You are on page 1of 31

The Innovation into Action Project

HOW DO WE CHANGE NORTHERN IRELANDS BUSINESS CULTURE AT SCALE?

A summary of the findings and recommendations from NISP CONNECTs


2015 stakeholder analysis process
June 2015

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Between March and June 2015, NISP CONNECT invited over 50 industry
organisations, networks, meetUps and trade associations to nominate their most
can do members to participate in a process to collectively and collaboratively
figure out how to crack the biggest challenge standing in the way of our dream of
economic transformation in Northern Ireland: how do we change our business
culture at scale?
Through a democratic process of idea submission, debate and refinement,
participants were asked to identify the silver bullets that would address the
following challenges once and for all:
How do we foster a culture of entrepreneurship, specifically on-campus at
Higher Education and Further Education institutions?
How do we crack Northern Irelands BMW syndrome to increase the scale of
ambition and innovation of our entrepreneurs and SME leaders
How do we foster a culture of collaboration where local businesses and
entrepreneurs collaborate to compete?
Answers were clear: we are a conservative society that promotes safety over
adventure and celebrates academic attainment by the gifted few over the
creativity and teamwork of everyone. We lack leadership centred on hope,
aspiration and belief and the opportunity to be inspired by and learn from each
other.
Three themes emerged in the solutions across all of the areas:
1. Safe space: People, young and old, need a place where they can meet
outside work or studies around shared interests to learn, meet likeminded
people and access each others contacts. It is critically important that the
quality of the content and the experience around which people meet is very
high for efforts to be sustained. This needs to take place both online and faceto-face, in cities and towns across Northern Ireland.
2. Champions: It matters who leads in the creation of the new safe-space
communities. These champions must be respected individuals in the field of
the chosen subject matter or leaders from the student body. Their visible
participation attracts others. They must be passionate about the subject
matter and connected, willing to open their network to source speakers who
provide the content. Importantly, the burden of facilitation must be removed
from these champions; otherwise the requirement of logistics, sourcing online
tools, even refreshments puts people off.
3. Education: As our vision is economic transformation in Northern Ireland by
2030, we need to help Northern Irelands education system to evolve now:
Northern Irish society needs to broaden our definition of a high achiever
to include entrepreneurship in addition to the A*
We need to help the curriculum body to identify relevant subjects for the
requirement to introduce new GCSE and A-levels
Project based learning (design thinking) must be introduced into the
curriculum as an essential skill for every child to equip them with the tools
to be able to solve problems collaboratively. This is as important as
teaching every kid to.

Our new champions need to evangelise the benefits of collaboration,


entrepreneurship to multiple audiences, not just schools

In addition, taking entrepreneurship events and forums on-campus that have


until now taken place off-campus will be critical to creating a culture of
entrepreneurship among our student population. Also, better international
integration and utilization of our diaspora will be key to fostering the belief
among our SME CEOs of what is possible and create a network that can help.
Next, we need action. We will only achieve change on the scale desired if
existing and new organisations self organise to meet regionally across Northern
Ireland and in specific areas of special interest. Pledges have been made from
organisations and individuals to start the momentum.
The movement has started. Are you in?

PREFACE
So, its pretty simple; two things, with the right leadership, will make a huge
difference. While Northern Ireland has a great infrastructure for people to learn
from institutions, we are not set up for people to learn from each other. There is a
missing social layer within our innovation eco-system where people find their
tribe, develop new relationships and become inspired by the contagion of sharing
ideas and contacts with likeminded ambitious people. Secondly, it is critical that
we help our education system to evolve to produce young people equipped to
lead and thrive in the rapidly changing world.
You can see this social layer in the worlds leading innovation eco-systems. Clubs
and societies have existed for decades in most cities around the world but over
the past few years less formal MeetUps have emerged in San Francisco, Boston
and Shoreditch where up to twenty events or forums can take place every night
of the week in almost every subject related to innovation. The University of
Ulsters internationally respected research leader and entrepreneur Prof Jim
McLaughlin captured it well when he said, Twenty years ago there used to be
twenty university clubs and societies around Northern Ireland. There would also
be socialising over a beer every Friday, but today there is.. nothing. We need
to rebuild Northern Irelands innovation social scene that is centred on quality
content.
I also applaud the projects main recommendations on education. The solutions
place a smart, yet subtle emphasis on how we can assist the system to evolve,
avoiding the temptation to call for the systems destruction as often happens
with projects like this.
Last, I must give my personal thanks to everyone who participated in the
process. While fifty people contributed to the project, I have to single out a few
individuals for special mention:
Emma Swift of Tech City UK for flying in from London to set the challenge for
collaboration with her talk at the kick-off event
Ronan Cunningham, EiR and CEO of Brainwave Bank for helping to illustrate
the challenge for entrepreneurship with his talk on the culture of
entrepreneurship at MIT
Bryan Keating for setting the challenge of CEO ambition with his talk on
Northern Irelands BMW syndrome at the kick-off event
Minister Foster for being so supportive of the project and for stopping off as
she was leaving on vacation to wish all project participants well at the kick-off
meeting
Michael McCormack of BT, for his tireless support to design and manage the
facilitation of the entire project
NISP CONNECT does not take lightly the trust that so many people have placed in
us. While we will move quickly to implement changes to what we do based on
what we have learned in this process, we need to recognise the 3 rd key finding:
that without a new army of champions, people who are willing to lead, little will
change in Northern Ireland.
Are you ready to lead?

