Economic development agency Invest NI has reacted to the findings of a review into the organisation and said it is committed to making the “transformative change” required to improve. Despite a range of criticisms, the review found that Northern Ireland needs an economic development agency and Invest NI is best placed to continue to take forward this work.
Last year, it was announced that an independent review would be conducted to assess Invest NI’s efficiency and effectiveness and its capacity to align with Northern Ireland’s “10X Economic Vision”. The review was led by Sir Michael Lyons, a former chairman of the BBC.
The review has now been published and despite concluding that Northern Ireland needs an economic development agency, with Invest NI best-placed to carry out this function, “profound change is needed that requires reform and repurposing”.
After highlighting relationships at senior levels within Invest NI “are damaged and are harming the performance of the organisation”, the report found there is considerable room for improvement in “leadership, structure, operation, control and public accountability of the agency”.
With Invest NI said to be having limited impact on productivity, the report also said there needs to be greater public understanding of how Invest NI works and how the agency uses public monies.
From a wider perspective, the report also said strategy, policy, and guidance from the Department for the Economy was unclear and not communicated to Invest NI in a manner that
takes account of the business planning cycle, and that the current “client company” model is inflexible, with the criteria not widely understood by businesses.
In response, Invest NI said in a statement: “We recognise the need to be a more outgoing and better partner with the wider NI public and private sector to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth throughout Northern Ireland.
“The board is committed to the transformative change needed for Invest NI to become a more efficient, agile and outcomes focussed organisation delivering an even greater impact throughout the economy. This change has already started.
“The review will help us move forward with renewed focus and accelerated pace to reshape Invest NI into the economic development agency it needs to be to deliver on the Department for the Economy’s (DfE) 10X Vision.”
It added: “Driving transformational change, new emerging policy direction and ambiguity on roles and responsibilities has led to challenges on priorities, and divisions amongst leadership. We accept this working and with DfE will urgently reshape and refocus leadership so that we can drive forward the necessary change with clarity and unity, and rebuilt confidence.
“We also recognise the need to look at the who, what, where, when and how we support business growth, and reassess our range of programmes with clear prioritisation based on impact and strong alignment to the principles of DfE’s 10X Economic Vision.”