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Catalyst marks 25th Anniversary with call for increased collaboration

Catalyst reiterates strategic focus on inclusive innovation and driving prosperity for all in NI Catalyst has today marked its 25th anniversary by […]

May 29, 2024

Catalyst reiterates strategic focus on inclusive innovation and driving prosperity for all in NI

Catalyst has today marked its 25th anniversary by calling for increased collaboration between entrepreneurs, industry, government and academia to drive regional prosperity and help Northern Ireland reach its true potential over the next quarter of a century.

Catalyst is an independent, non-profit science and technology hub focused on creating opportunity for all through world-leading innovation and supporting entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland from its campuses in Belfast and Derry.

The organisation was formed as a Good Friday Agreement project in 1999 as the Northern Ireland Science Park, to create a self-sustaining, internationally recognised science park and research-driven centre for knowledge-based industries.

Since opening its original site, Catalyst has grown to span eight buildings over two campuses in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry and is now home to more than 140 innovative start-ups, scale-ups and large companies employing c.3,000 people in technology-focused jobs. Its programmes, which support every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, include Generation Innovation, INVENT, Co-Founders, Springboard, Way to Scale and Inbound Investors.

Launching the organisation’s strategic theme for the anniversary year Together, Transforming, Tomorrow at an event attended by over 100 stakeholders in the Innovation Centre in Belfast, Chair of Catalyst’s board Ellvena Graham reiterated the organisation’s primary strategic vision of ‘opportunity for all from world-leading innovation’.

Ellvena Graham, Chair of Catalyst said: “Northern Ireland has come a long way since 1999 and so has Catalyst. Established on derelict former shipyard land, we are now a thriving hub of entrepreneurial activity, with businesses recognised as world leaders in cyber security, med-tech, life sciences, and more. Catalyst has turned a £20m investment into over £400m of economic impact and helped shape a sector which is now a major employer for the region.

“It’s important to look back at what’s been achieved, but the focus of everyone at Catalyst is on creating an inclusive and equitable future, where prosperity can be felt by all in NI and where people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue careers in technology or learn the skills needed to become an entrepreneur. We’ve chosen Together, Transforming Tomorrow, because to make that a reality will require even greater collaboration with all of our partners.”

Steve Orr, Chief Executive of Catalyst said: “Over the past 25 years of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship Catalyst has worked hard to create a community and ecosystem which has enabled people from NI to make a massive impact on the global stage in tech, science and industry. Catalyst has gone from being a portacabin in a derelict corner of Belfast’s shipyards to one of the FT’s top 10 start-up hubs in the UK and Ireland.

“But how we do things in the next 25 years has to look different. Catalyst’s vision is that NI will lead the way in proving that inclusive entrepreneurship and equality of opportunity can benefit a whole region. Empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators isn’t something we can do alone. So we’re calling for our successful individuals at home and around the world, our market-leading companies and key stakeholders in government, universities and education to work with us to shape what comes next. If you want this place to be truly great, don’t watch from the sidelines, bring what you have to offer to the table.”

The CEO highlighted that partnerships have been essential to the progress of the ecosystem and others have also led important initiatives which give NI a foundation for future collaboration, including the opening of the Ormeau Baths start-up hub; Invest NI’s creation of the NI Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) with MIT; Catalyst’s successful cross border collaboration with the Atlantic Technological University, Donegal Letterkenny; and the success of NI’s universities in growing collaborative R&D beyond what was previously thought possible.

Over the next six months Catalyst plans to run a series of events to engage and collaborate with its partners to set specific strategic goals for the next decade for Northern Ireland’s innovation sector, across R&D, scaling companies and inclusive entrepreneurship.

Earlier this year Catalyst was recognised as one of the leading start-up hubs in Europe in a special report produced by the Financial Times, Sifted and Statista. The research placed Catalyst in the top 10 start-up hubs in the UK & Ireland and top third in Europe, ranking it number 40 out of 125 locations based on the performance and success rates of their business support programmes, incubators and accelerators.

This year’s Catalyst Dealtracker NI report showed that investment into tech firms in Northern Ireland reached its highest ever level in 2023, with £143.2m invested across 72 deals, with an average investment of just under £2m.


Photo caption: Catalyst CEO Steve Orr, Chair Ellvena Graham, and Ian Snowden, Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy.

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