CEO Speech at NI Executive Press Conference 08 September 2020

Kevin Holland - NI Executive Press Conference 08-09-20

Below is the speech given by our CEO, Kevin Holland, at the NI Executive Press Conference.

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here with Minister Dodds to announce these 2 new COVID support schemes. Previous initiatives have largely targeted support to businesses managing the immediate economic impact of Covid 19. Our focus now switches to recovery and business success in the future in the post Covid, post EU Exit landscape.

As the Minister has said, these are the first of a number of schemes we are introducing this year to support businesses to recover and rebound from the impact from COVID-19.

When we talk with businesses, many are facing a new and very different business landscape.

To respond, many will adapt products or even completely change business or sector focus or look hard at how to use the skills and talent they have.

These changes may lead a business to invest in new equipment to upgrade product portfolios or to source new suppliers, for example extending their supplier base closer to home to safeguard potential disruptions on travel and transport. For some, there will be the opportunity to have a greater role in global supply chains.

Others may have great new business plans or R&D projects but could find accessing finance to support growth is harder in the wake of COVID.

Our goal is to provide a portfolio of new solutions that will help companies address many of these challenges and take advantage of the new opportunities major changes in markets have created. So where do we start?

Changing consumer demand and reaching customers through new channels is a challenge facing many businesses, and evidently for those in retail and wholesale which rely on a more traditional face-to-face sales process.

Online retail (shopping) was already on the increase even before COVID with  20% of all retail sales. Since COVID this has escalated at a quicker rate and now sits at almost 30%.

Today’s new Digital Selling Capability Grant just announced by the Minister is a scheme we have specifically developed to support small and medium-sized retailers to move online.

It will provide a maximum grant of £20,000 to access consultancy services or expertise from digital marketing or e-commerce suppliers so they can migrate part their business online and seek for new growth.

Moving online will ensure these businesses are able to reach existing customers as well as drive digital sales through new customers and markets. It will support their viability and competitiveness for the longer term.

Applications open tomorrow with all the details on now.

The COVID-19 Equity Investment Fund is the second new scheme we are announcing today.

It is a £5m investment fund designed to help early stage SMEs access funding to support their COVID-19 response and recovery.

Sourcing investment in a business can be a challenge even in a buoyant economy. Since COVID-19, funding and liquidity issues have become ever more real.

The fund will invest in technology and innovative SMEs and will fund alongside others – such as private investors or banks – to a maximum of £700,000.

The business can come from a range of sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, digital, big data, and should have a significant international market opportunity. We want to help businesses succeed outside NI.

Applications open tomorrow and again all the information is on now.

As I commented, these are the first of a number of recovery schemes. I hope to join the Minister again in the near future to announce further initiatives and explore the wider range of programmes available. Invest NI provides today an extensive suite of support open to all businesses and I encourage businesses to check our website first, phone our helpline (0800 141  4422) or talk to someone locally in Invest NI to see if we can help your business needs.

Despite the current challenges, many of our local businesses are showing strong growth and ambition. The Northern Ireland business community has proven itself capable of meeting challenges before. We also see international investors are rightly still attracted to Northern Ireland.

Market opportunities exist today and by embracing change and making these opportunities work, we can ensure Northern Ireland businesses emerge strongly in recovery, both locally and internationally.

Thank you