What are we doing about the Internet of Things?

While the shadow of Delorean still looms large above our public sector and its processes, others are celebrating its unintended vision of the future in movie legend. All have spotted the film’s complete lack of reference to the internet, even though the film premiered in the same year the once secret ARPANET, the basis for the internet, was released to the public.

The Northern Ireland of 2015 is fully engaged with all things internet. Our fibres connect us directly to the Atlantic circuits and position us strategically at the heart of the web’s glassy backbone. In consequence, trillions of digital dollars of foreign exchange flow through our wee land and one of our internet sales platforms has passed its £Billion sales mark, making accessible to the world our unique products and services.

In our recent Knowledge Economy Index, we showed that one in ten of our jobs now depend on such activity and that salaries are high but sustainable, because the sales on which they are based are mostly from outside of Northern Ireland. Continued development of these assets and our strategic positioning is undoubtedly a key part of our future intended balanced economy.

“And’s there’s more!” as our stand-up from Tyrone used to say.

A decade on from “Back to the Future II” another entrepreneurial academic, Kevin Ashton, coined the phrase “The Internet of Things” (IoT). This is the network of “things” bristling with sensors and software and connected to the world of the internet, often wirelessly.

Anyway, judging by the e-mails coming through my inbox, IoT is back on the agenda, big time. This reflects the spirit of Derry/Londonderry Chamber President Gerry Kindlon’s excellent speech, at the Chamber’s recent dinner, when he suggested forcefully that it was time to make the most of what we have and cease so much effort on what we have not. With an economy built on Agri-Food, Tourism, Health and Life Science, Advanced Engineering and ICT, IoT should be high on our agenda.

This was evident at our recent INVENT awards, which showcases our most innovative products with the biggest global commercial potential. The winner of the Electronics category and overall winner was PicoPuf with a security solution for IoT. A spinout from Queen’s University Centre for Secure Information Technologies, located at the Science Park, the team have invented a tiny semiconductor IP core that provides strong, unique authentication for even the cheapest microchip, basically securing smart devices from being hacked, something that is at the forefront of all our minds with the recent breach at Talk Talk.

IoT figures also high in robotics, and the early commitment and expertise in IoT technology within companies like Sphere Global in Derry and the talent created in our universities is taking the world by storm. We must, however, ensure that the benefits are offered and brought effectively to all our relevant businesses in all our sectors.

Following the success of one of the other category winners in our INVENT competition, Skunk Works (our very own innovative Surf Board maker), we introduced them to Sphere Global. It may not be a hoverboard but it’s going to be made and marketed at the state of 2015 art. Just watch it take off!

Knowledge Economy Second Fastest in Northern Ireland

Last week saw the publication of the Knowledge Economy Index report, commissioned by NI Science Park CONNECT and sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK. The report confirmed the NI Knowledge Economy as the second fastest growing in the UK.

For a region that prides itself on its academic prowess, it is surely good news that we can now say, categorically, that one in ten jobs is knowledge dependent and that our Knowledge Economy makes up 10% of our total Gross Value Add.

Better still, our Knowledge Economy is export led, with £17 of every £20 being earned from outside the six counties. Knowledge workers, with salaries 50% higher than average, are well paid and affordably so, for their productivity is the highest of all our sectors.

In addition, for every job created in the Knowledge Economy one more is created in the wider economy. Best of all, the evidence shows that the Knowledge Economy grew quickly through the dark days of 2008/9 and continues today, despite other economic worries. The world remains hungry for knowledge-based products and services, and if we don’t provide what we can offer, others will.


“Knowledge” entered the lexicon of the economists as long ago as the 1960s, when the concept of “Knowledge Workers” first appeared in “The Landmarks of Tomorrow”, the 1959 seminal work by the now famous economist and business thinker, Peter Drucker.

Wikipedia defines knowledge workers as those whose main capital is knowledge, with typical examples including computer programmers, engineers and scientists. Pragmatically, at the Science Park, we use the definition of those who are degree (or equivalent) educated and use that knowledge daily at work.

The Knowledge Economy Index report identified some areas of concern particularly in skills. In a nutshell, essentially everybody will need tertiary education. Retention of information alone is not enough (that can be got in spades from the internet); what is needed is the ability to turn data and information into useful knowledge for the task in hand.

On top of that, all must be literate, numerate and have sufficient personal qualities to join a multinational team, to communicate with customers the world over and, particularly, to keep on learning. That is because new technology continues to change the world at large in terms of the way things are done and resources are used.


