NI: Private equity investment could take NI Technology sector to next level
Private equity could be a key driver in Northern Ireland’s technology revolution - that was the verdict of a round-table event of industry experts last week.
Northern Ireland’s levels of private equity investment have traditionally been very low, however in recent times the market has seen some significant activity, particularly in the Technology sector. Companies such as Relay Software, and Total Mobile have received financial backing in order to take them to a new phase in their development.
Jointly hosted by International law firm Pinsent Masons and theBritish Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), the event drew together investment, tech, incubation and advisory sectors to establish if this cluster of deals represented a mere coincidence or a sign of changing conditions with more to come.
Hilary Griffiths, corporate partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “We had an excellent range of engagement on the subject and it was clear Northern Ireland’s technology sector offers strong potential for private equity backing. Observers noted the spin-offs from our Universities as attracting the attention of international investors in particular.
“In our conservative business culture dominated by debt finance, local technology companies tend to be first-generation businesses ready to take a more collaborative approach to growth. The risk / reward equation is balanced differently to that of bank debt, and we know that private equity is often willing to show greater confidence in businesses at an earlier stage of their life-cycle. That can be the key to unlocking growth.”
“However with a relatively unfamiliar market, it was clear from the conversation the private equity sector has a task of education ahead to overcome challenging perceptions. As Northern Ireland’s only full-service international firm we have the strength-in-depth to support the process and build in the protections both investors and companies need to embrace deals with confidence.”
Tim Hames, director general of the BVCA, added: “The emergence of Northern Ireland as a technology hub has been one of the best-kept secrets in the UK, and we were delighted to partner with Pinsent Masons to shine a light on the impressive growth of the business community here.
“Private equity and venture capital have a huge role to play in supporting SMEs across the UK and Northern Ireland is no exception, with BVCA members having invested over £300 million in the last five years into companies based here.
“It is our job as the industry association to explain and educate how it supports businesses in their growth plans. It is through a combination of innovation, entrepreneurship and investment that will ensure the Northern Ireland tech sector continues to build on its success.”