The tech sector received 67% of total equity investment in Northern Ireland in 2020, reveals the Small Business Equity Tracker published by the British Business Bank.
Equity investment in the UK’s smaller businesses increased by 9% in 2020 to £8.8bn, the highest amount since the data series began in 2011. Investment in the UK’s deep tech companies also grew since 2015 to £2.3bn in 2020 while the life sciences sector rose 70% in 2020 to £631m.
Northern Ireland has a burgeoning tech sector employing around 28,000 people with Belfast now regarded as a leading location for new software development projects as well as a global cyber security hub.
The local pharmaceutical and life sciences sector is also booming with 18,000 full time jobs and advances in biomedical research into cancer, cardiovascular disease and Cystic Fibrosis.
Northern Ireland company, B-Secur, which operates globally and straddles both the tech and life sciences sectors, revealed how investment from a British Business Bank supported fund helped it carry out research and development (R&D) work critical to its success, not least in securing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Clearance for its innovative ECG software that monitor heartbeats.
This key development in heart health provides the potential for all global technology device manufacturers and healthcare service providers to enable advanced medical-grade wellness and health data from any device and platform.
Based at Belfast’s Catalyst Inc, B-Secur received funding from Accelerated Digital Ventures, an Enterprise Capital Fund backed by the British Business Bank.
B-Secur, Chief Commercial Officer, Ben Carter said: “At the time as an early-stage company, the nature of our business required heavy R&D investment which was made possible with funding from the British Business Bank’s Accelerated Digital Ventures fund.
“The support we received from the British Business Bank was invaluable and we would encourage other smaller businesses across Northern Ireland to engage with the Bank as their expertise can really help your business take the next step in scaling up.”
The report also found that funds supported by the British Business Bank were more likely to invest in technology and IP-based businesses than the overall equity market in 2020, with 49% of Bank supported deals in this sector compared to 40% of the wider market.
The Bank’s UK Network Director for Northern Ireland, Mark Sterritt said businesses here in the life sciences and tech sectors will help build on the UK’s position as a science superpower.
“Northern Ireland is home to a number of businesses who, like B-Secur, are really leading the way on the global stage and the British Business Bank will continue to help provide the capital they need to start up and scale up.
“Addressing regional imbalances remains core to our activity and as a result, Bank-supported equity deals are becoming more geographically diverse with the concentration of deals undertaken in London reducing sharply, from 68% in 2016 to 42% in 2020.
“As the life sciences and tech sectors continue to grow in Northern Ireland, it is important for local businesses to be aware of all their funding options, like equity finance.
“Future Fund: Breakthrough, a new £375m UK-wide scheme due to launch this summer, will help address the later stage equity finance gap faced by innovative, R&D-intensive UK companies including those within the deep tech sector.”
While the tech sector was the most attractive for investors, equity investment into sectors heavily impacted by social distancing measures, such as retail, personal service and leisure and entertainment fell, with deal numbers decreasing by 13%, 17% and 10% respectively.