Good luck
Chris Horn
Chair
NISP CONNECT

1.0
Introduction
Northern Ireland is starting to make real progress towards our shared vision of
becoming one of the top four most innovative regions in the UK by 2025 1 and
ultimately to join the club of the most entrepreneurial regional knowledge
economies in Europe2. On 22nd October 2014, we learnt that Northern Ireland is
the second fastest growing regional knowledge economy in the UK 3 and in
February 2015 we learned that Belfast was one of the top performing digital
clusters in the UK4. The hard work of so many people is paying off; recent policy
interventions have been effective, large numbers of Northern Irelands most
experienced business people are volunteering their time to help our most
promising entrepreneurs and, most importantly, we now have proof that
Northern Ireland has the talent to achieve remarkable things. Yet, thinking that
we have made it or becoming complacent will be the fastest way to reverse our
recent progress.
Following the launch of the NI Executives Innovation Strategy in September
2014, NISP CONNECT Chair, Chris Horn, wrote to Enterprise Minister Arlene
Foster offering the services of NISP CONNECT to convene Northern Irelands main
Knowledge Economy stakeholder organisations to facilitate a process to identify
further ideas of private sector action and government policies that can drive the
required growth to which we all aspire. Minister Foster welcomed the Innovation
into Action offer to build the good work of the Innovation Strategy.
2.0
Background The 2012 Tiger Teams
In 2012 and 2013 NISP CONNECT facilitated a stakeholder analysis process
involving over 170 people who operate at the coalface of innovation and
entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland. The Tiger Team process agreed a shared
vision and targets for Northern Irelands knowledge economy and identified the
biggest challenges holding Northern Ireland back from achieving our vision. The
blockers were identified as:
Risk Capital
Talent
Culture
The process achieved a number of outcomes:
Contributed significantly to the Innovation Strategy. Notably:
o The identification of culture as one of the key barriers preventing
progress
o Helped to raise the scale of ambition with the setting of targets
Contributed to the Economic Advisory Groups (EAG) 2013 consultation on
Access to Finance, via the Strategic Investment Board, that equity risk capital
needed its own strategic research project to review Northern Irelands needs
in a long term context. In 2014 DETI launched a thorough review of risk
capital in Northern Ireland. The review will conclude in calendar Q1 2015.
A sustained advocacy campaign with elected officials and media has raised
the profile of the entrepreneurial knowledge economy and the benefits of
1

DETI Innovation Strategy


NISP CONNECT 2030 targets
3
Knowledge Economy Index for Northern Ireland
4
Tech Nation report published by TCUK
2

prioritising its growth while providing a stream of good news stories about the
success of entrepreneurs in the sector.
Led to a reorganisation of the efforts of NISP CONNECT to become directly
aligned with addressing the blockers. The consultative buy-in process also led
to a significant increase in the amount of pro bono time volunteered by NIs
most experienced people.
Resulted in greater collaboration between NISP CONNECT, Invest NI, Matrix
and other stakeholders.

DETI Innovation Strategy


NISP CONNECT 2030 targets
3
Knowledge Economy Index for Northern Ireland
4
Tech Nation report published by TCUK
2

While risk capital is being addressed and industry organisations such and DEL
have taken a leadership role in helping to address some of the challenges
surrounding talent via Minister Farrys Digital ICT Group, culture remains the one
challenge yet to be sufficiently addressed and the most important.
3.0
The Innovation into Action model
It is increasingly common for business and government to harness the wisdom of
the crowd to better understand issues and identify solutions for the most
challenging problems (i.e., ask the people who operate at the coalface every day
what is wrong and how to fix it). Achieving our shared vision will depend on
taking Northern Irelands level of public-private-academic teamwork to another
level: to collaboratively figure out what needs to be done and to apply each
sectors own unique resources and networks to deliver it. Innovation into Action
set out to analyse and synthesise the views of a diverse set of people closest to
the action with a very close look at culture.
More information on the methodology, timetable and deliverables is outline in
Appendix A. A list of all participants involved in the process is included in
Appendix B.
3.1
Framing the challenge
The main challenges can be identified from the Knowledge Economy Index and
the targets:
Number of KE employees
of research
Innovative startups per
annum
Innovative companies total
Venture Capital invested
annually
Number of M&A deals
Number of public companies

2013
35,221
0.582B
(2012)
295 (2012)

2025 (DETI)
54,000
1.2B

2030 stretch
71,250
1.05B (Go
NI!)
500

2470 (2012)
4M

7,000
90M

113 (33 in
2009)
5

77
24

The NI Executives Innovation Strategy and the 2012/13 Tiger Team process
identified that NI needed to address the following cultural challenges or we will
not hit any of the targets above. The images below provide links to talks that
were delivered at the Innovation into Action kick-off meeting to set the scene and
illustrate the challenge in each of the three specific areas identified within
culture:
1. How can we foster a more widespread culture of entrepreneurship across
the region?
o Specifically, on campus startups at university: students, research
professionals

2. How can we foster a culture of ambition / innovation?

3. How can we foster a culture of collaboration? How do we make it cultural for


individuals instincts to help each other and the collective and risk their
reputations to introduce entrepreneurs to their contacts who could help
them?

