Photography: Harrison Photography
Pictured (L-R) is: Carol Keery, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research and Technology and Andrew Wilson, J Wilson Agriculture Managing Director with the new comfort product, moovApillow™
As the business development agency for Northern Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland’s role is to grow the local economy.
To grow the economy in a sustainable manner requires a combination of embedding innovation, growing our local companies to scale, increasing our export base and attracting inward investment, and that is where our focus lies - on working with entrepreneurs to start businesses, with established local companies to grow businesses and, on a global basis, to attract new businesses to locate in Northern Ireland.
We work directly and indirectly with businesses across the private sector, providing support in three main ways:
Providing information and advice, directly and through the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website.
Providing support to people wanting to set up their own business and helping new and existing businesses to grow and move into new markets.
Providing tailored support to businesses that can make the greatest contribution to increasing productivity, innovation and export growth in Northern Ireland.
Invest NI’s North West Regional Office covers the Coleraine, Derry, Limavady and Strabane District Council Areas and works with the local councils, economic development organisations, further and higher education providers, and business development organisations to encourage and support economic activity.
Over the last five years Invest NI has been successful in assisting many businesses and projects across the North West, from local new business starts to significant inward investments.
Many of these have been ambitious and innovative local companies across the full spectrum of business, with clear plans for sustainable growth and a determination to grow their export base. And many North West companies are now benefitting from this approach.
Companies like Digital Future Solutions in Coleraine, which has seen sales of its leading-edge products grow by 50 per cent over the past year, or, Doire Dress Designs, which has evolved from a hobby making unique dresses for Irish dance, to a business with strong demand from Irish dance enthusiasts from the USA to Australia.
Initially formed in 1995 to manufacture products such as cow cubicles, mattresses and ventilation systems for the farming industry, J Wilson Agriculture employs seven people at its manufacturing operation near Coleraine
The company has used its experience as a manufacturer of products that improve conditions for cows, to develop a new comfort product moovApillow™. This is the only adjustable pillow on the market and has been developed to improve the living conditions and productivity of dairy cows, leading to higher levels and better quality of milk. Invest NI has assisted the company to design, manufacture and internationally market the product, including through the use of e-commerce technology which is hoped to drive sales in Great Britain and Europe to above 80 per cent of turnover.
Having identified an opportunity in key European markets for a premium-butter, made with locally supplied milk, Coleraine based Ballyrashane Creamery has completed its first ever research and development project - a £1.3m initiative, part funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This project has resulted in a new butter specifically for European markets that is softer and easier to spread and opened new market opportunities.
It’s not only local companies that contribute to the local economy, as inward investment continues to play an important role and new investors are being attracted to the area. Last December, Rigney Dolphin announced its intention to create almost 300 jobs in a new customer service centre in Londonderry delivering services to blue chip companies, such as Meteor, BMW, Carphone Warehouse and Airtricity.
These are just some of the more than 2,000 offers of support made to existing businesses in the North West over the past five years which, collectively have brought some £335m of investment and over 2,500 jobs. At present, Invest NI is implementing a major programme of strategic change, which will see a tiered approach of support to increase innovation and export growth across a wider business base than is currently the case being rolled out. This will make our business development support even more accessible to all businesses in Northern Ireland.
This article was published in agendaNi's June / July 2011 edition.