An update on Invest NI’s performance and current action to help the private sector.
The vital components of building a modern, efficient economy continue to be supporting innovation, winning inward investment, increasing export levels and driving up productivity. These, therefore, remain the core focus of Invest Northern Ireland within the context of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government.
Despite the challenging global economic conditions over the last three years Invest NI has helped to strengthen the local economy in a number of ways. We secured 7,500 new jobs from inward investment, a large percentage of which pay over the private sector average and are helping push our economy up the value chain. We’ve supported 11,000 new business starts, leveraged £327 million of expenditure on research and development and stimulated some £2 million of investment in the economy every day.
But the fact remains that the Northern Ireland economy’s inherent weakness is the relatively small size of its private sector. It is recognised that it will take 20-25 years to rebalance it and that a sustained effort is required to build on the positive momentum of the past few years.
In the short term, Invest NI is addressing the fall-out from the economic downturn by boosting business and job creation through a new Short Term Employment Scheme which aims to create 4,000 jobs by 2014. This initiative offers grant support for the creation of new businesses and new jobs, and intensive mentoring support to help existing businesses scale up.
But in the long term, Northern Ireland’s economic future will be heavily reliant on our businesses developing the competitive edge which differentiates them sufficiently to trade successfully in international markets, and on our continued success in attracting inward investment.
The skills of the local workforce also make a major contribution to productivity and economic success. For that reason Invest NI has, jointly with the Department for Employment and Learning, developed an Assured Skills programme to improve the skills of employees, bolstering the capability of local firms and further enhancing Northern Ireland’s proposition to inward investors.
To ensure that, within the anticipated budgetary pressures over the next few years, Invest NI can continue to maximise its impact on the economy, the organisation is currently undergoing a process of change.
Our aim is to offer the highest quality and most relevant and timely support to businesses. We will work to harness the potential of a much wider business base through a new partnership approach to achieve export-focused growth. This will see a differentiated service delivery to each segment of the market, based on companies’ future contribution to the economy.
Invest NI also firmly believes that lowering the corporate tax rate presents a new approach and a clear opportunity to increase the private sector in Northern Ireland. In addition, if the Northern Ireland Executive were given wider tax-varying powers, then there are a number of other complementary initiatives that could be considered, including R&D tax credits, enhanced capital allowances and training credits that could be used as an incentive to encourage further investment.
The economic environment looks likely to remain challenging over the next couple of years but Invest NI will continue to focus its resources where most benefit will accrue both to businesses and to the economy as a whole.
For more information on Invest NI’s support and services:
Tel: 0800 181 422
This article appeared in Agenda NI magazine, September 2011 edition.