The south west region has the potential to be become a hotbed for international business, a panel of
industry leaders told a major conference held at South West College in Enniskillen today.
The International and Economic Development Conference outlined how the region can create opportunities for jobs and growth in fast-growing sectors by adapting current skills and resources and accelerating new ideas towards global markets.
The conference is the first event of its kind to look exclusively at improving the international competitiveness of Fermanagh and Tyrone and was organised by South West College in association with the Confederation of British Industry, Omagh Enterprise Company and Invest NI.
Speakers at the event included economist Prof Neil Gibson Director of the NI Centre for Economic Policy and Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Ulster; Andrew Brammer from global law firm Allen & Overy; and Prof Sa’ad Medhat from the New Engineering Foundation.
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “Innovation, entrepreneurship and internationalisation are vital to the future growth of our economy. On a daily basis, our colleges are working with our local companies to help them gain advantage in a global market by developing and testing new product ideas, providing the use of their cutting edge equipment for businesses as well as providing customised training solutions for employees and even one to one mentoring.”
Malachy McAleer, South West College Director, said: "The fact is that the economy of the south west region has a significant untapped development and export potential. Many firms are already carving a niche in potentially lucrative sectors such as sustainable and renewable technologies. It is vital that more have the chance to secure a more competitive position. South West College is rising to that challenge by giving entrepreneurs and business access to world class technologies and innovation facilities and preparing a workforce with the skills needed for new markets. By recognising and responding quickly to global opportunities, the south west region can build a platform for growth, create new skilled jobs and claim a strong position at home and abroad.”
The International and Economic Development Conference addressed a range of critical topics including
meeting future skills demands; promoting innovation and economic development; and encouraging entrepreneurship and internationalisation.
Prof Sa’ad Medhat Chief Executive of NEF: The Innovation Institute said: “Further Education colleges have a pivotal role to play in embracing “Open Innovation” to support the development and sustainability of new and emerging technologies. Through effective engagement with employers, local authorities and other educational providers, colleges such as the South West College are raising the performance of their regional workforce and creating opportunities to attract investment. By focusing specifically on high growth areas in Science, Engineering and Technology, the college has become a “market-maker” stimulating enterprise and advancing social wellbeing.”
Andrew Brammer Head of Allen & Overy’s Support Service Centre in Belfast said: “International connections are now an everyday part of modern living. For businesses and entrepreneurs that connectivity makes it easier and more effective to engage with customers across the globe. Local firms have no reason to be intimidated about reaching out to new markets, the key ingredients for success are already here. We know the calibre of the people and our investment in Northern Ireland has worked extremely well for us as a result.”
Prof Neil Gibson, Director of the NI Centre for Economic Policy and Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Ulster said: “The scale of the economic challenge is evident and level of global competition for jobs is increasing all the time. It is incumbent on all areas to identify their own unique strengths and sell them to the market, to encourage and mentor local businesses to become international firms and to take responsibility for delivering the better future Northern Ireland needs and deserves. The South West has many strengths upon which to confidently build a better future and it can play a crucial role in improving economic conditions in Northern Ireland. The economic outlook may remain uncertain but we cannot let uncertainty lead to inactivity. Economic success will not come to us, we must go out and get it.”