Northern Ireland faces a “historic opportunity” to attract investment as it celebrates its centenary, a minister has said.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told companies at a showcase in London on Wednesday that the post-pandemic world, the net-zero revolution and Brexit presented major opportunities for growth in the province.
He said: “As we enter this new chapter, as we look back on the last 100 years and look forward, we have to recognise that this is a really historic opportunity.
“We’ve got a number of things, the post-pandemic opportunity, the net-zero revolution and, of course, we have left the EU only in the last eight months. All of these things present a historic opportunity and I’m sure that Northern Ireland will be able to benefit greatly from this historic moment.”
Mr Kwarteng was speaking at the Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Showcase, which aimed to create opportunities to network with international companies, governments and investors to create business opportunities, boost exports and investment into region.
Both Mr Kwarteng and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis praised the work of Northern Irish firms such as Wrightbus and Artemis, which are building zero-emission buses and ships, and identified opportunities in green technology, information technology and filmmaking.
The event at the QEII Centre in Westminster, opened by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, has been described as the highlight of the Northern Ireland Office’s Centenary programme.
It followed a Number 10 reception hosted by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a City of London Corporation reception at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday night.
Some 28 Northern Irish organisations exhibited in the business showcase exhibition, including Northern Ireland’s two universities, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.
Mr Johnson said the Government will “continue to promote Northern Ireland interests”.
“This year we are celebrating the huge contribution Northern Ireland has made to our country over the past 100 years and looking ahead to the enormous potential of its employers and innovators,” he said.
“The UK Government will continue to promote Northern Ireland interests to help boost investment and jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Mr Lewis added: “This showcase is an ideal forum to show the positive contribution of Northern Ireland firms to the UK economy, and reinforces the UK Government’s commitment to build back better by creating opportunities for businesses to flourish through trade.
“It is particularly fitting that this showcase, hosted by the Northern Ireland Office, is happening in Northern Ireland’s Centenary year, as it symbolises all that is positive about today’s Northern Ireland and its ambitions for a bright and prosperous future.”
Invest NI chief executive Kevin Holland described the showcase as a “fantastic platform for our exhibiting businesses to promote their world-class products, services, skills and innovation to potential new buyers and investors”.
“We look forward to engaging with them and promoting Northern Ireland as a place for business growth and excellence,” he said.
Tourism NI hosted an area of the exhibition hall to showcase the very best of NI locations, hotels and tourist attractions.
The showcase also featured keynote speakers, such as Northern Ireland’s special envoy to the US Trevor Ringland, who gave a speech on Foreign Direct Investment and panel sessions on cyber security, innovation in Northern Ireland, creative industries, financial services, foreign direct investment and women in business in Northern Ireland.