Invest NI business showcase to go ahead despite freeze on financial support

Belfast's International Conference Centre will host Invest NI's 'Northern Ireland Showcase' conference on March 3.

A MAJOR Invest NI business conference aimed at promoting Northern Ireland to an international audience is to go ahead in Belfast next week, despite the agency being forced to suspend new offers of financial support to investors.

Gripped by a financial crisis, largely due to the loss of EU structural funding, Invest NI froze new letters of offer in December on the advice of the Department for the Economy (DfE).

What was initially a short-term response to its budget uncertainty, has spiralled into a crisis following the collapse of the executive.

While previously agreed grants will continue to be paid, Invest NI confirmed this week that the suspension on new financial offer remains in place “whilst we await clarification on our potential 2022/23 budget allocation”.

The casualties from the Invest NI funding crisis include Ignite NI's successful Propel and Accelerator programmes for start-up businesses, which have supported around 100 new firms over the past four years.

Confirming the Northern Ireland Showcase event will go ahead at the ICC (Waterfront) in Belfast on March 3, a DfE statement on Thursday said economy minister Gordon Lyons had “asked Invest Northern Ireland to deliver the showcase event because he is keen to share to a wide audience his ambition to take Northern Ireland to the next level”.

The event is due to be live streamed for international audiences

Making no reference to the ongoing funding crisis within Invest NI, Mr Lyons said: “For the last two years, our businesses have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability. This has not gone unnoticed by many of our existing and potential investors and trading partners.

“I believe there is now a unique opportunity for Northern Ireland to grasp this opportunity to become a stronger and more vibrant economy which will lead to a wealthier, healthier society, where everyone benefits.”

Invest NI's interim chief executive Mel Chittock, appointed after Kevin Holland quit the organisation in December, said: “We are well established as global leaders in new and emerging fields like cyber security, fintech and advanced manufacturing. This event will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase these strengths and promote our world class excellence and business growth to a global audience.”

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