The US producer, entrepreneur and tech innovator, will.i.am, has encouraged teenagers here to “get excited” about a career in the entrepreneurial knowledge economy.
At an event in Belfast on Wednesday night more than 200 young people received a special, personal message from The Voice star, as they gathered for the Generation Innovation ‘Night of Ambition’.
Teenagers from 80 schools and colleges came together at St George’s Market for the annual event, organised by the NISP CONNECT team at the Northern Ireland Science Park.
This action packed evening aims to inspire 16-17 year olds to consider a career in the tech and creative industries by getting them “up close and personal” with some of Northern Ireland’s most influential startup entrepreneurs and tech founders. This year, company founders taking part included Kyle Gawley, the man behind event app Get Invited; Colin Williams from Sixteen South Productions; and Ian Scott of video-content tagging company Taggled.
This was no ordinary networking event – the teenagers were teamed up in small groups with these hugely successful mentors in an “Ideas Factory” to come up with innovative products, which they then pitched to the room in just one sentence.
Ambition was the theme of the night. Having heard from 17-year-old finalist of the Science Park’s INVENT 2014, Gareth Reid (creator of an app to help people with dyslexia), and having a live link-up with ex-pat Hannah Hunt, a 27-year-old from Co Down who now works in Google’s San Francisco HQ, the celebrity highlight of the night was a video message from will.i.am, a rapper with a passion for science and technology.
In his message, he said, “I can’t wait to use the things that you guys create. I can’t wait to be knocked off my feet by the things that you guys bring to the world.”
Generation Innovation Programme Manager, Claire Burgoyne said the night was a huge success.
“There was an incredible buzz of energy and enthusiasm. When you’re a teenager, it can be very hard to see a path to a future career; it can be really difficult for a young person to imagine themselves ever being the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.
“Generation Innovation aims to show young people in Northern Ireland that there are success stories right here on their own doorstep; local innovators who have been there, done that – and who are making it, big time!
“This is a unique opportunity to meet these guys, interact with them and pick their brains for advice. We want these students to go away thinking, ‘I want to be like them – if they can do it, so can I.’
“If Northern Ireland is to continue to develop its entrepreneurial knowledge economy, then it is dependent on the current generation of 16-17 year olds finding their way to careers in the sector – the many lucrative opportunities that are possible there.
“Of course we were thrilled to have a certain ‘will.i.am’ on board and our attendees were just in awe. He is cool, exciting and motivating – he’s really passionate about education, and in particular, STEM education, so he was a perfect addition to our Night of Ambition.”
The Generation Innovation event was hosted by BBC Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart and was supported by the Creative Industries Innovation Fund, Allstate NI, Asidua, Core Systems, Liberty IT, SAP, Total Mobile, Anaeko, Coca Cola, Dow, Queen’s University and Ulster University.
Lorraine McDowell, Director of Operations, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said; “Generation Innovation is a wonderful and important initiative from NISP CONNECT which gives young people the opportunity to meet and talk to local, successful entrepreneurs and hear their stories of how they turned their innovative ideas into commercial success.
“The creative, technology and science industries are all vital to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy and I’ve every confidence that this impressive event will have inspired some of our future entrepreneurs.”
Bro McFerran, Vice President and Managing Director of first time sponsors, Allstate Northern Ireland said, “Allstate NI are delighted to be sponsors of NISP’s Generation Innovation Night of Ambition. As Northern Ireland’s largest IT company, we have witnessed first-hand the rapid expansion of the IT industry in Northern Ireland and the need for local people to possess the relevant IT skills in order to fill the ever increasing amount of jobs being advertised.
“We therefore realise how important it is to invest heavily in the younger generation of Northern Ireland to be able to future-proof our economy and close the IT skills gap that we are currently experiencing.”
For more information on future events, or to sign up to Generation Innovation, please visit http://generationinnovation.co/
— Love Belfast ❤️ (@love_belfast) March 20, 2015