This means increasing our investment in STEAM education and supporting more PhD places. Our academic achievers in the top quartile are part of our Knowledge Economy success but it will not continue while the disgrace of our bottom quartile is left untouched.

Matrix, the Science Industry panel for NI, recently confirmed in its Health and Life Science report (and in the one soon to be released on ICT) the continuing prospects within the Knowledge Economy. However, it also affirmed that we must continue our efforts to increase our talent pool, the available risk capital for such projects and our cultural appetite to take on the risks and opportunities so afforded.

If we can do that, we are on the right road sustainably to balance our economy.


Matrix, the Science Industry panel for NI, recently confirmed in its Health and Life Science report (and in the one soon to be released on ICT) the continuing prospects within the Knowledge Economy. However, it also affirmed that we must continue our efforts to increase our talent pool, the available risk capital for such projects and our cultural appetite to take on the risks and opportunities so afforded.

If we can do that, we are on the right road sustainably to balance our economy.

Norman’s News: GCSE Students Can Help Transform Knowledge Economies

Was it a coincidence that 13th August, the date young people across Northern Ireland, England and Wales received their GCE results, was also one of the best days, weather-wise, we have had this summer?

It was very encouraging to see the analysis of the GCE results. First of all, congratulations to all of our young people sitting ‘A’ Levels. Young people in increasing numbers are staying on in education and we continue to see excellent results with a pass rate A*-E at 98.2%. 

Congratulations also to our GCSE students, with the number of entries awarded A* to C grades increasing to 78.7%. In GSCE, like in A Level, Maths was the most popular subject in terms of entrants, while the proportion of entries in STEM subjects overall (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) grew by 3%.

At the NI Science Park our vision is for the transformation of the Northern Ireland economy into one of the most entrepreneurial Knowledge Economies across Europe by 2030. An ambitious target, but one that we know we will be able to achieve given the entrepreneurial and innovative talent we are fortunate to have in Northern Ireland.

One of the critical success factors is the continuing growth in innovative start-ups and the number of jobs. This means that we must inspire more of our young people to aspire to careers in the STEM industries.

At the Science Park we to want more of our young people to opt for STEM subjects and the good news, based on the results, is that it looks like they are getting the message. (In GCE entries for Maths grew by 8.6% this year alone). This is particularly important given the growth of the Knowledge Economy. Studying Mathematics at ‘A’ Level helps to develop the skills employers are looking for, such as critical thinking and provides a strong foundation whatever pathway is chosen.

Encouraging more young women into the STEM industries is important to us, and our own Director of Development, Joanne Stuart, Chair of the NI STEM Business Group, is a passionate advocate and has been involved with initiatives such as the STEM Charter. This partnership with the Equality Commission NI aims to encourage and promote best practice within the STEM industries and aims to address the gender gap by helping employers to attract and retain more women within their businesses.

There is more visibility of women who are successfully working in the STEM industries and who are role models for others. This year’s results showed an increase in the number of females studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. We now must encourage them to continue with STEM subjects, whether through higher or further education and into a career in industry.

Later this month we will be publishing our fifth annual Knowledge Economy Index report which charts our progress towards our ambitious 2030 targets. I am unable to give much away before then, but I can say that we are on the right trajectory and continue to move in the right direction towards our targets. This is good news for everybody, but in particular our young people, as it shows that there are a growing number of opportunities in Northern Ireland and studying the STEM subjects is a good foundation to build from.

Norman’s News: A letter from South Africa

In June this year I had the opportunity to go to South Africa combining business and pleasure. The visit was a tremendous experience.

In the Kruger Park, a space bigger than Northern Ireland, animals live free and wild. With an expert guide, humans can connect with their roots and witness animal behaviour in the raw but more often with family concern, than red in tooth and claw. All across Sub-Saharan Africa, SSA, there are precious places that somehow or other all humans should experience.

Recent assessments recognise this vast land, rich with natural resources and inherently fertile but lacking water and other infrastructure, must find a way to balance its needs, while keeping the best of what is already there. It must conquer its need for power and its unreliable connectivity in the context of its challenging environments, human and natural. In short, it must develop an engineering base in all disciplines of that subject but it must do it whilst respecting the cultures that have gone before. It must develop the new skills without losing the old skills that enable people to live in these grand but forbidding places (to the uninitiated and especially after dark).

