It’s sometimes hard to put your finger on a movement, to find tangible evidence of change.
But next week in Belfast, a gathering of builders, technologists and visionaries will put a face — thousands of faces, actually — on the rise of a new tech era in Northern Ireland’s capital. Digital DNA 2019 is a two-day conference, trade show, brainstorm, networking frenzy, and above all, a celebration of the tech culture that has blossomed in Belfast in roughly the past decade.
“Not only will the event be a great place to learn from peers, it will also allow the local tech sector (to) come and collaborate, either as a business or an organization looking to expand their reach,” Simon Bailie, chief executive of Digital DNA, told Irish Tech News. Digital DNA can provide the perfect vehicle for organizations to forge new relationships, build new partnerships or gain exposure to new sectors which would otherwise be unavailable.”
The event, hosted by PwC, is expected to draw more than 3,000 attendees and will feature speakers representing some of the world’s best-known technology companies and some of the world’s little-known tech pioneers.
Long-known for its industrial history, in recent decades Belfast became a location for satellite operations of global giants like conference sponsor PwC, IBM, Allstate, LIbery IT, Citigroup, SAP, Fujitsu, Deloitte and Xilinx. For a time, for some companies, Belfast was seen as a location for important but peripheral operations, such as call centers. The tech work done in Belfast was sometimes additive, a piece of this technology or a part of that one added to a project back at headquarters.
But in recent years, home-grown startups have begun to spring up and foreign companies have located teams working on core pieces of technology in the city. Today a stroll through Belfast means walking among companies like Alert Logic, Imperva, Flint Studios, Made to Engage, Anomali, Proofpoint and White Hat.
Belfast is a cybersecurity center
The city has become a robust center for cybersecurity technology and payment innovation. It was against this backdrop that Signifyd decided to open its global research and development center in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. The center will propel the company’s innovation forward by developing key parts of Signifyd’s technology while supporting the company’s worldwide customer base.
“The Signifyd (R&D center) is a great opportunity for those who want to dive into machine learning and other significant technologies and craft solutions that make a real difference in the business fortunes of ecommerce retailers around the world,” Trevor McCullough, the center’s director of engineering said when the center was announced. “Not to mention the center provides a great opportunity to work with some of the best minds in technology today.”
Signifyd’s founders, CEO Raj Ramanand and Chief Product Officer Michael Liberty, will both be speaking at Digital DNA. Ramanand plans to talk about Signifyd’s decision to locate in Belfast and how the city’s characteristics and culture complement Signifyd’s culture. Liberty will take a deeper technical dive into how the embrace of microservices means that developers in Belfast can enjoy a sort of autonomy and accomplishment that is not always available for engineering teams located away from a tech company’s headquarters.
Digital DNA 2019 will cover topics from startups to deploying technology for good
In all, Digital DNA will feature 150 speakers talking about data, marketing, innovation and deploying technology for good. There will also be sessions on subjects for which Belfast is increasingly becoming known. There will be presentations on DevOps, innovation, startups, fintech and cybersecurity during the two-day conference.
As Belfast’s tech scene has evolved, the city has become a hub for both fintech and cybersecurity. Economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland says Belfast is the top investment location for U.S. cybersecurity development projects. The city is also home to Queen’s College and Ulster University, the former houses the Center for Secure Information Technologies and the latter houses the Computer Science Research Institute.
All of which will provide a rich mix for Digital DNA, a conference that as much as anything, is another sign that Belfast, as a tech center, has come into its own.