Northern Ireland

NI draft industrial strategy for 'increased competitiveness'

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Image caption There is also a plan for a new "Business Growth Initiative" to help high growth potential smaller businesses to scale up

The NI economy minister has published a draft industrial strategy aimed at increasing Northern Ireland's competitiveness.

It focuses on innovation, skills, infrastructure and exports.

It also identifies six sectors as having "world-class capabilities" including financial services, advanced manufacturing and life sciences.

On Monday, the prime minister published a UK industrial strategy which covers similar territory.

The Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, said the aim of the strategy was to make Northern Ireland one of the world's most competitive small advanced economies by 2030.

That would mean Northern Ireland being on a par with Denmark, Singapore or the Republic of Ireland.

'Radical reform'

Northern Ireland has significant barriers to overcome including low productivity, a high rate of economic inactivity and a significant number of poorly educated adults.

Analysis by BBC News NI Business and Economics Editor, John Campbell

This strategy has a list of proven policies for tackling low productivity: investing in science, developing skills, upgrading infrastructure and focusing on comparative advantages.

Unlike the UK prime minister's plan, it doesn't have any budgetary specifics.

It also lacks a functioning executive to put the ideas in to practice.

The danger is that political drift will see Northern Ireland fall further behind those economies it seeks to emulate.

The strategy states that the key lessons from small advanced economies include having a 'crystal clear' strategy and building on distinctive strengths in a small number of areas.

Those areas for Northern Ireland are identified as financial services; digital and creative technologies; advanced manufacturing; life sciences; agri-food and materials handling.

Options raised by the strategy include the development of a science funding agency to promote research excellence and a "radical reform" of careers advice services.

There is also a plan for a new "Business Growth Initiative" to help high growth potential smaller businesses to scale up.

Other aspects of the strategy build on existing policies for exports and tackling economic inactivity.

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