Over 150 people attended the final public consultation meeting on Invest Northern Ireland’s draft strategy Accelerating Entrepreneurship, held on Tuesday in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.

The strategy aims to get more people involved in new business ventures and assist existing companies become more successful. The meeting was the last of three scheduled as part of the public consultation process, which runs until 28 March.

Those attending the meeting included representatives from the local business community, councils, enterprise agencies, further and higher education and community sectors.

Invest NI Chairman Professor Fabian Monds and Professor Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, outlined the main points of the draft strategy and then took questions and comments from the audience on a range of issues.

These included the idea of attracting foreign entrepreneurs to Northern Ireland, the problems of accessing capital, and the need to work with the education sector to change attitudes to entrepreneurship.

Through the strategy, Invest NI proposes to customise its business development support resources to promote a substantial increase in company start-ups in three distinct sectors with very different needs: businesses with global market potential; those capable of external sales and those focused on the Northern Ireland market.

Among the initiatives contained in the strategy is the development of a unique Virtual Enterprise Mall that will provide advice and assistance on a whole range of aspects from guidance on legislative requirements to access to support. This will give people interested in starting or growing a business, a gateway for accessing the extensive network of support available in Northern Ireland.

Prof Monds said: “Today’s turnout underlines the importance of this consultation process, and will ensure that the final strategy document will reflect the ideas of local people and will have widespread public support.

“Through this strategy we, in partnership with other organisations, are taking a new approach to the challenge of changing attitudes to entrepreneurship, and an innovative approach to improving business performance and to increasing the scale of business starts.”

Prof Scott said: “Through the Accelerating Entrepreneurship strategy we want to get more people thinking positively about entrepreneurship, we want to support those with ideas to create wealth in priority sectors and we want to enhance the infrastructure to accelerate business growth.

“We’ve had a high volume of responses to this consultation process, covering a wide range of views. This feedback is invaluable and we’re confident that the final version of the strategy will ensure Northern Ireland becomes recognised as one of the best places to start and grow a business.”

Copies of the draft consultation document have been circulated to business organisations, councils and enterprise bodies. The draft document is also included on the Invest NI website at

The key points of the draft consultation strategy are:

Invest NI proposes to target resources and initiatives to achieve a significant increase in entrepreneurship in three areas as follows:

·Global market business starts - enterprises with global potential;
·External business starts - new businesses capable of achieving external sales (Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland); and
·Local market start-ups - new companies and self-employed enterprises focused on the local Northern Ireland market.

Targeted Invest NI initiatives proposed for each segment include:

Global market business starts
(1)A new specialist Invest NI team to work with individual entrepreneurs with the potential to establish worldclass competitive companies.
(2)A Front Runner initiative which will select up to 25 businesses each year for intensive support and assistance.
(3)A Proof of Concept/Principle Fund which will provide finance to assist technology-led start-ups test their ideas.

External market starts
(1)A revitalised network of support with dedicated resources provided through Invest NI’s Local Office Network that will offer companies customised support throughout Northern Ireland
(2)A Continuous Professional Development Programme will be introduced to equip entrepreneurs with the capability to grow their businesses faster.
(3)More sophisticated networking programmes will provide easier access to information and guidance including legislative issues.

Local market start-ups
(1)Partnerships with other Government and district councils will be strengthened by Invest NI which will work through the Enterprise NI network to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and increase local start-ups, particularly encouraging enterprise in the agriculture and creative industries.
(2)Supply chain and out-sourcing opportunities will be examined to
encourage new business opportunities.

Special measures will be taken to promote entrepreneurship within areas designated for New Targeting Social Needs (NTSN ). In addition targets will be set to increase entrepreneurship among under-represented groups such as women, young people, the disabled and ethnic minorities.

(3)The Social Economy will be further developed by innovative programmes to assist regeneration and the local infrastructure for entrepreneurs.