Invest Northern Ireland’s third Performance Information Report, published today, shows that the agency has contributed to strengthening the economy by helping its clients to improve their performance, create employment, and boost competitiveness and levels of export.
The report covers the six years from Invest NI’s establishment in 2002 up to 2008, and provides detailed information and analysis of the agency’s performance and that of its clients.
Evident in the report is the balance achieved by Invest NI in its support of locally owned businesses and inward investors, as shown by the amount offered per head of population in the east and west of Northern Ireland, and in the distribution of its support across types of industry and projects.
Commenting on the report, Invest NI’s Chief Executive, Leslie Morrison, said: “The period under review saw changes in the political landscape of Northern Ireland which had a positive knock-on effect on the economy. While we are looking back from the midst of a severe global economic downturn, it is encouraging to have evidence of the effectiveness of our support to date and reassurance that our approach is sound.”
During the six-year period, Invest NI offered £747 million of support for business formation, expansion and innovation projects. Fifty-one per cent was for projects in designated areas of economic disadvantage. Overall, Invest NI support represented £514 per adult in Northern Ireland.
“Although large inward investment projects may receive more attention, the reality is that Invest NI has offered more assistance towards the formation and growth of locally owned businesses. Indigenous clients were offered assistance worth almost £400 million, 53% of the total. In fact, locally-owned businesses account for over 90% of Invest NI’s clients,” added Mr Morrison.
Recognising the central role that innovation plays in economic success, Invest NI has directed its resources towards embedding market-driven innovation within business. Over £285 million was offered to support business innovation in the period under review.
The report highlights the growth in R&D expenditure by Invest NI’s small and medium-sized clients, an encouraging indicator of increasing innovation activity. These clients made a considerable contribution to the growth in R&D activity overall, their R&D expenditure increasing by over 11.5% a year.
The agency assisted 500 new locally-owned businesses with the potential for significant growth, while 18,000 individuals got help to set up businesses focused on trading within Northern Ireland.
The report also reveals that Northern Ireland secured a high level of inward investment between 2002 and 2008. Invest NI supported 89 new inward investment projects and 110 projects by overseas investors already established here. In total these projects represented £1.3 billion of planned investment and expected to create almost 16,000 jobs, whilst safeguarding nearly 12,000 existing jobs.
“Obviously many factors influence business and economic performance, only one of which is Invest NI’s support,” says Mr Morrison. “It is telling, however, to note that Invest NI clients are responsible for 92% of manufacturing exports, 90% of business expenditure on R&D and have GVA per head that is 36% higher than the Northern Ireland average. Particularly encouraging has been the strong performance of Small and Medium sized enterprises in increasing their export sales by 40% during the period."