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Collaboration is contagious!

Local ambassador Ultan Power, professor of Molecular Virology at Queen's University Belfast, shares his knowledge on why this city is thriving when it comes to business tourism.

Collaboration is contagious! City’s event infrastructure creates a vital platform for knowledge sharing.

Ultan Power

The economic contribution that conferencing makes to cities is well-documented. Our own city is a precise example of how important business tourism is to our hospitality industry with it being a key reason our many hotels, bars and restaurants remain operational and continue to create employment. Our tourism bodies and event venues are deserving of praise for their consistent collaborative approach and tireless efforts to accelerate the volume of inbound business events to Belfast. I’m glad to play my small part in this too, and humbled that Visit Belfast selected me as an Ambassador Awards recipient this November.

I’ve been able to put Belfast, and the world-class ICC Belfast therein, firmly on the radars of many of my peers in virology. Thousands of global delegates from academic and scientific communities have visited Belfast, many for the first time, and enjoyed the city’s walkability, its great transport links and its incomparable hospitality. Turns out that much like many viruses the Belfast experience too is infectious!

In return for their visit, our city provides delegates with a platform where they can connect and learn from one another. You see, that’s just it. As important as business tourism is economically, conferences have the potential to leave a social legacy too. Belfast, in providing the infrastructure to bring like-minded leaders together, facilitates the sharing of ideas, research and experiences, and allows people to connect and collaborate. All of this is crucial to new discoveries that benefit our world. Our city should feel very proud that it is the backdrop to and the facilitator of important knowledge exchange.

Just recently ICC Belfast hosted OPTIONS XI and the International Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Society’s 12th International symposium (@RSV2022) back-to-back. OPTIONS for the Control of Influenza is the only global scientific meeting series with a dedicated focus on influenza. Having last taken place in 2019 in Singapore, Belfast was the first destination in the UK or Ireland ever to welcome the four-day OPTIONS event. Because OPTIONS XI was taking place in Belfast, the World Health Organisation decided to hold the 70th-anniversaryth anniversary symposium of their Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) programme here, which we hosted in Queen’s University Belfast. The three events attracted over 1,600 delegates from around the globe, including several of the most prominent scientists responsible for developing the vaccines that helped limit the COVID-19 pandemic. Our world-class Convention Centre provided an exceptional forum in which to discuss past and current efforts to understand, treat and prevent influenza virus, COVID-19 and, hopefully one day soon, RSV disease. Importantly, all 3 events left a very positive impression about Belfast among the delegates both for the quality of the science and the excellence of the facilities and hospitality.

In December 2023, 1,400 delegates are expected to descend for the British Society for Immunology’s annual congress, further building on our globally renowned reputation in this sector.

Our offering as a conference location is second to none – it’s close enough to be practical and far enough away to encourage and incubate collaboration. So much so we’ve welcomed the World Health Organisation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and PATH, and influential pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, GSK, Astra Zeneca, Sanofi Pasteur and Jansson.

I look forward to working with Visit Belfast and ICC Belfast for years to come and hope that together we can continue to graciously welcome growing numbers of peers from my field to our city, where they will learn and share and make a difference to the world of life and health sciences.

Ultan was the recipient of the ‘Services to Society’ award at Visit Belfast’s Ambassador Awards this November which recognise the efforts of local academic and business leaders who helped secure major conference and event wins for the city.


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