3.3
Participants
Not the usual suspects. Recognising that the best decisions are made by diverse
teams of multi-disciplinary backgrounds, Innovation into Action convened a
diverse group of people by age and background including, in some cases, people
who are uninformed but brilliant. Representative organisations of key
stakeholders and contributors in Northern Irelands Knowledge Economy were
invited to nominate up to two of their most forward thinking members or
employees. The criteria for defining a key stakeholder organisation:
Local industry leadership organisations
Local and international industry sector representation
Professional charter organisations
3rd level education
Meetups

3.4
Requirements of participants
Participants were provided with a PowerPoint template containing four slides for
them to complete:
1. Introduction slide with: name nominating organisation, participant name and
chosen sub area (entrepreneurship, collaboration or ambition)
2. Why are things as they are? A one sentence answer to the question
3. What are the 1-3 most important things that need to happen to change this
at scale in Northern Ireland. One sentence bullet point for each solution
4. Who should lead? Again, one word or one sentence

4.

Findings: understanding the problem

4.1
Why are things as they are?
The full list of unedited responses is included in Appendix C. Themes emerged in
each of the areas and the narrative below is a synthesis of the main themes to
help us get a better understanding of the problems we have to solve.
4.1.1 Entrepreneurship (on-campus)
Entrepreneurship is not seen as a viable career path
Students (undergrad, masters, PhD & post-doc) are only aware of two career
options: a job in a corporation or a job in research. The option of becoming an
entrepreneur is not promoted as a career choice and there is a lack of connection
with the true concept and practice of entrepreneurship. To most, it is a high-level,
inaccessible pursuit reserved for a selective few who hold extraordinary
attributes/skills. Where entrepreneurship is taught, it is delivered in a one-size
fits all model and does not adapt to the unique needs of science, engineering
and technology students where things focus on R&D and not exploitation.
Lack of a visible community in NI when it comes to creative people
coming together to share ideas
Most Engineering Students have never heard of NISP or similar organizations,
projects or initiatives that produce entrepreneurship programming. Previous
attempts to achieve change were disjointed and never gathered sufficient
momentum. There is a lack of advice on financial/legal aspects of starting a
business.
Education system, especially from year 11 onwards
Our education system does not instill independent thinking, instead it creates a
dependency culture, failure-averse + lack of confidence and a no-can do
attitude.
4.1.2 Ambition / Innovation
Risk aversion and lack of confidence
Northern Ireland has a risk-averse culture. For decades parents have influenced
their children towards safer careers in the professions and away from the risk of
business and entrepreneurship. This fear of failure had eroded confidence and
the lack of visible role models and greater awareness of the rewards of business
and entrepreneurship has meant that the perception has not changed. As a
society, we set the bar of expectation low..
and fail to reach it
Perceptions of innovation
The word innovation automatically turns off some SMEs who dont associate with
the term and think of men in white lab coats. Innovation is someone else's job / it
is too complex for them to engage in.
Our political and economic context
Political, social, business & economic uncertainty that resulted in short termism
& conservative attitude to risk. Low levels of both public & private investment
within the knowledge ecosystem & into the skills that drive it. Lack of leadership,
derived from a fear of failure, insular mindset and over-reliance on public sector.

Small island syndrome / personal sacrifice


There is personal cost in growing the company and reaching export markets.
Ireland is a small Market. Many of our indigenous companies are family owned.
4.1.3 Collaboration
Lack of trust
Our culture is insular and we arent open to sharing or trusting others. We
currently dont have a custom of collaboration and fail to see the value or
opportunity that it can bring. This is ingrained tactics of survival i.e. sticking to
your own. We havent gotten over transaction related barriers yet like many
other regions such as IP ownership issues. Interventions and support from
government are top down, with policy makers in charge making them
fragmented and ineffective.
Unclear what the value would be / Fear of just another talking shop
People do not see/understand the benefits that can come from investing time in
community and collaboration. It requires commitment, looks like a talk-shop,
lack of relevance, no benefit to me.
Not celebrated within the wider NI community
There is a lack of actively promoted success stories and role models.

5.0
Findings: Solutions
We understand the issues now what do we need to do about it? While many
ideas were submitted into the process, themes emerged and priorities of
importance of were allocated democratically. This section summarises the most
important solutions identified in each area. A summary of the themes that
emerged across all sections is provided in section 6.
5.1
Who?
Before we get into what needs to be done it is important that we define at whom
these activities will be targeted, as the majority of the population will not be
interested. Gary Hamilton, founder and former CEO of Omiino representing the
IET, articulated the target market well during the process. Gary said At Nortel
90% of the people were coin-operated, meaning that they went to work, got paid
and that is all they wanted from life. But, the other 10%, they were restless, they
had new ideas they wanted to work on, and they were the ones endlessly having
closed door meetings to discuss their ideas.
The Young Influencers network define their flock of 1,000 young people who have
assembled within one year as the 5-9ers. After your work is finished, you want
to meet up to explore other interests or further your existing interests from
advanced learning developed socially.
While the solutions need to be open to everyone from all locations and
backgrounds, this process is targeted at engaging the restless and ambitious
10% in schools, universities and the workforce in cities and towns across
Northern Ireland. Currently, these people do not know that this world exists, that
it is accessible and they will be welcome.
5.1

Entrepreneurship (on-campus)

