Catalyst launches new five-year strategy with focus on inclusive innovation

Plans for 1,000 people from underrepresented groups targeted for future Catalyst programmes launching 50 new products

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 12:00 pm
Guest speaker Helen McCarthy, CEO of pHion Therapeutics, Catalyst chair Ellvena Graham and Catalyst CEO Steve Orr are pictured ahead of an event to launch Catalyst’s Impact Report and five year strategy
Guest speaker Helen McCarthy, CEO of pHion Therapeutics, Catalyst chair Ellvena Graham and Catalyst CEO Steve Orr are pictured ahead of an event to launch Catalyst’s Impact Report and five year strategy

Catalyst has unveiled a new strategy for the next five years which it believes will generate significant economic benefits for Northern Ireland by enabling more of the population to access opportunities created by innovative industries.

Catalyst is an independent, not-for-profit organisation focused on fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, supporting transformative businesses and developing Northern Ireland’s tech industry. It works with an extensive network of volunteers and partners to deliver programmes and provide support to the tech and start-up community.

As it published its 2017-2021 Impact Report detailing performance over the past five years, the organisation committed to a series of new five-year targets designed to support innovation-driven enterprises and increase opportunities for more people in our society to benefit from access to innovation-led sectors of the economy.

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Among the specific targets outlined by Catalyst were plans to:

Have 1,000 individuals from underrepresented groups participating in Catalyst innovation programmes who between them will launch 50 new products

Identify and support the development of 100 prominent role model entrepreneurs – founders of innovative, sustainable startups from diverse gender and socio-economic backgrounds

Help 15 NI companies which are less than 10 years old and who have engaged with Catalyst scaling programmes to reach market capitalisation of at least £100m

Support 20 new sustainable startups founded by females and/or non-university graduates in the next 12 months

Support 10 NI scaleup businesses to successfully enter the US market in the next year

Raise £100m in funding for new buildings and development at its campuses and reduce carbon emissions by 65% within five years

The targets follow publication of an independent research study carried out by Capaxo and economist Maureen O’Reilly, who assessed the return on investment created by Catalyst through its programmes over the past five years, specifically by identifying value that the entrepreneurs themselves attributed to support received from Catalyst.

Based on feedback from 74 companies, the Impact Report found that for every £1 invested into Catalyst entrepreneurship and growth initiatives, £41 was generated in economic impact and return on investment for the participants and their businesses.

Companies that participated in the programmes run by Catalyst and its partners also reported a 187% increase in their combined workforce from 2017-2021, with 51% of those surveyed having increased the number of people they employ. Companies attributed 45% of their turnover growth to Catalyst programmes, while 43% of the companies surveyed said support provided by Catalyst was the main driver for their start-up starting up in the first place.

Steve Orr, CE of Catalyst, said: “In the last decade our mission was to fuel opportunity and support the entire journey of an entrepreneur, which we’ve been able to do thanks to our fantastic network of volunteers and partners who generously share their expertise and commit their time and resources to support the Catalyst community.

“As a we look forward to the next 10 years, we want to build on the success we’ve had by making innovation more inclusive and ensuring that everyone in our society has the opportunity to access employment in innovation driven enterprises or experience benefit from new innovations developed in NI. We have set ourselves some stretching targets, but we believe we have to think big if we want Northern Ireland to be competitive globally.”

Ellvena Graham OBE, chair of Catalyst, added: “The Impact Report published provides a snapshot that helps the board of Catalyst to understand the impact that has been created for the science and technology communities in Northern Ireland through Catalyst. We want to make it easy for NI’s entrepreneurs to innovate and to create opportunity for all from this innovation. The board believes that with a new focus on inclusivity and sustainability, there is a huge opportunity for Catalyst to make even more of an impact in the future.”