A new centre to develop small and medium businesses has been set up by the University of Ulster's business school.
Headed up by Professor Pauric McGowan and with endorsement from the Northern Ireland branches of CBI, IoD, FSB and the Chamber of Commerce, the centre aims to help SMEs achieve business goals, boost performance and facilitate leadership and management development.
The Centre for SME Development will provide a range of support activities, development programmes and events delivered by the Ulster Business School's staff complemented by visiting lecturers and sectoral experts.
Masterclasses, short courses, business mentoring and coaching will be offered as well as extended Business Development Programmes, work placements and knowledge transfer activities.
Professor McGowan said that too often SMEs are categorised as 'little big businesses' and development is offered in a one-size-fits-all approach.
"We firmly believe that SMEs deserve bespoke forms of support and as such we have worked closely with a vast range of key professional bodies and government agencies to ensure that the new centre is relevant, inspirational and capable of delivering tangible results," he said.
"An advisory board has also been established under the chairmanship of Professor Ken O'Neill to oversee and support the work of the centre."
Professor Marie McHugh, Dean of the Ulster Business School, added that as SMEs make up almost 95% of businesses in Northern Ireland, the performance of these companies is crucial to the performance of the local economy, especially with losses of public sector jobs and the need to rebuild and rebalance the economy through private sector growth.
"Investing in SMEs that are capable of contributing to the regional economy through export growth and employment creation is central to Northern Ireland's economic future," she said.
"With 40 years' experience in fostering the development of local businesses, the Ulster Business School is perfectly positioned to help government drive this important SME agenda and we would encourage SMEs to take maximum advantage of the new centre and its services."
Further information about The Centre for SME Development available now at www.business.ulster.ac.uk/sme.