5.1.1 Education
5.1.1.1
Northern Irish society needs to broaden its definition of high
achiever to include entrepreneurship in addition to the A*
We need new entrepreneurs, lots of them, if we are to achieve our vision.
As aspirations can be set for life in schools, the status of becoming an
entrepreneur must be elevated to be at least as important as academic
achievement, currently the only outcome celebrated as a result of
education. Entrepreneurship is open to anyone with the courage to act on
his or her idea and remarkably rewarding for both the individual and
society for the successful ones. We must celebrate successful local
entrepreneurs in our schools.
5.1.1.2
Teach project based learning (Design Thinking) as a skill to all
students
"Learning by doing" is the essential element of PBL, project based
learning. PBL is a model for the classroom activity that shifts away from
teacher-centered instruction and emphasises student-centered projects.
This model helps make learning relevant to students by establishing
connections to life outside the classroom and by addressing real world
issues. In the classroom, PBL gives teachers an opportunity to build
relationships with students by acting as their coach, facilitator, and co-

learner. In the school and beyond, the model further allows teachers
opportunities to build relationships among colleagues and with those in
the larger community. Student projects can be shared with other teachers,
parents, and others who have a vested interest in the students' education.
This benefits students by instilling independent thinking, growing
confidence and a can do attitude.
5.1.1.3
Help the curriculum body to identify relevant subjects for GCSE and
A-levels
The Northern Ireland curriculum body, CCEA, is tasked with introducing a
variety of new subjects on the schools curriculum for GCSE and A-Levels.
Recent advances including the introduction of the Software Systems
Development A-level and Space Science Technology (level 2) are to be
warmly welcomed and indicative of the efficacy of this approach, but there
is more to be done. As new subject areas are defined and developed,
teachers will require support. Ideally this will include not only the
resources noted but also significant CPD activities; which should also
include industry in the planning, design and delivery.
5.1.2 Dedicated physical space
People need a place where they can access creative, collaborative, idea
generation in a Bank of Invention. Open up spaces that are closed on
weekends and evenings for like-minded people to meet and collaborate.
Bank of Invention
While Northern Ireland is the 2nd fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK
with an incredible ecosystem of creators still actively developing an international
reputation for this place, theres a significant disconnect between these success
stories and Northern Ireland society as a whole. In particular theres a severe
lack of aspirational goals, compounded by the poor economic prospects NI
society faces. Surveys published in 2014* reported that 2/3 of our young people
believe their country is backward, and wish to permanently emigrate outside of
NI. Something needs to connect this ambitious globally-connected generation in
NI to real commercial opportunities that inspire them to stay and make a
difference in their country.
Across the world there are spaces of innovation and collaboration emerging e.g
1776 Washington DC, WeWork (multiple US cities). These are city spaces that
lead to the creation of new ideas, start-ups, jobs, export of products and a
vibrant economy. Belfast is missing this collaborative, transformative space. We
believe that the true identity of the people here is that we are some of the
worlds greatest thinkers and creators, and thats why we need a Bank of
Invention a city centre space to deposit ideas, invest in talent and lend
connections. Where existing and potential inventors, designers and makers can
meet, collaborate, create, and inspire the whole city.
The Bank of Ireland on Royal Avenue is a great example of a beautiful art-deco
building from the 1920s, a symbol of the creativity and excellence that this city
once known for. The location of the property is important as its a nodal point in
Belfast, connecting North, South, East and West. It is central, accessible,
connecting all communities and attracting a global audience to visit and work
within. The Bank of Ireland is now up for sale. If we dont get that building, well
get another. But the point is, we care about this city, we care that an iconic and
central building like this is used with our citys future in mind, that its used to

showcase and nurture the future potential of all our innovators, inventors and
entrepreneurs.
5.1.3 Take entrepreneurship content on-campus
A lot of entrepreneurship programming produced by organisations like NISP
CONNECT takes place off campus, often in locations a few miles away. Students
will not travel to access something that they dont know that they dont know, so
the content needs to be hosted either on-campus or very close to campus in hip
venues where they would want to spend their free time.
The responsibility of organising events relevant to the student body and
communicating awareness to attract the audience is something that will require
the empowerment of leaders from the student body themselves. If the right
people organize and promote this content others will come.
Lastly, while some students may seek the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams voluntarily in their free time, this may be a requirement for a
module within a qualification to ensure that the majority attain the skill of real
teamwork.
5.2

Ambition / Innovation

5.2.1 Leadership
We need new leaders to emerge and inspire. Change will not make itself happen
so we need passionate people to create a more positive tone centred on hope
and to lead on the actions that result in change. This will be required in every
area of life in every role.
As a society, we have a clear and immediate need to celebrate those who
epitomise the kind of entrepreneurial leadership of which we need much more by
identifying and creating more role models from the many great local CEOs and
executives we already have. However, the majority of Northern Ireland SME CEOs
prefer to keep themselves to themselves and not to engage. We must find a new
forum to energise and engage them via existing forums or create new ones as
necessary.
5.2.2 Internationalization
A much greater priority must be placed on nurturing and leveraging Northern
Irelands diaspora and initiatives such as the NI Connections project. A lot could
be learned from the Irish Republic where a ministerial position for the diaspora
has been created. This would provide a much-needed source of leadership
mentors for local CEOs and entrepreneurs.
5.2.3 Education
Introduce problem solving (design thinking) from age 8 to encapsulate all points
and role models with kids
Similar to PBL outlined in 5.1.2, design thinking is a formal method for
practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with
the intent of an improved future result. In this regard it is a form of
solution-based, or solution-focused thinking starting with a goal (a better
future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. By considering both
present and future conditions and parameters of the problem, alternative
solutions may be explored simultaneously.

