During 2002/3, Invest Northern Ireland gained commitments from client companies, universities and other economic bodies to spend over £600 million across a range of activities. Invest Northern Ireland contributed towards these investments by offering £138 million in finance, advice and other support programmes.

The investments include 258 development projects by existing Invest NI client companies totalling £400 million – one of the highest investment commitments in recent years. Ten new inward investment projects offering £22 million were also secured during the year.

The investment figures were announced by Professor Fabian Monds, Invest NI Chairman, and Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive, at a news conference to launch Invest NI’s End of Year Statement for the 12 months from April 2002 to March 2003 and its Operating Plan for the year ahead.

During 2002/03, Invest NI:

·provided assistance of £62 million to leverage the 258 development projects from existing companies;

·secured 10 inward investment projects worth £22 million; 80 per cent of projects secured for New Targeting Social Needs areas;

·agreed 316 R&D projects totalling £38 million in private sector investment; encouraged 61 companies to undertake first time R&D or product development projects; supported the establishment of 17 Centres of Excellence that will result in a total investment of £74 million in innovation capability;

·substantially exceeded targets in encouraging existing exporters to enter new markets and in securing participation in trade missions and related initiatives - 1,400 companies took part in trade events, including 93 first-time exporters and 194 exploring new markets;

·doubled the targeted participation by companies in business improvement schemes that resulted in a £3.1 million increase in profits and £3.7 million in new business won by firms;

·assisted 2,141 new business start-ups - well ahead of a target of 1,500 - and including 101 new high-growth businesses with a total investment of £21.3 million;

·extended our regional engagement by opening new offices in Coleraine, Craigavon and Enniskillen; and

·reviewed strategies for sectors such as Aerospace, Software, Biotech and Health Technologies, Electronics, Clothing and Textiles, Fish Processing, Furniture, Multimedia, Agricultural Engineering and Vehicle Engineering.

Prof. Monds, commenting on the End of Year Statement, said Invest NI’s overall impact on the Northern Ireland economy has been “very considerable” during a formative first year.

Said Prof. Monds: “It was a year in which we set out to help accelerate economic development in Northern Ireland and put in place our key Accelerating Entrepreneurship strategy and Principles for Business Support.

“These initiatives are helping to increase our economic competitiveness and client companies are investing in value-added and knowledge-led activities that offer the chance to transform Northern Ireland into a global centre of talent and enterprise.”

Mr Morrison said: “The high level of commitment to development plans by such a significant number of client companies in a tough year for the global economy indicates their confidence in future growth.

“Our client and sectoral teams are now largely in place and working to customise solutions that will support client companies to realise ambitious targets.

“During our second year we will strive to make Invest NI even more customer focused and responsive; many of our merger synergies are now in place to support people with enterprise and ingenuity and help drive the economy forward at a faster rate,” he added.

Mr Morrison also said Invest NI will assist companies to harness the potential of broadband technology and will increase its investment in the provision of attractive incubation and business development facilities at key locations across Northern Ireland.

A Performance Information Framework (PIF), he said, has been developed by Invest NI to measure its impact on the economy in key areas such as entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The Invest NI 2002/03 Annual Report, which will be published in the autumn, will present a range of performance data based on this new measurement framework,” he added.

Key targets in Operating Plan for 2003/4 are to:
·leverage a further £20 million investment by companies in R&D, establish two new Centres of Excellence, and achieve a five per cent increase in companies undertaking commercial research;

·negotiate 255 development projects from local companies
worth £215 million;

·secure 11 new inward investments;

·assist 1,620 new business starts;

·achieve 1,000 business improvement interventions;

·encourage 100 companies to begin exporting and 200 existing
exporters to explore new markets; and

·accelerate allocation of client staff into a fully integrated sectoral structure.