The Northern Ireland Business Start Programme (NIBSP) is significantly ahead of its target for business creation, is highly rated by participants, and is having a positive effect on the economy.

On the basis of current performance it is estimated that over a four-year period the programme could help to create approximately 8,000 new businesses, which would generate some £270 million to the local economy and create over 13,000 jobs.

These were the findings of research recently carried out by management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers as part of their ongoing evaluation of the programme.

Funded by Invest Northern Ireland, in partnership with the 26 district councils and the European Regional Development Fund, the NIBSP provides a package of training and mentoring assistance to potential entrepreneurs, targeting the local market place. It is delivered by Enterprise Northern Ireland’s chain of local enterprise agencies, located throughout Northern Ireland.

Professor Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise in Invest NI, says that the evaluation highlights the very tangible benefits of the programme in terms of both set-up assistance and contribution to the survival of new businesses.

“The ongoing support and mentoring offered by the programme is a key element in its success. The first year of trading is crucial for any business and the review demonstrated that over 90% of businesses surveyed remained trading after one year.

“This reflects Northern Ireland’s high business survival rate overall, which outstrips all other UK regions. The survival of these new businesses will be monitored throughout the life of this programme,” she said.

Professor Scott paid tribute to Enterprise Northern Ireland. “The quality of delivery and emphasis on continued improvement by Enterprise Northern Ireland makes them valued partners, and has been a major contribution in the success of the programme” she said.

Launched in September 2001 the programme has, in 21 months, helped to support more than 3,300 individuals into new business ventures. The programme is currently 56% ahead of target.

The PwC research revealed that 69% of those taking part in the programme felt that it enabled them to establish their business faster than they otherwise would have done, while 81% felt that the NIBSP enabled them to set up a better business, through assistance with business plans and market research.

The NIBSP has been designed to support both full and part time new business ventures. It offers training and IT support, help to access finance, and a free advisory service during the first year of trading.
The training provides practical advice on key areas of running a business including marketing, personnel and legal issues, and finance.

The NIBSP is delivered in support of Invest NI’s Accelerating Entrepreneurship Strategy and specifically targets businesses with a focus on Northern Ireland markets. Invest NI also provides support for new businesses targeting export markets.