This approach differs from the analytical scientific method, which begins
with thoroughly defining all the parameters of the problem in order to
create a solution. Design thinking identifies and investigates with both
known and ambiguous aspects of the current situation in order to discover
hidden parameters and open alternative paths which may lead to the goal.
Because design thinking is iterative, intermediate "solutions" are also
potential starting points of alternative paths, including redefining of the
initial problem.
5.3

Collaboration

5.3.1 Safe space (physical and digital)


People need somewhere where they can go to meet likeminded folk, share ideas
and gain inspiration from each other. Key to this is the content around which they
gather, it defines the tribe and, only if quality of content is maintained, remains
sustainable. Northern Ireland has seen many efforts to create a gatherings which
attracts large interest initially only for it to peter out over time as the quality of
content wanes.
The venues must be neutral with a non-judgmental feel where failure is not
celebrated, but learning from failure is. Utilizing available digital technology to
enable meeting organising, new relationships and ongoing conversations will be
essential to the organization of the safe space.
5.3.2 Champions
If the right people lead in the organisation of new safe-space meetings, people
will come.
The right people are well-respected individuals in their field with clear vision to
educate and change something, importantly, without the burden of facilitation.
5.3.3 Education
Great efforts already exist by organisations such as W5 and Sentinus to facilitate
STEM and creative people inspiring young people with talks about their jobs and
lives. This needs to be expanded to include a new army of entrepreneurs. Only
founders have a belief that anything is possible and there is a better way than
what currently exists. Only by experiencing a talk from an entrepreneur can
young people relate to the possibilities and plant a seed that they could do that.
In addition to schools, our entire business community needs to know the benefits
of collaboration via the communication of via an endless flow of stories
evangelized by new champions and leaders.

6.0

Conclusions: Key themes

6.1
Why are things as they are?
We are a conservative society that promotes safety over adventure and
celebrates academic attainment by the gifted few over the creativity and
teamwork of everyone. We lack leadership centred on hope, aspiration and belief
and the opportunity to be inspired by and learn from each other.
What are the key themes that emerged across the solutions?
1. Safe space: People, young and old, need a place where they can meet
outside work or studies around shared interests to learn, meet likeminded
people and access each others contacts. It is critically important that the
quality of the content and the experience around which people meet is very
high for efforts to be sustained. This needs to take place both online and faceto-face, in cities and towns across Northern Ireland.
2. Champions: It matters who leads in the creation of the new safe-space
communities. These champions must be respected individuals in the field of
the chosen subject matter or leaders from the student body. Their visible
participation attracts others. They must be passionate about the subject
matter and connected, willing to open their network to source speakers who
provide the content. Importantly, the burden of facilitation must be removed
from these champions; otherwise the requirement of logistics, sourcing online
tools, even refreshments puts people off.
3. Education: As our vision is economic transformation in Northern Ireland by
2030, we need to help Northern Irelands education system to evolve now:
Northern Irish society needs to broaden our definition of a high achiever
to include entrepreneurship in addition to the A*
We need to help the curriculum body to identify relevant subjects for the
requirement to introduce new GCSE and A-levels
Project based learning (design thinking) must be introduced into the
curriculum as an essential skill for every child to equip them with the tools
to be able to solve problems collaborative. This is as important as teaching
every kid to.
Our new champions need to evangelise the benefits of collaboration,
entrepreneurship to multiple audiences, not just schools
In addition, taking entrepreneurship events and forums on-campus that have
until now taken place off-campus will be critical to creating a culture of
entrepreneurship among our student population. Also, better international
integration and utilization of our diaspora will be key to fostering the belief
among our SME CEOs of what is possible and to create a network that can help.
It is important to watch this 4-minute video by Stephen Johnson. It succinctly
sums up the first two:

7.0
Action
In some cases actionable projects are obvious and can start within a few months
and pledges have been made to support their implementation and are listed
below. In other cases we have a general understanding of what will be required
to enable desired change but clarity on solutions may take months or years to
collaboratively figure out. Change at the scale we are talking about will only
happen if every motivated organisation and individual plays a role. The specific
roles for some may take further time and discussion to become clear and in
many cases we just need individuals and organisations to not wait for permission
or discussion and instead to just start doing the things that they can see would
help. A working document containing a list of bespoke asks for stakeholder
organisations has been included in Appendix D outlining clear ways to help or the
need to collaborate to define a role further.
The list of pledges below is a start. We will need much more.
7.1
Safe Space
NISP CONNECT will design and implement a new meetups programme,
taking the facilitation burden to empower the champions to organise.
MeetUps will take a monthly sector focus, consistent with our TechWatch NI
tech blog, and centre on a bear pit debate where representatives from a
local corporation, start-up, research rockstar and an invited guest from
outside, debate the critical infliction point of a market. More information to be
developed. An example list of meetup topics is provided in Appendix E.
NISP CONNECT will host a lot more entrepreneurship content on campus
Young Influencers will drive the Bank of Invention initiative
Action: Actions concerning physical space will require more definition. A working
group of interested volunteers will form to define the physical space asks
requirements further and present to key stakeholders in regions across NI. July /
Aug 2015.
7.2
Education
NISP CONNECT will raise additional resource to adapt and expand our
Generation Innovation programme to:
Deliver a big branding / communications project to change aspirations,
making entrepreneurship sexy beyond A*
Expand programming to engage x10 more kids with ambition
Create an impactful experience for careers teachers and school
principals visiting companies at NISP
Develop Founders4schools in collaboration with YENI, Sentinus, W5 etc
Washington Ireland Program will offer to source trained volunteer mentors
to supporting the NISP CONNECT team in expanding the Generation
Innovation project
CultureTech will offer organizations the opportunity to provide aspiration
changing content to their platform of 50,000 young people per year
Action: form a group of interested volunteers to expand further on the
aspirations, project based learning (PBL) and curriculum recommendations and
present to key education stakeholders in NI. July / Aug 2015.
7.3

Leadership

NEED: All stakeholders to help identify a new annual army of champions from
each sector and from the student body to help develop the social content to
drive new communities in safe spaces.
Action: further definition and simplification of what is required
7.4
Diaspora
Washington Ireland Programme: - Connecting with the Diaspora
There are a number of Irish Americans with significant entrepreneurship track
records who I am sure we could ask to provide support/mentoring mid career
leaders. I think this would be most useful at challenging some of the ambition
barriers you've identified (risk aversion, public sector dependency) in slide 14.
7.5
The requirements of each organisation
A working document containing a list of asks specific to each stakeholder
organisation is included in Appendix D.

