Empowering growth across Northern Ireland
We published our 2022/23 performance figures last month which highlighted a successful year of growth and investment, demonstrating our commitment to driving economic prosperity across Northern Ireland.
A large part of what we do to support regional growth is through the development of our local home-grown businesses. Local businesses have received 93 per cent of our offers of support in the last 5 years. We’ve supported these businesses in many ways, by offering a broad range of professional expert advice and helping them to set-up, develop new products, tap into new export markets, create jobs and invest in their staff.
Last year, 73% of our offers of assistance were to businesses outside of the Belfast area and those that have the potential to impact on multiple locations throughout Northern Ireland. Many of these businesses are in 10X priority sectors where we saw increases in demand for our support like Digital & Creative Technologies and Life & Health Sciences.
Mulrine’s in Sion Mills, Rapid Power Gen in Tandragee, Keady’s SFM Engineering, Kilrea based Hutchinson Engineering and ISx4 in Newry are just a few examples of regionally based companies we have supported this year.
Pictured L-R are Mark Bleakney, Southern Regional Manager, Invest NI; Kielty Hughes, CEO, ISx4; George McKinney, Director of Technology and Services, Invest NI.
Developing regional resilience and growth is not just about creating jobs, its supporting those companies to be more resilient by growing sales. We helped OES Solutions Ltd, based in Dungannon, to win three new contracts and grow sales in GB after it participated on our Grow Beyond Programme. Warmflow in Lisburn availed of our trade assistance to attend ISH, a leading trade fair in Frankfurt and worked with our inmarket team in Germany to navigate the cultural barriers and make introductions. During the show, the company secured new business and a small sample order with a first-time business in the US.
We also supported the highest level of total investment and new jobs in the Derry City & Strabane region since 2018-19. The £5m of assistance offered will lead to £46m in investment in the region. Our support will also help companies create over 480 new jobs including a £20m expansion by FinTrU creating 300 new jobs in Derry; and assistance to in Derry is to create 45 new jobs as it expands to reach new export markets.
Driving regional growth
To drive growth regionally and open our support to a wider business base, in October 2022, we launched our £1.3m regionally focussed Ambition to Grow programme. We designed Ambition to Grow as a new way to attract more companies to seek our support and increase our regional impact in Northern Ireland. The Programme already supports 37 companies to grow exports by £12 million and create 154 jobs.
Working collaboratively on City Deals
We are playing a significant role in the development and delivery of the Innovation and Digital projects under the City & Growth Deal programme and the associated Complementary Fund. Working on behalf of the Department for the Economy and in close partnership with the four deals and the various project promoters which, includes individual councils, Queen's Univeristy Belfast and Ulster University along with other stakeholders from across the public and private sectors. Importantly, we are helping to facilitate the link and access to industry, ensuring that these projects will remain industrially and commercially relevant, future proofed and complementary to one another. This currently equates to responsibility for over £640m of investments, across the four City & Growth Deals in Northern Ireland.
These new capital investments will represent a once in a generation, transformational investment opportunity and will be a driver of innovation and growth across Northern Ireland. Strategically important and closely aligned with 10X through promoting greater innovation, sustainability and inclusivity; they will deliver additional leading edge capability collateral to support our priority clusters, building on the existing regional strengths of our business base and research base here in Northern Ireland.
Supporting regional growth isn’t just about creating jobs, it’s also about driving innovation, developing skills and growing exports.
Our focus on the importance of innovation to drive competitiveness and business growth is reflected in our support for R&D across all sectors in Northern Ireland. Investments in R&D by businesses in Causeway Coast & Glens doubled from last year to £0.6m and Mid Ulster Council increased by 11% to £4.2m which is helping to drive innovation in these regions and is ensuring local companies can stay ahead of the curve.
The ultimate goal of our Innovation Accreditation Programme is to increase the number of Northern Ireland businesses successfully engaging in innovation. This year we issued over 75 Innovation certificates to businesses across Northern Ireland. Companies from Lekkers NI in Antrim & Newtownabbey, Arc Regulatory in Mid Ulster, Halo Pet Products in Derry and Quay Dog in Newry, Mourne & Down are just some of the companies who have had their innovation level recognised with either a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificate.
Investing in the skills and talent of our workforce has never been more important in helping to unlock economic prosperity and ensure we have the right mix of skills to meet future demand. In Belfast, investment in skills increased over the last year with the number of our offers of support up by 85% overall in the region. In Lisburn, manufacturer CASC announced it is investing £1.7million in its business growth through the creation of 26 jobs and the skills development of its team and in Derry, FinTru announced a significant investment in the skills of its NI wide staff. This was a common trend right across Northern Ireland with businesses in almost every region increasing investment in the skills of their staff.
Growing our Sectors
Northern Ireland is known globally for its expertise in sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (AME), Life & Health Sciences, Software Development, and Cybersecurity. We have worked closely with many businesses in the sectors to help them innovate, skill up staff, create new jobs and grow exports.
Our support for businesses in the Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Council area has stimulated investments by companies in the AME and Life & Health Sciences sectors and over 40% of the assistance we offered in Ards & North Down and Causeway Coast & Glens went to businesses in the AME sector.
Life & Health Sciences is a key sector where demand for our support across all councils increased this year. Our support for businesses in the Antrim & Newtownabbey Council area increased, with over 40 per cent of the support we offered companies in this region going to businesses in the Life & Health Sciences sector.
We have long standing relationships with all 11 councils and our partnership working has led to programmes which support local businesses in regional areas across NI like the Lean workshops we ran this year in the North West in partnership with Derry City & Strabane District Council.
Pictured L-R are Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business at Derry City & Strabane District Council and Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Manager outside Invest NI’s North West Regional Office.
Just as it is important for us to engage with local stakeholders, it is also important that businesses are given the opportunity to work together to maximise their potential. Our Collaborative Growth Programme encourages indigenous businesses to collaborate with others to scope out innovative collaborative projects to increase their competitiveness in market. We’ve already some very established networks like MEGA and HATS with a focus on skills development, and Taste Causeway which bring SMEs together to create value in their local areas. This year the Programme supported the launch of Loughsholin, a Mid Ulster based Tourism Cluster, consisting of 14 businesses working together to showcase the people and experiences in the Mid Ulster region. The Cluster has developed and promoted a range of authentic visitor experiences and itineraries showcasing the history and heritage of the region.
These are just a small sample of some of the many ways we have and continue to work in partnership to stimulate investment and grow the economy in every region in Northern Ireland.
You can find our more detail about our work in each District Council Area, as well as information on the economic profile of each area by clicking on the relevant council area below.