Belfast summit examines impact of automation

Lead speakers Jonathan Downing and Ravin Jesuthasan with Elaine Smyth of Catatlyst Inc and Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland ahead of the summit
Lead speakers Jonathan Downing and Ravin Jesuthasan with Elaine Smyth of Catatlyst Inc and Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland ahead of the summit

Northern Ireland could be a significant economic global player but as the threat of automation to jobs looms, how can the province get ahead of the rest of the world by adapting to the new reality?

That is one of the issues under discussion today as two experts in automation join 250 business leaders, policy makers and educationalists at the Catalyst Inc Future of Work Solutions Summit.

Held in association with Bank of Ireland UK, the summit has been organised by Catalyst Inc as a follow up to its Knowledge Economy Report last month which contained specific research on the impact of automation on half a million jobs in Northern Ireland.

Steve Orr, director of Connect at Catalyst Inc, said it was not enough to simply sound the alarm bells.

“We had to provide a substantial opportunity for our business community and our educationalists to have a real say not just in identifying the threats, but in making very real suggestions as to how we tackle this global issue,” he said.

Ravin Jesuthasan, a contributor to the World Economic Forum and MD & Global Practice Leader at Willis Towers Watson in Chicago was the keynote speaker and his message to Northern Ireland was, “It’s time to move beyond alarmist rhetoric about workplace automation and consider how human-machine collaboration can deliver a higher level of productivity.”

Ulsterman Jonathan Downing, a keynote speaker and researcher at Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, is part of a world leading team that has produced the most globally recognised information on the impact of automation on jobs by 2030.

“Whatever job you do if you invest in developing the right skills you can leave yourself in a better place to benefit from the opportunities of the future,” he said.

As the event sponsor, Ian Sheppard, Bank of Ireland UK MD in Northern Ireland said: “Investing to grow the Knowledge Economy is fundamental to the sustainable success of Northern Ireland. We have a heritage of invention and innovation but collectively we need to think differently. New thinking combined with robust planning and key policy changes, will ensure businesses and communities are well equipped to learn, compete and thrive.”