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APRIL 2014 Price £2.30 (€3.75)

Reflections on the economy Just what does the Budget 2014 deliver for Northern Ireland’s savers, seniors and businesses?

SME Focus: Top 200 listing revealed

Innovation: The Northern Ireland firm reinventing the wheel

ISSN 1363-2507

9 771363 250005


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Contents 6 News

30 North West

66 John Simpson

Expansion for Delta Print & Packaging and new contracts for Denroy and Wrightbus

What will the new North West Science Park mean for knowledge businesses in the region?

Our columnist asks if credit unions could play a bigger role in the lending landscape

14 Cover Story

36 In the Balance

70 Authentic Branding

PwC analyses what the Budget will mean for businesses and households

We profile an exciting new children’s bike which is being developed in Belfast

The apparel makers who are bringing Harland & Wolff’s name to a new audience

20 Graphene Dreams

40 Top SMEs

78 Theatre of Dreams

Our monthly Matrix column sees Norman Apsley focus on a hot new area for science

D&B rank the 200 SME firms pushing for a place on UB’s main Top 100 listing

Hamilton Architects give us the lowdown on the newly finished Ravenhill stadium

22 In the Family

60 Taxing Times?

100 Gadget Guide

UB profiles four family firms who are thriving by innovating in traditional industries

The ACCA’s new president in Northern Ireland outlines his key economic concerns

Adam Maguire reviews Sony’s flapship phone, the Xperia Z1 and Nokia’s Lumia 1320



78 36



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Austerity Bites


s the business world digests the Chancellor George Osborne’s budget it is clear that we’re still not out of the woods in terms of economic recovery. In any Budget you expect a bit of give and take, and a year out from a general election you’d expect any Chancellor to be delivering a politically motivated budget with some giveaways, such as his pension sweetener and cuts on fuel and alcohol duty. While there were undoubted positives this time around, it was made apparent that the public finances are still a long way from healthy. Our own Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has expressed his view that the Northern Ireland economy is starting to recover, the austerity measures introduced by Westminster to balance the books are going to start to bite in our public sector over the next few years. We saw a clear example of that with the closure of the DVA centre in Coleraine with the loss of 300 jobs and more “efficiencies” are certain to follow. In our cover story, analysts from PwC take an in depth look at the Budget and clarify the key takeaways for both households and businesses.

That’s easier said than done but, as ever, this issue of Ulster Business includes stories about innovative businesses which are taking up the charge. We shine the spotlight on four thriving family businesses, an exciting new children’s bike that’s being developed in the province, and some entrepreneurs who are putting a new spin on a classic Northern Ireland brand. Austerity may be starting to bite, but that’s forcing more of us to take a chance on new opportunities and develop new ideas. That can only be a good thing. Finally, this is my last issue of Ulster Business as editor. It has been a pleasure to work with the team behind the magazine and as I move to the new challenge of radio I am confident Ulster Business will continue to go from strength to strength.

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APRIL 2014

With such a large public sector Northern Ireland is going to feel the effect of a squeeze on budgets more keenly than other parts of the UK. We will therefore need our private sector businesses to pick up more of the slack by selling more, employing more people and paying them better wages.

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In Brief Pharmaceutical development company Almac have opened regional hubs in Singapore and Japan to help service increasing demand in the Asian market. The Craigavon based company also plans to open a new secondary packaging facility in Singapore by the end of 2014. Its Asian business is mainly focussed on carrying out clinical trials in the area as well as managing global trials.

Delta Print and Packaging announce creation of 100 jobs in £40 million investment

Denman International, the Bangorbased hair company, has announced its acquisition of the trading assets of San Diego corporation, The Bobby Company. Four international hairdressing brands have been added to its extensive product portfolio and its market share has been boosted in the USA professional hairdressing sector. The acquisition also gives the company access to many additional export areas for its Denmanbranded products. Flint Studios, a web, software development, digital and creative communications agency in Belfast, is creating ten new jobs to underpin an ambitious business growth strategy, bringing total staff up to 22. With the support of Invest NI, which has offered £80,000, they plan to develop new products and increase their sales in the UK and internationally, starting with Japan. Planning approval has been granted for a £500,000 production facility near Armagh. Announced by the Environment Minister, the former industrial site will be redeveloped for the manufacture of electronic control systems by development company AW Controls. It is anticipated that five new manufacturing jobs and short-term construction jobs will be created with potential for another ten manufacturing jobs over the next five years. The Invest NI office in San Francisco is open for business. Northern Ireland has become the European home of many West Coast based companies and, more recently, technology companies which create quality jobs and enhance our reputation as a prime business location. The move will allow Invest NI to attract investment from the next generation of technology companies and brings new opportunities for local companies.



elta Print & Packaging Ltd is investing over £40million to expand its operation and create 100 new manufacturing jobs in west Belfast. Based at Kennedy Way, Delta designs and manufactures printed carton packaging primarily for the retail food, consumer electronics, household goods, dairy, pharmaceutical and food service sectors. Delta has already increased staff from 169 to 200 recently in preparation for the investment and this will rise further to 269. The investment will also see the company extend its factory and install state-of-the-art machinery and bespoke technology to enable it to increase capacity and efficiency. Terry Cross, Delta’s Chairman and joint Managing Director explains that Invest NI’s support has been vital in enabling the company to make these important changes which will give Delta the infrastructure to take the company to the next level. The First Minister Peter Robinson points out its positive impact on Northern Ireland’s economy. “Today’s £40million investment by Delta Print & Packaging jobs is good news for the local economy and reinforces the company’s 30 year

commitment to invest and re-invest in Belfast. The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness seconds this. “This is a significant boost for our local manufacturing sector and for west Belfast. Delta Print & Packaging generate annual wages and salaries of £8million a year to the local economy and this announcement is good news for existing and potential employees and other local businesses. “Delta is a fantastic example of a local company using the skills and work ethic of local people to compete globally. With overseas production operations Delta could have relocated its entire operation overseas. The decision to invest in the plant and the people at Kennedy Way maintains its long term commitment to west Belfast.” Delta customers include McDonald’s, KFC, Greiner Packaging and Nokia, and some 95 per cent of its sales are outside Northern Ireland notably to France, Benelux, Germany and Scandinavia. The investment will allow the company to further increase export sales and service its key clients. As Terry Cross explains, “We are making this major investment in response to opportunities to grow sales across a number of existing customer accounts, in particular with McDonald’s, as well as acquiring new accounts.


Wrightbus International secure major orders in Asia Pacific


rightbus International, in partnership with Volvo Bus, has achieved a double first by securing orders from Hong Kong based bus operators New World First Bus Services Limited (NWFB) and Citybus Limited (CTB) for twenty and thirty one double deck buses respectively. This is the first order Wrightbus International have won from NWFB and CTB, who will deploy the vehicles on routes in Hong Kong. Volvo Bus will supply the chassis and Wrightbus International will be responsible for the bodywork, which will be assembled by Masdef (Malaysia). Masdef have been appointed as the company’s assembly partner and distributor of its product range in Malaysia. Qualified personnel from Wrightbus International have relocated to Masdef’s manufacturing facility in Puchong, just south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, to support training of the workforce. Assembly will start in mid-2014, with vehicles due for delivery in January 2015. “This is a highly significant order for Wrightbus International,” said Business Development Director Steve Harper. “The new partnership

agreement with Masdef is an important part of our strategy to extend our presence and capability in the region and will hopefully provide a springboard for further future developments.” Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment had the opportunity to meet Masdef and witness the partnership agreement signing during her recent visit to Singapore. Minister Foster welcomed the new orders for Wrightbus International saying “This is substantial news for Wrightbus International which is one of Northern Ireland’s most pioneering manufacturing firms.”

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Business Books How Asia Works by Joe Studwell (Profile Books) Until the catastrophic economic crisis of the late 1990s, East Asia was perceived as a monolithic success story. But heady economic growth rates masked the most divided continent in the world - one half the most extraordinary developmental success story ever seen, the other half a paper tiger. Joe Studwell explores how policies ridiculed by economists created titans in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and are now behind the rise of China, while the best advice the West could offer sold its allies in South-East Asia down the economic river. How Asia Works is a must-read book that packs powerful insights about the world’s most misunderstood continent.

Denroy Plastics celebrate new £1 million contract John Rainey, Chairman of Denroy, photographed with flight Lt Tom Bould at RAF Aldergrove.

Heaven’s Bankers by Harris Irfan (Constable and Robinson) Islamic finance today is a trillion-dollar industry. It is fast becoming the main way in which large projects get funded globally - such as buildings, aircraft, shipping - and many financial analysts expect Islamic banking assets worldwide to double within five years. In Heaven’s Bankers, Harris Irfan provides an authoritative yet entertaining account of how a system of finance invented in the seventh-century Middle East is fast taking over the world of modern banking. The book draws on his first-hand relationships with some of the world’s leading bankers, scholars and lawyers, many of whom attend a single mosque in Dubai - the Masjid Al-Samad - the epicentre of today’s Islamic finance revolution. It provides a warts-and-all description of the industry; debunks some myths about Islamic finance - such as its perceived relationship with the financing of terrorist activity or its incompatibility with Western values; and asks whether today’s Islamic finance industry is true to the fundamental principles of a faith committed to social justice.

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enroy Plastics Ltd, based in Bangor, celebrates their £1 million new contract to supply further components into the Eurofighter Typhoon. They now supply 180 plastic parts into the plane, the most supplied by any single company in the world. The company was also delighted to welcome Flt Lt James Milmine, Pilot 1(F) Squadron, RAF Leuchars, the pilot of a Typhoon Eurofighter plane, to their Balloo Road site to celebrate their contract win to supply further components. Along with visiting the site, the pilot explained how the parts they make are utilised in the aircraft. Further to the visit, staff and management will visit RAF Aldergrove, to see the plane for themselves. The Eurofighter Typhoon is a multi-role combat aircraft, capable of being deployed in the full spectrum of air operations from policing and peace support to high intensity conflict. It has a maximum speed of 1.8Mach and a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. It

was introduced into operational service in 2003 and the type has also entered service with the Austrian, Italian, German and the Royal Saudi Air Forces. Denroy Plastics has been moulding plastics since 1972 and employs 160 people at its Bangor plants. Denroy chairman John Rainey said this is a massive honour for the company, and added that the new order sees the business look forward to the future with considerable confidence. “Denroy makes plastic moulded products for a massive range of clients but we are delighted to have received both this welcome new order, and especially to welcome a pilot of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft. I know that it¹s great for our staff to hear how the plastic components they make are utilised by the RAF, and other air forces that use the Eurofighter. I hope that the Typhoon pilot will have gotten a kick from seeing where essential components of the aircraft are manufactured.”


How responsible is your business?


ho will take the crown as this year’s Northern Ireland Responsible Company of the Year?

Last year’s Winner, McLaughlin & Harvey is getting ready to hand over ownership of this prestigious title to another Northern Ireland company at a the gala awards ceremony at Belfast Waterfront Hall on Thursday 5 June. McLaughlin & Harvey received the accolade in 2013 for its energy in embracing all aspects of its Sustainable Development Strategy by including a focus on establishing positive relationships with community partners and local residents, employing health and wellbeing initiatives and leading the way for future generations in terms of CSR. Through Codes of Best Practice, it also ensures that all feasible efforts are made to reduce disturbances created by its projects within local communities and undertakes a Good Neighbour Policy at all sites. Employee wellbeing is a core focus of the company’s corporate responsibility agenda

Kieran Harding, Business in the Community and Charlotte Elliott from category sponsor Asda with Deborah Noble, Louise Friel and Charlene Jones from winning company McLaughlin & Harvey along with Roy Adair, Business in the Community Chair.

and it truly believes in the benefit of investing in the health and wellbeing of its employees. McLaughlin & Harvey invested time and resource into its ‘You Matter’ campaign which focuses on ensuring the enhanced wellbeing of both internal employees and promotes health and safety within its supply chain.

developing a Schools Biodiversity programme and LEGOLAND visits for children with learning difficulties makes McLaughlin & Harvey a very active corporate citizen.

Linking with local communities through outreach initiatives such as charity fundraising, community litter pick-ups,

To book a table or place at the Gala Dinner or for more information on the awards, visit or call (028) 9046 0606.

