Foster encourages innovative thinking from business

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said innovation is the key to creating a successful business and thriving economy. The Minister was speaking at an Innovation Seminar held in Antrim’s Old Courthouse and is pictured with Mayor of Antrim, Cllr Paul Michael and David Meade.

Innovation is the key to creating a thriving business and a successful economy.

That was the message from Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster when she attended an Innovation Seminar at the Old Courthouse in Antrim’s Market Square.

Organised by Antrim Borough Council, in partnership with the Centre for Competitiveness, Randox Laboratories Ltd and McKeever Hotels Ltd, the event was attended by business people from across Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster said: “Statistics show that the strongest economies in the world, such as the US, Sweden and Germany, also have very high levels of innovation. There is a direct link between innovation and increased productivity and competitiveness.

“The good news is that businesses here are spending more on research and development. Latest figures show that in-house R&D expenditure by Northern Ireland firms in 2010 was the second highest percentage annual increase of all the UK regions.

“It is very encouraging to note that even though businesses are dealing with very tough economic conditions, they still recognise the value to be gained from investing in new products and processes.”

Innovation comes in many forms. It can be something as small as tweaking a product in response to a customer request or as large as collaboration with a number of other businesses on developing brand new technology.

The Minister said: “In particular, we want to encourage small businesses that have not done any R&D in the past to take the first step into exploring how innovation can help their performance.

“Invest Northern Ireland’s Innovation Voucher Scheme has demonstrated the wealth of innovation that resides in small businesses. This scheme helps local small enterprises to establish links with universities, colleges or research bodies to access expertise that will help them to develop innovative solutions to business ideas.”

Encouraging business people to find out more about the range of support available for help with research and development from Invest NI’s Boosting Business campaign, Arlene Foster added: ““The focus going forward must remain on maintaining and building on the increase we have seen in the levels of business expenditure on R&D.

“Companies that think and act differently at every level of their business are likely to be the most able to compete successfully. I would urge those that haven’t already done so to take advantage of the advice and support that is on offer to help them achieve their goals.”