Startup ecosystem with 143% increase in digital business births from 2011 to 2016

£875 mDigital tech business turnover (2017)
StartupDominant distribution of businesses by age (2017)
£98 kDigital tech turnover by employee (2017)

97Digital tech business births (2016)
8,970Jobs in digital tech (2017)


Belfast’s colleges and universities, its strong digital tech community and low cost of living continue to attract – and grow – tech companies. This year, a new co-working space, a landmark pre-accelerator programme and emerging animation scene all testify to that.

  • Ormeau Baths, a co-working space and tech community, opened its doors in an historic former bathhouse in the heart of Belfast in July 2017. The campus helps the brightest and best tech startups to access new networks, funding and expertise, giving them the tools to flourish. It was founded by entrepreneurs Jon Bradford, Mark Dowds, Aaron Taylor and Steve Pette. They had the support of tech leaders from across Northern Ireland’s digital diaspora, including FanDuel’s Nigel Eccles and Sarah Friar of Square.
  • In January 2018, Invest NI appointed Ignite 100 to run and operate Propel, its pre-accelerator programme, until 2022. Supporting a wide range of companies including NEON, it is the only accelerator of its kind running in Northern Ireland and is a landmark tech development in the city.

Philip McAleese

Co-founder & CEO, See.Sense

About See.Sense
See.Sense is a cycling technology and data company that helps make cycling safer and cities smarter.  Our patented, connected products use advanced sensor technology and AI to improve cyclist safety, while crowdsourcing data and insights for cities.

Why Belfast?
We chose to base our business here due to Belfast’s fantastic talent pool and lower cost of living.  We are also able to manufacture our product locally, and there is great camaraderie between entrepreneurs here.

National & International focus
We have customers in over 70 countries worldwide and from the outset we have been globally focused. We have run smart cycling data projects in Australia and Ireland, as well as the UK and have presence at international events such Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and VeloCity Global in Taipei.

Founded: 2013

Raised: £711k

Dr Jason McKeown

CEO, Neurovalens

About Neurovalens
Neurovalens uses neuroscience to help improve lives. We are based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and at the University of California San Diego’s Brain & Cognition Centre. Modius is the company’s first product; it helps people get lean by targeted neural stimulation – it changes what we can all be in athletic terms.

Why Belfast?
Belfast has the best people, the best talent and the best craic.

Founded: 2015

Raised: £1.5m 

Popular meetups in Belfast

1,408 Members


1,299 Members

DevOps Belfast

991 Members

IoT Belfast

We have clustered Belfast meetups according to their topics. Meetups with similar topics are attracted, whilst meetups with different subjects are repelled. A full screen version can be found here. Click on a node, or search for a topic in the full screen version.  

We have clustered Belfast meetups according to their topics. Meetups with similar topics are attracted, whilst meetups with different subjects are repelled. Please view this page on desktop to use the visualisation interactively.

Belfast meetup clusters: Software Development Emerging Technology Open Source Web Design


Source: Tech Nation, 2018;, 2018. Thanks to the Oxford Internet Institute and JSIC

The size of each node is determined by the number of connections it has with others. A large node signifies a highly connected meetup with many topics shared with other groups.

Community perceptions survey findings

The Tech Nation 2018 Survey was conducted between January 2018 and February 2018, in partnership with Streetbees. This year’s survey received the largest response yet from members of the UK tech community. In a total of 3,428 submissions, people told us about the opportunities and challenges their local ecosystems face, and the digital tech leaders they admire. The majority of respondents (33%) were founders and CEOs.

What Belfast startups say is a strength

1Access to funding
2Helpful tech community
3Proximity of large tech companies

What Belfast startups say is a challenge

1Access to funding
2Access to talent
3Local government

Who Belfast startups say is influential

Tom Gray

CTO, Kainos

About you
I have worked in the Digital Industry for 30 years starting as a Software Engineer. I am currently privileged to lead Digital Catapult Northern Ireland and be CTO of Kainos Group. I am also involved in community activities like the BelTech conference that I curate every year.

Unique to Belfast?
Our relatively small scale, combined with the density of highly capable talent means that you’re never more than one step away from the perfect person to hire, to mentor you, provide seed funding, or to make that critical introduction.

Strengths & Challenges
The quality of our digital talent is genuinely excellent, and the long-standing adoption of a mandatory Placement Year in industry as part of degree programmes has been a real differentiator over other parts of UK. However, there is never enough available talent and the education pipeline doesn’t prepare the next generation with the skills required. Given our scale, Belfast can’t be good at everything so we should, collectively, reflect on our areas of genuine, defensible strength and focus our strategic activities and investments on these.

Tech Nation 2018 is now open!

Great news. All data featured in the 2018 Tech Nation Report is available online for non-commercial use by third parties.  The data can be accessed through the platform. If you use the data, please let us know. We would love to showcase your work.

If you'd like know why we are doing this, check out our blog.

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