Foster: Collaboration key to international competitiveness

Northern Ireland can deliver on the global stage when it comes to business and innovation, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Welcoming attendees to the 2013 European Business Network (EBN) Annual Congress at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry, the Minister said it was important for businesses to broaden their horizons by looking to new markets.

The 2013 Congress brought together over 350 international participants alongside Northern Ireland businesses with a structured facilitation to encourage networking in key areas of innovation.

Arlene Foster said: “By exchanging, sharing and exploiting knowledge, we can drive our economy to an even higher level.

“Our Economic Strategy recognises the importance of targeting resources and research on areas where we have the best opportunities to be leaders on the European or even world stage.

“Collaboration is vital if we are to strive towards international competitiveness and build a knowledge based economy. Indeed, our focus on collaboration meant Northern Ireland was successfully selected by the EU as a demonstrator region for developing service innovation. I am confident that our engagement in such international initiatives will not only assist us to build fruitful partnerships but also to positively profile the range of innovative activities that Northern Ireland businesses are engaged in.”

Highlighting the importance of Horizon 2020, which has a budget of €80billion to implement the EU’s new programme for research and innovation, the Minister said: “Locally, we have established the Barroso Taskforce to increase the participation of Northern Ireland businesses in the next rounds of structural funds to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity.”

Other speakers at the Congress included Steve Wozniak, Apple Co-founder, Sir Tim Smit, KBE, famous for his work with the world-renowned Eden Project, Joanna Shields, CEO & Chair of Tech City UK and Dr. Richard Florida, Professor at University of Toronto and NYU, Senior Editor the Atlantic, and best-selling US author on the economic importance of the creative industries.

Praising The Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Centre (NORIBC) for successfully attracting the prestigious annual EBN Congress to Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster added: “The Congress brings international expertise and local businesses together to share experience, learn from best practice and to hear from an impressive list of inspirational speakers.

“I hope that the local businesses attending will benefit from the networking opportunities as well as the valuable information and guidance on offer, which they can put into practice in the months and years ahead.”