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Invest NI funding: Research proves useful, but it raises number of questions

This research by Detail Data merits a close investigation of many of its aspects. And we also have to thank Invest NI for making it available as well as Detail Data for putting it all together.

The information that's now been released has made clear some of the important issues, particularly indicating the spread of Invest NI in Northern Ireland to what were the 26 local authorities.

And it's useful to remind ourselves - and still slightly surprising - that Belfast is one of the worst areas for deprivation in Northern Ireland. But with £452 per head of the population - more than any of the local authorities - in spending per capital from Invest NI, Belfast is perhaps a deserving case, that is doing well.

The logic of asking firms who wish to avail of support if they can export goods and services is because exporting is adding to the local economy and adding to prosperity.

The research by the Detail also shows us the division between east and west of the Bann in Northern Ireland.

About 80% of funding is going to firms east of the Bann, but that should not amount to a major criticism of Invest NI. It reflects where the main centres of population are and where existing industry is.

I think this information does raise the question of whether Invest NI should be helping the universities to the extent that it is. How much of the funding is being spent on spin-out companies from the universities, and is this a legitimate cost for Invest NI? We should look for the right emphasis on how Invest NI decides which spin-outs it should support.

Overall, the information is very useful at widening out the debate on Invest NI. Instead of just having a debate about jobs - which is important - we also need to consider where Invest NI has been influencing the economy.