800 young NI entrepreneurs experience Generation Innovation

Catalyst work experience programme attracts highest number of participants so far.

More than 800 young people with a passion for innovation have taken part in the Catalyst work experience programme Generation Innovation.

This is the highest number of participants since the programme was established in 2018.

“I found being surrounded by so many like-minded people and getting one-to-one time with businesses a real learning experience and has further fuelled my passion for innovation”

Running across three locations in Northern Ireland, the programme for 17-18-year-olds empowers, enables and upskills young people for the workplace of tomorrow and giving them a real-world working experience by pairing them with 41 of Northern Ireland’s most exciting businesses such as headline partners EY, Bank of Ireland and AVEVA.

Real-life business challenges

Over the course of the four- or five-day programmes in Derry, Belfast and Dungannon, participants worked together to solve a real-life company challenge, develop a solution and pitch the final idea to the company and their peers, allowing for constructive feedback and potential future employment introductions.

“The Generation Innovation programme has grown immensely since it began six years ago, showing the demand and real interest from young people to learn more about innovation, entrepreneurship and how the business world works here in Northern Ireland,” said Ally Armstrong, Generation Innovation programme manager at Catalyst.

“We were delighted to run our biggest programme yet this year, with over 800 participants and 41 partners supporting and sharing expertise across sessions in Derry, Belfast and Dungannon. The feedback from both participants and partners has been very positive with valuable skills learned and connections made for the future.”

Established in 2006 as the Northern Ireland Science Park but now known as  Catalyst, the innovation hub in Belfast has grown to a campus that includes a myriad of state-of-the-art buildings that house everything from cutting edge start-ups to ambitious scale-ups and a myriad of multinationals attracted to Belfast by the talent on offer across Northern Ireland. Not only that but Catalyst has grown to include a sister campus in Derry and has established research and innovation partnerships with universities and institutes along the western seaboard of Ireland.

Currently more than 900 entrepreneurs are working with Catalyst across various programmes. Some 2,700 tech professionals work between Derry and Belfast and a community of 570 business mentors and experts are collaborating with start-ups and scale-ups.

In terms of economic impact, it is claimed that for every £1 yielded by Catalyst entrepreneurs through its various support programmes , this generated a £41 return on investment between 2017 and 2021 (source: independent assessment from Capaxo and economist Maureen O’Reilly).

Businesses that have engaged with Catalyst have collectively reported a 187% increase in headcount and 43% cite Catalyst as the main driver for them starting in the first place.

“The Generation Innovation programme was extremely beneficial and gave me insights to the world of business that I haven’t been exposed to before,” explained Jack Kearney, a Generation Innovation participant.

“I found being surrounded by so many like-minded people and getting one-to-one time with businesses a real learning experience and has further fuelled my passion for innovation. I would recommend any young person with an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship to apply for Generation Innovation because the skills you learn and the people you meet will be so valuable when transitioning into the world of work.”

  • Visit Generation Innovation for information and to register your interest for Generation Innovation 2025.
  • Bank of Ireland is welcoming new customers every day – funding investments, working capital and expansions across multiple sectors. To learn more, click here

ThinkBusiness.ie, powered by Bank of Ireland, has been created for Irish business owners and managers who are seeking information, resources and help on a range of business topics. It provides practical, actionable information and guidance on starting, growing and running a business.