So, who will be this year’s winner? Come along, find out and be inspired to make a difference in your business.

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In Brief Toward Ltd, a Belfast-based consultancy company, is investing over £230,000 in two staff and extensive marking activity to accelerate growth over the next 18 months. Invest NI have offered £94,700 to help growth in GB and target new opportunities in Europe and North America. Johnny Parks, Toward

Northern Ireland pays tribute to successful NI entrepreneur Lord Ballyedmond

Director, has an ambitious aim to be the preferred supplier for FTSE 350 companies by 2016. Positive People, a new specialist social care and nursing recruitment agency, has been set up to place qualified and accredited staff in temporary and permanent posts. Two permanent company jobs have been created along with 17 full-time equivalent posts. The new social enterprise will also support Positive Futures, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition. EE has been named as the number one network in Northern Ireland following independent testing from RootMetrics. The company recently launched superfast 4G mobile broadband in Derry/Londonderry and Newry and have announced that 250 new customer service roles will be coming to Northern Ireland in the spring. The jobs will provide a welcome economic boost to the area, especially for younger candidates. The opening of a new Centra store


he world was shocked by the sudden death of Dr Edward Haughey, Lord Ballyedmond, and three others in a helicopter crash near Gillingham, Norfolk.

has brought twenty five new jobs to Portadown. Local businessman George Patterson, who owns and operates Patterson Oil, has opened the recently constructed 3,000 sq ft shop. The Centra store replaced the existing Spar and forms part of a major investment with Patterson Oil also relocating to the new site.

global vision. One-of-a-kind and a self-made businessman, he was both highly regarded and widely respected by all who knew him.” Bryan Keating, Chair of MATRIX (the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel) said: “From

Lord Ballyedmond set up veterinary pharmaceutical firm Norbrook Laboratories in 1969 and it has grown into one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world, currently exporting to more than 120 countries. The company employs approximately 3000 people globally with 2000 staff based in Newry.

relatively humble beginnings he transformed the economic landscape of Newry and the whole of Northern Ireland. His legacy will remain the international success of his various business interests and his commitment to investing in Northern Ireland.” His achievements have also been recognized

The Consumer Prices Index grew by 1.7% in the year to February 2014, down from 1.9% in January. Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela

Individuals and businesses across Northern Ireland were quick to pay their respects to Lord Ballyedmond’s life and work.

increases, the gap is now closing. The Office of Budgetary Responsibility has forecast the UK should see earnings rise above headline inflation at some point later this year.”


(Confederation of British Industry) Chair Colin Walsh said: ““I was immensely saddened and shocked to hear of the death of Lord

McGowan says: “Although the headline rate of inflation is higher than average wage

by organizations in the wider UK. CBI

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster expressed her condolences. “Lord Ballyedmond was one of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs, and he was known for his leadership, integrity and

Ballyedmond. He was a great proponent of Northern Ireland, its people and economic potential throughout his career – as a Senator in Seanad Eireann and, latterly as a Peer in the House of Lords.”


Heather Yoxon (Regional Brand Manager Volkswagen UK ), Sydney Pentland (Sales Director), Maggie Gray (Area Manager Volkswagen UK), Brian Robinson (Managing Director), Ciaran Gilmore (Area Manager Volkswagen UK ), Ken Fleming (Aftersales Director)

Local business wins national award for customer service


saac Agnew Volkswagen is celebrating being named top Volkswagen Retailer Group 2013 at a national industry awards ceremony.

Based in Belfast and Mallusk , Isaac Agnew Volkswagen was recognised by Volkswagen UK for its high level of customer satisfaction covering sales, service and parts as well as eight other performance measures, finishing first in the One Business Awards. Volkswagen has a long-established programme of monitoring all retailers to ensure that every area of the business is performing according to Volkswagen standards and targets. The One Business Awards then identify the top retailers in the UK. Brian Robinson, Managing Director of Isaac Agnew Volkswagen commented: “I’m delighted the business has achieved such a prestigious award. In the current economic climate, it’s vital for businesses such as ours to ensure customers receive the very best service and this official recognition is testament to the hard work of all our staff at Isaac Agnew Volkswagen.” Isaac Agnew Volkswagen are located at 1 Boucher Road Belfast and Mallusk Way in Newtownabbey.

APRIL 2014



In Brief NI Water announces a decrease in charges for non-domestic customers for the second

Whale gets major investment boost

year in a row. It had dropped by 2.5% last year and from April charges will be reduced by a further 4% on average. Agreed with the Utility Regulator and in conjunction with the CCNI, NI Water hopes the reduction will be good news for customers. Ulster Bank, a key sponsor of the Balmoral Show, announced a strong commitment to grow its support for the agri-food sector. With £1 million to lend to businesses this year, this sector is a key priority. They have also introduced a new agriculture offering including a start-up package for young farmers and sector-specific offerings for beef, dairy and poultry farmers. Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster praised the Kilkeel Strategic Partnership after a recent meeting to discuss proposals for regeneration of the local area. The Partnership was established in February 2014 to support business development, create employment and increase tourism opportunities. Stakeholders include representatives from the fishing industry, renewable sector, Kilkeel Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. Murdock Builders’ Merchants have opened a new branch in east Belfast, creating nine new jobs in the area and representing an investment of

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster has announced a £3.2million investment in research and development at water systems manufacturer Whale. The Minister made the announcement, supported by Invest Northern Ireland and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, whilst officially opening the company’s new Head Office in Bangor. Pictured with the Minister is Whale Managing Director Patrick Hurst MBE (left) and Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive, Invest Northern Ireland.


ater systems manufacturer Whale has enjoyed a positive start to 2014: they recently announced a £3million investment into research and development projects and have moved into bigger premises in Bangor.

keeps up with the ever increasing demand.” Two major R&D projects will see the company designing a new range of water and space heaters for the caravan and boat market whilst further developing its pump and water system technology.

£500,000. Now operating a total of ten branches across Northern Ireland and in Balbriggan, Murdock’s is a leading supplier of building materials, tools and DIY products. Northern Ireland Screen’s new strategy ‘Opening Doors’ announces planned

Whale received almost £1 million of support from Invest NI, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The company’s Managing Director Patrick Hurst credits Invest NI’s support with allowing the company to grow and become an internationally recognised brand leader.

investment of up to £42.8 million across priority areas over the next four years. Supported by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund, the strategy sets out future development of local film, television and digital industries and estimates a direct spend of £194 million into the economy once implemented.


He added: “We want to deliver even more truly innovative, high quality, stand-out products and are therefore continuing to invest heavily in R&D. Our new Head Office will enable us to bring our innovative products to market faster, provide the much needed extra production space, to ensure the output

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster highlights the company’s focus on innovation, evident in the number of new products developed in recent years and its holding of seventeen patents worldwide. “These R&D projects represent a step change in heating and water systems for caravan, marine and healthcare markets and offer the opportunity for Whale to become a supplier for global manufacturers in these sectors. This will not only enhance the company’s reputation but also reinforce the excellent reputation of Northern Ireland’s engineering sector.”

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On course for Growth Businesses, charities, social clubs and even most households have a budget, but nobody does The Budget, quite like UK Chancellors. But does the 2014 Budget measure up to the particular needs of Northern Ireland? PwC tax partner Janette Jones and chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie assess George Osborne’s latest Budget and what the big announcements and small print mean for savers, seniors and business.


he annual political and media feeding frenzy has four traditional and distinct phases: what’s leaked in advance, what’s said on the day; the size of the rabbit that gets pulled out of the hat; and what’s not said that the Chancellor and Treasury would prefer we didn’t talk about. We didn’t quite experience last year’s revelation where the Evening Standard Tweeted the Chancellor’s headline before he actually stood up, but we knew plenty. We knew well in advance about the new pound coin, the new Ebbsfleet garden city, the cut in Bingo duty and even the cap on the welfare Budget. On the day we got some fairly good economic news and a not surprising confirmation that austerity was still stalking the land and that


victory over the deficit was now postponed to fiscal year 2018-19. There were a few early mentions of ‘savers’ and about ten minutes into his speech one of the PwC commentators in Belfast was already describing the Budget as being aimed at the electoral constituencies of “savers and seniors.” Then came, not so much a rabbit as an Aberdeen Angus heifer; a truly radical reform of pensions provision that gives savers virtually unfettered control of and access to their pension kitty. However, amongst the fourth category – what Chancellor’s don’t mention and which are generally buried in the small print of the press releases – was a note that this initiative would generate some £3bn of new tax receipts. With the average pension pot around £25,000, it’s clearly assumed that savers will raid their pension pots and spend at least some of it.

That notion was subsequently given credence by Pensions Minister Steve Webb. He summarised the government’s positions on pensions reform by saying it was up to us how we spent the money and, if people wanted to spend it on a Lamborghini, he was “relaxed” about that. And well he might, with the promise of an additional £3bn of tax inflows; although, given the price of Lamborghinis (Auto Trader has a nice, 12 month old, black Aventador Roadster for a mere £345,950), there won’t be too many Northern Ireland pensioners heading for the showrooms. So, how does the Budget stack up for Northern Ireland, or, to put it another way, what was in it for us? In pure monetary terms, the Barnett Formula, which allocates the devolved regions a


proposition of overall new government spending, delivered £21m of ‘new’ cash to the Executive. This includes capital and revenue expenditure over the next two years. However, that’s around 15% of the £136m the region was allocated in last year’s Autumn Statement and so represents a significant decline, particularly when we remember that a decade ago, Northern Ireland was being allocated around 8% per annum in real new spending. However it does reflect the recent warning from Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, that Northern Ireland is facing even greater austerity than has been felt up until now. In reality, fewer than half of the cuts in overall public sector spending have actually happened, so we can expect even greater austerity in Northern Ireland then we have seen this far.

APRIL 2014

It’s also worth remembering that, in theory at least, a reduction in Government public spending in the Budget could have triggered a cash cut to the block grant.

“Growing our export markets is important to the NI economy, so the doubling of UK Export Finance scheme to £3bn, and reducing its finance cost is a positive step.” Having said that, in overall terms, Northern Ireland businesses can be quietly satisfied with many of the Budget announcements – the

doubling of the Annual Investment Allowance to £500,000 and its extension to December 2015 will be a great help – particularly to the NI engineering and manufacturing sector which has been growing recently despite the challenging economic conditions. The changes announced to Research & Development tax relief will increase the cash refunds available to small and medium sized companies who are investing in R&D, and who have to bear the upfront costs of that investment. Growing our export markets is vitally important to the strengthening of the Northern Ireland economy, so the doubling of UK Export Finance scheme to £3bn, and reducing its finance cost is a positive step. A further welcome measure – despite it being widely trailed in advance – was the >>>



confirmation that September’s planned rise in fuel duty will not happen. Back to that Aberdeen Angus rabbit, and those changes intended to encourage saving, and reward those who have saved already. The simplification of ISAs, by merging cash and equity ISAs and the increase in the annual threshold to £15,000 are welcome changes, as are the reduction in the 10% tax rate on savings income to 0% and the increase in the savings income rate threshold to £5,000. Nevertheless, many people will greet the prospect of further changes to personal pensions with very mixed feelings. From April next year the over-55s will be able to treat their pension funds like bank accounts, withdrawing as much as they require and using the cash for whatever purpose they deem fit. Every year, the insurance industry sells around 400,000 annuities, locking them into a fixed annual payment for life. However, the City regulator concluded that hundreds of thousands of people are sold poor-value annuities each year. This is a landmark act; in a stroke it dilutes the state’s involvement in UK savers’ financial lives and the Chancellor made this clear when he said that pensioners, “…will have complete freedom to draw down as much or as little of their pension pot as they want, any time they want... no one will have to buy an annuity.” Overall, the Chancellor’s intention to simplify the regime and increase the flexibility one has on retirement is to be applauded. Aside from the headline measures he announced, there are a number of other features of the pension regime which are to be consulted on over the coming months, including the age at which you will be allowed to access your pension pot. So back to the original question as to how the Budget impacts on Northern Ireland. Across the UK, the recovery is clearly settling in and the Chancellor confirmed forecasts from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility that UK economic growth have been revised upwards to 2.7% from 1.8% and that came on a day when the latest Northern Ireland figures indicated


employment growth of 12,000 or 1.8% last year – that’s on a par with some of the best growth over the past decade. In terms of helping to strengthen the competitiveness of Northern Ireland, the creation of the region’s first Enterprise Zone could be significant. This is to be located outside Coleraine, near the University of Ulster campus, where the international data centre – 5NINES – has already announced a £20m, 15 job project on the site, close to where the Project Kelvin US-UK transatlantic fibre, comes ashore.

