Up to 11 technology companies from Northern Ireland were on the lookout for new projects, partners, and investments at the second edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SFFxSWITCH 2020).
The event was held online this year for the first time, which makes sense, given that it is a conference dedicated to advancing digital and technological innovation. The event plays host to over 60 000 participants, 1 200 investors, 500 expert speakers, 20 000 visitors, and 1 000 exhibitors.
The Irish firms in attendance were specifically focused on the areas of AI and data analytics, smart mobility, and financial technology. LoweConex, for example, has expertise with setting up centralised control systems for appliances like supermarket refrigerators, so things like temperatures can be all be managed efficiently and regulated from one location.
“Our solution takes these otherwise unconnected data points and makes real-time changes and improvements to our clients’ operations via two-way communication and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven automation,” explains Kailashyar Kumar, head of sales Asia at LoweConex.
Northern Ireland is building a reputation as a hotbed of innovation in the tech space, especially in the gaming industry. Companies like the Belfast-based Blackstaff Games have become renowned for animation and interactive content.
Another great example comes in the iGaming space where some of the best slot sites players can find online are UK casinos, such as Slotsmillion which became the first-ever virtual reality online casino that can be played with an Oculus headset. On top of that, Riot Games – one of the biggest game companies in the world – recently acquired Hypixel Studios as part of their plan to launch a permanent headquarters in Derry.
According to Nick Caldwell, Invest Northern Ireland’s Asia Pacific region head, Northern Ireland has managed to manoeuvre itself into a position where it is now known globally as the “Silicon Valley for cyber”. By way of backing this statement up, the capital, Belfast, is the third leading investment destination in the world for new software development firms, behind only London and Singapore itself.
“We welcome local tech companies with a global customer base or which have globally applicable products to set up shop in Northern Ireland if they are thinking of expanding to Europe. We have great engineers and a world-class Stem education system and our people are naturally great engineers and innovators — it’s in our DNA,” he said.
With all that as a background, it stands to reason that Northern Ireland firms would not only be in attendance at SFFxSWITCH 2020 but would naturally also feature very prominently while there. And it’s not just the technology and innovation that makes the country such an ideal location to be the starting point for a tech boom in the UK.
Northern Ireland’s demographics show the workforce is young, which is a crucial factor in burgeoning industries. Over half the country is under the age of 40 and the majority of them would have got their education from a top university.
The region was the first in Europe to have 100% broadband roll-out connectivity, and Belfast will be one of only six cities in the extended United Kingdom to have 5G. It is also very easily accessible to the rest of the world by air and sea, and overland to their nearest neighbour Ireland, which is also something of a tech hub in Europe. It’s difficult to think of a more ideal location for tech companies and investors to create a connection to Europe and the UK.
“With many well-established fintech organisations and enterprise hubs already operating in the region, the area provides start-ups and SMEs with an attractive and accessible location from which to grow across the UK and Ireland, and into Europe,” Caldwell concluded.