Coleraine architectural practice has designs for export success

Coleraine architectural services company neu designactivists is being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop business in the Republic of Ireland for its professional expertise.  

Recent finalists in the N.I. Showcase Build & Design Awards for innovation, the company has received support from Invest NI under the Growth Accelerator Programme (GAP) to strengthen its architectural team and undertake a series of marketing initiatives in the Republic and further afield.

Paul McGowan, a Director of neu designactivists, outlining the company’s plans, said it is aiming to take advantage of the different planning rules in the Republic to grow its business.

Mr McGowan said: “We’ve been researching opportunities to bring our expertise to the Republic of Ireland market-place where, if a negative ruling does not come back from the planning authorities there within two months, the application is deemed to be approved.  

“This is substantially different to that what happens in Northern Ireland where planning applications may rest within planning, pending decisions, for much longer.

“We believe that our experience in environmentally-friendly designs gives us a competitive edge in the Republic and other markets that we have been exploring such as Scotland and the Netherlands.

“GAP support enables us quickly to take the steps needed to establish a position in the Republic in particular. It’s potentially a very important marketplace for us and could provide a springboard to other external markets.

“We are using the scheme to recruit an additional member of staff for project management and this will enable us to deploy a director to focus on seeking out and clinching new business in the Republic.

“Our objective is to grow exports to 50 per cent of our business by 2010. Our research indicates that this target is achievable but only if we deploy sufficient manpower and financial resources, GAP will help us to do this.”

Des Gartland, Manager of Invest NI’s North West Regional Office, commenting on the GAP support, said: “We believe there are significant growth opportunities for this design-led business in the Republic. Our support is geared to help the company to increase marketing capability.

“Another factor influencing our decision is the strength of this small company’s commitment to business outside Northern Ireland. This is in line with our strategic focus on assisting entrepreneurial and innovative companies that are keen to build sales of products and services outside Northern Ireland.”

Neu designactivists, which is based at Lodge Road in Coleraine, was established as a partnership in April 2006 with three partners– Mr McGowan, Jonathan Johnston and Niall Mullan.

The business is divided into two operations: Design – establishing the design brief, preparation of sketches and detailed designs, presentations to clients and submissions to local authority planning; and Technical - preparation of technical drawings for contractors, submissions to local building control, production of a detailed specification package, preparation of SAP guidelines, preparation of tender packages and onsite meetings and inspections.