Northern Ireland continues to be successful in attracting high-value foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly in the software and information technology sectors, winning more than its fair share of inward investment. The Northern Ireland proposition is based on a combination of quality and cost-competitiveness. We have a steady supply of skilled and talented people, excellent links with universities and businesses, an advanced telecommunications infrastructure and world-class companies operating in key knowledge-based sectors. Operating costs are highly competitive and can be significantly lower than many regions of the UK and Europe, including the Republic of Ireland.
My officials work closely with Invest Northern Ireland to ensure that we make the best possible proposition to potential investors. My Department’s Assured Skills programme is now a critical part of the offers made. Assured Skills is designed to guarantee employers that the skills that they need to support a growing business can be found in Northern Ireland. Assured Skills has supported the creation of just under 1,000 jobs across eight projects, with funding of £2·57 million committed from my Department. Set alongside complementary support from Invest Northern Ireland, those results suggest that Assured Skills support has been crucial in securing jobs for Northern Ireland.
There are regular meetings between my officials and colleagues in Invest Northern Ireland to discuss the pipeline of potential investors. There is a range of factors as to why companies do not locate in Northern Ireland, and only companies themselves can provide their very specific reasons. However, I know that a very substantial focus is being applied across government to ensure that Northern Ireland is attractive to investors. I am confident that the joint efforts of Invest Northern Ireland and my Department, through Assured Skills, are making Northern Ireland one of the most attractive locations for investment.