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 in 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 former DETI Minister asked her Economic Advisory Group (EAG) to undertake a review of access to finance for businesses within Northern Ireland as part of their 2012-2013 work programme.  

The EAG report, published in March 2013, set out 13 recommendations to be implemented by banks, business and government in order to improve the finance environment for SME businesses.  These recommendations have set the context for much of the Northern Ireland Executive’s initiatives which have been taken forward to address the availability of finance.  

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 £185 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 £1k and £3m 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 £185m 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.

For further information contact Sector Initiatives Branch on 028 9041 6906.

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 Strategy

Going for Growth – Investing for Success

Agri-food is one of our most successful industries with a proven track record for growth with sales of over £4bn per annum and accounting for around 10 per cent of our private sector employment. In recognition of this, the Executive included a commitment in the Programme for Government to develop a strategic action plan for the agri-food sector.

In May 2012, DETI and DARD appointed the industry led Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB) to make recommendations in respect of the growth targets, strategic priorities and actions to be included in that Plan.

Going for Growth report

The AFSB undertook extensive consultation with the agri-food industry and other stakeholders and developed a report, Going for Growth, which includes more than 100 recommendations aimed at accelerating the growth of farming, fishing and food and drink processing in Northern Ireland to 2020 and beyond.

In response to Going for Growth, the NI Executive has reviewed the recommendations which fall to government to address and developed an action plan, outlining actions to be progressed across relevant departments and agencies.

A Progress Report on the implementation of Going for Growth is available to download below:

Review of marketing and promotion

The Department has undertaken a review of Northern Ireland Agri-Food Marketing and Promotion:

End of tenure of AFSB

A great deal has been achieved since the Agri-Food Strategy Board was appointed in 2012. The Agri-Food Strategy Board has played a key role in helping to set the strategic direction for the sector. 

The tenure of the AFSB ended on 31 August 2017. During their five year term the AFSB achieved significant progress strengthening the local agri-food sector and helping open new markets. AFSB also helped to progress key recommendations from the Going for Growth strategy, including the establishment of the Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre, directly linking business and academia, and the creation of an Agri-Food Loan Scheme.

It has also provided strategic direction for proposals to establish an Agri-Food Marketing Body for Northern Ireland. The Department continues to work with DAERA, Invest NI and industry representatives to develop the proposed model.

For further information, you may wish to contact the AFSB Secretariat by emailing info@agrifoodstrategyboard.org.uk.

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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