Earlier this year, the UK government launched 'Tech Nation'; an interactive data project that shows the growth of digital businesses within specific areas/regions across the UK. The report is the first of its kind and ranked Belfast as the second highest region in the UK in terms of the highest average company turnover in this sector, with Greater Manchester securing the top spot and Sheffield, Inner London and South Wales coming third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Tech Nation reported a 73% increase in new digital companies incorporated in Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2013 with the three main sectors of focus in the region listed as games development, software development and data management and analytics. In 2013 and 2014, almost one in five (17%) of all new companies incorporated in Northern Ireland were digital – this is above the 15% UK average.
The digital sector currently employs approximately 32,000 people in Belfast alone. According to the Tech Nation report, this figure places Belfast 6th in the UK for total digital employment. Belfast has "one of the strongest networks for business support, local customers and trading. Its knowledge economy is the fastest growing in the UK."
Following on from the second annual BelTech conference in April, Belfast also found itself host in June to some of the biggest players in the global Fintech and Entreprise Software industries as part of the MoneyConf and EnterConf events, a spin-out of the Web Summit.
Tech Nation also reported that public financial support is readily available in Northern Ireland, with companies here twice as likely as the national average to be able to source such funding. Invest NI's Access to Finance initiative has done much to facilitate this.
The Tech Nation report reflects the wider digital growth in other regions of Northern Ireland. Derry/Londonderry is also on the rise as a key digital hub in Northern Ireland, being the first city in the UK or Ireland to have full fibre broadband coverage and now host to the North West Regional Science Park, which has its own data centre and which houses businesses involved in various digital and technology-related sectors.