Dr William Wright CBE (pictured here in the centre), founder of global market leader in bus manufacturing, Wrightbus, has today been announced as the 2014 Innovation Founder, an award celebrating the achievements of some of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs.
The accolade, part of the Northern Ireland Science Park Connect Invent2014 Awards, recognises distinction in founding, leading or building an eminent local technology or life sciences business.
Ballymena-based Wrightbus, renowned for bringing the Boris Bus to London, employs almost 2,000 people and exports to international markets, including Singapore and Hong Kong.
Dr Wright, who was nominated by the public and then selected by the previous winners,says it is an honour to have been chosen.
“I am incredibly proud of the company that bears my family name. Thanks to the hard work, passion and ingenuity of everyone involved in the business Wrightbus continues to demonstrate thought and technology leadership in today’s highly competitive and demanding global transport sector, which now has a presence across a number of continents.
“We have always looked beyond the present, trying to identify what challenges our customers may face five, ten, even fifteen years down the line and also continually re-investing a relatively high proportion of our turnover in R&D.
“I believe this approach has made the company synonymous with innovation. We have most recently been particularly active in developing low emission bus technology – an area of public transport that I believe is now coming to fruition.
“Being able to take the long term view has been vital to our success. I am delighted and honoured to accept this award”
Previous winners of the Innovation Founder Award include the late Professor John Anderson of HeartSine Technologies (2010); Dr Hugh Cormican, founder and Director of Andor Technology (2011); Tom Eakin of TG Eakin (2012); and Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director of Randox Laboratories Ltd (2013).
Steve Orr, Director of NISP Connect, said, “Wrightbus is a perfect example of a company which, since its early days, has invested in product development in order to continually innovate and revolutionise.
“William certainly is visionary. By challenging the norm and creating cutting edge designs, the company has gained a huge competitive edge and as a result, Wrightbus is continuing to win major contracts around the world.
“The Innovation Founder award celebrates the local innovators who have not only changed the landscape of NI business and made a real and lasting contribution to the local economy, but they are breaking ground in their industries around the world. This really typifies William.
“We had some fantastic nominations for the 2014 Innovation Founder, and there is no doubt that innovation is prevalent here, just as it has always been. You just have to look at some of the inventions, which have come from the province, such as the tractor, pneumatic tyre and whisky distilling, to see that innovation is in our blood. It’s a very exciting time for Northern Ireland.”
Sponsor Bank of Ireland UK, Ian Sheppard, Head of Business & Corporate Banking in Northern Ireland, added, “We are absolutely delighted to see William receive this award. As a Bank of Ireland customer we have worked closely with William and Wrightbus over many years.
“Through this partnership we have gained insight into a world class, innovative, indigenous Northern Ireland company, whose success has been achieved through the leadership, technical innovation and determination William has displayed at its helm. This award is a deserved recognition of an individual who Northern Ireland’s aspiring innovators and businesses can learn from and aspire to be.”
The Innovation Founder Award is part of the NISP Connect Invent Awards, a competition to find Northern Ireland’s new innovations with high commercial potential.
Wright will address the final of the Invent2014 Awards at a Gala Dinner at Titanic Belfast on 2 October. 12 Invent finalists are competing across six sectors- Creative Media and Consumer Internet; Agri-Food; Life & Health; Engineering; Electronics and Enterprise Software.