8.0
Next Steps
30th June: Definition of clear asks for all stakeholders
30th June: Production of 20 page document providing greater detail
July / Aug / Sept & ongoing: Presentation of findings to key stakeholders
(Gov bodies, industry organisations, etc)
Aug / Sept: education working group refines requirements
Aug / Sept: physical space working group refines requirements
22nd Sept: 2015 Knowledge Economy Index publication: Public presentation
of key findings
Dec 2015: a group update on progress. A coalition of the active.
Ongoing: set metrics, advocacy, evangelising, recruiting new champions and
believers
In 2015/ 2016, NISP CONNECT will again assume an advocacy responsibility to
educate elected and public officials of what we learned from the process and the
specific deliverables that only the government can deliver. Innovation into Action
project participants will be invited to help this advocacy effort and pledges have
already been received from individuals such as Alistair Fee to play this important
role.
9.0
About NISP CONNECT
NISP CONNECT is an independent, non-profit organisation that supports the
development of innovative technologies and early stage companies through a
series of educational seminars, mentorship programmes, capital competitions,
and public policy advocacy. The programmes are driven by the findings of the
Northern Ireland Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) and are guided by the pro bono
contributions of experienced entrepreneurs and executives. NISP CONNECT
accelerates the growth of knowledge-based companies by acting as an honest,
neutral broker and aims to catalyse the commercialisation of world-class
research and intellectual property. A joint effort between the Northern Irelands
academic research base, the University of Ulster, Queens University Belfast, AFBI
(Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute), and Northern Irelands private sector, the
CONNECT programmes are designed to facilitate a culture of collaboration
between the regions highest quality science and technology entrepreneurs,
research institutions, professional services providers and investors.
The Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP), an independent non-profit
organisation, is home to 2,200 scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs
developing the worlds next great products across two campuses in Northern
Ireland: Belfast and Derry. Focused on supporting entrepreneurs NISP runs Halo,
the business angel network for Northern Ireland, and CONNECT.
10.0 Thank you
We would also like to thank everyone who participated in the workshop process
throughout 2015. From the beginning, we were determined that this would not
be just another talking shop, but rather, that the findings would direct a period of
sustained action and advocacy for change in Northern Ireland. This is now under
way. Thank you.
A list of all people who participated in the process is included in the Appendix B.

Lastly, this project would not have happened at all without Trudy Parry of NISP
CONNECT. Trudy kept everyone informed, organised every event and forum
perfectly and maintained a level of participant stimulation with an endless flow of
pizza and caffeinated fizzy drinks. She is a superstar. Special mention too to
Sheila Davidson for some very valuable brainstorming of the shape of the
project.
Methodology summary
A select panel of stakeholders were invited to participate in a four month, multistage process to generate and prioritise the public and private sector ideas that
could have the most transformative impact on propelling NI towards our vision.
Stage
1.1
Stage
1.2
Stage
1.3

March 2015

Setting the challenge Step 1


Series of breakfast briefings to various industry bodies,
meetups, networks, etc
March 2015
Identify the Innovation2Action Forum
Nomination of attendees those who will be attending
the Solutions Summit (Step 1.3)
st
31 March 2015 Setting the Challenge - Step 2
Initial briefing to all identified from Stage1&2 The
Innovation2Action Forum

Stage
2

13th May 2015

Stage
3

3rd June 2015

Refinementto first draft


-presentation back to the group of findings and
recommendations
-group editing / refinement / approval
-pledges of action

Stage
4

June 2015

Presentation 1...
Main findings and recommendations will be presented
to DETI and Invest NI and industry organisations

Stage
5

After June 2015

Stage
6

Solutions Summit - Presentation of ideasAND


agreement on key themes and priorities
*Facilitated 3-4hr -each organisation presents their top 3 ideas [4 mins
dinner (?) session each]
-Steve Presenting -democratic aggregation of ideas into themes
-Facilitation
-challenge and debate and agreement on priorities

Progress Innovation2Action
Presentation of findings and recommendations to Invest
NI, DETI and Enterprise Minister, Industry Organisations
September 2015 Presentation 2...
Main findings and recommendations will be presented
as part of the publication of the Knowledge Economy
Index 2015

Note:
The narrative explaining the findings and conclusions in this document uses a lot
of the original language submitted as raw data into the process by the

participants. In some cases, to summarise this has then explained by established


research thought leaders in more evolved eco-systems. At each stage the
narrative has been represented back to the participants for their approval.

