Japanese investment brings 20 new jobs to Belfast

Yasufumi Hirai of Japanese firm Rakuten pictured with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton
Yasufumi Hirai of Japanese firm Rakuten pictured with Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton

Up to 20 new jobs ar eto be created in Belfastwith the announcement that leading Japanese e-commerce and fintech company Rakuten is to set up a software development centre in the city.

With £140,000 in support from Invest NI, the new centre will initially focus on developing blockchain technology, which is the technology underpinning the digital currency Bitcoin.

The Belfast-based blockchain lab on Ormeau Avenue will provide internal IT services for Rakuten’s global business and customer base.

More than half of the new roles are already in place and include positions for both experienced software professionals and graduates.

Announcing the investment, Invest NI’s Chief Executive Alastair Hamilton, said: “Rakuten is a significant player in global financial technology and its investment to establish the organisation’s only blockchain lab in Belfast is a major coup for Northern Ireland.

“The 20 new software engineering roles will generate £855,000 annually in additional salaries and support the ongoing development of Rakuten’s global businesses.

“Its focus on eCommerce & FinTech will make Rakuten a valuable addition to the cluster of cyber security businesses already investing in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hamilton said the firm had begun to explore opportunities with Queen’s University’s Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT) and would have representatives from their global security team in Japan attending the 7th World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit being held in Belfast next week.”

Rakuten Inc. has more than 1 billion customers worldwide and offers a variety of services in nearly 200 countries. It recently purchased Bitnet’s IP relating to blockchain technologies, the US managed business who invested in NI in 2014.

Speaking about the investment during a visit to Northern Ireland, Yasufumi Hirai, Rakuten’s Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer said: “Northern Ireland is fast becoming a global hub for cyber security professionals and we are keen to leverage the expertise which exists here to drive growth across our businesses.

“Invest NI’s support, combined with the availability of local skills and talent, made Northern Ireland our preferred location to establish our unique blockchain lab.

“The engagement and work ethic of the personnel we’ve recruited locally is impressive and we’re confident the team in Belfast will be an invaluable addition to the Rakuten Group.”