Increasing our external sales is critical to growing local business and transforming Northern Ireland into a globally competitive economy. In 2015, external sales totalled £23bn, of which £13.8bn were to GB.
Encouraging and helping as many companies to grasp the opportunities available to grow in markets outside Northern Ireland is a priority for us. We are very fortunate to have some fantastic companies across all sectors producing goods and services that can compete with businesses anywhere in the world. For lots of companies one of the best places to begin selling outside of NI is the GB market.
The economic growth of the GB market is providing Northern Ireland businesses with significant opportunities to grow sales. It is one of our most important markets, with Northern Ireland businesses already having strong success in this region across multiple sectors, including Wrights Group Ltd, Locum Match, Woodmarque and Water Tecnik.
Following the decision to leave the EU in June 2016, Invest NI considered its trade programme. We added measures through a Trade Accelerator Plan to help companies grow their sales in external markets, and boost export competencies to perfectly place Northern Ireland for the years ahead.
We now offer an enhanced support programme which includes a Great Britain Market Intro programme, initially prepared for the construction sector. Last year we supported seven local manufacturers and service suppliers to meet with key prospects in GB’s construction sector, to maximise their chances of entering the supply chain of future construction projects. Several companies have either already secured business or are bidding for worthwhile contracts in the GB market following the programme. The three month programme supported local businesses through workshops, one-to-one mentoring and market visits and this has been such a success that we have extended the programme to all sectors.
Whilst many Northern Ireland companies are already having great success in the GB market, there are further opportunities available for ambitious companies that want to boost their growth and remain competitive.- Ailson Gowdy, Director of Trade
Whilst many Northern Ireland companies are already having great success in the GB market, there are further opportunities available for ambitious companies that want to boost their growth and remain competitive. We now offer enhanced support to SME’s for travel and accommodation in Great Britain through our export market visits assistance. We have made 47 offers of support since the scheme began in September 2016. We have also made over 100 offers of support to companies through our SOLEX scheme, which provides assistance for those wishing to exhibit independently at an approved trade show outside Northern Ireland.
To support key sectors including the Aerospace, Health & Life Sciences and ICT & Electronics sectors we have added new exhibitions and initiatives to our programme including Aero Engine Forum in Birmingham and Health Plus Care in London.
Following two very effective delivery periods, we are extending our Export Development Service (EDS) for a further two year period to help companies in all sectors to scope out and quantify GB market opportunities, undertake market research, identify and target key prospects and develop market entry and market development action plans. We also assist companies to build their in-house capability with support for the development of sales presentations, bid preparation and marketing collateral.
We work in partnership with stakeholders across GB, such as the Chambers of Commerce to provide additional specialist advice to exporters to assist with breaking into the GB market.
Invest NI wants to encourage our companies to grow through innovation and exporting is an excellent way of doing this. Providing opportunities for Northern Ireland Food & Drink companies to present their high quality and innovative produce is a key element in our strategic focus to help this exceptionally important industry to enter or strengthen their market presence in GB. We have a schedule of promotional activities which includes a series of very successful ‘meet the buyer’ events with buyers from multiple retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
We will continue to offer and deliver the fullest range of support to both local and internationally owned businesses to drive economic growth. Businesses interested in exporting should look at the new guides and case studies which can be found on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk.
To help you prepare your business for Brexit visit our visit our Think Ahead section, a resource of information and guidance to help you mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities of Brexit.