Belfast must match innovation with implementation to future-proof sustainable connectivity and multi-modal transport throughout Northern Ireland, a major connectivity conference hosted by Belfast Chamber has heard.

The importance of growing the skillsets required to enhance the region’s green energy and decarbonisation credentials was among the key messages delivered at the Connectivity Conference, which took place at Titanic Belfast on Tuesday.

In partnership with Belfast City Airport and Belfast Harbour, as part of the Chamber’s annual ‘BelFast Forward’ series, the event was attended by over 250 delegates who heard from an inspiring blend of local and international speakers.

Insights were provided on how strong connectivity, both physical and digital, is critical to the economic prosperity of Belfast.

Clare Guinness, Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber, said:

“Belfast Chamber recognises how connectivity is a key enabler for economic success and growth, not only in Belfast but across Northern Ireland, and can play a major role in helping to meet the vision for the future of our economy as set out earlier this year by Economy Minster Conor Murphy.

“The Connectivity Conference, the first of its kind, provided the ideal platform for a range of stakeholders to hear from leading local and international experts providing key insights on the path forward.

“Innovation is crucial to Belfast’s ongoing decarbonisation journey, but an important message from our speakers was of innovation needing to be underpinned by implementation. We need the skills to deliver the vision and ensure Northern Ireland fulfils its full potential as a gateway to facilitating transport and trade.”

Katy Best, Chief Commercial Officer, Belfast City Airport, who spoke at the event, said:

“Belfast City Airport is a vital artery in the network that sustains Northern Ireland’s economy and connectivity. This conference shone a light on this subject and we welcomed the opportunity to help shape the conversation around future-proofing sustainable connectivity.

“Air travel is unrivalled in its ability to connect people and places globally, and therefore is a significant part of any connectivity jigsaw or transport ecosystem. Northern Ireland is no different. In fact, as an island off an island, we are critically dependent on air connectivity as an essential facilitator of tourism, trade and investment.”

Michael Robinson, Port Director, Belfast Harbour, who also spoke at the conference, said:

“In an ever changing economic landscape, connectivity is a key focus for Belfast Harbour as we strive to reach our strategic goals of being a leading regional port, an economic hub for the region and to create an iconic waterfront for the city.

“Each year, more than 1.75 million people and over half a million freight vehicles arrive and depart through the Port, while 24 million tonnes of goods come into and out of Belfast on ferries, container ships and cargo vessels providing the goods we all rely on for daily life. We are also proud to be supporting new technology that will shape transport into the future, working with partners including Catagen and Artemis.

“As Northern Ireland’s main gateway for seaborne trade we are also investing significantly in connectivity on the Harbour Estate through smart technology, including our own private 5G network, so the issues discussed today are particularly relevant for us, for our customers and for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Hosted by Susan Hayes Culleton, Belfast Chamber’s Connectivity Conference is also supported by KPMG and Invest NI.