On Friday, I and many others from Northern Ireland will join the US Consul General in Belfast to mark the 246th anniversary of American independence.
Across the UK we often talk about the ‘special relationship’ with the USA, but nowhere is this more evident than here in Northern Ireland. From presidents and artists to industrial and academic leaders, many famous people, past and present, can lay claim to Northern Ireland’s heritage.
This sense of partnership and camaraderie is true not only in the past, but also in the present and in the future as we build political, cultural and economic ties between our two countries.
Each year, my department offers students from Northern Ireland the opportunity to participate in the Study USA program, spending a year studying business or STEM-related subjects at American colleges. More than 2,000 students have benefited from this program since 1994, and during this period
we are also seeing an increasing number of students from across the Atlantic choosing to study here in Northern Ireland.
The United States also continues to be our largest source of high-value, technology-rich FDI, having generated nearly 13,000 jobs and £1.5 billion of investment over the past decade with companies such as Seagate, Allstate, Aflac and Microsoft have settled there.
During 2022, we have already announced an investment from North Carolina semiconductor company Wolfspeed and a major R&D partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Silicon Valley technology company NVIDIA; investments that not only support high-wage employment, but also spread knowledge, technology and a global perspective.
Earlier this year I visited New York, Maryland and Washington DC to present my ambitious plans for our economy in Northern Ireland. I met with local elected officials, influencers and potential new investors to explore new ways to benefit from the commercial relations between our two countries.
On its centenary, Northern Ireland is changing and transforming faster than anyone could have imagined. An important part of this is our 10X Economic Vision, an ambitious strategy to drive innovation, inclusive growth and provide opportunity for people here from all walks of life in every community. 10X identifies what makes Northern Ireland unique and sets us apart from the crowd, building on our core strengths and capabilities across a range of technologies.
We invest in some of the most important sectors of the future: life sciences and health, digital and creative industries, AI, advanced manufacturing and agricultural innovation – and we do so on a collaborative.
My department provides up to £2 million each year to support the participation of our world-class universities in the US-Ireland research and development partnership. Through the partnership, the Department is working with the governments of the United States and the Republic of Ireland to co-fund cutting-edge, fully collaborative, international peer-reviewed research between universities in the three jurisdictions.
I am determined that funding from the Ministry of the Economy will focus on supporting research in priority thematic areas of sensors, nanotechnology, telecommunications, energy and sustainability, and cybersecurity. Since the Partnership’s inception in 2006, we have supported 55
projects in these sectors, representing a total investment of approximately £16.5 million. The partnership plays a key role in contributing to the achievement of my 10X vision, which recognizes the importance of innovation and international collaboration to drive both economic impact and social progress.
In addition, the upcoming City & Growth Deals will invest £1.3 billion across all regions of Northern Ireland, increasing our investment and R&D capabilities in the innovation industries of the future. Northern Ireland is too small to shape global trends, but we are nimble enough to harness them to our commercial and economic advantage.
The clusters of talent emerging, growing, innovating and turning brilliant ideas into successful businesses in Northern Ireland today are clusters that stretch across the Atlantic to many parts of the United States. Moreover, as Northern Ireland continues to grow and evolve, it is this type of transformation that is attracting the attention of investors around the world and in the United States. Over the past five years, we’ve helped over 100 US-based companies establish new operations in Northern Ireland.
A good example of our evolution and growth is the success of our screen industries in attracting investment for a series of large-scale projects over the past decade, most recently for The Northman, The School for Good and Evil and Dungeons & Dragons. These projects strengthen our international visibility and generate significant investments with each production.
Despite the pandemic, our investment pipeline remains strong. I regularly speak with potential US investors in various industries who have heard of the exciting investment proposition we can offer. Our skilled workforce, supportive business environment, and ability to collaborate across government, academia, and business sets us apart.
Now that the markets are opening up again, I’m confident there are more opportunities for local businesses to tap into the US market as well as for US companies looking to establish a base here.
I really appreciate the importance of this relationship and hope that we can continue to ensure that our friends in the United States continue to visit, invest and work right here in Northern Ireland.
Lyon in the United States to strengthen trade and investment in Northern Ireland