Overall, however the region remains reliant on a large public sector and a small and dynamic group of manufacturing and services exporters. The Budget certainly helps, but rebalancing the economy will requires more radical solutions, which are more likely to lie with the Executive than the Chancellor. Janette Jones is a senior tax partner with PwC in Belfast and can be contacted on: 028 9041 5201; or at Esmond Birnie, the Northern Ireland chief economist can be reached on: 028 9041 5808 or at:

in association with

The Viscount Awards judges from (l-r): Declan Kearney, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus, Francess McDonnell, Business Columnist at the Irish Times, Colin Walsh, Chairman of the CBI, Richard Sherriff, Business Editor of the News Letter, Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director of the Business Solutions Group at Invest NI, Symon Ross, Editor of Ulster Business.

Aer Lingus Viscount Awards shortlist is announced


he shortlist for the sixth annual Aer Lingus Viscount Awards in association with Ulster Business has been announced after deliberation by an eight-strong panel of judges; shortlisted companies will be flown to London from Belfast City Airport with Aer Lingus. The awards were established to recognise and reward companies and individuals operating out of Northern Ireland that have not only contributed to the local economy, but that have also made significant progress in global export markets. The judging panel included Declan Kearney, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus, Colin Walsh, Chairman of the CBI, Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director of the Business Solutions Group at Invest NI, Francess McDonnell, Business Columnist at the Irish Times, Richard Sherriff, Business Editor of the News Letter, Gary McDonald, Business Editor of The Irish News, Alan Taylor, Managing Partner of Arthur Cox and Symon Ross, Editor of Ulster Business. Declan Kearney, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus said: “Every year the calibre of entrants seems yet more impressive than the one before. It wasn’t easy to arrive at the list of finalists, but I can say that each one of them really deserves their place on that list. “The companies and individuals we’re rewarding have demonstrated a true commitment to innovation and have achieved remarkable growth both here in Northern Ireland and crucially, further afield. “They are playing a pivotal role in the economic growth of Northern Ireland and their achievements in terms of the standards they set, their entrepreneurship and business prosperity act as a benchmark to the rest of the business community here. “Their success is indicative of the huge potential local firms have to compete on a global scale,” he added.


The Viscount Awards ceremony will take place on the 30th April in the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall, London and the winners will be announced in Ulster Business. For more information about the 2014 Aer Lingus Viscount Awards, please visit

Viscount Awards shortlist Most InnoVAtIVe CoMpAny: Almac Group Ltd, Andor Technology, Brookvent exporter of the yeAr: Brookvent, The Deluxe Group, Elmgrove Foods Ltd Best sMALL BUsIness: Export Technologies, Sixteen South, Solmatix Best MedIUM BUsIness: The Deluxe Group, Devenish Nutrition, Wilsons Auctions Best LArge BUsIness: Almac Group Ltd, Capita entrepreneUr of the yeAr: Seamus Connolly, Fast Technologies John Toner, Williams Industrial Services Colin Williams, Sixteen South The recipients of the two final awards; overall excellence and outstanding Contribution will be announced during the awards ceremony luncheon, which will take place on Wednesday 30th April at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall, London.

FREE Wi-Fi has landed at Belfast City Airport!

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Commercialising our inventions

By Deputy Chair of MATRIX and Chief Executive of NISP, Dr Norman Apsley


t school did you do the Lycopodium powder experiment? It involved scattering some of the fine yellow powder onto a waterfilled petri dish sitting on graph paper and then dripping a drop of oil into the middle. The oil disperses depending on the thickness of the molecule and then using the graph paper the spread is measured and the size and scale of the atoms can be proved. This is the essence of science, one person’s discovery expressed in objective terms so that anyone, given time, equipment and knowledge can repeat. But it’s not always as easy as that one. Take graphene. Only a single atom thick, yet immensely strong, highly conducting and capable of electronic, optical and physical changes that are proving interesting as new sensors in bio-active and bio-compatible devices. In a recent report, the Institute of Physics considered its many attributes but questioned if the material could be converted into economic growth. Of course, our inability to commercialise science has become legendary, but I should say, our recent inability, for it was not ever thus. No sooner had Joseph Black (from Belfast) solved the conundrum of latent heat in the University of Glasgow, his mentee and the university’s model maker, James Watt, had applied it to the Cornish steam-powered pumping engine, making it vastly more efficient. Glasgow didn’t need a better pump (then) and failed to build a successful business but Matthew Boulton did spot the business model and persuaded Watt and his family to move to the Midlands. The rest (of the Industrial Revolution) as they say, is history!


“Our corporations must stay connected with universities and their research, and in topics wider than their own current interests.” Such stories are common in the 18th and 19th centuries but few in the 20th. It was a century of warfare and its issues dominated scientific thinking. Commercialisation took second place and we all know the consequences. Graphene is a prime example of a truly disruptive technology that has the opportunity to be developed for purely commercial and economic reasons. So what are the lessons from when we did it best? Firstly the state has a major role in maintaining a level playing field. This includes funding for university teaching and research-based learning, which will keep our students at the widening frontiers of knowledge. But the state cannot act alone.

Our corporations must stay connected with universities and their research, and in topics wider than their own current (narrow) interests. Equally universities must ensure busy executives know current scientific thinking and what is going on in the world at large. Then we come to the hardest part – finding the elusive business model that will carry graphene through its expensive development phase to the customers who will pay the premium of the early adopter. Aerospace and defence were the usual suspects of the last century but their processes, necessarily slow and secret, hindered pure commercial innovation. In the 21st century, we’ll need lots of risk takers with knowledge of all the domains likely or even just possibly to be affected by graphene’s properties, all focused on finding the all-important breakthrough, not in the science but in the solutions. These may be in health and life science, protective coatings for extreme environments or new sensors for robotic tools, I don’t know. But I do know it will take more than just a better understanding of the material, it’ll take experimental development, fuelled by entrepreneurial zeal. In MATRIX we have many of the technical brains behind our key corporations and research institutions. Through their own networks, each member can reach all sectors in their respective disciplines and act as conduits for the passing and gathering of information important for the growth of our economy. And whilst MATRIX’s principal job is horizon scanning, it can assist the discoverers of the next ‘graphene’ or steer those who need to know more about new ‘graphene’ type breakthroughs.

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Enterprising NI & Innovation


Innovative family-run businesses By Symon Ross and Amanda Ferguson

Andrew Ingredients made the brave decision to expand into the Republic of Ireland marketplace in 2008 and the risk has paid off. Now, 40% of its business is from the South and Northern Ireland is still growing too.


ndrew Ingredients in Lisburn is a prime example of a familyrun business which has evolved and adapted to not just survive, but to thrive in the modern economy. The company, which was established in 1945, supplies a wide range of high quality food and bakery ingredients across Ireland.

Tim Andrew


Managing Director Tim Andrew joined the company founded by his father in 1967 – without really meaning to – and has been there ever since. “I grew up with the business, my father started it and my older brother worked in it. But I wasn’t ever going to be in it. Then one summer I was taken on as a temporary

store manager for a few weeks and I never really left. I’ve probably done every job there is in the company,” he says. The company’s longevity has been in part down to expanding its product range and in part down to the way it goes about its business, believes Tim. Its customers are mainly bakeries and companies who


“It amazes me the interest in our industry,” says Tim. “Bakery was never considered sexy but the Bake Off has raised the profile. Some traditionalists frown on it but I just think it’s good publicity and it helps encourage younger people to come into the industry.” The company’s future would seem bright. Three years ago it doubled its warehouse capacity by moving into new 24,000 sq ft premises in Lisburn and in the past ten years it has grown turnover from £7m to almost £14m and staff levels from 20 to 34. Tim’s wife and daughter are also now working in the business.

manufacture foods. As trends change so does its product range, although despite the expansion Tim notes it still sells some of the same products it did when he started. “We keep looking for new ideas because tastes change. It used to be people wanted a white loaf and a white bap, now people are into all sorts of healthy breads. We’ve expanded our supplier base from just two to 50, recently taking on new high quality suppliers from mainland Europe – Germany, Holland, Denmark,” he said.

years and I believe we’re nice people. We try to be good to our staff, our customers and our suppliers. It seems to work.” The company made the brave decision to expand into the Republic of Ireland marketplace in 2008 and the risk has paid off. Now, 40% of its business is from the South and Northern Ireland is still growing too. The renaissance of baking, helped by hit TV shows like The Great British Bake Off, has helped to drive this growth.

2014 will be another busy year. Having held a “Products for Profit” event in Dublin at the end of March, where it brought together two suppliers – California Raisins and IREKS – the company plans to take 30 customers to visit German supplier IREKS in Bavaria in July. Tim has appointed two new board members in the last year, one from inside the company and one from outside, a move he believes will help bring fresh ideas and ensure expertise to run the firm is there when he retires – although that won’t be any time soon. “When I was 30 I was going to retire at 50, but it doesn’t really appeal any more. I enjoy it too much,” he said.

With food commodity prices rising and supermarkets which don’t want to raise prices, Andrew Ingredients’ customers are getting squeezed, and that means it is getting squeezed too. But Tim says the firm prides itself on building long term relationships with both its own suppliers and customers to make sure they all stay healthy. “We like to work with suppliers and customers who take the long term view like we do. We take a slightly different view on business. We want to make a profit but we don’t squeeze every last penny out of it,” he says. “We pay attention to detail, we don’t just sell a commodity. We are here to help our customers make money and that means we make money. We’ve been around for 70

APRIL 2014



Jonathan Megarry (46) from Moira is managing director of Nicholson Bass. Founded on November 1, 1938 by his grandfather Alexander and business partner Godfrey Bass, Nicholson Bass has grown to become one of Ireland’s leading colour printers. The Newtownabbey firm has just celebrated 75 years in business. Jonathan said: “I have been managing director for about three years and sales since 1992. I went from school to Bristol Poly and did business and finance and then came into the business. “I was interested in agriculture as both my grandfathers had been farmers, but my father didn’t have a farm. I was down

Brian Hood (48) is managing director of Sheridan & Hood – BS Holdings.

a lot of turbulence particularly over the last decade. With uncertainty in the market and poor payment practices rife, managing cash flow has been the greatest strain and greatest challenge in progressing our organisation through the recession.”

Founded by Stewart Hood in 1968, Sheridan & Hood now employs 50 people and has played an important part in mechanical and electrical engineering within the construction industry in Northern Ireland for over 50 years. Stewart Hood remains as an active Chairman for the organisation. Brian said: “In 2000, we diversified our offering by launching a new innovative pre-packaged plant room and boiler manufacturing division, BS Holdings, which initially manufactured gas boilers and in recent years (2012) have been revolutionised to utilise biomass.” he said. Brian got involved in the family business straight after leaving school as an apprentice, so he wasn’t catapulted straight into the top – he had to earn his stripes. “I started as an apprentice at Sheridan & Hood in 1987,” he said. “Under direction of my father I worked my way through each trade within the organisation; learning hands-on the technical requirements and how to run a successful business, before becoming Managing Director in 2000. “As Managing Director I am accountable for


Brian is responsible for developing new strands to the core business and identifying opportunities in the market including breaking into the renewables sector.

all aspects of the company’s success. I drive all organisational activities, set and implement business strategies, delegate departmental tasks, recruit new employees and most importantly drive technical innovation.” Brian explained deciding to go into the business came with “a degree of peer pressure” and he has seen many changes and weathered many storms over the years. “I am the oldest son and it was expected that I would take over the family business,” he said. “The construction industry has experienced

Diversifying and gaining a reputation for innovation in the renewables market has been a major focus for Sheridan & Hood and its sister company BS Holdings over the last year, since the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was launched. “To date we have worked with over 20 Northern Ireland businesses to manufacture and install bespoke renewable technologies, helping them save in excess of £200,000 on their energy bills,” he said. “We are also the first company in Northern Ireland to develop a unique cooling plant using biomass which includes absorption chillers. Not only does this unique system reduce the end user’s carbon footprint for air conditioning, it also qualifies them for RHI payments because heat is generated to drive the cooling process.”


to study agriculture and then my mother and uncle suggested the business.” Initially the business was printing cartons and boxes, but when WW2 broke out it won a contract with the Ministry of Aircraft to manufacture paper fuel tanks for bomber aircraft, and in the mid 1960s the letter press printers knew lithography “was the way forward”.

most up-to-date technology is available. “It’s tough out there,” he said. “September 2008 was the best month we ever had in terms of profits but then Lehman Brothers happened and the world collapsed. It has been difficult. We are looking at every angle with existing customers and new business, and always finding ways to add value.

the knowledge and expertise the team has gained guarantees that they not only deliver exceptional products to clients, but offer them the best value for money options available in an ever-changing marketplace. “The whole team is putting a lot of effort into the business,” he said. I don’t mind the hard side of work. It’s getting through the tough times and hopefully things get better as time goes on.

