For the financial year ended 31 March 2012, Invest Northern Ireland delivered a strong performance, including the promotion of 6,485 new jobs and over £450m investment commitments being made by customers.
Welcoming publication of the results, Invest NI Chairman, Mark Ennis said: “Overall, these figures translate into real benefits delivered to our customers and to the wider business base. As a consequence, they are having tangible positive effects on the local economy, in spite of the continued tough economic backdrop that has impacted the UK and many of our customers’ export markets.
“Reflecting our change in strategy to engage with a broader customer base and shape the support we offer in a more business friendly manner, it is encouraging that total offers made were over a third higher than in the previous year, with some 90 per cent being made to locally owned small and medium sized enterprises.”
The Programme for Government, which covers the period 2011–15 contains combined targets for 2011–12 and 2012–13, with annual targets to cover each of the remaining two years. The results which are reported for 2011–12 represent Invest NI’s contribution towards the initial two-year reporting cycle of the Programme for Government and, where targets are stated, these represent internal operating targets.
Key achievements for the year
In 2011–12 Invest NI:
supported total investment commitments of almost £452m by both locally owned and foreign businesses;
promoted 6,485 new jobs, against a target of 6,182, with 2,998 in locally owned companies, 2,267 in externally owned companies and a further 1,220 through locally focused new business starts;
supported over 2,200 local companies to expand and secured 24 new investments from international investors. The number of new inward investment projects was up on the 15 secured last year;
secured wages and salaries of £90m against a target of £51m – 76 per cent over target;
supported investment of £18m in skills development – 50 per cent above target of £12m;
delivered 1,920 trade interventions – 7 per cent above target; and
supported private sector investment in R&D of £65m, 87 per cent of our target of £75m.
Mark Ennis continued: “We met our 2011–12 performance targets with the exception of our internal targets for R&D and new local business starts. The latter was the result of a legal challenge during the year which prevented us from delivering a full support programme to those individuals interested in investigating starting a business. However, for both R&D and local business starts, we remain on target to achieve the overall targets contained in the Programme for Government.
“The 2011–12 year was the first year of our new Corporate Plan period, which sets out a challenging and diverse set of targets to deliver by 2015. Our targets are totally aligned to the Programme for Government and Economic Strategy and are focused on innovation, employability, exporting, business growth, skills and developing the economic infrastructure.
“These are all elements that will contribute to the rebalancing of our economy and to closing the productivity gap which still exists between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We will therefore continue to target high value economic activity, whether through support for local frontier technology, scalable businesses that can deliver high quality jobs, or from inward investment. Having the right weapons in our armoury to achieve this will be important and we look forward to positive outcomes on the reduction of Corporation Tax; an extension of regional aid beyond 2013; and the continuation of Northern Ireland’s automatic designation as an assisted area; all of which will require considerable political and business support.
“We also remain realistic about the need to rebuild our economy and support job creation across the length and breadth of the local labour market, for as long as economic conditions remain challenging. We have therefore reviewed and revised our range of programmes and initiatives to ensure that they are the right tools to get the job done.
“Although I have been Chairman of Invest NI for only a short time I have already gained a very real sense of the commitment of the staff and the desire within the organisation to effectively support the business community through delivery of world class services. For those businesses that continue to take risks, seek out new opportunities and invest in the future, I can assure them that Invest NI will continue to support them in the most effective way it can,” he concluded.
Detailing some of the performance highlights, Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest NI, said: “To have exceeded our target for job promotion has been particularly encouraging, but, perhaps more importantly was the quality of jobs we supported. Excluding projects supported through the Jobs Fund and locally focused business starts, over 61 per cent of new jobs promoted in locally owned companies and 87 per cent of those in externally owned companies will pay salaries above the Northern Ireland Private Sector Median.
Since 2008–09 the overall average salary level of jobs supported has risen by 26 per cent to £29,721, with average salaries from inward investments up 56 per cent to £37,087 and those from locally owned projects up 8 per cent to £25,382.
“We also accelerated the roll-out of our support through the Jobs Fund, a £19m package of measures covering the length and breadth of our economy, to encourage job creation. This is the first time that we are measuring jobs created in the year, as well as jobs promoted over the longer term, and it is a tremendous result that of the 2,390 jobs promoted, 1,021 have already been created and helped individuals into employment. At over 40 per cent, this is a much faster job creation profile than would typically be created in the first year compared to most other projects.
Inward investment success
“We continue to attract more than our fair share of high value inward investment, adding a further 24 last year, including first time investments by major international companies including Axiom, Cowen International, Version 1 Software and CVS Caremark. Our priority sectors will remain ICT, financial services, business services and renewables but we will also seek to further capitalise on recent success in the creative industries and in particular in the film and television arena, where we secured the filming of the second series of Game of Thrones and our burgeoning film industry was recognised in the Oscar awarded to the short film The Shore.
“Whilst we unfortunately did not achieve our target for R&D last year, many businesses are continuing to invest in innovation, from Innovation Vouchers which enable businesses to access technical expertise from colleges and research institutions across Ireland, through our Grant for R&D, to major collaborative projects such as the £6m Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre, operated by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster and part funded by Invest NI, which opened during the year.
Encouraging export growth
“We have continued to increase our focus on helping companies to grow their exports, and helped hundreds of companies to prepare for exporting through our workshops and seminars. Our in-market trade advisors helped open doors for them in overseas markets and guided them through the intricacies of trading overseas.
“To support this drive we strengthened our in-market representation in key markets by recruiting 11 in-market advisors, developing our Dubai office into a hub for the Middle East and opening a new office in Jeddah. As a result, our global reach now extends to some 20 countries from San Jose, USA in the west to Tokyo, Japan in the east.
“We also ran 30 trade missions during the year to countries as diverse as Kurdistan, Russia, China and Brazil in which over 360 people took part, and we supported over 280 people to attend international exhibitions on a range of topics from cloud computing to healthcare.
Supporting a wider range of businesses
“During 2011–12 we continued to extend the reach of our support to include many more businesses in Northern Ireland, through activities such as our Profit through Improvement workshops, Focus on Finance workshops, ABC of Selling seminars, ICT conferences and resource efficiency seminars.
“Our Boosting Business campaign was launched in September 2011 to help businesses defy the downturn. It included a number of support measures under the themes of jobs, R&D, skills, exports and new technology to help businesses right across Northern Ireland.
“The response to the campaign has been very positive with over 6,500 enquiries, over 80 per cent of which came from businesses which had not previously engaged with us.
“The campaign has helped us add 1,200 cases to our work in progress, which, if all come to fruition, have the potential to create almost 1,600 jobs.
“During the year we continued our internal programme of change, Transform, which was partly a response to the Independent Review of Economic Policy published in 2009 which made several recommendations relating to Invest NI.
“By the end of March 2012, we had successfully delivered on all of those recommendations which were within our remit. These included rationalising our programmes, focusing on export-led growth, securing new delegated financial limits and making many of our services available to a wider range of businesses.
“We move into 2012–13 with an organisational structure and a range of business solutions in place that will provide effective and timely support to a wide business base and will allow us to provide a more streamlined and focused customer experience.
“We will continue to focus our resources on those businesses with the highest growth ambitions, or the potential to succeed in export markets, and so our full range of support, financial and otherwise, will be available to them. However, we will now provide advice and guidance to all businesses that seek our help.
“We realise that there is much more we can do and will continue to drive the continuous improvements that ensure we focus on the needs of our customers and deliver the real value to their operations that enable them to grow and succeed,” he added.