Norman's News - Innovators don’t have to be first but they should rarely be last

Added Wednesday, September 6 2017

This month’s thought began a long time ago but was crystallised by the recent Stephen Nolan bombshell about e-bikes in Northern Ireland. I admit personal interest, being an investor and advocate for that mode of transport which is my choice of route towards fitness on the brink of old age. I’m sure readers can find many examples for themselves of other instances when we in Northern Ireland act least swiftly to our national detriment.

Way back at the beginning of the Science Park, when seeking planning consent for the derelict Thompson Triangle as our HQ, I discovered we were last to invest in aspects of the protective legislation arising EU wide in the aftermath of the Seveso incident in Italy.

My message, though, concerns innovation and its relationship to timeliness. We have great examples both historically and now, that show our pedigree for finding and developing innovative solutions to problems. I wish these drew more attention, recognition and in some cases earlier local adoption.

In shipbuilding, we did not invent iron ships, the screw propeller or even the steam engine but we did innovate them into the world’s dominant oceanic ship builder and commanding the Atlantic passenger trade. Even after the Titanic disaster, we re-invented ourselves engaging in even longer distance shipping and trade; in particular, we were the first to realise practically the benefits of diesel engines in oceanic vessels, which gives me a special pride in a photo we have of Southern Cross in our “Titanic” dry dock.

Jumping to modern times, the late and much lamented, Paddy Johnston brought his brilliance, energy and network to bear, not only to make our universities top notch in cancer research but also to ensure that the population of Northern Ireland would be among the best served in the alleviation of that disease. The late Frank Pantridge and his engineer/entrepreneur, John Anderson, did the same for portable defibrillators.

Our digital innovators are constantly in the vanguard of private and public implementation of their art. When I review my assignments from the Royal Academy of Engineering, I find I’m using Ulster software, from Fluent Technology, once a tenant and now on the Beechill Business Park in Belfast. Governments and traders across Europe and the US are benefiting from other software and cyber security offerings from Belfast and Northern Ireland. CITI on its second time investing in Belfast found the digital offering good enough to develop its Citi Velocity software and followed up with a full FOREX centre employing the full suite of knowledge talent, from lawyers to technologists.

In the area of digital security, B-Secur, who have recently taken workspace at Catalyst Inc, has developed a unique Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) biometric technology solution, which uses heartbeat recognition, for user authentication, changing the world of mobile security.

On 5th October we will be celebrating our newest innovators, showcasing twelve of the best who have made it through to the final of Invent, our annual competition to find Northern Ireland’s next breakthrough invention. Innovators are constantly aware of their surroundings, eager to spot markets and opportunities and to hack solutions to give the advantage. Individually we’re good at it; so come on everybody, get with the beat and join us to celebrate our growing community of innovators!

For further details on Invent –