Invest NI targets £2bn investment in innovation and international competitiveness

Over the next three years, Invest Northern Ireland expects to stimulate over £2bn investment in the local economy through supporting local businesses to become bigger and more profitable; building and growing higher value-added sectors in our economy; and laying the foundations for future growth through the development of leading-edge innovation and frontier technologies.

These are the priorities of the organisation’s draft Corporate Plan for the period 2008-2011, which today started a wide public consultation.

Launching the consultation, Stephen Kingon, Chairman of Invest NI said:

“We welcome the fact that this Corporate Plan has been prepared at a time when devolution has brought a broad business and political consensus on the need to drive the economy forward. Its over-arching focus is to contribute towards the Government’s key goal of reducing the productivity deficit which exists between Northern Ireland and the UK average.

“Our economy will not achieve this if we simply maintain the status quo. In order to justify paying the higher salaries that our people aspire to, we need more companies becoming bigger and more profitable and we need to attract and develop new clients, whether local or internationally owned, who can introduce higher value-added activity to our economy.

“We will therefore explicitly focus on those projects which demonstrate the highest levels of innovation and export potential in order to exploit global markets that have the scale which our small domestic market, of itself, does not provide.

“In support of this, our budget will increasingly be targeted on higher value-added activity. For example, expenditure in support of locally owned clients with growth projects will increase by 39%; Research, Development and Innovation expenditure will increase by 29%, and new business starts by 25%. Much of this will be underpinned by a large increase in expenditure on land acquisition to support our clients’ growth ambitions. Historically, support provided by Invest NI has leveraged over four times that amount, so we can expect the budget we have been allocated to stimulate over £2bn investment over the next three year period.

“In the short term, the action that will have the greatest impact on reducing the productivity gap will be supporting our clients, the vast majority of which are locally owned small and medium-sized enterprises, to realise their full potential. We will also seek to attract and nurture new clients, particularly in tradable services, with high growth potential in export markets.

“We will also drive a shift towards higher value-added economic activity in target sectors such as software development, IT management, business and financial services and niche manufacturing, through both foreign direct investment and indigenous businesses.  Longer term growth will be underpinned by development of frontier technologies which will put Northern Ireland at the leading edge of research.

“Of course there are challenges and there is no quick fix here. Addressing the structural weaknesses in our economy and growing the private sector will take time. It is also widely recognised that a shortage of skills, particularly in areas such as the information and communication technologies, science, engineering and mathematics are a constraint to both local business growth and inward investment. While these are outside the control of Invest NI, we will work intensively with the Department for Employment and Learning and relevant industry bodies on initiatives to ease skills shortages.

“In preparing this draft Corporate Plan, we have engaged extensively with our clients, our staff and key stakeholders, including Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and have been encouraged by, and taken account of, their feedback. In addition, five open public consultation sessions will be held, in Londonderry, Omagh, Newry, Ballymena and Belfast and we would encourage all those with an interest in economic development to attend and give us their views.”