Tech expert named head of Northern Ireland Civil Service

Jayne Brady joins Executive Office from Belfast City Council
New head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady

A tech expert and former venture capitalist has been named as the next head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

Jayne Brady, the digital innovation commissioner for Belfast City Council, will succeed Jenny Pyper, who has been serving as interim head – known as HOCS – since last December.

An announcement of when she will take up the role is due “shortly”, the Executive Office said.

First minister Arlene Foster said Brady represented a “hugely significant appointment for the Northern Ireland Civil Service and for the institutions of government”.

The announcement comes 10 months after the last head of the civil service, David Sterling, stepped down – and 18 months after he announced his decision to do so.

An initial search to find his successor was unsuccessful. Sue Gray, the Cabinet Office’s former ethics chief who was shortlisted but did not get the job, recently said: “I suspect people may have thought that I perhaps was too much of a challenger, or a disrupter.”

Brady moved into local government in April 2020, after a career working mostly for tech firms and in venture capital. The announcement of her new position by the Executive Office described her as “an engineer at heart with extensive board experience and a track record of success that transcends blue-chip corporations, start-ups and funding ecosystems”.

An electrical engineer by training, Brady began her career working for electronics companies. She was vice-president at the network technology company Intune Networks before leaving in 2013 to become a partner at Kernel Capital, where she spent seven years.

In 2019, while still at the venture capital firm, she co-founded CattleEye, an autonomous livestock monitoring technology for farmers.

She has held non-executive director positions at cyber security company Nova Leah, software firms B-Secur and DisplayNote Technologies, among others.

Brady has not previously worked for the NICS, but has held two temporary, short-term roles with the UK civil service.

Last September, Brady was named as a member of the UK government’s innovation expert group, which was set up under the R&D roadmap to provide advice on how to drive up the UK’s productivity through innovation.

And in March, she became higher education commissioner for the UK, according to her LinkedIn profile. The appointment was not widely publicised.

Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Jayne brings extensive experience and skills to this critical leadership role in supporting the Executive and leading the civil service on the delivery of the commitments from New Decade, New Approach [power-sharing] agreement, Programme for Government and the monumental task of recovery as we manage our way through the Covid pandemic."

Brady said she was "honoured" to be appointed as head of the NICS.

“The NICS has a dedicated and skilled workforce who have done an outstanding job in the most challenging of circumstances. I will work with colleagues across the service to further develop the NICS as a high-performing organisation that effectively supports the institutions of government,”she said.

“I am under no illusions about the scale of the challenges ahead, but I am looking forward to supporting the Executive in delivering their commitments and priorities during my tenure.”

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