US special envoy Joe Kennedy announces £3.8m investment by US company Frontline

Joe Kennedy III has led a US delegation tour for a four-days to Northern Ireland. Credit: UTV

US special envoy to Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III has announced Florida-based company Frontline will be investing £3.8million in Northern Ireland. He said that the insurance and technology company plans to establish an engineering development team that will create 31 jobs. It is estimated the project will generate an additional £1.9m in annual salaries for the local economy.

The announcement comes as Mr Kennedy leads a delegation of senior US business and investment leaders on a four-day visit to Northern Ireland. On Wednesday, the delegation visited the Belfast Campus of Ulster University. Mr Kennedy said investment was a further mark that President Joe Biden’s ambitions for a trade delegation to Northern Ireland were being realised. He added: “Frontline is joining the many US investors who have experienced success and growth in Northern Ireland and is setting up its new engineering development team, taking advantage of the excellent skills available and the business-friendly environment. “This investment underscores the compelling proposition that Northern Ireland offers.” Frontline is one of the largest carriers in the south-east United States with a presence in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and soon-to-be Virginia and Colorado. It will operate in Northern Ireland under the brand OpenData Belfast. Ivan Roche, originally from Co Cork, is the chief technology officer of OpenData Belfast, located in Belfast’s Gasworks. Mr Roche said he was excited to lead the new team that “will create innovative products to support the next stage of Frontline’s growth using the best of local talent”. “Frontline was made aware of Northern Ireland’s attractive business environment by Invest NI’s US office and through meetings with NI Connections, both of which are championing the strengths of the region,” he said. “Before confirming the investment, our leadership team visited Northern Ireland and were impressed by what they saw and by the confidence that other US investors have in the region.” The Northern Ireland team will deliver data analytics, data science, product development and operational support. Frontline’s CIO, Kurt Bonigut, said the company was “keen to tap into the opportunities for investment” in Northern Ireland. “Having learned of Northern Ireland’s strengths, we were here to create a team to support that objective, and we have been impressed with the calibre of staff we’ve already taken on board and are already evaluating expansion of our presence here in the future,” he said. A number of members from the US delegation also joined Mr Kennedy on a visit to Ulster University’s Belfast campus, which was visited by President Biden six months ago. Attendees included 40 senior US business leaders from Coca-Cola, HubSpot, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Boston Scientific and Forbright Bank and more than 100 local business representatives. During the visit, Ulster University announced its UK Government-funded AI projects. Vice-chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paul Bartholomew, said the Belfast campus reflected innovation in the city, adding “we cannot, and we will not, stand still”. “That is why it is of such importance to welcome US and local business leaders here today. There is so much more to do, and so much more of our potential to realise – socially, culturally and economically,” he said. The Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady, said the event at Ulster University enabled the delegation to get an understanding of Northern Ireland’s investment potential. She said: “Our talented, educated and innovative workforce is world class and delivering locally made solutions to global problems, particularly in our leading-edge sectors such as digital, software, cyber and fintech; life and health sciences and net zero technologies…as well as our renowned creative industries. “Our world-leading R&D in these areas, flows from our pioneering universities, which alongside our Further and Higher Education institutions ensure that NI has a skills base that is second to none. “The very best of what this place has to offer was showcased and it was a truly collaborative effort between academia, business and government.” On campus, the US delegation and wider audience took part in two panel discussions promoting Northern Ireland as a compelling investment proposition. From Wednesday’s event it was announced that Ulster University, working alongside the Alan Turing Institute, Cambridge and Exeter Universities, have secured £3.2 million in UKRI funding to establish a new UK-wide digital twin research network to help transform the UK’s national capability. In addition to multiple research projects and industry collaborations with applications of AI across healthcare, education, automotive, cybersecurity and business, Ulster University is the only university in Northern Ireland to offer a Masters degree in AI.

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