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Business Soapbox: Michael Nixon


Michael Nixon, director of corporate finance at ASM

Michael Nixon, director of corporate finance at ASM

Michael Cooper +44 7968 167657

Michael Nixon, director of corporate finance at ASM

With expenditure on research and development in the province one of the lowest in the UK, local firms need to embrace the concept and see it as an essential means of growth, says the director of corporate finance at ASM

Business expenditure on R&D in Northern Ireland is one of the lowest in the UK and in respect of the number of patents granted, Northern Ireland has the lowest per capita level relative to any other UK region.

To compete more effectively as a modern knowledge and technology-based economy, Northern Ireland must develop a more innovative culture of collaboration across industry, government and academia.

Within this environment, business must take on an increased leadership role in the innovation agenda, with government playing a support role and academia working to inspire new heights of innovation through research and development.

In order to strengthen performance in innovation it will be important to move away from the concept of innovation as a wholly technological phenomenon as implied by the emphasis on R&D toward a view of innovation as a business and commercial process, developing the commercial and entrepreneurial skills of industry.

For small local businesses, that means innovation should not be seen as something that is undertaken only by large companies but also by smaller companies either on their own or through collaboration (cross border or otherwise) with other sectoral partners.

Innovation should not be seen as a something that is the preserve of the "men in white coats" but something that can be applied across all sectors in terms of both product development and process development.

Innovation should seen as a mechanism to overcome day-to-day constraints and should be embedded in a company's culture. It needs to be seen as a driver of export activity. As Northern Ireland seeks to increase export activity it will be required to compete in a global marketplace and will require innovative solutions (products and processes) to enable it to be successful.

Government is providing support through Invest NI and tax breaks by way of R&D tax credits while Europe provides support through its Framework Programmes which provide funding for cross border collaboration.

Small local business need not be afraid of innovation but need to embrace it as a means of growth.