Hamilton launches £5.7m fund to boost Northern Ireland business innovation
A scheme to help local firms innovate and create new products has been launched.
The Invest NI Collaborative Growth Programme, which is worth £5.7m, will award funding of up to £25,000 to businesses over the next five years.
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "Innovation is absolutely essential to wider economic growth, and the Collaborative Growth Programme will support SMEs to combine expertise, funding and contacts to develop new products and services and open up new business opportunities worldwide.
"The practice of open innovation is recognised as a significant driver of regional competitiveness, so it's important we leverage our unique selling points to maximise our strengths on the international stage."
Speaking at the launch event at Titanic Belfast yesterday, economist Christian Ketels, from Harvard Business School, added: "Value creation and innovation ultimately always occurs in companies. But we increasingly see that their success is not only a function of their internal strengths, but (also) depends upon the partners that they are connected with and on the business environment in which they operate.
"Invest NI's Collaborative Growth Programme is a promising piece in the puzzle to enhance the odds for Northern Ireland companies to succeed in competition, generating benefits both for them and for the Northern Ireland economy."
Applications for the new scheme are now open, with a focus on groups or businesses involved in areas such as agrifood, engineering, digital IT and life sciences.
The Department for the Economy said previous similar schemes had benefited companies including Kilkeel-based Sea Source, which in the past 18 months has secured approximately £8m of new business.
Speaking yesterday, Davey Hill, from Sea Source, said: "It is crucial that we build on the work already done to ensure we deliver a sustainable future through diversification and maximisation of our assets and skills, and continue to support our community.''
At the same time, a planned £36m expansion of Kileel harbour could see approximately 1,000 jobs created in the area.
A group of fishermen, engineering firms and fish processors are planning to build a new breakwater and an onshore development that would allow bigger boats into the harbour.
While fishermen are currently catching prawns, the expansion could see the Co Down harbour landing mackerel and herring.