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Council announces BIG plans for local business

02 March 2020

A new programme aimed at cultivating innovation and boosting performance for local businesses has been launched on the opening day of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Enterprise Week.

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie revealed that the Business Innovation and Growth Programme (BIG) will provide £821,250 of support for local businesses.

Local business people gathered for the first events in the city’s annual Enterprise Week programme, which is taking place at a range of venues across Derry and Strabane from March 2 -6. They heard that the BIG Programme will offer a series of interventions to assist companies in becoming more competitive in both indigenous and export markets.

Launching the programme, Mr Kelpie said that the support would help deliver the innovation which is a key component of the City Deal plans for the North West.

“I am delighted to launch this programme today during such an important week in our business calendar,” he declared.

“As we work towards delivering our City Deal ambitions it’s vital that we create the right support environment for our business community to thrive. With the main focus on the delivery of leading centres of innovation and excellence in data analytics, and robotics and automation, together with smart/digital city and region initiatives, we want to ensure we have the skills and the talent in place to drive these projects.

“This programme will work in synergy with these plans by encouraging innovation and invention and establishing a strong network of knowledge driven, forward thinking entrepreneurs committed to the transformation of the local economy.”

Welcoming the launch, Dr Vicky Kell, Invest Northern Ireland’s Director of Innovation, Research and Development, said: “If we are to create a more competitive, higher value Northern Ireland economy we need to significantly improve our rates of successful innovation. It is proven that companies that adopt innovation grow twice as quickly as those that do not.

“Today’s launch is fantastic news for local businesses and we are pleased to continue our positive work in the North West in partnership with Council and the local business community. This programme strategically targets the key areas that will enhance business performance, facilitate business growth and ultimately help to drive innovation in the local area. I would encourage local SMEs to find out how the programme could benefit them.”

The programme aims to create 550 jobs over the next three years across a range of sectors through new opportunities and investment. It will offer advice and support in areas such as customer service, operational processes and building successful business models, enhancing the chances of commercial success and the ability to create new jobs.

Key elements of the programme include one to one mentoring, workshops and networking opportunities. It will also offer Digital Enterprise Support to help local companies develop a Digital Transformation Action Plan and includes one to one mentoring support to help companies to effectively implement their strategy. Digital technologies can aid companies in strengthening their competitive position by reaching new customers, improving supply chains, attracting and retaining staff. The BIG Programme will equip local SME’s with the tech skills they need to capitalise on the many opportunities presented by harnessing these digital capabilities.

Another important element of the strategy is the Get Ready to Export Programme, which will increase the number of small businesses in the DCSDC area entering new markets outside of NI for the first time. It aims to help participants to identify new market opportunities and develop the skills required to plan and enter new geographical areas.

Council’s Business Manager Kevin O’Connor said the BIG Programme would help local companies fully capitalize on their own exceptional skills and services. “I am delighted to see the programme launch today during Enterprise Week, which brings together enterprises from across the City and District in the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. We are making great strides in building the profile of the region as a talent hotspot and this new programme will further empower local businesses equipping them with the skills and knowledge relevant to achieving their goals.”

Other assistance within the BIG Programme includes procurement support aimed at helping businesses better position themselves to win contracts. Social Enterprise Support will also be available promoting the development of new and emerging social enterprises within the council area.

This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

For more information about the programme go to www.derrystrabane.com

Companies participating in the BIG Programme may become eligible for an Innovation Recognition Certificate from Innovate NI. Derry City and Strabane District Council is a proud partner of Innovate NI, a Department for the Economy programme, helping local businesses innovate successfully. For more information visit www.innovateni.com   

You can find out more about the wide range of free Enterprise Week events taking place throughout the week at enterpriseweek.eventbritestudio.com or via the What’s On Derry Strabane app from Google Play & Apple App stores.