Enterprise Minister announces support for R&D

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today launched a new, more accessible programme of R&D support for companies across Northern Ireland.

Invest Northern Ireland’s ‘Grant for R&D’, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Programme, will make it easier for companies to access financial support from the £50 million allocated by Invest NI, to promote investment in innovation-focused projects from 2008 to 2011.

Combined with expert guidance from dedicated Innovation Advisors, the new ‘Grant for R&D’ programme is available to companies regardless of size or previous experience of R&D activity.

Launching the programme at Invest NI’s headquarters in Belfast, Arlene Foster said: “In the current economic climate, it is critical that firms not only seek out short-term solutions to survive the downturn, but they must also continue to plan for the future and invest in their R&D programmes.

“Indeed, when this downturn ends, the strongest global economies, and those that will recover quickest, will be built on businesses that have maintained their R&D capabilities.

“Invest NI’s new ‘Grant for R&D’ offers a user-friendly, holistic approach, combining financial support with practical advice from innovation experts. It is another example of the practical support and initiatives that the agency is bringing forward to help local businesses cope with the current economic challenges.

“Such measures will help ensure that companies are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities available when global market conditions improve.”

One local company which is already gaining a commercial advantage following Invest NI R&D support is Toomebridge-based specialist precast concrete supplier Macrete.

Macrete Joint Managing Director Iain Hogg explains: “Invest NI assistance has enabled us to develop a flexible, concrete arch bridge system which, with its many possible applications, is attracting international interest and could have a very significant effect on the company’s future growth. The research projects backed by Invest NI have also helped to embed a culture of innovation at all levels within the company.”

The Minister concluded: “The recent MATRIX report, which provides advice to government on how to maximise economic opportunities by exploiting our R&D and science and technology strengths, has set out a blueprint for future market opportunities. The report also highlights the need for regulatory reform, in order to make support for R&D investments more accessible to business.

“Invest NI’s ‘Grant for R&D’ will help to stimulate greater levels of forward thinking and innovative future planning, enabling more companies to improve the effectiveness and competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy, over the medium to long term.”