Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has travelled to Dusseldorf to learn more about the successful German Mittelstand.
The Mittelstand are a large group of small and medium sized enterprises known for innovation, exports and growth - and credited with keeping the Germany economy buoyant.
Mr Hamilton received a tour of cladding materials firm Wickeder Westfalen Stahl, where he said: "Over the last two days I have had a tremendous insight into the hugely successful German Mittlestand.
"There is much for the Northern Ireland economy to learn from this model, at a time when the Executive is completely committed to the continued development of a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy.
"Almost all German businesses are small to medium-sized enterprises like Wickeder, which employs more than 300 people."
And he said most of the Mittelstand were family-owned, adding: "The Mittelstand is very important to the education and training system in Germany and has contributed to a higher skills economy.
"It also accounts for an estimated 52% of the country's economic output, as well as generating approximately €3trn in turnover annually."
Mr Hamilton also met representatives of the Dusseldorf Chamber of Commerce, the North-Rhine Westfalia Department for the Economy and the Federal Association for the German Mittlestand.
Mr Hamilton said Germany was the "most successful exporter" in the G7.
And he added he hoped to apply his vision for the economy in Northern Ireland by building on lessons learned in Germany.
The Minister said he would seek to introduce "more and better jobs, improved skills and a better economic infrastructure".