Fifteen NI technology firms are pitching ideas to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs this week in a bid to win lucrative contracts in the United States.
Enterprise Minister, Jonathan Bell, and Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry, joined the Invest NI Tech Mission in San Francisco and said a 79% increase in exports to the US is evidence that business is there to be won.
Jonathan Bell said: “The US is Northern Ireland’s second biggest export market. In 2014/15 over £1billion of goods were purchased from local Northern Ireland companies, a staggering increase of £461million on the previous year.
“It is clear, both from these latest figures and the recent examples of companies securing new business here, that there are many opportunities for those Northern Ireland business willing to invest the time and effort.
“Attending missions like this provides businesses with the opportunities to develop new contacts and to get invaluable advice from those already doing business here. The latest HMRC figures show that this hard work can pay off and we can continue to meet the needs of customers on this side of the Atlantic.”
Minister Farry said: “The Tech Mission demonstrates to a wider audience Northern Ireland’s capacity for innovation through research and development in a diverse range of disciplines. I am inspired by the number of participating companies which are university spin-outs, further emphasising the calibre of the universities and colleges in Northern Ireland and the skills of our people.
“I am confident this mission will help create additional investment in Northern Ireland and contribute to the growth of our economy, including encouraging further companies to consider Northern Ireland as an excellent place to do business. We have extensive support mechanisms available to help companies find the skilled workforce they need to grow and expand.
“My Department’s Assured Skills programme assists potential investors by supporting their business plans and adding value to their training and development activity. This could, for example, be through facilitating links with the further education and university sectors to design bespoke training solutions, or supporting recruitment and other pre-employment activities.”
Ministers Bell and Farry joined the companies on a visit to WeWork, a shared office space in San Francisco. During the visit, which was organised by Silicon Valley Bank, the companies received mentoring sessions with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, as well as ‘dragon’s den’ style access to investors.
Jonathan Bell said: “Today’s mentoring sessions have provided our tech companies with an invaluable insight into how to succeed in the US, and specifically how to compete in Silicon Valley. Building networks through mentorship and learning from the first-hand experience of others will provide our companies with a true insight and give them the best chance to succeed here.
“It is clear that the US is a market rich in opportunities and I am very proud to be leading this tech mission and assisting Northern Ireland companies to take steps to tap into this market.”
As part of the Tech Mission, companies will be meeting with potential distributors and local business partners in key market sectors. In addition, Ministers Bell and Farry will be meeting with a number of US government departments and agencies and other local stakeholders to explore ways to help strengthen trade and investment relationships with Northern Ireland.