High level of interest from overseas investors since protocol introduction - Invest NI boss

Chief Executive of Invest NI, Kevin Holland.

NORTHERN Ireland is attracting a high level of interest from overseas investors in the five months since the introduction of the protocol, the head of Invest NI has said.

Speaking in Belfast this week, Kevin Holland wouldn’t be drawn on like-for-like numbers with previous years, but described the pipeline of companies Invest NI is currently talking to as “very large”.

While the protocol has produced significant issues for businesses around products of animal origin moving from Great Britain into the north, it has put Northern Ireland in a unique position in terms of its access to both the GB and EU markets.

Invest NI is already actively promoting dual market access to potential investors.

And despite labelling the Irish Sea border issue as “intolerable”, incoming economy minister Paul Frew signalled this week that he won’t stand in the way of Invest NI using dual market access to attract overseas investors.

“I think Invest NI should use every single means and tool within their toolbox to promote Northern Ireland throughout the world,” the North Antrim MLA told BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday.

Asked about Mr Frew’s comments, Kevin Holland said: “What I would say is that we have had a lot of interest.

“We have had a lot of interest from companies around the world, including manufacturing companies who are exploring now what Northern Ireland is like as a potential manufacturing destination.”

The chief executive said: “If nothing else, the last six months has certainly put Northern Ireland in a global media profile, partly because of some difficulties and the frictions that were happening, but also because of some people talking around potential access and benefits.”

Mr Holland said dual market access part of an overall package Invest NI has been using to promote Northern Ireland to investors. That package includes promotion of the north’s talent pool, technology, cost of operating and quality of life.

The Invest NI chief said the biggest challenge for attracting investment in recent months has been the restrictions on travel.

He said while Invest NI’s teams have developed ways to interact with potential investors through the pandemic, he said flying people into the north was a crucial part of winning over firms.

“I think that’s probably been the biggest barrier over the last six months to foreign investors coming here and setting up here,” he said.

“As people can travel here more readily in the rest of the year, then I look forward to a number of those discussions. And also for us to be able to go out to the US and other places to go around to their offices live and do some selling overseas.”

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