4th March 2021

The Department of Economy has recently released their Economic Recovery Action Plan.

This Economic Recovery Action Plan sets out a range of decisive actions to kick-start economic recovery in Northern Ireland and build a more competitive, inclusive and greener economy.

The report highlights the stark reality of the impact Coronavirus has had on the labour market and the economy.

  • In total, nearly 250,000 NI workers have been placed on furlough at some point.
  • A further 78,000 workers have availed of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
  • The January 2021 unemployment claimant count, stood at 56,700, around twice that observed in the pre-pandemic months

The report states however that independent forecasters believe that 2021 overall will be a year of recovery in the Northern Ireland economy, with growth of around 4% to 6%.
The Action Plan sets out what is possible if the resources are made available. Successful delivery of this action plan will require an additional £290m in 2021-22 (including the cost of delivery the High Street Stimulus Scheme).

This includes:

  • £20m for R&D & Innovation
  • £50m for a Highly Skilled & Agile Workforce
  • £20m for a Greener Economy
  • £200m towards Investments, Trade & Exports

The Department will stimulate R&D and Innovation by:
Accelerating delivery of plans for over £550m investment in innovation and digital across the four
City and Growth Deals in NI;
• Creating a Chief Scientific & Technology Officer post
• Providing support to businesses to engage in research and development
• Providing advisory services and support to assist companies understand innovation and develop
their innovative capabilities;
• Assisting SMEs to gain the skills they need to engage in innovation activities;
• Assisting businesses to exploit new opportunities through the adoption of new technologies;
• Supporting businesses to build on recent successes in securing UK wide funding streams
• Fostering collaboration and partnership working between industry and academia

The Department will support a Highly Skilled and Agile Workforce by:
• Growing and maintaining the Apprenticeship system; by providing incentives to employers to
return apprentices from furlough and recruit new Apprentices;
• Make apprenticeship opportunities available to more people and sectors by amending age related criteria; and, establishing public sector apprenticeships
• Provide a flexible skills fund to offer new opportunities for individuals to upskill and reskill
• Developing our Youth Training system
• Ensuring that the Further and Higher Education sectors continue to play a key role in the
response to COVID-19
• Launching a new Northern Ireland Skills Strategy, to help employers and individuals attain the
skills needed to grow our economy and boost productivity
• Building upon the existing vocational education infrastructure by establishing a Northern
Ireland Skills Board, bringing together employers, providers and trade unions to progress the
skills agenda

The Department will support a Greener Economy by:
• Delivering a net zero carbon energy transition;
• Improving energy efficiency of buildings and industry;
• Encouraging green innovation in renewables and low carbon technologies;
• Developing the Hydrogen Economy and Circular Economy;
• Enabling a low carbon workforce; and
• Working collaboratively across Government on a green growth approach to recovery.

The Department will support Exports, Trade and Investment by:
• Pushing for a permanent and complete solution to end frictions brought about by the protocol;
• Securing clarity on long term trading arrangements and the regulatory environment arising from
EU exit;
• Building on the success of Invest NI’s International Strategy, and promotion sectoral strengths
• Providing investment and employment support to business to help them rebuild;
• Stimulating demand for local businesses including retail, restaurants and hotels;
• Assisting businesses to explore cross border/GB market trade and develop new markets;
• Working with businesses to help them adapt to new trading conditions, and
• Ensuring SMEs in Northern Ireland are provided with support and guidance to fully benefit from
opportunities for cross-border growth.

Please note this includes: Developing a High Street Stimulus Scheme to provide individuals throughout Northern Ireland with a personalised prepaid card to be spent at ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses including retail, hospitality and close contact services.