Norman's News - Planning for Action - Future of Work in Northern Ireland Solutions Summit

Added Tuesday, February 6 2018

We began the year with publication of our 2017 Knowledge Economy Report. As well as the normal tracking of the Knowledge Economy key indicators, this year we commissioned research from Ulster University Economic Policy Unit on the impact of automation in Northern Ireland.

There was good news:

  • NI is the 2nd fastest growing UK Knowledge Economy (KE) region for 4th consecutive year;
  • KE export sales reach new high – 1/3 of total NI output;
  • KE new business creation is at all time high; and
  • Continued increase in Venture Capital Investment in NI companies.

There was not so good news:

  • NI Needs Rapid Economic Reboot to Safeguard Nearly
  • Half a Million Jobs at risk from Automation in next 10yrs.

Most people seem to have read the second line without the first. The global impact of automation has been a subject for economic commentary for a while now. Our risk is greater and our standard response times are slow so we wanted not to create panic but rather to call for action.

Planning for those actions begins this month.

Our discussion series, 4IRC, addresses the topic with two meetings. The STEM Supplement will be published in this paper on 13th Feb when the special focus will be 2018 The Year of Engineering. Then there is the NI Science Festival from 15th to 25th February.

Finally at the end of the month, 28th February, it comes together into the Future of Work in Northern Ireland Solutions Summit when we hope everyone with a stake in the outcome of our economy will join us to debate and to produce an action plan for how we and more importantly our children and grandchildren can inherit an economy that not only copes with these changes but thrives on them to the benefit of all.

Automation is but the latest episode in the human journey commonly known as the learning curve. As I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself, making the second of an item is faster than the first and improvement is pretty well continuous. Unless something changes there is a diminishing return and it is easy to get complacent. The change is called disruption and none should know it better than we in Northern Ireland. After all, it was we who disrupted ship building, time and time again since 1860, with each generation of liner and other types of vessel. Until 2000, when others disrupted us. Then we pivoted nicely into maritime wind energy while the site, famous for shipbuilding across the globe, has become a centre of financial technology, now processing hundreds of billions of dollars daily. And we are writing the storyboard of cyber security, e-heath and low impact manufacturing.

The problem is, we don’t live in a bubble; others have seen the future too and want their part of it. Our best people can always join wherever the boom settles. Happily they and we like living here and we all understand that this economic wave of disruption must involve everyone and share out risk and rewards fairly. (I was having that very conversation on Friday evening with the leader of the latest Chinese delegation to visit Belfast (alongside Cambridge, Oxford and London… good company eh?))

So please don’t leave it to others, join the debate and add to the action list. Commit yourself and your business. Join us at the Future of Work in Northern Ireland Solutions Summit.

More details at