Nowadays it produces everything from fine arts books to magazines, corporate material and stationery.

“We employed a lean manufacturing manager which we never had to do before. But we had to look at how we could be more efficient and productive.

Jonathan said Nicholson Bass has built its reputation on delivering a quality product with meticulous attention to detail and that it continues to invest throughout the company to ensure the

“A lot has happened over the last three years. We have had to change old mindsets and we have gone through a cross training process so lots of people fill in different slots if needed.” Jonathan said

“We are one of the last genuine third generation family printing businesses around. We have just had our 75th anniversary and are very proud of that. With 24 Irish Print awards we are probably the most decorated company of this kind and are hopefully known for the quality of our printing.”

“The business has since grown significantly and is now a multi award-winning dental practice, serving thousands of patients from the surrounding area,” Debbie said.

“I always wanted to run my own business and as the practice grew it became evident that a business management position was needed,” she said.

“In 2010 the practice underwent a major extension into the neighbouring property to incorporate six dental surgeries.

“With my management background, including an MBA and a Chartered Marketer with experience in KPMG consulting, Newtownabbey Borough Council and Queen’s University, it became an obvious move to have a more prominent position in the business.

“We now have a team of six dentists, two dental hygienists, eight nurses, four receptionists and a manager.” Debbie has been been involved in the business since its inception, working on the initial and subsequent business plans.

Debbie McLorinan (41) is business manager at Dunmurry Dental Practice. Dunmurry Dental Paractice was opened in 2004 by Debbie’s husband, principal dentist Philip McLorinan. The team at DDP is delighted to be celebrating a decade of the business with a full schedule of activities planned to mark the special milestone with its patients.

APRIL 2014

“I love the sense of ownership and ability to make the business what we want. Working for yourself allows flexibility to raise our three young children. On the downside – we never stop talking about work!”

“I initially worked full-time at Queen’s University but as the business grew I left my position as Marketing & Customer Services Development Manager to develop the post of Business Manager within the Practice.” she said.

Debbie explained it has been vital to innovate to keep the company relevant as new services become available in an attempt to offer patients the best experience and stay ahead of the competition.

“My role includes finance, administration, marketing, human resources, quality assurance and IT, which leaves Philip to concentrate on the clinical and dental issues.”

“We are constantly developing our services to ensure that all our patients have access to the latest and the most effective dentistry,” she said.

Debbie told Ulster Business her decision to get involved in a family business was easy but it can take over conversation at home as well as at work.

“The team is committed to ongoing professional development, investment and training to improve the standard of service that we can offer.”



Enterprising Finance for SMEs Gordon Gough, Chief Executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland, explains how the local enterprise agency network is helping entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland to access finance.


ince our launch in 2000 as the umbrella organisation representing Northern Ireland’s 32 local enterprise agencies, Enterprise Northern Ireland has played a significant role in stimulating economic growth and private sector job creation. There is a local enterprise agency in every council area in Northern Ireland, all delivering a range of business services to help people set up and grow their businesses. Enterprise Northern Ireland members contribute to the development of the Northern Ireland economy through the provision of a continuum of support, helping those people who want to start a business through to business owners who want to take their business to the next stage of development. As I talk to small business owners in Northern Ireland I get a real sense that the economy has turned the corner. Unemployment, business activity and consumer confidence are all improving. However, a key issue for small business owners remains access to finance. That’s where ENI members can help. ENI is a member of the Community Development Finance Association Consortium, an official delivery partner of the Start Up Loans Company. The Start Up Loans scheme aims to provide mentoring and financial support to entrepreneurs that would not normally be available via traditional banking relationships. In 2013 ENI was appointed a delivery partner to provide start-up loans in Northern Ireland.


“Unemployment, business activity and consumer confidence are all improving. However, a key issue for small business owners remains access to finance.” Start Up Loans formed part of the economic pact for Northern Ireland announced by the Prime Minister last year. Since the scheme commenced ENI has dealt with over 250 enquiries resulting in 48 loans being dispersed at a value of over £250,000! ENI Start Up loans are unsecured personal loans for the purposes of starting a business. Loans of up to £10,000 are repayable between one to five years at a current fixed interest rate of 6%. In addition, loan recipients receive up to fifteen hours mentoring support from a local enterprise agency qualified business adviser. ENI Start Up loans also provides access to a range of exclusive offers from various corporate partners. To request an application pack or for further details call the ENI office on 028 7776 3555 or visit

of Invest NI’s Access to Finance Strategy, was established in 2013. ENI delivers the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund on behalf of Invest NI in conjunction with Ulster Community Investment. So far we have dealt with over 1,000 enquiries and disbursed more than £1.3m to 60 new and established small businesses. The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund provides loans to small businesses within the start-up and growth phases of development. There is a maximum loan amount of £15,000 to start-up businesses with potential for follow on lending up to a maximum of £50,000. Existing businesses can apply for loans of up to £50,000. Interest rates typically range from 6%-10%. Mentoring support will be offered where loans of less than £15,000 are availed of. Loan purposes include working capital, business expansion, commercial premises, plant and machinery and stock purposes. For further information visit Access to Start Up Loans and the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund is available at every local enterprise agency throughout Northern Ireland. Further information on Start Up Loans and the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund along with other Enterprise Northern Ireland business support programmes will be available at our Business Connections


event in the Holiday Inn, Belfast on

The Invest NI Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund, which forms part

to 3.30pm. To book a place visit http://

Wednesday 7th May 2014 from 10.30am

APRIL 2014



Responding to Industry needs

Belfast Met’s e3 economic development building


he blurring of lines between

and resurgence. SMEs are of course

industry and education is

a critical part of this equation and

nowhere more apparent than

Belfast Met works alongside over 400

in the relationship between Northern

businesses a year in helping them become

Ireland’s largest further and higher

more productive and competitive.

education college – Belfast Met – and the hundreds of small-and-medium-

Within its massive brief, which sees Belfast

sized businesses it supports.

Met with over 30,000 students including full time learners and those undertaking

In fact, at the time of going to press the

part time professional development,

College had just been announced winner

many programmes have been designed to meet the specific needs of industry sectors and individual employers.

of the Belfast Telegraph Outstanding Service to Business award. The ability to tune into the needs of employers and react quickly to shifting business requirements is one of the FE sector’s defining characteristics, and it’s a strength which will continue to play a big part in the local economy’s recovery


Belfast Met’s Director of Business Development, Damian Duffy, explains: “We are absolutely joined at the hip with business and our approach is very much one of giving employers the opportunity

to shape the education and skills solutions on offer. This applies as much to smaller companies as it does the big internationals like Bombardier, Fujitsu and Deloitte.” “It makes sense to listen if you have the chief technical officer of a company saying we employ 200 people but I could employ 90 more if I had these skills. We can have a conversation with a business and bring a qualification to the table for that business within six weeks. We can put together a foundation degree within six months when it would normally take two years to bring together a degree programme. That agile, flexible approach is key for us,” says Duffy. Throughout the history of Belfast Met the College has delivered on both


academic and vocational solutions. It has been part of the fabric of the success of the city of Belfast and is taking responsibility for driving forward developments in key sectors. “When we talk about Northern Ireland plc one of the strengths we have is human capital – a young, educated resource. If we’re going to be globally competitive we need to be creative and innovative about how we invest in that human capital. Apprenticeships, for example, have enormous potential and we’re very encouraged with the ongoing work around reforming such a pivotal aspect of the skills and training arena,” he adds. “We aim to get students and employers to understand the benefits of life-long learning. If we can do that, organisations

will become more capable and that feeds into Northern Ireland being more innovative and competitive. Jobs and growth follow on from that. It is about trying to get that virtuous circle of skills and employment, skills with a purpose.” Belfast Met’s Business Development and Curriculum teams work closely together in developing innovative skills solutions in cloud computing, composites, wind turbine operation and maintenance, data analytics, marine welding, hospitality and urban tourism and connected care. Duffy says, “The unique thing about Belfast Met is that most of our staff will have industry experience. We have people lecturing who are well connected, understand the needs of business and take a pragmatic, practical approach to it. We

work with employers to help them develop their products and services and to ensure they have the skills to be creative and innovative to bring solutions to market. Although increased expenditure on R&D is important, many SMEs and microbusinesses are already innovating, without perhaps realizing or recognizing it as such.” “Innovation is hugely important and how we define it will quite legitimately vary from context to context. In the coming months the launch of our Belfast Business School will bear testament to our own commitment in this area.” For further information, contact Belfast Met on T: (028) 9026 5058, E: T: @e3_belfastmet or @bfastmet

Business Development Helping Your Business to Transform, Perform and Achieve We provide the following range of funded programmes and services to SMEs:

Access up to £3,000 worth of FREE Training and Technical Mentoring for your business.

Access £4,000 worth of innovation expertise for your business.

Access a part-funded cross border programme to develop or improve your business products, processes or services in science, engineering or technology.

Embark on a strategic part-funded graduate programme to improve your business competitiveness and productivity.

Apprenticeships We can create a tailored training programme to meet the objectives of your business.

Access an employer grant to help grow your business by employing an apprentice.

Interested in finding out more about our SME services and programmes? Contact Nuala Kilmartin on Tel: 028 9026 5052 or Email:

APRIL 2014



Derry’s new beacon of science

The Northern Ireland Science Park has long harboured ambitions to expand into the North West and this year that ambition will become a reality.




he North West Regional Science Park (NWRSP) is a £12m collaborative crossborder project aimed at extending to the North West the successful science park model currently operating in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

by to maximise that potential,” added Dr Apsley.

The project involves the initial construction of a 50,000 sq ft science park facility at Fort George in DerryLondonderry, but will also encompass a cross border element, with a 20,000 sq ft extension to the CoLab facility at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT).

Rather than a big foreign direct investor, it speaks volumes about the focus of the new Science Park that its anchor tenant is an indigenous company, 8 over 8, the contract management software solutions provider.

The “topping out” ceremony of the new North West Regional Science Park at Fort George takes place this month with the fit out of the building to begin shortly after. Upon completion in late summer 2014, the NWRSP is expected to attract both start-ups and large corporates that will enable new and existing technologybased businesses to enhance their competitiveness. These tenants will be determined by founding members (and current board members) University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast. NISP chief executive Norman Apsley is excited about the prospect of widening the reach of the Science Park model and helping more entrepreneurial companies to commercialise their ideas – as well as the opportunity to promote all-island support from innovative start-ups. “The aims for the North West Regional Science Park are the same as with the Science Park here in Belfast. We want it to act as a beacon for new science based enterprises, both in terms of having a site people can physically point to and in the ecosystem that grows up around it,” he said. “If there is any research going on that needs commercialised there needs to be a science park with all the trimmings close

APRIL 2014

It is anticipated that the Fort George site will provide an annual input of £3.4m into the North West economy, with a total of 285 jobs supported.

