by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

The unique combination of talent, research and innovation in Belfast is driving the city’s burgeoning cyber tech sector and is making the rest of the world sit up and take notice with international business now following talent over geography according to  Brian Castleberry, the VP of International Investment and Trade at the Maryland Department of Commerce.   The US trade official stated that the growing opportunities in the cyber cluster in Belfast are based on its talent pool of graduates, researchers and entrepreneurs alongside an affordable cost of living and its well-respected research institutions.


Brian Castleberry was in Belfast to build cyber relationships between Belfast and his home city of Baltimore in the State of Maryland and he was hosted by Belfast Trade and Investment specialists OCO Global meeting companies that are seeking to invest and grow their footprint within the cyber industry.


Brian and the State of Maryland have been working with OCO across targeted trade and investment areas to foster partnerships between the two regions.  Last month the Department of Commerce in Maryland and the Department for Economy in Northern Ireland signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build economic collaboration in the tech and cyber sectors.


Speaking at an event on cyber technology hosted by OCO and Tughans Solicitors, Brian said “Belfast represents a substantial growth and investment opportunity for international companies in a global trade environment that is moving increasingly towards city to city trade links. The offering of the city’s vibrant cyber cluster is supported by broader considerations which are important for international companies such as the availability of talent and access to ground-breaking technology.”


In recent years, there has been a targeted focus from business to grow investment within second tier cities, which reside outside a nation’s capital but produce a significant contribution to the national economy. A recent report by Monster ranked Belfast as one of the best cities to develop a digital career outside of London. Reflecting this, the Northern Ireland Department of Economy has targeted 5,000 cyber security professional working in the city by 2030.


Mark O’ Connell, CEO of OCO Global commented, “Belfast is a city with considerable potential due to its high standard of education and density of young, skilled workers. The cyber-cluster that has been created here shares almost identical characteristics to Baltimore in relation to their tech offering and because of this, it proved a natural fit in creating a new trade relationship between the two cities. OCO has also worked with Invest NI since 2003, supporting their trade programmes and missions. With this insight and experience we are perfectly positioned to accelerate and facilitate the relationship between the two cities which will help to further drive innovation and investment in the NI economy.”


The event hosted by OCO and Tughans Solicitors, who are providing expertise around IP, compliance and risk mitigation, saw cyber companies from across Belfast including Anaeko and SaltDNA, alongside industry bodies such as Digital DNA and Technation in attendance to hear from global trade, investment and legal experts on the opportunities for international expansion in the cyber space.


During his trip to Belfast, Brian is also meeting with Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland.


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Mark O' Connell, CEO of OCO Global, Brian Castleberry, VP of International Investment and Trade at the Maryland Department of Commerce and Adrian O’Connell, Partner Tughans


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