Over 200 secondary school pupils from across Northern Ireland discovered how innovation can help them carve out a successful future in the competitive world of business at the Showcasing Innovation Exhibition, at Blackstaff Studios in Belfast today.
Held as part of Invest Northern Ireland’s Innovation Week 21-24 March, the event aimed to address current and future attitudinal barriers to innovation by helping to stimulate future industry leaders and raise awareness of the benefits of a focus on R&D and innovation.
Schools from Belfast, Newtownabbey and Lisburn learnt about the importance of innovation from local businessman Jonathan Knight whose creative and innovative approach to business has helped his firm, Redraven, experience rapid growth and earned him the Shell LiveWIRE 2005 All-Ireland Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
“When I set up my business last year I realised very quickly that planning, market awareness and ambition will get a company started but innovation and creativity are the crucial factors that will make your ideas and your company stand out and be successful,” said Jonathan, speaking at the event.
“I want Redraven to lead the extreme sports market and just over a year after setting up, we have grown significantly – and innovation has been the key to this. My love of mountain bike racing, combined with my desire to do things differently and create new cutting edge products have been key factors Redraven’s export success and rapid growth.”
Jonathan’s lively and honest account of his company’s development was followed by an opportunity for the school children to take a closer look at some of the world class products and business ideas developed by more than 30 local firms including Seagate Technologies, Kan teq Ltd, Belleek Pottery, Moy Park and Avalon Guitars.
Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development opened the event saying:
“In today’s competitive global marketplace where firms can no longer compete on cost, innovation and in particular, effective, cutting edge design, are important differentiators for new products. Whilst many Northern Ireland firms are already using innovation to fuel growth we need to increase the levels of innovative activities in industry and develop a more positive attitude towards what is an essential business tool.
By stimulating interest in and raising awareness of innovation at an early stage, we can create a more innovative, creative society and a stronger, wealthier economy.
“I hope the successes showcased here today will encourage the young people of Northern Ireland – our next generation of business leaders – to embrace innovation in their future careers and understand the fundamental part it can play in making their ideas become a globally successful reality.”
The afternoon event will be followed in the evening by an exhibition for the local business community which will profile excellence in innovation and product design. Key speaker at the evening Showcasing event will be Richard Seymour, an internationally renowned designer who has worked with global brands including Nokia, Tefal and Casio.