At the beginning of the 20th century – 108 years and 30 days ago – Belfast was a world economic power. It was a century of unparalleled growth, of technology, of invention. And Belfast was a leading player at the beginning of a technological century.
On this day 100 years ago, in this city, almost on this very spot was the
- world’s biggest dry dock.
- Belfast had the world’s biggest Rope Works, (just half a mile from where we are now)
- It built the biggest ships,
- it had the worlds biggest cigarette factory within walking distance from this room
- and the biggest fizzy drinks producer.
Belfast was a glorious example of the industrial revolution – and it’s products were distributed across the world.
- But the world’s biggest passenger liner sank – on her maiden voyage.
- Ship building moved from the Lagan – and the Clyde – to the Far East where even bigger ships costing less could be built.
- The demand for rope declined as the need for rigging disappeared.
- The Cantrell and Cochrane label was replaced by Pepsi and Coke in the world of fizzy drinks.
- And in the mid 1950s it was discovered that cigarettes were not the health giving cure-all that people had been led to believe.
In the closing days of the 20th century Belfast was known less for industry and more for civil unrest.
Yet new and emerging businesses here have Titanic ambitions for our Titanic Quarter.
100 years ago Belfast’s industry was based on gathering and manipulating Atoms and exporting them around the world. Today is indented to be no less than a turning point where we look to the future and begin to build industry based on the manipulation of Digits – not Atoms.
And not just Belfast, but all of Northern Ireland. Already much work has been done in this city and out side. One of the exhibitors this evening Dark Water is from Derry. Dermot Cavana is from the Moy. Did you ever think that the Moy would be at the beginning of Northern Ireland’s digital revolution. Today is about digital Progress for all of Northern Ireland.
This evening we will hear from leading thinkers and practitioners. You can see the work carried out through the Digital Content Initiative. And there is the important opportunity to begin to create your own networks.
We can’t foretell the future, but we can guess one thing at least; Future success will be based on co-operation collaboration and partnerships.