre of excellence’. This project is estimated to be costing around £77 million to complete. As such, the city is well equipped and certainly used to big technology companies setting up a base there.
5. There is already a reputation for tech in the city
Following on from this, with many big organisations already based and well-established in Belfast, the city has already begun building a reputation for itself as a digital and technological hub. This in turn is more likely to attract other entrepreneurs and startups that are looking for a vibrant and diverse place to start their own tech company.
6. Businesses have begun preparing and mapping for the future
With so many people seeing the potential in this great city and many looking to get their startup running, Belfast has become a place for business with a strong technological and digital background. Not to mention it offers a professionals climate that many want to embrace. This is great for attracting not only new business owners but also clients and investors. It’s also important for attracting developers and existing companies that want to expand their franchise into other great tech hubs. The result is that Belfast has truly embraced the digital world and has begun to prepare for and map out a future as a tech-based city, which in turn attracts more and more digital startups.
7. There is funding, overheads and infrastructure
Unfortunately, for a city to embrace the digital world and encourage in tech businesses, there needs to be funding, encouragement and infrastructure to do so. This is another reason why Belfast is doing so well. Invest NI, a regional economic development agency in Northern Ireland, has been set up to help fund and support startups in their early stages in the city.
There are also a number of other funding groups and financial networks that have helped businesses get on their feet and make a name for themselves in Belfast. Many are excited by the prospects and the growing digital market there and are therefore happy to invest their own money in making the grow of the tech industry.
8. Belfast is ideally located
Last but not least, though it might seem a little odd, the location of Belfast actually makes it a desirable location for tech organisations. Why? Well, if you think about it, the city is located between the US, UK and Europe and has several important airports within a short drive of the city. There has also recently been more investment put into creating a huge hub for transport which will include trains and buses. This will help many with setting up meetings and finding new clients from around the globe as transport will be much easier.
Written by Stuart Cooke, Marketing Manger at MyBaggage.com a luggage shipping solution based in, you guessed it, Belfast.