A Stormont department tasked with delivering on the economy and an off-shoot economic quango today face a major restructure after a series of failures outlined in a new report.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and Invest NI have been heavily criticised in the Independent Review of Economic Policy.
The study, commissioned by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster last December and published yesterday, called for major changes to how the agency and wider government provides backing for the business sector. A total of 58 recommendations have been made in the report including:
Core economic functions (covering DETI and DEL areas of responsibility) should be brought under a single 'Department of the Economy'.
The Executive should establish a permanent sub-committee, chaired by the ETI Minister, to prioritise action on the economy.
More emphasis needs to be placed on developing a portfolio of policies to promote Research and Development (R&D) and Innovation.
Invest NI should have a more focused, dedicated and professional approach to strengthening export performance in both manufacturing and tradable services.
Invest NI should be allowed more freedom to operate, enabling the organisation to be more responsive to business needs.
A small business unit to be created within Invest NI, and the approach of working only with “clients” should cease
Grants for business expansion should be phased out towards 2013
Invest NI should further reduce its support for company training
Invest NI should transfer its budgets relating to tourism accommodation back to DETI
Invest NI should disengage its direct involvement with venture capital funds
DETI, DEL and Invest NI should work together to more effectively implement their existing liaison arrangements
DETI should take an internal review of its structures
The panel also called for the creation of a commercially orientated research facility in Northern Ireland.
Review panel chair Professor Richard Barnett said the current structure of government — with economic responsibilities spread across departments — means the administration could not respond quickly and efficiently to issues when they arose.
Ms Foster has said she will now launch a public consultation exercise on the findings.