A THREE-year project has been launched to help family-owned businesses survive when their founders hand over the reins to the next generation.
Supported by the European Union's INTERREG IVA Programme the 'Success through Succession' project will operate within Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland and Western Scotland.
Spearheaded by the University of Ulster alongside Glasgow Caledonian University and Dundalk Institute of Technology, the project aims to manage succession and increase innovation, growth and competitiveness.
Family-owned firms represent approximatley 69% of all SMEs across the UK but statistics show that only 30% survive through to the second generation and only around 10% make it to the third.
Project lead partner Rodney McAdam, from the University of Ulster said: "Unfortunately succession issues are one of the biggest threats to the sustainability of a family owned business. In most of these businesses the family make up the senior management team which adds an additional, complex and sometimes volatile layer to the company's existing structure.
"Underlying emotional beliefs and conflicting personalities can come to the fore, particularly when it comes time for the next generation to start taking the lead," he added.
Offering a pyschology and innovation management focussed approach to help address these issues the project aims to provide applicants with in-house mentoring and support. This will include the creation of hubs or centres of expertise where businesses can address skills deficits and create new governance structures in order to establish strong and effective leadership.
Pat Colgan, chief executive of the Special EU Programmes Body, said the project could stimulate increased innovation and growth within businesses spanning many sectors, on a cross-border basis.
"By providing advice and guidance to ease the transition from one generation to the next it will ensure that a number of traditional family businesses are able to grow and prosper within today's tough economic landscape," he added.