Foster: innovation can help beat the recession

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has underlined the value of business innovation in supporting economic recovery.

The Minister addressed key local stakeholders, including business representatives, academia and elected representatives, at an event organised by NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

The event took the form of a discussion forum, intended to generate debate on a recent NESTA report entitled ‘Attacking the Recession: How Innovation can beat the Downturn’.

The report focuses on how innovation can help address the challenges of this economic recession, making a number of suggestions, from promoting initiatives to develop the potential of low-carbon energy to providing funding for innovative start-up companies.

Speaking at the event in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “Despite the significant challenges currently being faced by local businesses, the economic downturn is presenting opportunities for some companies to diversify and grow.

“NESTA’s report focuses on innovation as a key factor in growing the economy. It also highlights a number of opportunities to help bolster the UK economy during the current recession. These range from promoting social entrepreneurship, further developing high speed broadband infrastructure and creating innovative approaches to the delivery of public services.

“The report represents a useful and informative tool for policy decision-making and its recommendations align well to those of the MATRIX report, by highlighting how the development of businesses in high-tech sectors and the commercialisation of Research and Development (R&D) activities could nurture significant economic growth. Such an approach can help make best use of Northern Ireland’s strong academic base and retain our high quality young graduates.”

The Minister continued: “My Department, working through Invest NI, is committed to helping businesses continue to invest in innovation and R&D. Invest NI delivers a range of financial and advisory support to assist businesses with R&D activities and investigate innovative product and process ideas, often for the first time. Support is also available for research at the very highest levels that could develop into lucrative business opportunities and which enhances Northern Ireland’s overall science and technology capability.

“We need a combination of resilience, enterprise and innovation to provide a platform for future growth here. Such reports as those by NESTA and MATRIX, help to create a blueprint for business, government and academia to work together towards generating economic growth through the exploitation of innovative science and technology.”

Graeme Downie, NESTA’s Communications Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “Our report, ‘Attacking the Recession’, highlights how by focusing on potential high growth areas such as low-carbon energy, social entrepreneurship and innovative business start-ups, the economy as a whole will benefit from greater levels of inventiveness and creativity. This in turn will help speed up economic recovery and position the UK well for the global upturn when it occurs.

“The event has helped stimulate the debate on this issue amongst some of Northern Ireland’s foremost business, political and academic influencers. It has also enabled us to gather views on how we might progress our recommendations for the good of the whole economy.”

The event was attended by MLAs, business representatives, academics and senior officials from various public sector bodies. Other speakers included Stian Westlake, Executive Director of Research and Policy at NESTA.