Yet as a continent, SSA produces the fewest engineers per head of population of any in the world. Universal education is already recognised as key and is becoming widely available. It is becoming obvious that there remains a cultural barrier and unless the young are encouraged to use it, from a very young age, simply having the provision is not sufficient. They need new role models to show the way.

That is why the Royal Academy of Engineering and its sponsors decided to create the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. It looks very much like our INVENT competition, with even the same size prize fund (for the sub-continent, mind you, compared to our Kruger Park scale)!

The winner was a nanotechnologist from Tanzania.

Dr Askwar Hilonga had gone to Korea to do a PhD in the subject, publishing 35 papers en route. Then, on a trip home, with new eyes, he saw his sister and mother draw their water from a pond that they shared, not just with other people, but with elephants and other animals. If that wasn’t bad enough, he learned that others in his country had to use water contaminated by the heavy metal aftermath of mining.

So he set his mind to the problem and developed a novel water purification system, well-tuned to Tanzania’s environment, where it will be used and serviced. He proved that it competes well in price with piping and very well with bottling. He has received government certification for its effectiveness and sales too. All this he told, in a passionate pitch to an engineering audience and the final judges taken from Africa’s growing investment community.

We had our poster boy!

We met up with this young man the following day on a tour of Cape Town’s wine industry but clearly this was of little or no interest to this confirmed teetotaller. All he wanted to do was to get back home with his £25k prize money and get back to work. In fact all our finalists are discussing investments and beach-head sales.

Africa has a saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I think she is mustering fast for the long economic push.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; we too need to get this message, fast!

Norman’s News: Mobile is Everything

The NI Science Park was recently delighted to host the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) annual Prestige Lecture by Belfast native, Michael O’Hara. Michael is Chief Marketing Officer of the industry group GSMA, which governs the world’s burgeoning use of mobile telephony. He explained to us all how this technology revolution is transforming the way we work and play.

“Today there are more than 7.5 billion mobile connections across the globe, a very significant number given that the mobile industry has only existed for a relatively short time.

“The rapid spread of mobile technology has had a profound impact globally, spanning many aspects of economic, political and social life, contributing to everything from cross-sector innovation to GDP growth. In 2014 the mobile industry, which didn’t exist 30 years ago, contributed 3.8% of global GDP and employed nearly 13 million people.

“We see the impact of mobile technology in three distinct areas.

“Firstly, there is the ability for mobile to connect more people to the Internet across the globe. We expect to connect another 2 billion by 2020, giving them access to the amazing transformative power of the mobile Internet. This allows consumers in developing markets to improve their education and health, to access the financial system for the first time and it is a great tool for developing business and commerce.

“The second area of impact is inter-connecting every device in our lives. This may be a car, a health monitor or wearable fitness solution, a utility meter, a toothbrush, or even a robotic brewing solution, aka NI company Brewbot. We firmly believe that there is not a device out there that is not made better by the addition of mobile technology.

“The third area of impact is that of identifying people. Our belief is that your mobile identity will become a key element in your life in the future, allowing you securely to access a huge variety of online services.”

So how will Northern Ireland benefit? Michael thinks there are three key areas for our attention.

  1. We need to ensure that we have 100% of our people using the latest 4G LTE mobile technology. In leading countries like South Korea, nearly 80% of the population have a 4G connection; here, this figure is less than 20%.
  2. We need to ensure that services in our cities are mobile enabled. We should be able to pay in shops, on trains and buses with a wave of our mobile device. All of our public services need to be optimized for mobile and we need location-based services around the city that enrich the lives of both residents and visitors.
  3. Finally, we need to ensure that we are making data sets of crucial information available to web and mobile app developers. By exposing important information like train and bus schedules we will enrich and enable future mobile services.

“More than anything”, says Michael, “Taking these three important steps will create a new wave of innovative mobile companies in Northern Ireland, companies that will ride the global mobile wave into the future and drive new jobs and opportunities for everyone here.”

I think he’s right. Mobile is everything. We just need to grab a piece.

GSMA run the annual Mobile World Congress, which takes place in Barcelona in 2016 from 22-25 February and will attract close to 100,000 visitors. A date for the diary!

Norman’s News: X Prize – the final frontier!

One of the enjoyable things about this column is the opportunity to write about the successes in Northern Ireland. This week I have asked Professor James McLaughlin, the internationally distinguished physicist-cum-engineer, to tell us about Team zensor, the successful collaboration he is leading in the X Prize- the engineering competition to create a real life “Dr Spock Tricorder”.