Appendix B

Solutions Summit Participants


First
name
Conor

Surname

Organisation

Challenge

Houston

Young Lawyers / Young


Influencers

Ambition & Innovation

Paul

Beaney

Ulster University

Ambition & Innovation

Tim

Brundle

Matrix

Ambition & Innovation

Michelle

Douglas

Phd candidate

Ambition & Innovation

Alistair

Fee

Mandolin Group

Ambition & Innovation

Patrick

Legett

NI Chamber

Ambition & Innovation

Anton

McGonnell

Ambition & Innovation

Jim

McLaughlin

USNI Mentorship
Programme
Institute of Physics

Kirsty

McManus

Ulster University

Ambition & Innovation

Mark

Nagurski

CultureTech

Ambition & Innovation

Caroline

O'Kane

EnterpriseNI

Ambition & Innovation

Leslie

Orr

ADS

Ambition & Innovation

Sandra

Scannell

NI Chamber

Ambition & Innovation

Michelle

Simpson

OWASP

Ambition & Innovation

Tom

Griffiths

Ambition & Innovation

Chris

McCreery

Young Entrepreneurs
Network
NI Science Festival

Adam

Wallace

FabLabs

Ambition & Innovation

Rory

Campbell

Digital Circle

Collaboration

Peter

Donnelly

Bio Business

Collaboration

Donal

Durkan

Invest NI

Collaboration

Colette

Goldrick

ABPI

Collaboration

Gary

Hamilton

IET

Collaboration

Robert

Hill

ADS

Collaboration

Greg

Maguire

2D3D

Collaboration

Catherine

McGinnis

Design Salon

Collaboration

Ruth

Morrow

QUB

Collaboration

Patricia

O'Hagan

NI Chamber

Collaboration

Emma

Swift

Tech City UK

Collaboration

Ginny

Acha

ABPI

Collaboration

Ambition & Innovation

Ambition & Innovation

Appendix B

Matt

Johnston

Digital Circle

Collaboration

Seamus

Sands

Young Influencers

Collaboration

Ronan

Entrepreneur in
Residence
ECIT

Entrepreneurship

Liz

Cunningha
m
CampbellWest
Conlon

Institute of Physics

Entrepreneurship

Rachel

Gawley

AppAttic

Entrepreneurship

Luke

Humphreys

CCRCB @ QUB

Entrepreneurship

Pauric

McGowan

Ulster University

Entrepreneurship

Mark

O'Donnell

BT & Bank of Invention

Entrepreneurship

Fred

Scharf

Ulster University

Entrepreneurship

Matt

Stewart

Entrepreneurship

Suzi

Waddell

Young Influencers &


Potting shed
Young Influencers

Margaret

Topping

QUB

Entrepreneurship

Conor

Bradley

CCRCB @ QUB

Entrepreneurship

Conann

Fitzpatrick

Ulster University

Entrepreneurship

Bryan

Patten

Entrepreneurship

Anne

Philipson

Washington Ireland
Programme
William J Clinton Inst at
QUB

Fabian

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

Appendix C

Compilation of one sentence answers to the question Why are things


as they are?
1.
Ambition and Innovation
We set the bar of expectation low
and fail to reach it
Our definitions of success are safe, NI-centric and predictable.
Lack of leadership, derived from a fear of failure, insular mindset and overreliance on public sector.
Entrepreneurial ambition inhibited by negative social, cultural and media
attitudes; lack of ambition; fear of failure and high levels of risk aversion
Many SMEs think innovation is someone else's job / it is too complex for them
to engage in.
Political, social, business & economic uncertainty that resulted in short
termism & conservative attitude to risk;
Low levels of both public & private investment within the knowledge
ecosystem & into the skills that drive it;
Muted economic activity, international attractiveness & business success, &
resultant outward migration of skills.
There is no Innovation DNA at a cultural/societal level
Unlike Silicon Valley, Northern Ireland has a weakness in relation to everyone
(Leaders pf Government; Users [Health for example] and Academic) believing
that pipelines of innovation are possible. You really have to experience it
before you believe in it!
The word innovation automatically turns off some SMEs who dont associate
with the term and think of men in white lab coats.
Ireland is a small Market. Many of our indigenous companies are family
owned.
There is personal cost in growing the company and reaching export markets.
Risk aversion and lack of confidence are traits that are commonly recognised
as cultural within Northern Ireland and are inhibitors for ambition and
innovation within business - we need to change this mindset.
The most stifling barriers to innovation and ambition for potential/current
SMEs are employment law, excessive red tape, attractive benefits,
inexperience in back office management.
Our definitions of success are safe, NI-centric and predictable.
2.
Collaboration
Fear of risking own interests leads to aversion to working with others for
mutual benefit: a lack of trust.
We are Human - Sense of fear, lack of trust, lack of awareness, lack of
knowledge and the deciding balance is punishment vs reward
Limited appetite & capacity among our SMEs to collaborate externally and
engage in International R&D
Transaction related barriers E.G. IP ownership issues
Despite world-renowned biomedical achievements Northern Ireland is not
viewed globally as a place of creating, developing or early-adopting
innovation.
Reasons I give myself to avoid
Required commitment, looks like a talk-shop, lack of relevance, no benefit to
me.

