Foster announces new enterprise support initatives

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today launched new programmes to increase entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland and help established businesses to grow.

The Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) programmes, which commence on 1 April 2009, will consist of two main elements - the Go For It Programme, targeting individuals who are considering starting a business and the Growth Programme, aimed at established companies with the ability to expand through exports.

Announcing details of the new Enterprise Development Programmes, and associated advertising campaign, at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the Minister said: “The development of a dynamic and innovative economy is a key element in the Executive’s Programme for Government.

“In order to achieve this and recover as quickly as possible from the current economic downturn, we must stimulate an ever more entrepreneurial culture here. We therefore need to increase the number of new businesses, and support the growth of our existing companies, by helping them to export.

“The new Enterprise Development Programmes will provide the encouragement and guidance that is needed by those thinking about starting a business, as well as helping established companies to grow.”

Outlining the main elements of the programmes, Arlene Foster said: “The Go For It programme will build the skills of potential entrepreneurs, helping them to develop strategic business plans and commercialise their ideas. Once established, businesses will have access to continued mentoring support in areas such as branding and website development.

“The Growth Programme will provide existing businesses, which have high growth potential, with tailored guidance in areas such as marketing, negotiation skills, networking, online sales and financial management, increasing their ability to sell into export markets.”

Under-represented groups, including women, ethnic minorities and people living in disadvantaged areas, will be specifically targeted, ensuring wide-ranging accessibility to the programmes.

The Minister said that innovation will be embedded in the culture of new businesses from their inception, in order to increase their long-term prospects. She said: “Experience has shown that by nurturing innovation from the earliest stages, young companies have a greater chance of success.”

The Minister continued: “Small local businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. The new Enterprise Development Programmes are in line with the government agenda which focuses on the growth of our private sector, including those important small and medium sized indigenous companies.

“An enterprising culture can boost an economy’s growth, productivity and approach to innovation. Initiatives, such as the new Enterprise Development Programmes, can make an important contribution towards building a more sustainable economy for Northern Ireland.”

The advertising campaign, which will support the Enterprise Development Programmes, will raise awareness of the benefits of starting a business and emphasise the importance of continuously focusing on business growth. It will be aimed at prospective participants, including existing firms, and will comprise print and broadcast advertising.