The fast growing company, which was formed in 2000, will occupy the top floor of the new centre. Apsley says it will be a mutually beneficial relationship and notes that often the growth of smaller companies stalls when they take on their own building, whereas a friendly landlord can help maintain that growth. It also takes the pressure off the Science Park in terms of the other floors and provides a steady income to be invested in facilities. The ground floor will be largely an open plan, collaborative environment like the Innovation Centre in Belfast, with people hanging out and events taking place – a general feeling of what Apsley terms ‘buzziness’. “We want there to be an openness about how it is run. Everything will be happening on the ground floor, there will be a café, network space, meeting rooms. About half will be offices and half open plan. A single person will be able to pay for a membership and work there, once their company is incorporated the fee goes up, if they take a desk it will go up again, then if they want walls up around that desk it goes up again. There’s flexibility but rents will reflect the stage the person is at.” The funding provided for the project under the European Union’s INTERREG ›



programme delivered by the Northern Ireland Science Park, which also provides support for entrepreneurs. Apsley says that as well as bringing this model to the North West, the NWRSP will help to maximise investment in the European Union’s INTERREG IVA supported Kelvin project (the Hibernia Data Centre) which has significantly increased the telecommunications infrastructure of the North West. IVA Programme, is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, while the Department for Social Development are both site owners and further funders. Match-funding has been provided by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland. Partners include Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) and the North West Region Cross Border Group (NWRCBG). But while there is government backing and the Science Park model by its nature means it offers its tenants flexibility if they outgrow their space, Apsley says accusations the new site will undercut existing commercial property in the city are bogus. Before the property market collapsed, NISP benchmarked its rents against those elsewhere in Belfast and found it was

generally charging about 10% more than commercial landlords.

While Derry has housed a number of incubators over the years, the NISP CEO admits opportunities may have been missed

“We do not offer cheap rents, in fact we are usually more expensive than the average,” he says. “We do as well as any other property company but the money we make is going back into supporting programmes like Connect and Halo. Nobody is being offered rent holidays.”

to create flourishing businesses by not having

The goal of creating an Innovation Ecosystem at NWRSP is more important than just the physical space. NISP leadership and mentoring platform, the Connect programme, nurtures and protects entrepreneurs as they develop their product or service through pro bono education programmes. Added to that is the Halo Business Angel network (an HBAN partner), an Invest Northern Ireland backed

“We maybe missed some opportunities. But

a fully fledged Science Park in place in the North West. But he notes that there is a huge amount of indigenous talent and support from larger corporates in the area which has enabled entrepreneurs from the region to break through.

if you have good companies many of them will make it anyway. Kofax didn’t need a Science Park. Seagate has been there a long time and it didn’t need a Science Park. There has always been activity there but we didn’t have all the bells and whistles. Now we will have that and we hope it will make a real difference to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the north west.”

CALENDAR OF ACTIVITY North West Regional Science Park Launch – SEUPB funding announced in November 2012 North West Regional Science Park Fort George Site is cleared – August 2013 Foundations are dug – September 2013 Concrete is poured – September 2013 Steel framework erected – November 2013 Glass installed – February 2014 Shell is complete/Topping Out Ceremony – March 2014

North West Regional Science Park at LYIT Commencing an anticipated year behind Fort George. Planning Approval – anticipated Spring 2014 Site is cleared via Enabling Works contract – Spring 2014 Sub Structure (Piling/Pile Caps and Ground Beams) – Summer 2014 Superstructure (Steel framework erected) – Summer 2014 Glass installed – August 2014

Internal work done – April onwards 2014 Tenants move in – late summer 2014

Shell is complete/Topping Out Ceremony – Autumn/Winter 2014

Official opening – late summer 2014

Tenants move in - Spring/Summer 2015


Internal work done – Spring 2015


Enterprise NI – to boldly go...

By Martin McDowell, Managing Director, Osborne King Commercial Property Consultants


hroughout the 70s, the word ‘enterprise’ was most closely associated with Captain James T Kirk’s epic mission to seek out new civilisations and to boldly go where no man had gone before. The Enterprise was his ship and although, in reality, it was built of balsa wood, sticky-back plastic and a few flashing lights, for many of us it was a glimpse into the future of what technology might possibly achieve. Hand-held communicators providing instant data were a pipedream in the 70s, but are simply standard to us today; we call them i-Phones. In the early 1980s, the word gained new meaning for me as I worked with “enterprise zones”, travelled on the “Enterprise” to business meetings in Dublin and was encouraged to be part of an “enterprise culture”. For thirty years I have watched businesses strive to be enterprising, innovative and entrepreneurial regardless of being located in Northern Ireland. We continue to waste way too much time looking backwards as opposed to setting a bold new agenda for our future. I write from the perspective of the property sector which has had a particularly difficult time since the “credit crunch” of 2007. How do we re-energise development? How do we deliver facilities to enable inward investment companies to select Northern Ireland as their chosen location? How can the public and private sector work together to maximise a commercial advantage? Last month, we witnessed a small step forward with the announcement of our first new “enterprise zone”. Government initiatives and allowances


will help attract investment, but we must tackle the following: • Our planning process takes far too long and effectively stifles developers from delivering viable projects in an acceptable timeframe. Streamline the process and impose performance indicators/ timeframes into the Planning Service.

• To kick-start development, SIB/INI need to provide some rental guarantees to developers enabling comfort to funders whose participation is essential if we are to see development recovery. Based on the current lack of any development, INI must be concerned by where they are going to find quality accommodation for new investors.

• Vacant rates liability on development projects should be scrapped until first occupancy has been achieved. Removal of this liability is a win/win as currently there is next to no speculative development, so there is no prospect of any vacant rates payment for government.

• Further enterprise zones should be considered and specific allowances/tax breaks should be offered to developers. As a regional centre, Belfast needs an active development market if we are to compete with other UK regional economies and also with Dublin. Unless we innovate we will stand still so we need to be acting now to encourage activity.

• SIB/INI need to actively promote and encourage office development by removing the ludicrously restrictive government leases which have restricted rental growth and stifled development viability. We need to deliver competitive options but we will deliver nothing if government agencies continue to undermine viability.

The more I think about Enterprise NI the more I believe that Captain Kirk had the right approach. Without initiatives to boldly go where NI has not been before we will continue to be stuck in our past. I like the idea of Northern Ireland yelling “warp speed, Mr Zulu” as we seek out our new economic future.

Research + University collaboration at Belfast Met = Innovation


orthern Ireland’s universities and colleges have so much to offer the business world that it is hard to know where to begin. Working in collaboration with our academic institutions can bring real and measurable benefits to companies. Funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, the Connected project is a clear sign that the further and higher education sectors in Northern Ireland are ready and willing to offer their vast pool of expertise, knowledge, research capability and world-class facilities to businesses and the community at large. Belfast Metropolitan College is one of our six regional colleges that have benefited from Connected. The programme has enabled the college to develop curriculum, partner with local universities and work with industry to improve performance in three key areas; Creativity and Innovation, Composites and Connected Care. The Creativity and Innovation strand has established “FRESH” a Creative Design Thinking programme, based on the Stanford D School model, which has been rolled out for industry, community groups and integrated into the College curriculum. Highly commended at the UK National Enterprise Educators Awards, Fresh for Business


The FRESH programme is recognised by leading educational institutions such as Koning Williem College, Netherlands who visited Belfast to see it in action. In addition, the programme is central to the Business Launchpad programme which enables students to use creative thinking to develop sustainable business ideas. In partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, the Composites strand of the programme has formed excellent working relationship within Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and wider UK Composites industry by providing

a range of ‘first of their kind’ training courses which have led to the College becoming an accredited Centre of Excellence for Composites by the National Skills Academy. In addition to training programmes, working groups have been established with industry stakeholders to discuss and move forward progressive, innovative ideas such as Composites recycling. The new facilities at Belfast Met’s e3 building that include a large, easy to access autoclave, have positioned the College as a key partner for companies interested in beginning production, developing prototypes and undertaking research through programmes such as Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher scheme. Recently, the College introduced a Connected Health Care strand which focuses on innovation in health care technology and the use of data analytics in the Life and Health Science sector. With developments in technology set to transform health care, Belfast Met, in partnership with University of Ulster are working with key public, private and third sector partners, and are ready to provide assistance in the growth, up-skilling and development of this emerging area.

For further information on Belfast Metropolitan College’s industry programmes, contact the Business Development Team on 028 9026 5069 or


Reinventing the wheel By Symon Ross


here are very few entrepreneurs

company’s CEO, says he wants Jyrobike to

and was excited by the product.

who can genuinely say that the

be a truly global company.

Having previously thought he would base

business they are launching will

reinvent the wheel.

the new business in London or the US, “Most amazing inventions are simple

Carson presented Belfast as a third option

and everyone gets this,” he said.

and while it has a sales office in Philadelphia,

But one exciting new company which has

“The technology is based on a natural

it is now very much a Northern Ireland

its head office in Northern Ireland is saying

phenomenon called gyroscopic procession.

company. After securing funding from

exactly that with their innovative new twist on

If wheels are turning at a certain speed it

Co-Fund NI and getting an R&D grant from

the humble bicycle.

creates gyroscopic forces naturally. If you

Invest NI, the company brought in Lisburn-

push a bike at 1km an hour it will go a few

based Marturion to work on the R&D for the

Holywood-based Jyrobike will soon launch the

metres and fall over. If you push it at

new improved product.

world’s first auto balance bike, with a unique

14km an hour and let it go it will keep

Control Hub built into the front wheel, that

going for much further because of that

“Version 1 was a wheel only,” he said.

when turned on causes both the bicycle and

gyroscopic force.”

“The student inventors started with a kid’s

the rider to become exceptionally stable.

product and marketed it as an accessory, a The original concept was conceived

replacement for training wheels. I thought,

The control hub uses patented gyroscopic

and tested as part of a graduate project

wouldn’t it be great if we just provided a full

technology built into the front wheel and

at Dartmouth University’s Thayer School

bicycle. Customer feedback told us this was

other design innovations to keep the bicycle

of Engineering in the US. The first

the right approach and we’ll be launching

upright and balanced, even when a rider

prototype won the Break Through Award

a 12” and 16” framed kid’s bike out of the

starts to tip or wobble – enabling children to

from Popular Mechanics – an honour it

box this year. The control hub in a wheel

learn to ride a bike more quickly.

shares with other high profile product

only will also be sold separately.”

successes including the Nissan Leaf and The hub is a battery-powered, rechargeable,

Pebble Watch.

motor-driven invention that intelligently drives

Jyrobike is now ready to launch a vastly improved Version-2 model worldwide. Set

a spinning flywheel that resists the toppling

The inventors were selling their technology

to launch in May, the bike will be priced at

force of gravity. When turned on it acts like

as a wheel which came as an accessory to

between £200 and £300, while a standalone

a gyroscope and provides a stabilizing force,

a normal bike – almost a replacement for

wheel will be available at under £100.

working just as gyros do to keep helicopters

training wheels.

stable in the air, boats stable at sea and spaceships stable in orbit.

“New technology is always premium. Australian entrepreneur Bodill saw the

Until the product matures it will be in the

technology’s potential and after first

premium category but we’re doing all we

A line of products for children learning to

becoming its European distributor, he

can to make it affordable,” said Bodill.

ride will launch in May via a global Kickstarter

acquired the intellectual property from the

crowd funding campaign and plans for

American student inventors in 2013.

an adult model are already underway and expected to arrive early 2015.

Bodill also doesn’t believe Jyrobike will stop kids learning to ride a normal bike properly.

Taking part in a Dragon’s Den style event in London to raise funding for the new

“Jyrobike teaches correct riding technique.

The origins of the business are very much

Jyrobike, he met Paul Carson, who had just

When a child is learning to ride a bike they

international and Rob Bodill (pictured), the

exited his previous business Simple Power

normally look at the pedals. Jyrobike helps them ride in an intuitive way so they can do

“This is a two year adventure and it is just beginning. We’re incredibly excited and optimistic about it. We want to make this a global company and we really believe it can be.” 36

it on their own. The technique can be picked up quickly because the Jyrowheel corrects the wobbles,” he said. “The caveats are that they can learn in an afternoon but it will be on the highest


setting. The bike has three settings and parents can reduce the settings as the child’s skills improve. We will have a wireless remote control to reduce the setting without the kid knowing.” The bikes won’t be assembled in Northern Ireland in the start-up phase, they will be built in the far east. Bodill says his long term goal is to have the parts made in Asia and then assembled and checked by a skilled team in Northern Ireland. The potential is huge. Jyrobike has patents in the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe and even China, and the US is expected to be its core market. The next step for Jyrobike is a Kickstarter campaign which will launch in May. The company is hoping to raise $100,000 to launch and promote the new version, with the first goods delivered by Christmas. R&D is almost completed but Bodill wants to also use Kickstarter as a platform for feedback and ideas from customers. The next step will be an adult version of the bike aimed at seniors and people with disabilities or those who are struggling with balance and aren’t confident about their cycling ability. Clinical tests are being carried out by an R&D team at the University of Twente in the Netherlands to help senior citizens ride bikes for longer. This product is more complex because it will be used every day and the technology has to be more intelligent. The testing and validation will take longer but Bodill is very positive about the potential. “This is a two year adventure and it is just beginning. We’re incredibly excited and optimistic about it. We want to make this a global company and we really believe it can be.”

