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Former BBC chair Sir Michael Lyons to head up strategic review into Invest NI


From left, Sir Michael Lyons with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons

From left, Sir Michael Lyons with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons

From left, Sir Michael Lyons with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons

A former chairman of the BBC has been appointed to lead a review of economic development agency Invest NI, it was announced today.

Sir Michael Lyons chaired the broadcaster from 2007 to 2011 and also led the Belfast Innovation & Inclusive Growth Commission last year.

The review of Invest NI, revealed by the Belfast Telegraph last week, will assess the effectiveness of the body and its ability to deliver the department’s 10X Economic Vision.

But MLAs Caoimhe Archibald of Sinn Fein and SDLP’s Sinead McLaughlin have said any review should go much further and include Invest NI’s record on spreading prosperity across all parts of NI.

The strategy was launched by former Economy Minister Diane Dodds last year and identified 10 principles for economic growth such as more innovation and a green economy.

It’s understood Department for the Economy Permanent Secretary Mike Brennan and Invest NI chair Rose Mary Stalker were keen to appoint an external chairman to the review.

The names of panel members on the review are also to be announced.

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Economy Minister Gordon Lyons revealed: “The 10X Economic Vision my department published in May 2021 sets out our ambitions for the next decade and aims to create a step change in how we think about our economy.

“The realisation of this vision will ultimately see Northern Ireland situated amongst the elite small advanced economies in the world. 

“Invest NI’s role in translating our 10X ambition into a new economic reality is crucial.

“Now is the perfect time to take stock and ensure the organisation is positioned to respond to a changing economic landscape in preparation for an economy that is 10 times better.”

He said the review will examine Invest NI’s “current business model and identify any support required to deliver our bold 10X policy objectives on innovation, growth and inclusion”.

He added: “Sir Michael has a distinguished track record and brings a depth of relevant experience which will be crucial in steering the public debate around the future of economic
development in Northern Ireland.” 

Sir Michael said the 10X Economic Vision was a unique opportunity to reshape the Northern Ireland economy.  

And he added: “Invest NI will play a pivotal role in the achievement of this vision and therefore it is
the ideal time to review the organisation’s effectiveness and consider its capacity to
deliver the 10X Vision.”

Its most annual report and accounts state that it has nearly 600 staff. Its most recent budget for 2020/21 was £306m.

Its allocation from the latest draft budget has not been confirmed though it is losing £23m a year for the next three years due to the loss of European funding post-Brexit.

Sharon Hetherington, the department’s finance director, told its scrutiny committee at the Assembly last week that Invest NI will be “significantly impacted” by the loss of the funding.