Firm orders worth almost £2.5 million were secured by companies on the recent Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to the established markets of Singapore and Malaysia and the emerging market of Vietnam.

Among companies securing substantial business were Mivan of Antrim, which signed contracts worth £817,000 for fast track construction of high-rise residential accommodation; Colorite Europe, Belfast, £810,000 for medical grade vinyl used in medical devices; Fast Engineering, £129,000 for portable water storage tanks; and FM Environmental, Newry, £172, 000 for waste water treatment technology.

In addition, two companies, Lowe Refrigeration of Carryduff, and Edge Innovative Learning International, Belfast, completed arrangements to open offices in Singapore. Mission members were also supported in developing business contacts throughout South East Asia by Amelia Yeo, Invest NI’s Singapore-based representative.

Several companies used the mission to explore opportunities in other markets in the region such as Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Welcoming the successes of the 31 companies on the 10-day mission from 8-18 April, Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development at Invest NI, said: “The overall performance of companies on this mission, the biggest ever from Northern Ireland to South East Asia, is extremely encouraging. Trade missions enable local companies to explore new markets and to introduce new products cost-effectively.

“Equally significant is the participation of a number of smaller companies – two thirds of the delegation were small to medium-sized enterprises - in a mission that centred on Singapore and Malaysia, two of the most competitive markets in the region, and included Vietnam, a marketplace that is developing rapidly but is complicated for small companies because of its ongoing transformation from a command to a market-led economy.

“A key Invest NI objective is to assist companies, especially the small to medium sized enterprises which are the backbone of the local economy, to broaden their horizons and add value to their business by taking part in our comprehensive range of marketing activities overseas.

“Our Corporate Plan projects 10 per cent annual growth in exports over the next three years from a greater participation by local companies in missions such as this to the Asia/Pacific region. This growth rate will have a significant impact on the bottom-line of the participating companies, on employment and the overall economic wealth of the community,” she added.

Dr Ivan McCabrey, Mivan Managing Director, said: “The mission provided an extremely important springboard for us in developing business for our formwork construction with existing clients, particularly in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

“We secured business worth over £800,000 and this will help us to consolidate our already strong presence throughout the region.”

Another company with significant business in the region, Colorite Europe, which is based at Poleglass, secured substantial orders from major medical device manufacturers based in Singapore. Colorite manufactures medical grade vinyl pellets used in the production of plastic devices such as blood lines.

Said Ian Kenny, Colorite Europe’s Managing Director: “We’ve been targeting South East Asia for over three years and now have more than 15 per cent of the market there.

“Over the past year, our sales to this region, now a major global centre for the production of medical devices, have risen by 60 per cent. We’ve been taking part in trade missions for over a year and have found them useful in terms of the contribution they make to overall costs and in maintaining contacts with our agent and customers there.”

Seamus Connolly, Fast Engineering’s Managing Director, Antrim, a company specialising in portable water storage tanks for a range of applications including cleaning up oil spills and pollution, used the mission to explore opportunities in a new market for the company, Vietnam.

Highlighting the potential of this developing market, Mr Connolly said: “Vietnam is going to be a very significant business nation. There’s a tremendous energy throughout the country. The people are very industrious and keen to do business with the West. Our products were very well received and I secured substantial orders from the oil industry now developing rapidly offshore. As a result, I’ll be going back in November.

“Trade missions are a particularly cost-effective and flexible means of identifying market opportunities and of keeping abreast of trends within established markets,” he added.

Jim O’Neill, Managing Director of Newry-based Environmental Products and Services, taking part in a mission for the first time, was impressed by the team spirit that developed among participants during the 10-day trip.

“I pinpointed some very interesting opportunities in the region and gained a lot from the experience of others on the mission who are well established there,” he added.