His day job is as Director of the Engineering Research Institute (ERI) and Director of the Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC) at Ulster’s Jordanstown campus. He is supported by principal engineer Ian McCullough.

“When I used to sit in front of the television, watching the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, the last thing I ever expected was to be in the last eight teams of a global competition and aiming to make 50 practical, working medical tricorders by the end of May 2015!” writes Professor Jim McLaughlin.

“Then a few years ago, the X prize Foundation, based in California, launched its prestigious Qualcomm Tricorder Competition. The aim was the development of a consumer-focused, mobile device much like the medical body scanner featured in the Star Trek® TV and film shows. The ‘tricorder’ has to be capable of diagnosing and interpreting a set of 15 medical conditions and capturing five vital health metrics.

“Such challenges are daunting and require not only advances in scientific fields such as artificial intelligence, wireless sensing, lab-on-a-chip, and molecular biology, but also detailed knowledge of clinical medicine and patient care. Considering our 20 years of building our capacity and our links in Bio-engineering, locally and across the world, I knew we were ready to give it a go!

“We formed Team zensor, comprising Intelesens, an Ulster spin-out and designer of remote vital signs monitors; The Connected Health Innovation Centre – funded by InvestNI and based at UU; NIBEC’s Dr Jeremy Hamilton; International clinical diagnostics leader, Randox Laboratories, represented by Dr Mary Jo Kurth, a top-drawer biochemist; Ciga Healthcare led by Irwin Armstrong, a renowned cardiology consultant; and Dr David McEneaney from the Southern Trust. We recently added Scanadu, who are based in Silicon Valley.

“Over three years ago we mustered and set off to compete against some 300 teams from around the world. Last September, we heard we were in the final 10. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because I knew that in the final stages, it would require a significant commitment. Now I know it was all worthwhile, even if we don’t win.

“We have developed a wearable ECG, respiration, SpO2, and activity monitor with on-board arrhythmia algorithms and a set of blood diagnostics that transmit irregularities directly to the clinician via Wi-Fi. In other words, we have produced an ‘in your hand laboratory’ that will diagnose from blood/ urine and throat a range of diseases, transmit it to your mobile phone once prompted by an in-house symptom checker and relay information to the cloud, clinician and end user. Even a novel spirometer from Vitalograph has been integrated into the system.

“That this device has the potential to revolutionise healthcare by lowering hospital costs and diagnosing patients earlier is already coming obvious in our tests on real people.”

It is great to hear that as consumers are becoming more and more informed on their own health, we are developing innovative technology in NI that will benefit all of us. Three winners will be announced in 2016 with a top prize of over £4 million. Good luck to the team!

Norman’s News: The story of Robert the Bruce still has meaning today

The story of Robert the Bruce is taught with mothers’ milk to the young of County Antrim. One lad who certainly took heed was glensman, Eoin Lambkin.

After many years away, he came back on a business trip around the time the Science Park had just started around 10 years ago. Northern Ireland, he reasoned, was getting itself connected and entrepreneurial, so he moved home and became a tenant at the Science Park, with an unusual business request – to use our “crow’s nest” for a US innovation, ArrayCom, which was sweeping across cities like Cape Town and Sydney to provide secure, high-speed, mobile internet.

ArrayCom was the latest product of the fertile mind of Marty Cooper, whom many call the father of the mobile or cell phone. Marty is famous for making the first ever call on his invention, outside the office of the Bell Telephone Company, to its President, just to rub in his success, after that company had turned him down.

As I understand it, he was never truly happy about the way that mobiles had evolved and in particular how wasteful they were when handling data streams. As a result, he invented ArrayCom and elected to release it, by license, in small bite-size chunks to entrepreneurs all around the world simultaneously. The radio technology works in conjunction with fibre access as “back-haul”, jargon for direct connection to trunk fibre such as we have at the Science Park.

Eoin was part of a small team of entrepreneurs who invested in ArrayCom, to bring it to the Irish market under their brand, i-Burst. To this end, they had to secure radio spectrum and demonstrate applications that would impress the regulators on both sides of the border and offer opportunities for making a return. The Innovation Centre became a test-bed for the Kyocera electronics, the “dongle” that connected a laptop and all the applications that Eoin’s imagination could provide.

