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Boom and Brexit: Could 2021 be a year of prosperity for the Tech Sector in Northern Ireland?

The ‘B’ word is one that we have heard frequently since that fateful day in June 2016, when we took to the ballot box to vote on whether or not we would remain in the EU. Fast-forward four years and as we prepared for Brexit to officially take hold, we were also battling a global pandemic which saw almost every part of life as we know it change. The very idea of Brexit brought with it uncertainty. How would data be shared between the UK and the EU? How will this affect the clients we work with? What happens if there is a border in the Irish Sea? The list goes on…

For the tech sector here in Northern Ireland, Brexit holds opportunity. This is a statement that some may be surprised to hear. For years, large and well-known companies have recognised the tech talent and prosperity in Northern Ireland, creating bases here to tap into our talented workforce. But now, more than ever, we’re seeing the rise of small businesses in the tech sector here who have recognised their own potential and created amazing companies and products. It could be argued that Brexit will, in some ways, assist tech companies large and small as we head into a year that will hopefully bring stability, clarity and calm.

Despite its challenges, 2020 opened horizons for the digital world. Without the likes of Zoom or Microsoft Teams, we would have been lost on both a personal and professional level, meaning more and more people are beginning to understand that technology is something not to be feared, but to be celebrated.

Traditionally, my first port of call with a new or prospective client would be to educate them on exactly how our products and software could streamline their processes.

Yet this year, it has been evident that there is a much better understanding and awareness of software and technology as we have become proficient with the digital world, against a backdrop of more software and tech companies setting up shop here. This is backed up by recent data shared by property website Zoopla, which saw Belfast named the best UK city for tech lovers to live.

A question Brexit does raise, however, is travel between the UK and EU, not only for the tech sector, but for business as a whole.

As someone who splits my time between our offices in Bonn, London and Holywood, I wondered how Brexit would change this. Never did I expect a global pandemic to come first and show us all a new way of working, which has essentially taught us that travel is not always a necessity.

Having been able to successfully expand our team in Bonn while working remotely, it has proven that despite COVID and Brexit, or whatever life may throw at us in 2021, we are more than capable of adapting for business growth.

We still aren’t 100% sure what Brexit has in store for us and it will by no means be an easy ride, but it will also see Northern Ireland take a unique position by remaining in the Single Market. Could this lead to an economic flux and a tech sector boom? The potential is there.

Personally, I hope that 2021 will allow for the Northern Ireland business world to find independence and individuality. I hope we move away from divisions of old and work together to help inspire the next generation of tech companies to thrive in our new normal.

Adam is the Chief Revenue Officer for 3EN Group Ltd, one of the world’s leading Oracle NetSuite Enterprise Resource Management Solutions Partners, operating across Europe and the US. Their mission being to drive growth and efficiency for organisations world-wide through NetSuite, the #1 cloud business management system.

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