Invest NI Chief Executive announces major drive to boost exports

In picture is (left), Dr Mazen Soliman Fakeeh, Director General of Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah, with Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive, Invest NI. The University of Ulster has a contract with the hospital to provide nursing training.

Northern Ireland companies will have greater opportunities than ever before to develop export business during 2012/13, Alastair Hamilton, Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive, said today.

Mr Hamilton announced details of a major export drive by Invest NI for local companies, both large and small, and in virtually every business sector, during a week-long trade mission, from January 20-25, to Saudi Arabia involving 25 local firms, which also saw the opening of an Invest NI Trade Office in Jeddah.

The new office, which is being headed by an experienced business development professional, Wissam Saadi, is already working with several Northern Ireland companies keen to develop business in the Kingdom especially the Jeddah area, the main commercial centre and largest seaport.

Mr Hamilton said: “Our Market Visits Programme for March 2012 – March 2013 is the most comprehensive that we’ve organised and will provide tremendous opportunities for Northern Ireland companies to explore those global markets that are continuing to grow and subsequently win profitable business.

“The new programme lists 70 events including trade missions and opportunities to take part in major industry exhibitions in almost every continent. Our aim in shaping such an extensive programme of events is to encourage more companies, especially first time exporters, than ever before to look abroad for new business, in the markets that are right for them.

“The programme is also an important response by Invest NI to the targets of 15 per cent growth in manufacturing exports by 2015 and 25,000 new jobs set in the draft Programme for Government. Greater sales abroad will lead to more and better employment opportunities.

“Currently manufacturing exports beyond the British Isles are worth £5.1 billion and sales outside Northern Ireland including to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland £12.4 billion. The target of 15 per cent growth in exports is certainly achievable but we should remember that we are facing challenging economic conditions. We need to continually encourage established exporters look to new markets and get many more businesses to widen their sales horizons and become exporters.

“I believe that companies in most sectors are increasingly recognising that they have to look further afield because opportunities in established markets such as Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, our strongest markets, as well as in other parts of Europe are not as prevalent and competition for orders is now tougher than ever before.

“While conditions in Europe are immensely challenging and likely to remain so over the next few years, we’ve identified major markets, such as India, Saudi Arabia, China, South Africa, Russia and South America, which are still achieving significant GDP growth. We are working with companies to exploit the opportunities these markets offer.”

Mr Hamilton said the new Jeddah office showed Invest NI’s commitment to assist companies, both large and small, to win business in Saudi Arabia.

“We’ve established this office to offer Northern Ireland companies advice and practical support in a market which is continuing to grow strongly and in which a number of local companies, including many smaller enterprises, have already secured significant business from their participation in our trade missions and use of our market penetration support.

“We’ve also been encouraged by the very broad range of local companies now doing significant business in Saudi Arabia. As well as companies focused on infrastructure such as those in power generation and materials handling, we’ve seen contracts won by businesses in IT, food, medical devices, life sciences, machinery components, professional services and staff development.

“In established markets, especially the US, Great Britain and other parts of Europe, which remain our biggest customers outside the British Isles, we are targeting growth sectors such as renewable energies, computer games technology, mobile communications, life sciences, especially Connected Health, and ICT,” added Mr Hamilton.

The Market Visits Programme, developed by Invest NI in consultation with local exporting companies, also includes targeted events for companies in sectors such as construction, quarrying / mining / screening and food.

Among events included by Invest NI for the first time are:

-Index 2012 Exhibition in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for high-end office design;

-Food Hotel China in Shanghai for the hospitality industry;

-Cruise Shipping, Marseille for cruise ship furnishings;

-bC India 2013 in Mumbai for materials handling machinery;

-a multi-sectoral trade mission to Chile and Argentina;

-Ad Age in New York and Canada 3.0 for digital technologies;

-Casual Connect for smartphone technology in San Francisco.