Belfast Telegraph

R&D key to staying ahead of the overseas rivals, claims Minister

By Margaret Canning

Research and development is "the oil that fuels the export engine", the Enterprise Minister has said. Jonathan Bell said using R&D would help firms stay ahead of the competition and win deals around the world.

He spoke as two firms, engineering business Copper Industries in Co Antrim and e-commerce specialist Export Technologies in Belfast, said that R&D grants from Invest NI had helped them drive sales overseas.

Copper Industries in Toome has developed new tanks to minimise heat loss, while Export Technologies is adding to its platform for online sales.

Mr Bell said: "Copper Industries has worked to develop new heat-efficient tanks and expect three-quarters of sales to be outside Northern Ireland, while Export Technologies has a global reach thanks to its innovative approach."

He said research and development was "vital to continue to grow the economy".

"In order to stay competitive in a global market, companies must continue to ensure they are ahead of the game by designing and developing new products and also managing effective ways of working."

And he said companies who have not considered R&D before should speak to Invest NI about the support available.

Last month, figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) showed that R&D spending fell 15% to £403.5m in 2014.

But firms that were locally owned reported a 24% jump in their R&D expenditure over the year.

Charlie Shivers, managing director of Copper Industries, said the firm had used R&D continuously to move forward after the economic downturn.

"With this new R&D project we are aiming to develop a new range of efficient tanks, minimising tank heat loss. This will help us target growth in external markets including Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland as well as continue our growth in Northern Ireland.

"We estimate this new product range could generate nearly £1.25m of new sales three years after development is complete, with over 75% of these sales coming from outside of NI.

"This will be hugely significant for our business."

And Niall McGinnity, company secretary at Export Techologies, said the help of Invest NI had enabled it to develop groundbreaking technology.

"We are delighted that such technical advances in e-commerce have been developed here in Belfast, and now the opportunity for businesses to make more money online is greater than ever before."

Export Technologies provides an e-commerce platform to online firms which has enabled them to make sales of more than £1bn in the last 15 years.

Its international retail platform (IRP) is open to retailers, distributors and manufacturers with the potential to sell online.

It combines multi-channel traffic generation with conversion techniques which can cope with languages, currencies and localised markets.

Belfast Telegraph