So yesterday I attended a guest lecture by Declan Kelly the US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, and lets just say it was inspirational and gave me the drive to come and create this blog post!

US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland Declan Kelly @ University of Ulster Jordanstown

Well this blog post is about the gaming industry, and why NI is the ideal location for developers to locate in the future.  I say this at a time where there are 0 games developers located here, there may be a small number of idevices developers that also provide other services like web design and marketing graphic design.  But in Northern Ireland there are no games developers here what so ever.  Now in Mr. Kelly’s speech he does identify that the Creative Industry is has a key role to play in the development of NI, and as what I see as the current leader of the creative media it is a shame that anyone who wants a job developing games has to move away from NI.  I would like to remind you that one of the old gaming developing greats David Doak who was studio head for RARE back when they were under the control of Nintendo is from NI, he set up Free Radical Design and the Timesplitters franchise.  Northern Ireland has such raw talent in its students, and it is recognised by American corporations as identified in MR. Kelly’s speech that they show more drive, fore thinking, ambition and they work harder to get what they want.  Northern Ireland it focuses on the creative industries, business and financial services as well as the high tech arena such as cloud computing and personalised health as identified by Mr. Kelly as well as having 2 world class universities, University of Ulster with its 4 campuses and Queens University Belfast.

So lets move into the reasons as to why NI should be the target location for game studios to locate in the near future.

Communications

Northern Ireland has the highest speed connection in transatlantic fibre cables to North America, which is the fastest communications link in the world, this couldn’t be more ideal for communication between development studios in NI and those in North America.  Especially with a large development community in Canada communication would be coast to coast without the need for large distances of travel across mainland for data.  In business communication is key, it is what we are taught every day, the businesses that succeed have the most effective means of communication.  With the fastest link between Europe and NA being located in NI, the sharing of resources would be more efficient, data is transmitted at the highest rate so down time waiting on resources being downloaded is minimised.

Another point to look at is one that is evident within the financial industry, Northern Ireland is keenly situated to be the bridge between the UK and the Euro-zone.  In financial terms this meant that NI was the key location to providing assistance to organisations who wanted to move from the UK market into the Euro-zone, and vice versa.  But this experience can be used in many other ways to aid organisations in operating in all of the Euro-zone countries.

Student Education

In Northern Ireland there are 2000 students a year leaving university with a business related degree, there are a further 1000 leaving with an ICT related degree.  There aren’t enough jobs to facilitate these educations and to make the most of them, majority of students either don’t get a job that makes high use of their skills and education or they move away from NI to another country that has the jobs.  American employers who partake in the US-NI Mentorship program comment regularly about the quality of NI students and their dedication to the job.  With the youngest population in Europe, under the age of 25, there is a mass pool of potential employees that will give their better years into making things happen!  Northern Ireland is seen as the only place in Europe that if you pre-select the skills that you want an employee to have and give the government 5-6 months before you even get the business here they will train the employees for you!

The LOWEST Cost Operating Environment

Now this is a point that Declan made in his speech that kinda threw me back!  Northern Ireland has the lowest cost operating environment in all of Europe.  This means that it costs less for an organisation to set up and operate its daily activities in NI than it does anywhere else in Europe.  I then think to myself why doesn’t more developers recognise this?  Dundee in Scotland has a high development community, but recently several studio closures were forced by operation costs.  THQ were reported as looking into setting up a “super studio” in the UK but withdrew its plans for this studio which would have facilitated 400-600 jobs due to the collapse of the planned industry relief system that was a keen to the one the film industry gets for tax reliefs.  Why didn’t they look into NI, when large organisations want to move into the UK they seem to forget about NI as a potential base, only when their attention is drawn to the location by business and economic summits in Washington do things happen for NI.  There has to be a reason that 2 months ago during the height of the economic uncertainty that CitiBank in Belfast created 500 jobs on top of their already existing workforce, they know that now is the time to invest!

Corporation Tax doesn’t even come into it, Declans research deems that NI still has a lower operating cost when corporation tax is taken into account even compared to the UK and Ireland.  Simply, this alone should make NI the key location, nothing further is needed to say on the point.

Fastest Growing Economy in The Next 5 Years

“the only thing holding back Northern Ireland today is this inability to understand how great it could potentially be, I believe that Northern Ireland could be one of the fastest growing economies in the world on a per capita basis over the next 5 years”

Northern Ireland has more potential for growth in a short period than that of the mainland, any investment made now into the region would potentially be worth a small fortune.  The above quote from Declan is just how important NI could become to worldwide investors, for the gaming industry I see it as a point to get a foothold in an economy that is only growing.  Build relationships with 2 world leading universities and get the best from what is on offer before things go that little bit crazy and to set up within a rapidly expanding economy from any business standpoint can be quite the challenge.

Local Government

I understand that not everything can be perfect and ideal, but that is why it is vital that IF you represent a developer in research for a location for a new studio. Talk to the local councils within NI, talk to the local NI Executive Assembly.  You will find that NI will be keen to bring any business to NI.  The local government is there to help, talk and inspire.  But until you talk to us, you will never know how much we want these opportunities here.

If you want to hear Envoy Kelly’s speech, you can do so here, because he states the information about in a much better way that I possibly can.  I found the presentation as a Northern Irish student highly inspirational, and only more so makes me want to be at the forefront of actively bringing this fantastic industry to NI.

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