Innovation City Belfast makes two key appointments to drive ambitious vision

Innovation City Belfast (ICB) has bolstered its ambitious plans with two key appointments, Digital Innovation Commissioner and Innovation District Director, ahead of an important Northern Ireland Office showcase event in London on September 15.

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 10th September 2021, 1:00 pm

Innovation City Belfast (ICB) has bolstered its ambitious plans with two key appointments, Digital Innovation Commissioner and Innovation District Director, ahead of an important Northern Ireland Office showcase event in London on September 15.

Professor Mark Gillan takes up the post of Digital Innovation Commissioner and Clare Guinness, the role of Innovation District Director.

Commenting on the appointments, Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council and Chair, Innovation City Belfast, said: “Mark Gillan and Clare Guinness bring vast expertise and capability to the ICB table. As a partnership, we’re absolutely focused on making Belfast a globally significant destination for innovation, driving inclusive growth by creating more and better jobs and improving quality of life through innovation. And that vision will be underpinned by £350m investment secured through the Belfast Region City Deal.

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Joe O’Neill, chief executive officer, Belfast Harbour and ICB board member, Clare Guinness, Innovation District director and Suzanne Wylie, chief executive, Belfast City Council and Chair, Innovation City Belfast

“We’ll be sharing our plans at the NIO Business and Innovation showcase in London next Wednesday, 15 September at a panel event entitled: ‘Turbocharging Innovation and Global Opportunities’ which is incredibly apt, given the energy, experience and drive that these two new appointments bring to the ICB partnership.”

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer, Belfast Harbour and ICB Board Member, explained: “Mark Gillan and Clare Guinness come on board with ICB at a time when important elements of the digital innovation ecosystem are slotting into place. We have prestigious Grade A office accommodation nearing completion at City Quays 3 and Olympic House, the latter in conjunction with Titanic Quarter, which will accommodate growing indigenous businesses and new market entrants. The impressive new Ulster University campus will also soon be welcoming 15,000 students and staff into the heart of the Innovation District at York Street. Belfast City Council is recruiting a City Innovation Broker to support an investment model for advanced wireless networks in the city, and ICB is successfully rolling out the re/Start free training programme with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help unemployed and underemployed people start careers in cloud computing and boost the talent pipeline that’s crucial for business growth.

“The projects that Mark and Clare will lead for ICB will be integral to achieving the Government’s ‘10X Economy, A Decade of Innovation’ vision, placing us firmly on the map for innovation and investment. Their skillsets and networks strengthen and enhance our ability to deliver tangible benefits for Belfast and the region.”

A Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Royal Aero Society, Visiting Professor of both Surrey and Ulster Universities and NI Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Professor Gillan started his career in aerospace before spending 15 years in various Formula One engineering leadership roles. Most recently Chief Operations Officer for Artemis Technologies, leading the decarbonisation of the maritime sector and Programme Director for the Belfast Maritime Consortium’s UKRI funded Strength in Places Programme, focused on developing zero emissions passenger ferries; Professor Gillan also brings experience gained as Innovate UK’s Chief Technology Officer.

Clare Guinness, finance graduate and Institute of Directors Fellow, brings a wealth of finance and investment, management, real estate and infrastructure experience gained in Corporate and Business Banking with Bank of Ireland, as Director of Corporate Services, Fane Valley Group, Chief Executive Officer of Warrenpoint Harbour and most recently, Chief Operating Officer of a London based property regeneration company. Clare will be leading the establishment of a major Innovation District from Queen’s Island to York Street which will leverage digital, intellectual and real estate assets to attract capital and investment to grow the NI economy.

The ICB partnership combines six of the city’s anchor institutions (Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Catalyst, Queen’s University and Ulster University, with Invest NI as advisory partner), harnessing significant knowledge, resources and influence to create a world-class hub for research and innovation in Belfast, focused on FinTech, GreenTech and Life and Health Sciences, aligned to the government’s ‘10X Economy, A Decade of Innovation’ vision.

For information on Innovation City Belfast, go to:

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