Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 26 January 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 26 January 2023.


  • David Malcolm (Chair)
  • Heather Cousins
  • Shane Murphy
  • Paul Grocott
  • (Name redacted)
  • Alan Russell
  • Chris McConkey
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-executive Board member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (Non-executive Board member)
  • Colm McKenna (Non-executive Board member)

In attendance:

  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB secretariat)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT)
  • Name redacted (for ODT)
  • Michelle Scott (for Invest NI Review)
  • Name redacted (for Invest NI Review)
  • Nigel Robbins (for Project Stratum/Gigabit)


  • Mike Brennan

Agenda items

Agenda Item

Actions Arising From Discussion

Action Owner and Current Position (to be completed prior to the next Board meeting)

Agenda Item 1:Board Register of Interests/ Conflicts

No new interests declared.


Agenda Item 2:  Invest NI Review

Michelle Scott presented:


  • The Independent Review of Invest NI was published on 11 January 2023.
  • While the report concluded that NI needs an economic development agency and Invest NI is best placed to take forward this work, it also identifies a number of significant issues which will require Departmental consideration, response and action where appropriate.
  • The department, in collaboration with Invest NI, will lead on the development of the initial response and an action plan, setting out the steps required to deliver the profound change called for by the review. This will require significant work and a step change in the relationship between Invest NI and the department.
  • It is anticipated that an initial response can be prepared by mid-February, and that a fully scoped action plan setting out how change will be delivered within three to six months.
  • The DfE Board fully endorsed the direction of travel.



Agenda Item 3: Project Stratum/Gigabit

Nigel Robbins presented:

  • NI is in a good place, but behind the rest of the UK. UK compares poorly to the rest of the world but is catching up. The ‘superfast’ gap is narrowing in NI as a result of Project Stratum.
  • Funding from DfE, DAERA and DCMS.
  • Challenges include data anomalies.
  • March 2025 completion date for Project Stratum.
  • Benefits of access to high-speed broadband discussed.
  • An open market review exercise is being run for Project Gigabit. We are expecting a public review in March.
  • Nigel discussed key actions for both projects.
  • On completion of both projects NI will be ahead rather than lagging behind.

Agenda Item 4:Minutes of meeting 15 December

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 5: Strategic Issues

A number of areas were discussed:

Investment Conference

  • An Investment Conference, led by DIT, is likely to take place 16-18 October on the back of the London Global Summit.
  • We are working with DIT and have made Invest NI available to them to assist in organising due their operational experience.
  • We will focus on 10x.

US visit

  • US Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy will visit on 6 and 7 February and will look at investment opportunities and collaboration with NI.

 Investment zones

  • DHLUC attended a workshop on investment zones. This is about innovation in R&D leading to economic impact in Regions.

Energy Sector Decarbonisation                       Summit

  • The private sector is putting together an energy decarbonisation summit in June. Joe Kennedy will be the keynote speaker and there will be an attendee from the UN.

Agenda Item 6: Finance Update

Sharon Hetherington presented:


Agenda Item 7: Papers to Note

HR update

  • Ongoing work on vacancies. The level of analysis is to be considered further.
  • Trends and ‘hotspots’ of sick absences is to be considered further.

AP: The breakdown which is routinely provided to individuals Heads of Group should be provided as an annex just for February Board.

  • A full verbal update will be provided at March Board.

Update to the Major Projects List Update

  • No questions.

(Name Redacted)










Agenda Item 8: Organisational Delivery and Transformation Programme

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting for the rest of the available time.


Agenda Item 9: AOB

New Ways of Working

  • There has been an appeal regarding the requirement to work from the office a minimum of 2 days per week.



Next meeting

The date of next meeting: Thursday 23 February at NI Screen, Pixel Mill, Ormeau Baths, Belfast.

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