Over 90 people attended the first public consultation meeting on Invest Northern Ireland’s draft strategy Accelerating Entrepreneurship, held on Friday in Londonderry.

The strategy aims to help more local people to start up in business and assist existing companies become more successful. The meeting was the first of three scheduled as part of the public consultation process, which runs until 28 March.

Those attending the meeting included representatives from the local business community, Derry City Council, enterprise agencies, further and higher education and community sectors.

Invest NI Chairman Fabian Monds and Prof Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, outlined the main points of the draft strategy and then took questions from the floor on a range of issues including a plea to reduce red tape for start-up companies, the need to recognise the help available to growing businesses from local experts and consultants and a well defined local property strategy to ensure delivery of suitable accommodation for start-up and growing businesses.

Through the strategy Invest NI proposes to customise its business development support resources to promote a substantial increase in company start-ups in three distinct sectors with very different needs: businesses with global market potential; those capable of external sales and those focused on the Northern Ireland market.

Among the initiatives contained in the strategy is the development of a unique Virtual Enterprise Mall that will provide advice and assistance on a 24/7 basis. This will give people interested in starting or growing a business, a gateway for accessing the extensive network of support available in Northern Ireland.

Fabian Monds said: “I’m delighted that so many people in the North West have taken this opportunity to contribute to the public consultation process and make their views known. It’s vital that the strategy meets the needs of entrepreneurs because we recognise that it is entrepreneurs who drive economic growth.

“Our aim is to harness the business ideas of local people and to provide a framework that will enable them to achieve success in local, national and international markets. By doing so we will help create sustainable employment in the north west and throughout Northern Ireland.”

Prof Scott said: “We’ve had a lot of interest in the strategy already and anticipate that over the next few weeks the momentum of this consultation process will build up and produce a high level of response which will inform the final version of the strategy and ensure Northern Ireland becomes recognised as one of the best places to start and grow a business.

Copies of the draft consultation document are being circulated to business organisations, councils and enterprise bodies. Two further public briefings will take place, in Armagh on Thursday, 20th February at 10.30 am in the City Hotel; and in Belfast on Tuesday, 25th February at 10.30 am in the NTL Studio at the Waterfront Hall.

The draft document is also included on the Invest NI website at

The key points of the draft consultation strategy are:

Invest NI proposes to target resources and initiatives to achieve a significant increase in entrepreneurship in three areas as follows:

·Global market business starts - enterprises with global potential;
·External business starts - new businesses capable of achieving external sales (Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland); and
·Local market start-ups - new companies and self-employed enterprises focused on the local Northern Ireland market.

Targeted Invest NI initiatives proposed for each segment include:

Global market business starts
(1)A new specialist Invest NI team to work with individual entrepreneurs with the potential to establish worldclass competitive companies.
(2)A Front Runner initiative which will select up to 25 businesses each year for intensive support and assistance.
(3)A Proof of Concept/Principle Fund which will provide finance to assist technology-led start-ups test their ideas.

External market starts
(1)A revitalised network of support with dedicated resources provided through Invest NI’s Local Office Network that will offer companies customised support throughout Northern Ireland
(2)A Continuous Professional Development Programme will be introduced to equip entrepreneurs with the capability to grow their businesses faster.
(3)More sophisticated networking programmes will provide easier access to information and guidance including legislative issues.

Local market start-ups
(1)Partnerships with other Government and district councils will be strengthened by Invest NI which will work through the Enterprise NI network to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and increase local start-ups, particularly encouraging enterprise in the agriculture and creative industries.
(2)Supply chain and out-sourcing opportunities will be examined to encourage new business opportunities.

Special measures will be taken to promote entrepreneurship within areas designated for New Targeting Social Needs (NTSN ). In addition targets will be set to increase entrepreneurship among under-represented groups such as women, young people, the disabled and ethnic minorities.

(3)The Social Economy will be further developed by innovative programmes to assist regeneration and the local infrastructure for entrepreneurs.