Innovation through R&D is an investment in a company’s future capabilities and has a vital role to play in the growth and sustainability of Northern Ireland’s economy.
For the four years ending March 2015, Invest NI assistance leveraged £500 million of private sector investment in R&D.
By undertaking R&D, Northern Ireland’s businesses can ensure they keep up with customer demand, develop truly world class products or enhance existing ones, and explore all available opportunities in order to stay ahead of the competition. This can lead to more sales, new global customers and bigger profits. Invest NI advice, guidance and financial support for R&D has enabled companies to generate new business and innovate to increase competitiveness.
R&D is not just for companies with millions of pounds to spend, and it is not restricted to research being conducted in laboratories. Quite often, it’s about taking an idea and using skills to develop new or better products, processes and services and meeting customer needs. Northern Ireland companies have been very successful in doing this such as Ballymena company, Garage Doors, which expanded its range of doors via an Invest NI grant for R&D, and Lisburn based APT Innovations, which invented a product to remove water and impurities from water pipes.
Last year alone, Invest NI supported both large and small companies with £42 million financial assistance offered for research and development which has been part funded by ERDF under EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.
When businesses commit to R&D, some may not get the outcome they expected and companies who are new to R&D need to be prepared for this. During the process, companies may need to go back to the development stage if, through research, they have discovered that the product they are developing is not what the customer base want. Businesses can't assume everything will work straight away and they have to allow the time and money to modify ideas.
Northern Ireland has seen continued growth in investment in R&D. The latest results from NISRA, 2013, show business investment in R&D (BERD) is up, from 0.6% of GVA to 1.3%, which is above the UK average of 1.2% and now Northern Ireland lies sixth of the 12 UK regions.
Invest NI wants to continue this momentum and embed R&D into Northern Ireland’s business culture. It is increasingly important if companies are to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing global business environment. No matter what sector they are in, investing in R&D is essential to the long term future of the business.
Invest NI offers many different levels of support for R&D through our Innovation Voucher scheme, Grant for R&D, our partnership with Innovate UK and support from Horizon 2020. Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency and the European Commission’s, Horizon 2020 Programme offer significant funding opportunities for ambitious companies. Whilst the application process is extremely competitive, in addition to attractive funding rates, companies can benefit from exposure at a national and EU scale.
I would encourage all businesses to consider the benefits they could gain from investment in innovation through R&D and contact Invest NI to discuss further. If you have never undertaken R&D before, Invest NI is inviting companies to apply to our New to R&D where we can provide up to £50,000 of support towards your costs. Find out more information about research and development.