Industries dependent on physics contribute more than £3.2 billion in gross value added to the business economy of Northern Ireland, according to a new report.
The Institute of Physics (IOP) said firms involved in those industries provide direct employment for more than 59,000 people comprising 7.4% of the total workforce in the province.
Physics-based industries encompass energy generation, transportation, everyday household appliance design and manufacture, telecommunications and broadcasting, medical technology development and even waste collection and disposal.
The report was published ahead of a networking event at The Innovation Centre at Catalyst Inc, Belfast, with policymakers, physicists and business leaders in attendance and coinciding with the opening day of the Northern Ireland Science Festival.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Norman Apsley, chief executive of Catalyst Inc, highlighted the need to continue to invest in education and research.
“Here on site, Professor Sir John McCanny leads a Global Centre of Research into Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, all based on physics.
“Across the Lagan to the north, Professor Jim McLaughlin puts physics to work with new and exciting medical devices for the new health economy in connected health.
“On the shores of Lough Neagh, Peter Fitzgerald has transformed physics and bioscience into a global health company, Randox. Today more than 5% of the world’s population – in excess of 370 million people across 145 countries – receives medical diagnosis using Randox products each year.”
“A new economy, with jobs and wealth for all our people, is within our grasp, but it does not come without industry and investment. This report and the others highlight the need to continue and even to increase our investment in education and research and to balance the focus between the science and the entrepreneurship that will convert it to wealth.”
Dr David Riley, co-Chair of IOP Ireland, and present at the launch of the report, said continued investment is key.
“Today’s success is built on yesterday’s investment. It is the fruit of long-term support for physics in education, research and skills. If Northern Ireland is to maintain a high-tech, high-growth economy for the future, that support for physics will need to continue – and even expand.”