“As a direct result of Invest Northern Ireland activities, total commitments to invest approximately £410M in the Northern Ireland economy were made in 2003/04 by clients. When added to commitments secured in the previous year, this brings Invest NI-supported investment in the local economy to some £1bn,” Professor Fabian Monds, Chairman of Invest NI, said today on the second anniversary of the agency
“As a direct result of Invest Northern Ireland activities, total commitments to invest approximately £410M in the Northern Ireland economy were made in 2003/04 by clients. When added to commitments secured in the previous year, this brings Invest NI-supported investment in the local economy to some £1bn,” Professor Fabian Monds, Chairman of Invest NI, said today on the second anniversary of the agency.
Prof Monds continued. “Our economy, like those of all other western European countries, is restructuring in response to global market dynamics and Invest NI is playing a central role in assisting businesses to adjust imaginatively. Today, we have more companies working to improve their competitiveness, trading in global markets, and undertaking research and development, and a much improved level of business starts. For example, in the past year:
· Over 1500 companies participated in overseas trade missions. In the second half of the year alone, participating companies reported winning orders worth some £30M in the short term.
· £69M has been invested in Research & Development, including activity by 133 companies.
· During the year, over 2,750 new businesses were established with support from Invest NI. The level of new business starts is increasing, with the “Go for it” campaign and associated “Start a Business” shows generating over 9,000 enquiries to date.
“These are significant outputs and we are committed to building on them as we help to drive Northern Ireland up the value chain,” Prof. Monds said.
“Manufacturing remains vitally important and we have undertaken substantial work to support and encourage our higher-added-value manufacturers to restructure and reinvest. We have taken equity stakes where appropriate,” added Prof. Monds.
Addressing the many ways in which Invest NI is working with companies, Chief Executive, Leslie Morrison, said: “Innovation will underpin much of the future development of our economy and it is encouraging to note that both the overall level and number of companies involved in research & development are increasing. The launch of the Proof of Concept programme, establishment of new Centres of Research Excellence and a greater focus on emerging areas, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, underscore our approach. Together with our universities, we are ensuring that necessary research infrastructure, such as the Electronics, Communications and Information Technology Institute (ECIT) and the NI Science Park, is provided. In the coming year, we will stimulate higher levels of new product development and encourage more small and medium-sized enterprises to engage in research, design and innovation.”
“Innovation is also helping our companies to add value to their activities and successfully engage in international markets. During 2003/04, we have worked closely with over 1300 businesses, well ahead of target, on practical business improvements, including skills enhancement. These are yielding substantial, quantifiable benefits. The growing capability of many local enterprises is reflected in the fact that 100 local companies exported for the first time.
“For many companies, the ability to compete on the world stage has been enhanced by greater use of ICT, better access to business information and more widespread use of broadband, 1,000 companies having adopted this critical business tool during the year.
Although still in its infancy, Invest NI’s Accelerating Entrepreneurship strategy and, in particular, the “Go for it” marketing campaign have heightened awareness of entrepreneurship and increased referrals to the rebranded “Start a Business” Programme. The programme, which is funded and managed by Invest NI along with the 26 local councils and delivered by the local enterprise network, has contributed to the 2,758 new business starts, of which 38% are located in NTSN and Special Status areas. These have the potential to create some 5,000 jobs and complement our support for businesses operating in the social economy.
Expanding on this, Leslie Morrison said: “Invest NI also supported and assisted the development of 90 export-focused businesses. One challenge will be to identify those businesses with the highest potential to become global players, some of which may be “spin outs” from universities and existing businesses and others inward investments. Our venture capital activities will continue to be an enabler of certain of these companies.
“There is a growing recognition that cultural change is required if we are to have a society which embraces entrepreneurship. We have been working closely with the Department of Employment and Learning and the wider education sector to ensure that individuals are suitably equipped for employment and to embed entrepreneurship skills more widely into the curricula. In the coming year, we will bring forward our approach to accelerating youth entrepreneurship.”
The nature of foreign direct investment which is being attracted to Western Europe is changing. Individual investments no longer have the same impact on employment, but the quality of their activity and of the investors involved greatly boosts the capability of our economy to generate wealth. New inward investment projects have been secured predominantly in the ICT sector and offer quality employment, new skills, excellent names and connections with international markets.
Of the 27 inward investment projects secured, 11 were new inward investments, offering investment of £35M, an increase of almost 65% on last year, 1099 jobs, an increase of 35% on last year, and £18m per year in salaries/wages; and the other 16 projects from existing externally owned companies will result in £97m total investment.
These investments reinforce the continued attraction of Northern Ireland to external investors for advanced manufacturing and tradable services. Eighty two per cent of the new inward investment projects are to be located in NTSN areas.
The 27 projects will result in the creation of 2,034 new employment opportunities, the safeguarding of a further 2,047 and total investment of £132M. These investments, complemented by commitments of £160M by indigenous client companies will lead to substantial wealth generation in the local economy.
Reflecting on the year, Prof Monds said: “The second year of Invest NI has seen us build solidly on the foundations laid down in our first. Invest NI is rising to its challenge of becoming a successful one-stop-shop for business support and advice. Through our Business Development Solutions, we have reduced the number of support programmes from around 180 to 80, grouped these into five simple themes, and restructured our client facing teams sectorally. The result has been that more companies are participating in our programmes and that they are being delivered more efficiently with reduced numbers of staff.
“Our client companies are faced with significant challenges including globalisation, technological advance, EU enlargement and cost pressures. They are responding by becoming more competitive, more entrepreneurial and more outwardly focused. It is essential that this be just the start of a process since the competition faced by our economy will not go away,” he continued.
“The services and assistance programmes provided by Invest NI are amongst the most wide-ranging of any economic development agency in the British Isles. We must therefore balance the demands on us against our finite resources by prioritising our financing and advisory efforts on those projects that offer the highest incremental value-added to Northern Ireland.”
“There are clear signs that by focusing on the promotion of capability development and encouraging increasing numbers of business starts, we are meeting the challenges set out in our Corporate Plan and that we are moving towards an increasingly innovative and entrepreneurial Northern Ireland,” Prof Monds concluded.