Physics business brings in over £3.2 bn to the economy in Northern Ireland and employs over 59,000 people

23 February 2017

Industries dependent on physics contribute more than £3.2 bn in gross value added to the business economy of Northern Ireland, according to a new report released by the Institute of Physics (IOP).

These industries provide direct employment for over 59,000 people; 7.4% of Northern Ireland’s total workforce.

With physics-based industries also directly generating a turnover worth £8.7 bn, physics is not just the source of inventions and ideas, but also the means by which Northern Ireland’s economic future can be secured.

Physics and indeed physics-driven technologies underpin a wide range of industries, all of which Northern Ireland is dependent on for its economic growth.

Physics-based industries encompass energy generation, transportation, everyday household appliance design and manufacture, telecommunications and broadcasting, medical technology development and even waste collection and disposal.

The report – the most comprehensive study of the role of physics in the growth and productivity of Northern Ireland – was launched recently prior to a networking event at The Innovation Centre at Catalyst Inc, Belfast, with policymakers, physicists and business leaders in attendance. The event coincided with the opening day of the Northern Ireland Science Festival.

“Today, proper investment in physics, and the broader sciences, is key to transforming our future economic prospects."

Norman Apsley, chief executive officer of Catalyst Inc and speaking at the launch of the publication, highlighted the need to continue to invest in education and research.

“Here on site, Professor Sir John McCanny leads a Global Centre of Research into Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, all based on physics.

“Across the Lagan to the north, Professor Jim McLaughlin puts physics to work with new and exciting medical devices for the new health economy in connected health.

“On the shores of Lough Neagh, Peter Fitzgerald has transformed physics and bioscience into a global health company, Randox.  Today more than 5% of the world’s population – in excess of 370 million people across 145 countries – receives medical diagnosis using Randox products each year.”

“A new economy, with jobs and wealth for all our people, is within our grasp.”

“But it does not come without industry and investment. This report and the others highlight the need to continue and even to increase our investment in education and research and to balance the focus between the science and the entrepreneurship that will convert it to wealth.”

Dr David Riley, co-Chair of IOP Ireland, and present at the launch of the report, explained that although Northern Ireland is in a robust position as a strong physics economy, continued investment is key.

“Today’s success is built on yesterday’s investment. It is the fruit of long-term support for physics in education, research and skills. If Northern Ireland is to maintain a high-tech, high-growth economy for the future, that support for physics will need to continue – and even expand.”

“The IOP is working to ensure that the benefits of physics are understood, and making the case for continued investment in this vital area in order to secure a bright future for Northern Ireland.”

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