A new €10m cross-border business programme for InterTradeIreland was launched yesterday with the aim of helping growing firms to reach their export potential.
The new phase of the Acumen programme was announced yesterday by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan.
The Acumen programme aims to help 400 companies North and South over the next four years to boost cross-border trade and expand into export markets.
Noting that cross-border trade had increased from €2.6bn in 2002 to €3.1bn in 2007, the Tánaiste said the development of the all-island economy was a priority.
She was also in no doubt that the significant financial funding package, which came to €14m when company contributions were included, would yield very positive benefits to companies both North and South.
“I am committed to working with my counterparts in Northern Ireland to implement North/South initiatives where there is mutual economic benefit to be achieved.
“The development of the all-island economy is a priority for my Department,” Minister Coughlan stated.
Over the past five years, Acumen had supported 300 companies in every county on the island – including her own of Donegal – creating almost 400 new jobs and new cross-border sales of €35m.
“Competitiveness and innovation are now the springboard for enterprise development in the modern knowledge economy and InterTradeIreland programmes are designed to deliver on those tenets.”
InterTradeIreland chief executive, Liam Nellis, said that in 2007 more than 450 firms had participated directly in the organisation’s business networks and trade and business development programme, while over 1,800 had used the organisation’s information resources and facilities.
“For many of these businesses, participation in our all-island programmes represented their introduction to formal innovation activity with third-level institutes and exporting from their home jurisdiction.”
Acumen programme director, Willie Maxwell, told the audience of client companies and high-potential first-time exporters that conditions for doing all-island business were currently better than they had been at any time in the past 40 years.
“The attractions of doing business in the North, a bite-sized market which is on the doorstep of Southern SMEs, are obvious,” he said.
“Irish PLCs such as Kerry and Glanbia have huge market share there, while major retailers such as Dunnes and SuperValu have cracked the Northern market. Northern Ireland is also the perfect proving ground for wider export ambition.
“In these demanding business times, Acumen is here to help. If you are not doing business in Northern Ireland or are seriously underperforming in that market, then our programme offers interventions that are proven to work, with increased support level,” Maxwell added.
By John Kennedy