Chamber Awards 2019 Winners Q&A – NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry

May 31, 2019

Following last month’s Chamber Awards, Leona Murphy from Chambers Ireland caught up with Northern Ireland Chamber who won the Most Innovative Project category for Learn Grow Excel – Business Support Initiative

Could you tell us a bit about your winning project?

In 2016, NI Chamber launched Learn Grow Excel – a suite of business support programmes led by the private sector, which focus on enhancing local capability, supporting growth activities and encouraging increased sales outside of Northern Ireland.  The initiatives key objectives are to:

  • Inspire more businesses to export and instill confidence
  • Generate opportunities directly and in new markets
  • Build the capability of local business for export
  • Provide one to one support and advice
  • Contribute to the development of the economy

In order to meet these objectives the initiative has been broken down into specific programmes each focussing on different objectives.  The initiative is supported by NI Chamber’s SME partner, Power NI with the constituent programmes run in partnership with key local banks including Bank of Ireland UK; Danske Bank; First Trust; HSBC and Ulster Bank:

  • Dansk Bank Export First – private dinners and export forums affording companies the opportunity to peer learn from successful exporters
  • Connecting for Growth – meet the buyer event and flagship networking events focussing on encouraging trade between NI and ROI.
  • Near Market Trade Missions – near market trade missions to GB allowing companies to learn about key infrastructure and development projects from in-market bodies as well as connections to procurement teams who are leading these projects.
  • Developing Your Growth Potential – seeks to assist SMEs to develop their sales and leadership capacity via sales training and high-performance networking events.
  • Scaling for Growth – bespoke one to one assistance for companies targeted at helping them achieve their growth strategy and scale up.
  • International Trade Training – technical training support for logistics and finance teams within exporting companies.
  • Annual Learn Grow Excel conference – a collaborative conference pulling together all strands of the programmes with the overall objective of to encourage export growth in Northern Ireland with the support of local exporter Ulster Carpets. 

Now in its third year, the support programmes within the Learn Grow Excel initiative have established momentum and are generating impact for participating companies.

What does winning this award mean to your Chamber?

NI Chamber is absolutely delighted to win the “Most Innovative Project” award for its Learn Grow Excel business support initiative at the Chambers Ireland Awards.  This initiative is in its third year and is now gaining momentum and generating impact for participating companies – as such, being recognised by our peer group at this juncture is significant and has helped us appreciate that the initiative is a key differentiator for our business.

What inspired your Chamber to start this project?

In 2016 the Department for the Economy’s Export Matters Action Plan, developed in conjunction with Invest NI and InterTradeIreland, set out an overarching goal to grow the value of exports outside NI by 80% by 2025 and increasing the number of Northern Ireland businesses engaged in sales outside Northern Ireland.  The Learn Grow Excel initiative was a private sector response to this strategy, seeking to support growing companies at every stage of development and to encourage more export activity in Northern Ireland.

What are the next steps/follows up to this project?

The Department for Economy’s 2030 Industrial Strategy for Northern Ireland sets out a Framework for Growth which identifies five “pillars” deemed integral to achieving the Department’s ambitions for growth and competitiveness in Northern Ireland.  One of these pillars is “Succeeding in Global Markets”, referring to the ability to compete globally through trade by improving our commercial success in overseas markets. As such, continued support for our exporters continues to be a key focus for NI Chamber and the core emphasis of Learn Grow Excel.  The initiative will certainly evolve in response to market developments/ trends and in recognition of the areas which are delivering the most effective impact for our members.

What exciting projects do you have planned for the rest of 2019 and into 2020?

One of our most exciting projects is the bid to host the 2023 World Chambers Congress.  Northern Ireland Chamber is submitting the bid in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce, Chambers Ireland and International Chambers of Commerce.  This is a unique partnership and represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate how the Chamber network is key to doing ‘Business Beyond Borders’. If successful, this could bring an estimated economic value £1.92m to Northern Ireland.

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