Northern Ireland's High Growth Firms

This collection of reports sets out some of the main findings for private businesses using quantitative methods to analyse high growth firms within the Northern Ireland economy from 1998 onwards and the contribution of these businesses to the NI economy in terms of business turnover and employment over time.

The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment's Research Agenda 2012 to 2015 identified ‘encouraging business growth’ as a key theme.

In support of this theme, a research project was identified to apply an established OECD definition of High Growth Firms to NI with the aim of identifying the number and characteristics of businesses which underwent exceptional employment or turnover growth over the periods 1998-2001 to 2010-2013. This report was issued in June 2014.

The High Growth Firm research identified a number of additional analytical questions which were subsequently taken forward as Update Bulletins. The publication is also updated annually to include the most recent data.

Latest publication

Bulletin 12 uses the latest IDBR data from September 2021 to provide High Growth figures on businesses for the most recent cohort period between 2018 and 2021, setting these in context with the previously published series of analytics on High Growth and extending the entire period covered from 1998-01 to 2018-21.

The latest results show:

  • the total number of 'in scope' businesses for the latest period (2018-21) was 61,420; 7,655 employed 10 or more staff in the base year and 53,765 employed less than 10 staff in the base year
  • the number of High Growth businesses employing 10 or more staff in the latest period, 2018-21 (765) was down from the previous period 2017-20 (1,020)
  • the High Growth rate for businesses employing 10 or more staff stood at 10% for the latest period, lower than the previous period 2017-20 (13.5%)
  • the number of High Growth micro businesses employing less than 10 staff in the latest period, 2018-21 (11,000) was lower than the previous period 2017-20 (12,400)
  • micro businesses employing less than 10 staff as a group and over time, experienced higher and more sustained levels of High Growth rates than larger businesses, however the high growth rate for micro businesses for the current period (20.6%) is lower than the previous period 2017-20 (23.8%)
  • all High Growth businesses accounted for 29% of total turnover of in scope businesses compared to a share of 19% of the number of in scope businesses
  • the share of total turnover for in scope businesses accounted for by non-High Growth businesses has risen from 59% in 2009, peaking at 80% in 2013 and now stands at 71% for 2021
  • between 2007 and 2021, the overall trend in the proportion of employment accounted for by High Growth firms with 10+ employees has been downwards from 23% in 2007 to 11% in 2021.

The latest report published on 23 February 2022 can be accessed:

Previous bulletins

Previous bulletins are also available:

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