Some examples of how the technology was used included – The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), where a Wrightbus was equipped to prove that passengers felt safer if the CCTV images were streamed off-bus, and at Belfast Harbour where the pilot boat was fitted out to provide mobile internet when a ship was to be met in the reaches of Belfast Lough.

Eoin also found his way to Tim Robbin’s film crew when they came to shoot on an Olsen oil rig and threw them a radio link to the internet. Apparently never before had Robbins been able to take his accountant into the field or Skype to his then wife, Susan Sarandon. Richard Attenborough was next with “The Ring”, when Cave Hill became Black Mountain for the film, otherwise our line of sight would have been absent!

The result was another first, a whole island radio spectrum license!

Sadly though, it came too late for Eoin’s investors, who hadn’t heard about Robert the Bruce and the spider who never gave up! The partnership dissolved and the spectrum license was the only asset remaining. Eoin, who has turned his talents to other ventures and gives his time to mentor others, told me the other day that a Chinese venture has now acquired the spectrum license. We should look again for interesting applications from a culture in which Robert the Bruce would be the epitome of impatience!

Mentorship: a key factor in a Knowledge Economy

As you read this article, I shall be helping to receive a delegation of Korean engineers to the Royal Academy of Engineering. They are on a learning mission and, like me, you might be wondering what we in the UK can teach engineers of a nation which includes some of the world’s largest and most powerful conglomerates, the Chaebols.

In fact, Britain’s largest ship, the CMA CGM Kerguelen, which is longer than the Shard is tall, and can transport almost 200,000 tonnes of goods, has just arrived into UK waters as part of its maiden voyage. It was built at the Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard in South Korea before being delivered to French company CMA CGM to be christened and sent on her profit making way.

Almost certainly before long a considerable amount of that tonnage will consist of products from the Samsung Chaebol. In only 20 years the company and its government, acting in partnership, has made Samsung Electronics one of the world’s strongest brands, known for sleek design, great technology and good value. Anything with a screen, from a mobile phone, to a laptop, or a giant 3D television is likely to have been made at least partly by them.

I guess that’s my first point. The most enviable eastern characteristic is the desire for continuous improvement through endless learning and from any source willing to share.

My first encounter with Samsung Electronics was during my time at defence technology company, Qinetiq, in connection with an issue of display patents. We had previously successfully negotiated with the Japanese, and based our approach to the South Korean’s in the same vein. With hindsight, our repetition of this approach was ludicrous but we might have continued fruitlessly, had not a fellow display researcher from the company taken us to one side and told us simply and forcefully, “We are not Japanese; think of us like Americans with Asian patience. You will have to spell out which products and product parts, and in which markets they are sold and which patents apply: i.e. do the work and we’ll respect you!”

As a matter of information, “doing the work” would bring wrath from Japanese and inhibit a partnership for years. So it transpired and a fair settlement was reached- money for Qinetiq and no harm to the growth of Samsung!

This is what you might call the brotherhood of engineering and it is with this spirit that we are meeting in London to debate what makes a good Academy of Engineering.

My topic is Mentorship and it must be one of the most important factors in the profession. As young engineers progressing in prowess on their way to Chartered Education status, they are assigned a mentor whose job it to guide the young engineer, practically and morally, remembering that faulty engineering can kill!

Mentorship is also essential to help the young make the most commercially from their ideas, for their economy and for themselves. I am glad to report that, thanks to our learning from CONNECT and the teaching of Halo, we are becoming well known for our success. NISP CONNECT really allows safe testing and development of a business model, while Halo helps make the best of it in the all-important pitch.

I’ll be interested in the Chaebol reaction!

Norman’s News: Catapulting to economic success after the Election

I wonder what the election results last week will mean for science and its role in the economy.

By the time you read this, we’ll all know who won or didn’t win the Westminster election. Perhaps the wrangling over forming a coalition will still not be over. One thing I hope is that science, and its rightful place in the national economy, will get more priority than it seemed to get in the hustings.

I heard mention of it once, in the comedy/ satirical “Have I Got News for You”, when Ian Hislop (I think) said, “We‘re going to get at least two more Catapult centres, whatever they are!” Well, Ian, for your benefit and many others, I expect, Catapults (organisations set up by Innovate UK to promote research and development) were one outcome of the last election. Both major parties had espoused Engineering and Science from different philosophies and with different champions, Hermann Hauser and James Dyson, now both Knights of the Realm and rightly so.

