Investment in research and development and innovation are key drivers of economic growth, the UK’s Minister for Science & Investment Security told Belfast Harbour’s Annual Stakeholder Meeting. 

Nusrat Ghani, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), told guests at the Belfast Harbour office that innovation strategy, maritime and shipbuilding are key areas within her new portfolio, as Minister for Science and Investment Security. 

The Minister is no stranger to Northern Ireland, as a former Independent Chair of the Belfast Maritime Consortium, which is led by Artemis Technologies.  

Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Our world-leading maritime, AI and science industries are integral to the UK’s identity as a global trading nation. They support jobs and deliver economic growth in every part of the UK.  

“The investment in innovation that Belfast Harbour is delivering is a prime example of how this sector continues to set the pace globally.”  

Dr Theresa Donaldson, Chair of Belfast Harbour, said: “We are delighted to welcome Minister Ghani to the Harbour Office on her first Ministerial visit in her new role, and congratulate her on her recent appointment as Minister for Science and Investment Security.  Innovation is core to the successful delivery of Belfast Harbour’s strategic plan, which includes £254m of committed investment in Port and Estate investments, that are creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.  As a Trust Port, Belfast Harbour reinvests its assets into the development of the Port and Estate, and as we look ahead to future investments, innovation remains key.” 

At the meeting, Belfast Harbour provided a strategy update to stakeholders and reviewed its most recent annual results for 2021, which saw trade through the Port reach a record 25.6 million tonnes of cargo, with 1.5 million passengers passing through the Port, buoyed by a 69% increase in ferry passengers and the return of cruise ships calls.   Operating profits for 2021 rose by 14% to £33.9m, and £36.4m was re-invested back into Port and Estate development projects. 

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said: “Our 2035 vision sets out our goal to become a world leading regional port and key economic hub for the region.  Our ambitions as a Smart port are already supporting the development of the local economy through partnerships that encourage R&D, introduce new skills, and support innovative businesses. Innovative smart technologies will continue to be key levers in delivering sustainable maritime innovation and the development of a new innovation district for the city.”