APRIL 2014

TOP 200 SMEs

SMEs - Key to economic growth in NI By Richard Caldwell, Head of Finance Centres, Danske Bank


ach of the companies listed in this year’s Ulster Business Top 200 SMEs will have its own business growth story to tell and should be celebrated for its success. It is companies like these – regardless of the sector in which they operate – that have played a crucial role in contributing to economic growth in Northern Ireland in the past year and have got us to where we are today. We moved into 2014 in a good position, with all of the economic indicators pointing towards a modest recovery. Consumer confidence is at its highest level for years; inflation has reached its target level of 2.0 per cent; house prices are on the up; unemployment is down, and Danske Bank’s latest Sectoral Report predicts that up to 7,000 new jobs could be created in Northern Ireland this year. We would expect economic growth to continue to gain momentum as 2014 progresses, with our latest forecasts predicting growth of up to 2.4% this year. But we mustn’t become complacent. This uplift in our economy is a result of the commitment to hard work, job creation, entrepreneurship, export, R&D and innovation that is so evident in each of these Top 200 SMEs and, if we are to continue to report economic growth, we need to ramp this up even more. At Danske Bank we understand that the early stage of any economic recovery – as well as presenting many great opportunities – is not without its challenges. We recently held a series of regional ‘Good to Grow’ events around Northern Ireland to highlight the range of support available from Danske Bank


to help companies meet those challenges and achieve their full growth potential. We are very much open for business and have the capacity to lend to businesses in Northern Ireland. In the past year we have approved over £450m of business lending to local firms – representing an increase of 50 per cent year on year. We are also providing support through our range of specialist tools such as our Cash Management Optimisation programme and Working Capital Tool, and our range of financing solutions to support business growth such as our Overdrafts, Invoice Finance, Asset Finance and Trade Finance. The expertise and support of our dedicated teams of business bankers, meanwhile, continue to play a major role in taking new and existing business customers to the next

level. In fact, many new business customers have moved to us on the strength of our focus on strong relationship management . We very much recognise the importance of SMEs as the backbone of the Northern Ireland economy and, with our commitment to supporting local business growth greater than ever before, we are playing are part in ensuring our SMEs are ‘good to grow’. At Danske Bank we have been privy to some excellent success stories in the past year from many of the Ulster Business Top 200 SMEs and have been proud to play a key supporting role in their success. From all at Danske Bank, congratulations to each of the companies listed. Richard Caldwell is Head of Finance Centres at Danske Bank and can be contacted at

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Top 200 SMEs

Sponsored by

TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year


Fisher Engineering Ltd







Henderson Foodservice Ltd







Andor Technology Ltd







Tennent’s NI Limited







Kingspan Environmental Ltd







C.J. Upton & Sons Ltd







First Derivatives plc







Mutual Energy Ltd







Eakin Holdings Ltd







Sawyers Transport Ltd







Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) Ltd







Crossgar Foodservice Ltd







D. Shannon Stewart Ltd







N & R Gordon Ltd







Isaac Agnew (Mallusk) Ltd







The Old Bushmills Distillery Company Ltd







Rathmore Estates Ltd







Skea Egg Farms Limited







MSE T/A Exertis MSE Ltd







Vaughan Engineering Group Ltd







Cooneen Defence Ltd







Aghareany Ltd







Regency Carpet Manufacturing Ltd







Motis Ireland Ltd







Creagh Concrete Products Ltd







United Feeds Ltd







Savage & Whitten Wholesale Ltd







Drinks Inc. Ltd







Woodside Haulage (Holdings) Ltd







Ben Sherman Group Ltd







Property Management Services (NI) Ltd







Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd







Powerteam Electrical Services (UK) Ltd







Strathroy Dairy Ltd






Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677


Account Date

TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year

Account Date


Roadside Motors Ltd







Heron Bros. Ltd







O'Reilly’s Wholesale Ltd







Kelman Ltd







Galen Ltd







NIE Networks Services Ltd







B.H.C. Ltd







Haldane Fisher Ltd







Eurostock Food Group Ltd







Fane Valley Feeds Ltd







Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Ltd







Hotpursuit Enterprises Ltd







Heatons (NI) Ltd







Desmond Motors Ltd







Millar Tractors Ltd







Unilin Distribution Ltd







Copeland Ltd







C & J Meats Ltd







Avondale Foods (Craigavon) Ltd







Brunswick (No.1) Ltd







Charles Tennant and Company (NI) Ltd







Perfecseal Ltd







James Tolland & Company Ltd







Acheson & Glover Group Ltd







North West Silos Ltd







United Wine Merchants Ltd







Carnbane House Ltd







Veterinary Surgeons Supply Company Ltd







Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Ltd







Bettercare Keys Ltd







Foyleside Ltd







Almac Pharma Services Ltd







John Hogg & Co. Ltd







Henry Group (NI) Ltd






Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677

APRIL 2014


TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year


Harry Corry Ltd







Citybus Ltd







Western Building Systems Ltd







Murdock Builders Merchants Ltd







Calor Gas (NI) Ltd







Walter Watson Ltd







David Prentice (Cars) Ltd







O’Hare & McGovern Ltd







T. Met Ltd







Fold Housing Association







K.P.L. Contracts Ltd







Resource (NI) Ltd














Bryson Charitable Group







Mallaghan Engineering Ltd







Prestige Insurance Holdings Ltd







H & A Holdings (NI) Ltd







John Woods (Lisglyn) Ltd







Hampden Group Ltd







McBurney Refrigeration Ltd







United Molasses GB Ltd







352 Medical Ltd







Doherty & Gray Ltd







Ballinaskeagh Grains Ltd







Pyperhill Ltd







Clanmil Developments Ltd







Dillon Bass Ltd







A.J. Power Ltd







Montgomery Transport Ltd







BSG Civil Engineering Ltd







Delta Print and Packaging Ltd







Frylite Ltd







Dennison Commercials Ltd






Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677


Account Date

TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year

Account Date


Premier Electrics Ltd







Moyola (Cellars) Ltd







Hastings Hotels Group Ltd







John McQuillan (Contracts) Ltd







Greiner Packaging Ltd







Evron Foods Ltd







Autoline Direct Insurance Consultants Ltd







Belfast International Airport Ltd







Keystone Lintels Ltd







Moyle Interconnector Ltd







Hilton Meats (Cookstown) Ltd







Kainos Software Ltd







Decora Blind Systems Ltd







Patmond Energy Ltd







T B F Thompson (Garvagh) Ltd







Killyvally Holdings Ltd







Smyths Toys NI Ltd







Liberty Information Technology Ltd







Four Seasons (No 9) Ltd







Lagan Homes Ltd














D McGranaghan Ltd







Herbel Restaurants Ltd







Eurostock Foods NI Ltd







J.K.C. Specialist Cars Ltd







Corbo Ltd







T.G. Eakin Ltd







Precision Liquids Ltd







PBN Holdings Ltd







Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd







Germinal Holdings Ltd







Diesel Card International Ltd







Praxis Care






Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677

APRIL 2014


TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year


A.& F.A. Dundee Ltd







Component Distributors Group Ltd







Beverage Plastics Ltd







Independent Fertilisers Ltd







T & A Kernoghan (Holdings) Ltd







Bedeck Ltd







Kilrea Service Station Ltd







CFG Holdings Ltd







Camden Group Ltd







The McAvoy Group Ltd







Total Produce Belfast Ltd







T & A Kernoghan Ltd







Ballyrobert Service Station Ltd







James F Mccue Ltd







The Baird Group Ltd







Elite Electronic Systems Ltd







Chesapeake Belfast Ltd







Radius Plastics Ltd







Seagoe Technologies Ltd







Johnson Brothers (Belfast) Ltd







North Down (Belfast) Ltd














Wilsons Of Rathkenny Ltd







Magowan Tyres (NI) Ltd







Ulster Independent Clinic Ltd







Gaffer (NI) Ltd







Morgan Transport & Distribution Ltd







I.C.B. Emulsions Ltd







Shelbourne Motors Ltd







Uni-Trunk Ltd







S H S Sales & Marketing Ltd







Portview Fit-Out Ltd







M-B Truck and Van (NI) Ltd






Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677


Account Date

TOP 200 SMEs

Turnover (£000s)

Pre-Tax Profit (£000s)




-1 Year


-1 Year

Account Date


CDE Global Ltd







Kilwaughter Chemical Company Ltd







Sisk Healthcare (UK) Ltd







Terumo Bct Ltd







Blackbourne Ltd







Breezemount UK Ltd







Jeras Ltd







Newbridge Enterprises Ltd







Agnew Autoexchange Ltd







JMW Farms Ltd







Fiveways Shop & Service Station Ltd







Capper Trading Ltd







Edwin May Ltd







T.J. Booth & Sons Ltd







Andrews Holdings Ltd







BA Kitchen Components Ltd







G.P. Marketing Ltd







Surefreight Ltd







P.K. Murphy Construction Ltd







Wineflair (Belfast) Ltd







John Mulholland Motors Ltd







Thompson Aero Seating Ltd







Menarys Retail Ltd







TESAB Engineering Ltd







Quantum Hosiery Ltd







Premier Transmission Ltd







Williams Industrial Services Ltd







P. Clarke And Sons, Ltd







M.J.M. Marine Ltd







Westbank Business Park Ltd







Argento Contemporary Jewellery Ltd







Aligreen Recycling Ltd







W.D. Irwin & Sons Ltd






This list contains some trading companies of holding companies

Figures researched and compiled by D&B T: 0845 601 2677

APRIL 2014



NI’s Bubbling Under Companies grow sales by 5.6% and the cut off for filing of

shareholders is currently £5,177.7m

company accounts for inclusion in

compared to the previous year’s figure

the listing was circa 17/02/14.

of £5,211m – a decrease of 0.65%.


The net worth figure for the listing

Sales within the listing took a positive

is somewhat distorted, however, by

step forward when compared to each

the significant net worth attributable

company’s corresponding turnover for

to Hampden Homes Ltd.

their previous year’s trading. Turnover

Within the 200 businesses, a total of 18

increased over the 200 businesses

are showing a negative net worth figure.

by 5.6%, to £6,824m against a prior year figure of £6,465m. Due to the

Risk & Opportunity

standard time lag in the filing of annual

In the 2013 edition of the Ulster

reports, these figures cover an amalgam

Business Top 100, for the first time

of late 2012, early 2013 results.

D&B commented on the perceived credit risk within the top listing. This

Jonathan Cushley



risk measurement allows suppliers

The success of any business cannot look

to companies ascertain risk of

solely at sales but in the generation

payment either on an individual

of profit. In the Ulster Business “200

case by case basis or by analysing

Listing” the companies posted an

their full portfolio of clients whether

extremely positive pre-tax profit margin

domestic or globally based.

014 sees the first publication

of 11.9%, (£162.6m) comparable to a

of a complementary

prior year pre-tax profit of (£145.3m). Of

Within the current listing, the 200

listing of “Bubbling under

the 200 companies, 34 businesses posted

companies have an average credit score

Companies” which are potentially

pre-tax losses for their last financial year

of 63 out of 100, confirming that in the

striving for recognition in the

compared to 30 in their prior year.

majority of cases businesses should be considered of good financial standing.

Ulster Business 2014 Top 100 Northern Ireland businesses.

