Invest NI comments on publication of IREP Report

The Board of Invest Northern Ireland has welcomed the publication of the Review Panel’s Independent Review of Economic Policy, led by Prof Richard Barnett.

Stephen Kingon, Chairman of Invest NI said: “The Review Panel has clearly considered the wide range of issues which impact on economic development, many of which are well beyond the scope or influence of Invest NI.

“As a Board, we welcome the continued priority which the Executive places on the economy, and the recommendation that it should remain so in the years ahead. A growing and vibrant economy is fundamental to achieving many of the targets set in the Programme for Government, leading to much wider social benefits for all. This, of course, involves many organisations other than Invest NI and cuts across most other Government departments.

“Whilst the Review makes some recommendations regarding relationships between Invest NI and some other departments, developing an over-arching approach to future economic development was outside the scope of the Panel’s work. In addition, the Report recognises that productivity transformation takes a long time and requires the creation of a competitive and attractive business environment.

“In its Report, the Panel has put forward a number of proposals, the merits and consequences of which, will stimulate interesting debate. To that end, we welcome the public consultation announced today by Minister Foster and look forward to playing our part.

“Since its inception, Invest NI has made a strong and positive contribution to economic development. However, we are not complacent and we consider that our contribution could be greater still.

“As a Board, we are encouraged that many of the recommendations in the Report are consistent with changes which we have lobbied for in recent years. In particular, increasing our focus on innovation and increasing levels of R&D, widening the reach of our support for business and encouraging the development of higher added-value sectors are all central elements of our current Corporate Plan.

“Many of the recommendations, particularly those aimed at reducing bureaucracy and proposing greater operational freedom for Invest NI, have, if implemented in a timely and proper manner, the potential to aid the work of Invest NI and improve the economic landscape of Northern Ireland enormously.”

Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton, said: “We recognise that the review offers an important contribution to the overall agenda for change in the medium to long term.

“Many of the recommendations build on work which is already in progress and recognise the requirement for continuous improvement where it adds value to our product and service offering as we shape our economy to meet the demands of 21st century markets.

“Clearly, if we want our businesses to broaden their horizons and grow to the scale necessary for them to compete, and win, in global markets, we need to ensure that we continue to provide support which is relevant, timely and effective.

“Through a range of initiatives, such as the Short Term Aid Scheme, Accelerated Support Fund, enhanced training and export assistance, we put in place a response to the recession which was timely, proportionate and effective.

“This is illustrated by performance in the first half of this year when, despite still being in a period of recession, almost 1,600 separate offers of assistance have been made, offering almost £70m in support towards planned total investment of £237m by our clients who, with our support, are continuing to take steps to preserve their current position and plan for future market recovery.

“It is vital that we continue this focus, using all the tools at our disposal, whilst the debate on the Review continues.

“To this end, there are many actions which I will be taking forward to ensure that Invest NI has the right products and services which are delivered in the most efficient and effective manner to enable our businesses to manage through the current climate and emerge better placed to realise their ambitions and achieve their growth potential.”