The ideas produced by both men, based on their experience of other countries, were fused into a set of centres of expertise, to spearhead the national endeavour not just to solve a major challenge of the day, but to do it in a way which would add to the economy.

There are currently seven centres: Cell Therapy – based at Guys Hospital, London; Connected Digital Economy – based in King’s Cross, London; Future Cities – based in Borough, London; High Value Manufacturing – based in Solihull; Offshore Renewable Energy – based in Glasgow; Satellite Applications – based at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and Transport Systems – based in Milton Keynes.

Two further centres will be established in 2015, as referenced on ‘Have I Got News for You’ – Energy Systems and Precision Medicine. Each Catapult centre is expected to raise funds equally from three sources: business-funded R&D contracts, collaborative applied R&D projects and core public funding, all to be won competitively.

Catapults have had criticism, not least by the two men whose work was their inspiration; however I would suggest that unalloyed success in a single parliamentary term was too much to hope for.

Instead, I would suggest the issues were all contained in the word “competitively”. As we know ourselves from our Competence and other Centres, getting all the competitively funded ducks in proper alignment of time and target, is not a challenge for the faint hearted.

We in Northern Ireland have an interest in many of these centres, even the Satellite Applications centre, you might be surprised to know. As a result, we have been a tad grumpy that none has come our way in Northern Ireland. This is, I think, a futile wish.

During the election campaign, we received a visit from Dick Elsy, the Director of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult; this is the oldest and, by many accounts, the most successful of the breed. He told us that, all being well, he would be focussing on a hub and spoke model with quality two-way communication. This sounds promising as a way for us to engage, participate and hopefully to benefit from the Catapults.

Our economy is still developing its clusters, high value manufacturing, personalised and connected health, high value and traceable agri-foods and enterprise software, as well as other ICT products and services. Hence we need to source from, and contribute to, most if not all of the national Catapults.

I trust not just more Catapults, but a truly national way of working for all Catapults, will appear somewhere reasonably high up in the priority list of our new government, whatever its make-up.

Norman’s News: C’mere there’s more for Randox

My wife and I were pleased and privileged to attend the Randox Point-to-Point horse race recently. This was effectively a glorious celebration of genetics and heritage. The event, we learned, has a long tradition founded in Ireland which began with a couple of farmers and horse breeders who wanted to show off their prowess with an impromptu race over their farms. It’s a considerably more scientific enterprise today, at least in breeding, treating and feeding terms, but the thrill of seeing, feeling (even as it thunders by), and wagering on a ton of horse muscle is as ancient as the hills.

But c’mere, there’s more, as a famous Irish comedian said as his catch phrase. The sponsor Randox, and its founder and owner, are also no slouches when it comes to genetics and modern diagnostics. Peter Fitzgerald and his creation are one of our new stars of responsible entrepreneurialism and why not celebrate their achievement, which is astonishing even to those who follow the knowledge economy.

I think the success would surprise even Bostonian professor Michael Best, who singled out Peter some fifteen years ago, as one to espouse, at a time when we were seeking solutions in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement. I would remind you that this was a time when we couldn’t absorb even a quarter of the year’s engineering graduates and when the full sequencing of the human genome was not yet complete.


I can’t recall all of Randox’s impressive numbers, and they come thick and fast, but one that stands out is that this company, from a standing start, has invented and now supplies a significant percentage of the global market in medical and related tests. Randox technology assists doctors to achieve their goal of ever faster diagnosis in evidence-based medicine. It ensures pilots and others are fit for their duties. It quality assures us, and those importers of our agricultural products, of their quality and purity.

For some time now I have been wrestling with how to explain the multiplier effect of the knowledge economy. Formal econometrics here yield only a factor of two. In the US, however, companies like Boeing can claim a multiplier of eight: 8 related jobs are created for each one of theirs in the Greater Seattle area.

Just recently the Royal Academy of Engineering showed that engineers are now all pervasive in the economy at large and create over one third of the national gross value add. Randox, as one knowledge company of less than two thousand people, is influencing globally the travel, agri-food and medical industries of millions of employees. That multiplier does not come without effort and planning, however, and that’s maybe why it’s so hard to track down.

The Point-to-Point event in question was attended by senior people of most of our political parties. I hope the significance of this company and its impact on our economy is being truly recognised by them. Whoever comes into power will need to ensure all the policies and processes are in place for all our people to benefit from the risk-taking leadership of our entrepreneurs, if we are to make our way successfully in the world of the 21st Century.

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