Net Worth (Shareholder Value)

For over 25 years, D&B & Ulster Business

The third measure of a company’s

have been providing statistics on the

overall success utilised when

The opportunity side of the coin

Top 100 Northern Ireland businesses

compiling the “Bubbling Under 200

relates to being able to assess the

ranked by turnover. This listing is

listing” is the company’s value to its

additional sales/revenue which a

prepared to show the wealth of business

shareholders. In its simplest form it is

supplier may be in a position to utilise

“talent” in Northern Ireland which sits

the shareholders’ funds (issued capital)

when trading with a company – D&B

below the Top 100 threshold, which

+ retained profits – intangibles.

provide a recommended maximum

in 2013 was approximately £62m

The value of the companies to their

credit recommendation on each of the


Three companies within the listing have not been assigned a credit score.



Volume of companies

















businesses globally that it reports on.

administration. Both organisations

Reviewing the “Bubbling under

have been included as their financial

listing”, the average maximum credit

performance reflects the comparable

recommendation for the companies

period of the other 198 companies.

would be £203,468 – this reflects in part the size of the organisation


and is linked to D&B’s credit score

The 200 companies employed a total of

for each of the organisations. Please

41,779 people, up from 40,388 in their

note that 16 of the companies have

previous filings – an increase of 3.4%.

Northern Ireland – Belfast being provided its own classification.

Reader Notes Financial information has been gathered using D&B’s Investigate Market Research & Analytics Tool.

dredit recommendation.


Please note that Aligreen Recycling

As would be anticipated, Belfast hosts

Ltd is currently operating under a

the majority of the companies. The

Voluntary Arrangement and that

table above shows the geographic

Both D&B and Ulster Business magazine are aware that due to various group structures some companies may have been included in the current listing whilst also having parent operations within the Top 100. In the majority of cases, adjustments to

KPL Contracts Ltd is currently in

split of the listed companies across

the listing will have been made.

not been assigned a maximum

About D&B D&B provides the information, tools & expertise to help customers to decide with confidence. D&B enables customers to have instant access to objective, domestic and global information whenever and wherever they need it. Customers use D&B Risk Management Solutions to manage credit exposure, D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions to find profitable customers and business partners and also utilise D&B Supplier Management Solutions to assist in managing supplier relationships both efficiently and profitably. More than 90% of the Global 1000 rely on D&B as a trusted partner to enable confident business decisions.For more information please visit or e-mail

APRIL 2014



Initiative could create thousands of new jobs barriers to SME growth we can create an effective environment to ensure that we deliver on the ‘1 more in 4’ aim”. Gordon Gough, Chief Executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland said: “It is encouraging to hear that SME interests are high on the Finance Minister’s agenda. However, it remains vital that there is a two pronged approach to improving the business environment – yes, there needs to be policy reform but hard work and encouragement on the ground must continue”.

Judith Cochrane MLA, Chair of the APG on SMEs with Chief Executive of Enterprise NI Gordon Gough (left), Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA, and Angela McGowan, Chief Economist at Danske Bank UK (right).


udith Cochrane MLA, Chair of the Assembly group formed to support the SME sector in Northern Ireland has said that creating an environment whereby every SME can employ one more person in the next four years has the potential to create thousands of new jobs. The second meeting of the All Party Group on Small and Medium sized Enterprises called on the Finance Minister to cut red tape and support the advancement of the “1 more in 4” initiative. The group’s initial fact-finding event, last year, revealed some of the difficulties associated with setting up and maintaining small businesses in Northern Ireland. Attendees at the meeting were given the opportunity to direct their concerns at


the Minister for Finance, Simon Hamilton MLA who outlined his Department’s plans to support the SME sector. He said: “I welcome the opportunity provided by the All Party Group on SMEs to engage with a range of businesses from across Northern Ireland. Supporting SMEs through rates, procurement and improving access to finance is something I am committed to and today’s meeting lets me hear directly from businesses about what they think my Department should be doing to help”. Judith Cochrane MLA, Chair of the All Party Group on SMEs said: “SMEs require more support from the Executive and from local representatives to ensure that they can gain the confidence and skills required to grow their business and as a result offer employment opportunities.”

“Enterprise Northern Ireland will continue to play its role in supporting entrepreneurship by providing tailored services to its members and by successfully delivering national contracts such as the Regional Start ‘Go for it Programme’, ‘Exploring Enterprise’, and the ‘Small Business Loan Fund’ in the hope that this will increase SME capacity for offering new employment opportunities” Angela McGowan, Vice-Chair of the Board of Enterprise Northern Ireland and Danske Bank Chief Economist, who facilitated questions and answers to the Finance Minister at the event said: “On a positive note, the Northern Ireland economy is set to expand in 2014 – with private sector growth in particular helping to re-balance our economy. The role of small firms and new start-up companies will be instrumental in driving that growth and creating jobs”.

The next APG on SMEs will take place in April at The Law Society and will provide attendees with the opportunity to engage with DEL Minister Stephen Farry MLA on issues that SMEs face in relation to Northern

“I am confident that if we tackle the main

Ireland’s current employment laws.


Why are SME businesses so important to the future of the local economy?

By Ian Coulter, Managing Partner, Tughans Solicitors


MEs are the backbone of the Northern Irish economy. When we look at medium size businesses in detail, being those employing 50 – 499 people, we see their critical economic importance. Recent research shows that while total private sector turnover fell in the last three years in the UK, medium size business turnover held steady at £16bn, punching well above its weight. How do NI’s SME companies stack up against the best in UK? In the Northern Irish private sector SMEs make-up 25% of jobs. The average UK figure is 20%, so the sector plays a larger role here than in the UK overall. These companies employ 15% of the total workforce and generate 30% of private sector revenue, well above the UK average. NI’s SME sector sits in 2nd place in the UK league table, topped only by the North East of England. Accordingly these businesses need ongoing recognition and bespoke support from policy and decision makers. Who is or should be providing support to help these firms thrive? Every one of our medium sized businesses is different and therefore their needs are as well. Most of the medium sized businesses we work with have a “can do” attitude and see themselves, quite rightly, as having to make a success of themselves with or without external support. In my time as CBI Chair the feedback I received was that the level of support provided by Government locally was sound overall and much improved over the last number of years. That said, some themes that seemed to recur were as follows: • Priority should be to given to medium sized businesses around planning when


they wish to expand their business premises. If companies need to expand these decisions must be taken more quickly – why couldn’t this be done in a twomonth timeframe instead of six to 12? • Government should continue to reward companies investing in their businesses – continued focus on widening capital allowances and R&D tax incentives will continue to help Northern Irish businesses as they invest to take advantage of the recovery. • Looking at further funding solutions for those companies with weaker balance sheets – good traction has been made to date under the Invest NI Access to Finance scheme – but more will be required. There are a lot of companies in Northern Ireland which for a variety of reasons have weak balance sheets making it harder for them to raise finance. We need to make sure such companies have funding options to take advantage of the upward curve. • Northern Ireland must win the Corporation Tax debate this year. If we do the reduced tax levels for our SMEs (which will allow them to reinvest their funds into their businesses instead of to the Treasury), the influx of large corporates who will then need local SME supply chains would prove to be an effective combination. What challenges hold our SME businesses back – i.e. finance, talent, export capabilities, ambition? I don’t think our SMEs lack talent or ambition. Similarly on our export capability, with our competitive cost bases and, as importantly, our appetite and attitude for new business, our SMEs will be successful long term. On the issue of finance, SMEs are evolving on

the ground. Data from the Bank of England shows UK businesses are searching beyond traditional forms of finance to fund growth, with non-bank lending to SMEs at a five year high. The overall use of alternative finance is still low with 80% of lending from traditional sources and only 3% of SMEs using equity finance. A stronger venture capital market teamed with focused tax incentives for R&D and exporting would help long-term growth strategies. However, saying all that, bank lending conditions are and have been much improved for some time and this will remain where the majority of SME funding will come from. We are seeing some very competitive lending in the market right now. The question for SMEs is to make sure they know what combination of funding is best suited for their long-term plans and as importantly, realistically achievable. Choosing the right finance strategy for growth is vital to success. How can these sorts of firms become able to compete on an international basis? Tax conditions for innovation are pretty good right now and this will encourage a greater number of mid-sized businesses to develop their products and services, enabling them to compete effectively internationally. Businesses investing in R&D also need to know how and when to protect their intellectual property – a major asset. We would also anticipate seeing a significant number of companies (outside of the traditional venture capital sectors of Tech and Life Services) take on venture capital to scale up and to take on new markets. What would help more of these middle tier – Mittelstand – companies to grow into big businesses? Build awareness as to how important these companies are and then produce growth

Tughans’ Partners

inducing businesses policies, including targeted tax incentives, infrastructure development including superfast broadband and greater connectivity, simplified planning procedures and more competitive energy prices to support development. Looking at Germany’s thriving Mittlestand export economy we also see very dynamic relationships between businesses and research institutes. We need to create this peer learning and collaboration across our medium sized businesses, with wider innovation partners including universities and private research organisations. Are there particular sectors where you expect to see midsize SMEs experience growth? The new Enterprise zone announced for Coleraine and increased R&D tax incentives should boost others in the ICT sector. Another great example is the NI Science Park where you see the idea of collaboration generating growth – working together these companies are thriving. NI is recognised for its IT knowledge base and these capabilities will hopefully act as a USP for direct foreign investment, in addition to fostering a strong indigenous sector.

APRIL 2014

The agri and the engineering sectors are two other sectors that over the course of the next five years we expect to see a serious number of medium sized businesses building outwards.

“Tax conditions for innovation are pretty good right now and this will encourage a greater number of midsized businesses to develop their products and services.” Is there still a need to get more SMEs exporting their goods and services more widely? Yes. Economies with high exports fared considerably better through the recession and this will be a vital part of re-engineering our own economy. Most businesses recognise the potential for growth through export markets. Our macro trade and investment strategy will

play a key role here but this must also be a two-way process – what practical help does each mid-size business specifically need and can we give it to them? How is Tughans specifically working to help clients that fall into the mid-tier bracket? Primarily around risk management. On a weekly basis we look at structures for clients taking in new and different forms of finance, setting up structures for going into new markets, often on a joint venture basis, acquiring businesses in new territories, and protecting intellectual property. As our team has advised medium sized businesses for many years, we have been able to garner real practical experience as to how to structure growth companies looking into new markets and this can make a real difference. Additionally succession issues and structures are vital to get right – given that most medium sized businesses are family owned it is critical not only to get the trading structures right but the long term management and ownership structures right as well.


NEAL LUCAS: a closer look at the Voluntary Sector In the first of a new series of in depth discussions on key sectors of the Northern Ireland economy, Neal Lucas, CEO of Neal Lucas Recruitment, met with Peter McBride, Chief Executive of Niamh and Jenny Williams, CEO of Habitat for Humanity NI, to get their views on the challenges and opportunities facing the voluntary sector.


he voluntary sector is a massive contributor to the Northern Ireland economy, directly employing some 30,000 people and providing nearly 50,000 volunteers across 3,800 organisations.

Despite these impressive statistics, there is a feeling from many people in the sector that it isn’t given appropriate recognition by those in government or the business world. It is an assessment which Peter McBride, CEO of Niamh agrees with.

A recent study by NICVA, the umbrella body for the sector, suggested that the voluntary sector contributes some £1.2bn of turnover to the economy.

“The voluntary sector is a significant employer and generates significant income. That’s not particularly well recognised. I’m not sure the voluntary sector as a commercial or economic


entity is given the credit it deserves,” he said. “As well as the people employed in the sector, there’s a huge added value that the sector brings to all walks of life.” The complexity of the sector and the wide variety of activities it covers may lead to a lack of clarity, but the sector is investing in communities in a tangible way that businesses perhaps don’t.


relationships with people and the government. Government is withdrawing services and expects the voluntary sector to pick them up. But they are not being explicit about it or paying for it,” he said.

BARRIERS TO GROWTH While acknowledging the role government plays in funding the sector, Jenny says it is generally ineffective in terms of improving the sector. “Procurement legislation is one of the big issues for us. Government do want to engage but policies on how we connect to deliver are not there. It makes it difficult to operate,” she says. With such a wide and varying sector, it is perhaps understandably difficult for the voluntary sector to get a strong, unified message to government. Habitat for Humanity NI’s CEO Jenny Williams says a clear distinction should be drawn between the voluntary sector service and the CSR policies adopted by private sector organisations. “Our sector is about delivering real services and addressing real need, it is not doing something for the sake of doing it,” says Jenny. Corporate CSR policies are designed to connect companies with their communities, which is very positive but needs to be anchored to grassroots organisations to deliver real benefits. Measuring the impact, creating opportunities for people to engage, and being able to communicate that is, adds Jenny, becoming increasingly important. Pointing to poor press about charities in the Republic of Ireland, Jenny says being able to demonstrate good governance is essential. “There have been 119 days of negative press about what CEOs earn in the South. However it is really about how charities are run and governed,” she says. Peter believes there is an element of hypocrisy in that perception in the media, noting that charities are being asked to do very different things from 30 years ago – particularly as the public sector cuts back on services.

