Invest Northern Ireland last year helped 51 local small businesses invest over £215,000 to boost their competitiveness by developing product, process and technical improvements.
Companies took forward innovative, small-scale projects focused on areas such as identifying and exploiting Intellectual Property (IP), improving product performance and quality control.
Invest NI offered support worth over £85,000 towards the investments under an initiative aimed specifically at supporting technical development in small businesses. As a result, companies have overcome obstacles to progress and improved their ability to target new market opportunities.
Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Technology and Process Development, says: “Small businesses make a vital contribution to the local economy. Invest NI is committed to helping them boost their competitiveness even further and successfully negotiate the current downturn.
“Many small businesses here have a clear view of how they can achieve growth by enhancing their products and processes or by developing new ones. It can be difficult, however, to dedicate resources to taking projects forward, diverting efforts away from day-to-day running.
“Recognising this, Invest NI offers financial support for small companies to progress technical projects that can deliver significant commercial benefits in the medium to long term. Invest NI’s team of expert Technical and Innovation Advisors can also help businesses identify potential projects and provide guidance on the application process.”
“The initiative complements our successful Innovation Voucher programme. Companies that availed of this support last year, in many cases, took forward R&D projects for the very first time, helping embed a culture of innovation within their operations.”
Ms Hill continues: “Going forward, we are particularly keen to assist small businesses in examining how they can secure the IP that they create. Protected IP can be a powerful and lucrative asset, ensuring that designs, processes and even artistic output cannot be copied or used by competitors.
“It is also hoped that success with small-scale technical projects will encourage businesses to consider further boosting their capability into the long term by engaging in even more challenging R&D activities.”