Foster welcomes high profile European delegates to major event


Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster last night welcomed 100 delegates from 17 regions across Europe to an event organised by the European Commission’s Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General in co-operation with Invest Northern Ireland.

The event, which runs over three days in Belfast, takes the form of a workshop focusing on service innovation. It is the result of Northern Ireland being selected as one of six ‘model demonstrator’ regions of Europe and subsequently winning the bid to host the workshop.

A model demonstrator region is one that can show how it has transformed its economy through innovation.

Welcoming the delegates Arlene Foster said: “This workshop is a collaboration between my Department, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry team and their expert partners, the European Service Innovation Centre.

“We are delighted that Northern Ireland was chosen as a model demonstrator and as the host of this important workshop. It reflects an appreciation of how Belfast has used innovation as a driver for change following the decline of its traditional industries.

“The city has applied old skill sets to new sectors and developed global partnerships in order to exploit emerging economic opportunities. A number of Northern Ireland businesses are working with global partners on projects across a range of diverse sectors such as broadcasting, advanced materials and energy, thereby ensuring a competitive economic landscape for Belfast in the 21st century.”

The workshop is a forum for discussing economic challenges that can be addressed through service innovation, sharing experience on how best to overcome obstacles and setting an agenda for structural change towards service-driven economies.

Delegates include representatives from the EU Commission and the European Service Innovation Centre, European region policy makers, business people and academics.

The workshop is part of an initiative recently launched by the European Commission which aims to facilitate service innovation and strengthen existing and emerging industries. It is based on the ‘large-scale demonstrator’ approach which goes beyond traditional innovation policies that are designed to support projects at the level of individual companies. The ‘large-scale’ approach aims to address specific problems by involving people, businesses and institutions in a collective effort to transform their economy through innovation.