Enterprise policy


The focus of Enterprise Policy is on promoting enterprise and entrepreneurship and creating the necessary conditions that will enable businesses across all sectors of the economy to start and grow.

Enterprise zone policy

Established in 2012, Enterprise Zones are a key plank of the UK Government’s long-term economic plan, supporting businesses to grow. In GB the zones offer a number of incentives including business rate discounts, simplified planning, superfast broadband as well as Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) for a small number of enterprise zones within assisted areas which permit 100 per cent first year allowances for qualifying plant and machinery expenditure. With the exception of ECAs, the NI Executive already supports businesses across Northern Ireland using these levers.

State aid rules stipulate that ECAs cannot be offered alongside other forms of regional aid such as selective finance assistance or business rates discounts. In general ECAs will therefore only be attractive for large, capital-intensive projects where their benefits would outweigh other forms of available support.

In March 2014 the Chancellor’s Budget statement announced the creation of a pilot enterprise zone in Coleraine offering ECAs as an incentive. HM Treasury has responsibility for designating these areas and laid the Statutory Instrument designating the pilot Enterprise Zone in July 2016. It came into force on 5 August 2016. Causeway Coast and Glens Council continue to take forward plans for the development of the Zone which presents a significant economic development opportunity for the area. 

Access to finance

Recognising the key issue of access to finance for Northern Ireland SMEs, the department, together with other key stakeholders, continues to explore options for ensuring local companies have access to appropriate and affordable finance to support investment and assist in continuing growth.

This includes working with the UK Government’s British Business Bank to promote their range of products for SMEs in Northern Ireland. In addition, Invest NI has put in place a suite of funds totaling more than £170 million. This Access to Finance initiative will ensure that companies with high growth potential are not constrained through lack of access to finance. Through the suite of funds, Invest NI is able to offer a continuum of funding for businesses seeking between £10k and £2m over a series of funding rounds.

​More information on access to financial schemes

If you are interested in information on access to finance schemes that provide equity or loans to business, you may also be interested in Invest NI’s suite of funds totalling more than £170m to help SMEs with high growth potential.

Access to Finance Funds for Business

The table highlights a range of access to finance support, covering both bank and non-bank schemes, which is available to business.

This is not an exhaustive list of all forms of support but instead provides a snapshot of the main European, UK and NI schemes. This matrix of support will be updated as new schemes develop. For more detail on each scheme, click the scheme title in the first column of the table.

Business Finance Guide

The Business Finance Guide is a journey from start-up to growth and it has been devised for businesses and advisers by the British Business Bank and a considerable number of other contributors with expertise, who together represent more than a million members in businesses, finance providers and advisory firms and organisations.

This is a unique guide that sets out the main things a business needs to consider and outlines sources of finance available to businesses – ranging from start-ups to SMEs and growing mid-sized companies. The guide also includes several tools and ideas to help businesses consider their options, make decisions and plan how they will finance expansion.

Agri-food sector

The agri-food sector makes a significant contribution to the NI economy and is critical to balanced regional development. 

The agri-food sector has faced and is facing a range of challenges as a result of a rapidly changing environment due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, EU exit, labour shortages, the war in Ukraine and rapidly rising input and energy costs. The Department for the Economy and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs continue to work together to provide support for the agri-food sector and to help both the industry and government consider the future of the sector and how  the sector can adapt, grow and become more prosperous and sustainable.

DfE and DAERA commissioned Sir Peter Kendall to conduct an Independent Strategic Review of the Agri-Food (ISRAF) sector. The final ISRAF report was published in January 2022:

Related to Enterprise policy

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

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