US a market rich in business opportunities for Northern Ireland

The United States (US) is regarded as the largest, most competitive and technologically advanced economy in the world. It's the UK’s top export destination and is ranked the fourth easiest country to do business with.

The US is also Northern Ireland’s second biggest export market, purchasing manufactured goods worth £572.7 million from local suppliers in 2014, an increase of 12.6 per cent on the previous year.

There are a large number of Northern Ireland businesses, across a broad range of sectors from medical supplies, to food, to buses, exporting to the US.

How Invest NI can help

We maintain an extensive database of market information and business procedures on the US in the Business Information Centre and also offers access to online databases. In addition, in-market advice and support is provided about the US by experienced staff in Belfast and also at based in the US. We also organise attendance at industry exhibitions such as BIO which NI companies can participate in.

Business facts about the US

Economic Growth

The US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has consistently seen growth of 1.8% or more since 2011. The US is the largest economy in the world. According to HSBC’s The World in 2050 report, it is forecast to remain so until 2050, when China will move into first place.

Benefits of doing business in the US

  • world’s largest market
  • world’s largest private sector
  • low regulatory barriers
  • no language barriers
  • access to global supply chains that can lead to exports for other markets
  • one of the most innovative consumer markets in the world
  • ease of doing business due to similar business culture

Challenges of doing business in the US

  • vast regional differences between the 50 markets/states
  • strong competition, causing saturation of products or services
  • high customer service expectations
  • high cost of living in major cities
  • significant time difference (between 5 and 8 hours behind the UK)
  • high cost for business insurance
  • litigation is common
  • expensive and time consuming process for work visas

Top Northern Ireland exports to the US

  • machinery and transport equipment
  • chemicals and related products
  • miscellaneous manufactured goods
  • manufactured goods
  • beverages and tobacco
  • food and live animals
  • crude materials
  • animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes

Business Opportunities in the US

There are many opportunities for export business in the US. Here are just some (in alphabetical order):


The US is the number one country for Aerospace. Commercial aviation in the US is growing rapidly due to the need to upgrade the fleets used by US airlines. 

Boeing has an order backlog of over 5,000 aircraft, creating opportunities for UK companies. Other engine manufacturers also have large backlogs and are investing in technology.

Clean technology

The US environmental goods and services market is worth $343.3 billion.

The US water sector represents $154 billion in revenue. Water utilities and wastewater treatment each account for 35% of that. The American Water Works Association estimates that the upgrades and expansions required over the next 20 to 25 years will total $35 billion. Environmental consulting and engineering services grew in 2013, with revenue reaching $30 billion. There are opportunities available for UK companies in areas such as:

  • solid waste management
  • air pollution reduction
  • water quality
  • resource management
  • infrastructure

Consumer goods

US households have an annual disposable income of over $300,000 making it the top destination in the world for luxury goods.

The US accounts for almost 30 per cent of the world’s consumer market and has an expenditure of $10 trillion (71% of GDP). The US market is extremely competitive and research to find out exactly where a product or service fits is essential.

There are opportunities for UK companies in food and drink, with a particular interest in:

  • alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • organic, natural and gluten free food

Creative and media

The US is the largest market in the world for creative and media industries. The UK has an excellent reputation in the US and has continuing success for film, TV, music, and videogames.

There are many opportunities for UK companies, particularly in the following areas:

  • new technologies to improve intellectual property protection
  • digital rights management
  • digital content production and distribution
  • animation
  • 3D
  • consumer experience for mobile devices

Financial and professional services

The US financial services industry is the largest in the world. It has a stable regulatory environment, strong intellectual property rights and reliable judicial system.

The main subsectors include:

  • banking
  • asset management
  • insurance
  • venture capital
  • accounting
  • legal services
  • management consulting

Homeland security and defence

The US is the largest defence market in the world, representing $645.7 billion in 2012. Homeland security, homeland defence, counter-terror and public safety markets totalled $74.5 billion.

Areas of opportunity include:

  • Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR)
  • border security
  • cyber security and insurance
  • threat identification systems
  • commercial aviation security
  • maritime security

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

San Francisco Bay area (Silicon Valley) is the main location for ICT in the US.

The US has the world’s most advanced ICT industry. It generates revenues of $600 billion and represents 55% of global research and development investment.

There are many opportunities available in high-growth areas, including:

  • personal monitoring systems (quantified self)
  • machine to machine communication (M2M)
  • robotics
  • analytics (big data)
  • business software
  • mobile applications
  • cyber security

Life Sciences

The Life Sciences sector is extremely competitive and is the largest in the world. Success in the sector requires a long term commitment and a unique service or product.

There are opportunities for UK companies in:

  • drug discovery and development
  • healthcare ICT
  • diagnostics
  • medical devices

US Market - things to think about

Intellectual property

In the US, a company name is not the same as a trademark and will only give limited protection.

If you intend to sell goods or services to the US, you should consider applying for US trademark protection. You also need to check that your trademark doesn’t infringe any existing trademark. Find out more information about intellectual property rights in the US on


Opening a bank account in the US can be challenging. Some US banks will offer accounts to UK companies who have accounts with a UK affiliate. Contact your local branch and ask about your options for opening a US account.


You should make sure you know which US regulations apply to your products or services and follow packaging and labelling requirements.

Some of the main US federal agencies are:

Find a full list of US federal agencies on the website.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) works with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. Check the NIST to find out what standards apply

Entry requirements

If you plan to visit the US for business you can enter through the US Visa Waiver Program for up to 90 days. This is usually valid for 2 years or until your passport expires.