£5M to help Invest NI clients navigate economic slowdown

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today announced a £5million boost to help Invest Northern Ireland’s clients weather the economic slowdown.

The announcement was made at Invest NI’s ‘Challenges and Opportunities – the Credit Crunch’ event in Belfast, where specialist business advisors provided local firms with expert help and advice on how to guide their way through challenging times and maximise opportunities.

Announcing the support, the minister said: “Today’s announcement is an example of Invest NI proactively bringing forward new initiatives which will enable its clients to maintain a strategic focus in the face of current tougher conditions.

“Through the funding announced today, Invest NI clients, most of whom are locally-owned small and medium sized enterprises, will be able to obtain fast-track support to identify and implement specific actions to weather the current economic conditions.

“Clients will be able to receive up to five days free on-site support to identify specific projects up to the value of £100,000 each in areas such as financial and cash flow management, improving supply chain and internal efficiencies, or removing barriers to securing sales in new markets. Invest NI funding will contribute 50% of the cost of approved projects, which in many cases is a higher percentage contribution than is normally available.

“Whilst a general economic downturn can make success harder, it does not mean that it is not achievable. There will always be demand for good products and services which meet clearly defined needs at the appropriate price point. The challenge for NI business is to place an even greater focus on continuous improvement - exploiting every opportunity to increase the value added to products and services by introducing more innovative processes, and improving profitability and competitiveness in markets outside Northern Ireland.”

Attendees received individually tailored, one-to-one advice, on schemes to develop more efficient operations, reduce costs in their supply chains and increase their profitability and competitiveness in export markets.

Today’s event builds on programmes such as Innovation Vouchers, Introduction to Exporting and the Growth Accelerator Programme, through which Invest NI is providing easy to access, flexible, support to accelerate the growth of our locally-owned business base. Invest NI has also recently appointed a number of Business Development Executives whose role is to seek out new clients from within Northern Ireland that meet the Invest NI client definition.

A second event will be held on 30 September in Cookstown, where the keynote speaker will be Howard Hackney, a Partner at Grant Thornton UK.

Non-Invest NI clients can benefit from many of its programmes and services, including export development programmes for both, first-time exporters and more experienced exporters, energy and environmental efficiency support, comprehensive business information services and information and communications technology support. Invest NI’s information website, nibusinessinfo.co.uk, also provides free access to key information, advice, funding and training.