Appendix C

Stakeholders in NI are still cautious of collaboration and sharing of ideas


Universities and schools teach us that competition is good but they should
teach us that collaboration is better.
Modest culture
Skeptical to share ideas
..is culturally restricted
by ingrained tactics of survival i.e sticking to your own,
and structurally negated
- by top-down bureaucratic structures and professional silos that keep us
apart.
Interventions and support from government are top down, with policy makers
in charge making them fragmented and ineffective.
Research is driven mainly by the biggest researchers (the Universities) to
their own agenda.
Industry is tactical and focused on keeping the lights on.
Our culture is insular and we arent open to sharing or trusting others. We
currently dont have a custom of collaboration and fail to see the value or
opportunity that it can bring.
Normal environment of business seen as competitive
Fear and lack of trust among individuals (fear f stealing ideas)
Do not see/understand the benefits that can come from investing time in
community and collaboration
Not celebrated within the wider NI community
A vision of it being a small market (i.e. Northern Ireland) breeds competition

3
Entrepreneurship
Changing the status quo is hard. Can we make it easier to weigh up the
payoffs of potential success versus failure?
Lack of independent thinking, dependency culture, failure-averse + lack of
confidence products of education system + no-can do attitude
Education system, especially from year 11 onwards
Lack of advice on Financial/Legal aspects of starting a business
Guideline: Establish Multi-disciplinary teams who can project manage
elements of starting a business
Why are things as they are? Entrepreneurial Learning (EL) is reasonably well
understood but there is a view that one-size-fits all that, arguably, is not be
sensitive enough to the SET context, a context which is also too focused on
R&D and not nearly enough on educating those who might seek to exploit it
The culture.
Theres a lack of a visible community in N.I when it comes to creative people
coming together to share ideas.
Being an entrepreneur needs to be seen as a viable career path.
Because the status quo has never been meaningfully and constructively
challenged.
Previous attempts to achieve change were disjointed and never gathered
sufficient momentum.
The two options for post degree employment are given as Industry based or
Research based.
No focus on Entrepreneurship as a career choice.

Appendix C

Most Engineering Students have never heard of NISP or similar


organizations/projects/initiatives.
There is a lack of connection with the true concept and practice of
entrepreneurship.
To most, it is a high-level, inaccessible pursuit reserved for a selective few
who hold extraordinary attributes/skills.
We have a problem with ambition / innovation and lack the density of
business and technical talent to convert enough ambition and innovation into
enterprise.

Appendix E

BESPOKE ASKS OF EACH STAKEHOLDER


This list is a working document and will develop further in the months leading up
to the main publication of the 2015 Knowledge Economy Index on 22 nd
September. The asks of each stakeholder will evolve as the ideas to create
change at scale become clearer too. For example, if we agree that Northern
Ireland needs a 5-year 5 to 9 national campaign for volunteers in every town
and city to commitment 1 evening per week to this cause by:
Helping kids to develop hardware or software products
Sharing ideas on the latest sector needs or solutions
This will have different asks of different stakeholders. The two most important
will be the NI Executive and the media. The list below is an unfinished first draft
and will be developed collaboratively with others:
Universities

IET, BCS

Students

CBI, IOD,
Chamber

Enterprise NI and
City Councils

Each year, nominate the 2 student leaders most


likely to innovate from relevant schools to join the
meetups organising team and produce at least one
major event and 4 meetups per year.
Identify and donate venues where meetups can
occur on-campus or a gritty hip venue close
proximity to campus
Evangelise 5 to 9 innovation volunteering to staff
and students
Host Springboard panels on-campus for students to
sit at the back of the room or join the panel if
domain expertise matches
Brainstorm and execute further ideas of open
access events or forums that only the universities
organisation can organise
Each year, nominate a number of 30-something
leaders most obsessed with innovation to join the
meetups organising team and produce at least one
major event and 4 meetups per year
Evangelise 5 to 9 innovation volunteers
Brainstorm and execute further ideas of events or
forums that only those organisations can organise
Nominated student leaders to help organise
meetups
Nominated student leaders to help to figure out the
comms challenge to promote meetups etc, to the
student body
Brainstorm and execute further ideas of events or
forums that only students can organise
Evangelise 5 to 9 innovation volunteering
Brainstorm and execute further ideas of events or
forums that only those organisations can organise
Collaboratively develop a model of meetups that
will work in each of the new council areas. For
example, INVENT regional meetups and heats
Every council / LEA make space available against

Appendix E

NI Executive

Invest NI

DEL
DETI

DE

Elected officials

Schools

Generation
Innovation
Media

the desired spec host a Bank of Invention


Start to lead on a vision centred on hope and
aspiration, not discord
Commit to a five-year campaign to celebrate
entrepreneurship and Innovate 5 to 9.
Collaboratively brainstorm opportunities for unique
intervention
Fund more phds for goodnesssake
Support the cause
Influence the NI Executive to celebrate
entrepreneurship and evangelise a 5 year 5 to 9
campaign to mobilise new people into this space.
Influence education agenda
Collaboratively brainstorm ideas of unique
intervention
Evangelise entrepreneurship in schools
Introduce PBL design thinking into the curriculum
(more to be defined)
Start to lead on a vision centred on hope and
aspiration, not discord
Celebrate entrepreneurship
Explore the further rollout of Founders for Schools
Every careers teachers to come to NISP and spend
time in an innovation company
Every school adopt an entrepreneur hero
Nominate kids into generation innovation
Nominate the rockstar kids onto the meetups
organising teams
Celebrate entrepreneurs
Shine some light to success stories instead of
endless focus on the negative

Appendix E

Example of sector themes for MeetUps


1. Cyber security
2. Analytics
3. Sports Innovation
4. Fintech
5. Connected home
6. Connected health
7. AgTech
8. Diagnositics
9. edTech
10.Quantified self
11.Telecoms
12.Oncology
13.SAAS / B2b
14.Gaming
15.Aerospace / transport Advanced materials MediaTech
16.Engineering
17.eCommerce
18.Crypto currency