View from the Chair

Let’s shout so much louder about our investment proposition

25th Jun 2024

Last week, I had the enormous privilege of hosting NI Chamber’s Annual Lunch in the magnificent surroundings of Belfast City Hall – my first official engagement as President of NI Chamber.

With special guests from the cast and crew of BBC drama Blue Lights, Friday’s lunch was a fitting occasion to place a special spotlight on Northern Ireland’s creative industry and acknowledge both its considerable economic contribution and its broader social impact.

It is truly amazing when we think about the depth and breadth of future talent that’s being nurtured here. With people and world-class facilities, our reputation as a filming location is assured. And with the development of Studio Ulster, a £72M large scale virtual production complex, that will only grow.  At NI Chamber, we recognise the potential which exists, which is why we’ve placed a specific focus on support for digital, tech and creative industries in our business manifesto ‘Mission: Business Growth.’

But the screen industry isn’t the only sector coming up with big, new ideas and nurturing the best talent. It’s happening in many other sectors all over Northern Ireland too.

This is the UK’s fastest growing region for start-ups and there is incredible innovation happening in high-growth sectors like health and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, tech and financial services, as well as in aerospace, agrifood and greentech. We’ve got huge advantages; our talented people and propensity for innovation, an abundance of natural resources to support the secure supply of clean energy and unique dual market access.

At NI Chamber, we’re very clear about the need to agree and articulate what our investment proposition looks like and to shout so much louder about it.

That’s why, with a general election just two weeks away, we have been working hard to drive home the policy priorities and solutions of our members, culminating in the recent publication of a business-led manifesto, focusing on Westminster policy levers which can supercharge sustainable economic growth here.

That manifesto stresses that we need a new and ambitious fiscal framework. One which not only sets a workable fiscal floor for Executive spending, but also enables investment to boost the economy.  To instill confidence and drive more efficient public services, NI Chamber has also called for the Executive to agree to an independent review of public spending.

Right now, a unique opportunity exists to position this region as a leader in clean energy. Using strengths in our natural energy resources, we can help the UK reach agreed international targets.

We must provide the right economic environment for our businesses to be competitive here and across the globe. That includes all we can do to keep costs to business as low as possible, addressing skills gaps, boosting innovation and maximising our trading opportunities. Which is why we want to see the new government working with business across the UK to tackle near-market red tape in trade with GB, the Republic of Ireland and Europe and provide greater support for our businesses to access international markets.

Critically, access to the right people with the right skills must be facilitated if we’re to develop the workplace and the workforce of the future. Effective migration and mobility policies aligned with regional economic needs are a top requirement, along with support for childcare and reform of the Apprenticeship Levy.


In my own day job at PwC, I am especially passionate about education, skills and the wider ESG agenda. So given that, I am personally looking forward to supporting NI Chamber’s work in helping to address these challenges and opportunities.

Finally, we are clear that as a business community, we also need a renewed partnership and better ways of working with government because economic growth is a mission which requires a team effort.

Despite the challenges there is a wealth of untapped potential in our economy. In all sectors, this region is teeming with creativity, incredible talent and potential to go down a storm on the international stage. With the right combination of strategic direction from policy makers and collaboration with businesses, there is so much we can achieve as a cast working in partnership.