“It is hard to stand up and criticise when you are funded by government. The breadth of the sector is an issue. It is hard to find a voice to articulate all the different viewpoints, to be cohesive.”

“We’ve not been audacious enough... we have not got a big enough voice and it is our own fault. Peter takes a harsher view of the failings on both sides to engage. “We’ve not been audacious enough,” he says. “We have not got a big enough voice and it is our own fault. Competitive tendering is a factor. Government is interested in the voluntary sector because it is cheaper. These are difficult issues that are not talked about.” He goes on to say that, “the sector became complacent when there was lots of money being poured in from Europe. It created a sense of entitlement. Organisations are only now getting their heads around how to measure the impact of what they are doing. But the sector is maturing, it needs to grow up a bit,” he said

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE “Charities have to have different

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Jenny and Peter also have experience of

building successful social enterprises. Habitat for Humanity opened the first Habitat ReStore in Europe in Lisburn last year. ReStore diverts tons of unused building and DIY materials from landfill helping families to improve their homes at affordable process – a commercial entity that address a need. Peter is responsible for Carecall, one of Northern Ireland’s largest and longest established social enterprises. It provides mental wellbeing counselling to organisations and operates as a commercial entity while delivering on that mission. It seems clear that it is in the delivery of services in an efficient and sustainable way that the voluntary sector really gains its credibility. “We are good at seeing a need and responding,” says Jenny. “The things that involve engaging with people who would not otherwise be engaged. The people who are in the sector have the ability to persevere and a determination to deliver on their objectives.” Peter says it is a sector made up of “highly committed people who deeply care” and put more effort in than most people in the private sector. That’s allowing organisations like his to become more ambitious, to take on more challenges and also to export their services. Both agree attracting skilled people to the sector from the comforts of the public sector or the faster pace of the private sector is going to be a major challenge in the future. “Increasingly the skills needed exist in the private sector,” believes Peter. “That brings challenges around salaries and benefits. But it is the way it is going.” Jenny too believes the communications, new media landscape and accountability skills that the sector needs to get better at, exist in the private sector. But if it can continue to attract these people, the future is bright. “It is very exciting if we step up to it,” adds Peter. “There are huge opportunities if we are prepared to grab them and take a few risks rather than standing with our hands out. There is a massive role the voluntary sector can play in the economy.”



Getting equipped for success Paul Bullock, Group Operations Manager, Silcotec Europe, is the second student to be profiled in our “Studying Success” series. He is currently studying a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the Ulster Business School.


ilcotec Europe is a sub contract electronics company which supplies electronic assemblies for medical equipment and electron microscopy products to some of the world’s largest original equipment manufacturers. Paul, who has worked for Silcotec for five years, oversees operations at facilities in Slovakia and the UK. What are you studying at the Ulster Business School? I am currently studying the MBA on a parttime basis at the Jordanstown campus. Why did you choose this course? I’m in the transition period of moving into a senior management role at Silcotec and the MBA offers the perfect path to help me make that change. For my long term development I want to improve my leadership


Paul Bullock, Group Operations Manager, Silcotec Europe, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Ulster Business School.

and strategy skills. As I have come from an engineering and manufacturing background I’ve rarely been involved in depth in the support functions of the business such as HR and finance. The course gives an excellent insight into these functions, giving me a better appreciation of the business as a whole. I was looking for a course that would complement the practical knowledge I already have while offering new experiences and an opportunity for some creative thinking outside the workplace. So far it’s fulfilled my expectations!   What attracted you to the Ulster Business School? The Ulster Business School and its MBA came highly recommended by colleagues and having attended the University of Ulster as an undergraduate student for my Engineering degree, I knew the university, so I was in comfortable surroundings. The delivery of the course suits my work schedule and business travel, meaning that I don’t have to miss too much time in the office over the two year course.   What part of the course do you enjoy most? The most interesting element so far has definitely been the peer learning in the classroom. The cohort comes from such varied backgrounds and industries so this has exposed me to practices in other sectors and prompted me to consider how

best practice from other areas might apply in my own workplace. It’s also enjoyable to be able to instantly apply so many of the lessons learned in the classroom. Going through the MBA process really helps clarify what we are trying to achieve as a company and how I can contribute to that success.   How will this qualification help in your future career? Hopefully as I progress in my career, the MBA will better prepare me for leadership and management at the highest levels. Before enrolling on the MBA, I wouldn’t usually have sought out knowledge in the same way, but now I find reading case studies and articles extremely valuable. Even though the theory mightn’t always apply right now, it’s the depth and breadth of knowledge that I can call on at a later date for better decision making that is important and I think it will make the big difference as I progress in my career.   Who do you admire most in the business world and why? Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, is fascinating. While I might find some of his people management ideas a little abrasive, there is no doubt that he knows what it takes to run a great company, no matter what size. His beliefs in never sitting still as a company, business simplicity and customer intimacy are concepts that any company can learn from and I hope that is something that I can take with me through my career.


How do you sleep?

Inflyte entertainment


eaf customers know the necessity of ensuring that they have at least one recent copy of protected data in a separate location. That way, if a disaster wipes out a site, they still have all critical business data.

Offsite backups used to mean physically hauling around backup tapes. Some companies still have a system in which one member of the team takes home a set of tapes on Friday and brings them back the next Friday, at which time another member of the team took home a newer set of tapes. This sometimes meant that tapes are forgotten at someone’s home or never taken home in the first place. Later, “automating” offsite backup meant taking the backup tapes down to reception so that they could be picked up and delivered by courier to an offsite storage facility. Windows Online Backup simplifies the process of getting data out of the building. It’s much easier than backup tapes, couriers, and storage facilities. Microsoft has been delivering trustworthy cloud services since 1994. The Microsoft Cloud spans more than 20 million businesses and a billion customers in over 89 countries. The data centers utilise a comprehensive compliance framework with unrivaled security compliance standards that include: • ISO/IEC 27001:2005 • SOC (SSAE 16/ISAE 3402) • FISMA • FedRAMP • HIPAA/HITECH • Multiple State, Federal and International Privacy Laws • PCI Data Security Standa Windows Online Backup is a client that you can install on individual servers, similar to Windows Server Backup. Windows Online Backup allows you to back up data to storage in Windows Azure, in a location called a recovery vault. It’s a great solution for organisations who need to move protected data offsite. Such organisations should continue to use a local backup as their primary backup and recovery solution. If a problem occurs with local backups, then they can recover from the off-site Microsoft Cloud. It’s a great part of your data-protection solution, just not a complete replacement for it. Please contact or tel: 028 9089 7650 to speak to Kyle Johnston, a member of Leaf’s sales team to arrange a consultation.



J Paul Hamill had an idea based on his need to be able to hear the voluminous amount of new music sent to him by record companies whilst on the move between gigs. He took the idea to a friend who was a computer programmer, and Inflyte was born. Through his 12 years as radio presenter at BBC Radio Ulster, Paul identified a need for a mobile solution to this problem of over-saturation, and over-crowding of email inboxes that fits with the busy lifestyles of campaigns intended recipients, as opposed to just whenever they are at their laptops or PCs. Now the fledgling company’s app has been included on the Apple App store, and they have a range of high profile DJs and ‘tastemakers’ queuing up to endorse their product. Paul, who has played to thousands of people from Madrid to Sydney, believed there was a need for a service like Inflyte in the digital world. “Before any new single or album goes on sale to the general public, record companies and PR agencies canvass feedback from ‘tastemakers’ which they use to help develop a marketing plan, gauge potential consumer interest and help create a ‘buzz’ around the release of the record in order to help drive sales,” he said. “Inflyte is a new digital PR platform designed for the music industry to help them gain critical feedback and insights from their closed network of tastemakers who typically include DJs, radio, press and the music media in general. “These ‘promo-campaigns’ have evolved from the golden days of the music industry when record labels would physically mail promo copies of their new releases to their tastemakers (at huge expense) through to email based campaigns and now for the first time through Inflyte, to mobile. As digital music usage has increased over the years, so have the various means of promo distribution, to the point of over-saturation.”  Music industry feedback has been extremely positive, with a number of high-profile labels and PR agencies already testing the platform and lined-up to join the services as soon as it goes live.

Tax & Accounting


FSB calls for cuts in red tape

By Wilfred Mitchell OBE, FSB Northern Ireland Policy Chairman

overheads to be avoided. The cost of childcare is starting to dominate many conversations but much of the cause is down to the massive regulatory burden that is applied both locally and in the UK which could easily be reduced. During his Budget speech the Chancellor also confirmed a further, imminent announcement on tax setting and borrowing powers for Wales. FSB Northern Ireland welcomes this as an encouraging signal by the Government that we may expect a positive decision this autumn on devolving corporation tax setting powers to the Northern Ireland Executive. This remains the single-most transformative measure that will accelerate our transition from an underperforming region to a dynamic, enterprise-driven area of growth and prosperity.


he Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland welcomed measures in the Budget that should benefit businesses and grow employment. The Budget has given a clear signal that the Government is supporting businesses to grow, through measures such as the increased investment allowance, tax relief schemes and a focus on manufacturing, as well as accepting an FSB proposal which will allow peer to peer lending to be included within the tax free ISA wrapper. We have long called for Northern Ireland as a whole to be designated as an Enterprise Zone, so we welcome the establishment of a local zone for the data centre at Coleraine as an acceptance of the principle. This will not only give an employment boost to the area, especially in light of the job losses at the DVA, but will allow the Enterprise Zone concept to


be piloted; and whatever lessons are learned from it, we would like to see it extended to the rest of Northern Ireland, in order to prevent localised distortion and displacement. On childcare costs, the additional ÂŁ2,000 tax break the Government has provided for childcare will provide support to the employed workforce as well as those who are self employed. Small firms often bear the brunt of the lack of affordable childcare and proposals for tax-free childcare will provide additional support for their workforce and should encourage more parents back into work.

The cost of fuel in Northern Ireland remains amongst the highest within the United Kingdom and therefore is a substantial concern to our members, so the FSB welcomes the Chancellor’s decision to continue to freeze fuel duty, but a more radical overhaul of fuel costs is needed if we are to become really competitive. More widely, his measures to address rising energy prices are largely going to benefit GB, rather than Northern Ireland, yet prices here are more pressing than anywhere else in the UK. Clearly, further action will be required here, so the FSB will continue to lobby and maintain pressure until the situation is improved.

However, FSB Northern Ireland has been highlighting for some time that the effect of this financial assistance could have been achieved without cost to the tax payer simply by reducing the regulatory burdens within the childcare industry and allowing cumbersome administrative costs and high

At a period in the economy where the Chancellor had little room to manoeuvre, this budget has been imaginative and positive; giving direct assistance where possible, stimulating private investment elsewhere, and setting a direction of travel that is clearly business-friendly.


A Budget that promotes economic growth

By David Fry, Senior Policy Adviser, CBI Northern Ireland

Zone status, providing Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA), may have some localised regeneration potential. Given that the Northern Ireland Executive already has responsibility for planning, rating policy and telecommunications infrastructure, the Budget announcement is welcome given that it contains the ECA proposal first mooted last summer. However, only certain companies will benefit from ECA’s – usually existing large, capital intensive and profitable companies – so to have the local success desired, the proposed Enterprise Zone should focus on economic activity where it is best undertaken, with a potential view to building on specific clusters and sectors in order to achieve the best impact. It therefore makes sense to locate the zone near the University of Ulster campus in Coleraine thus seeking to maximise the existing technology and high-speed transatlantic connectivity already in place through Project Kelvin. We look forward


o put business in a position to create the jobs that we need, and to ensure that the economic growth that we now see is both broad based and sustainable, this year’s Budget had to be one with the potential to lock in economic growth. With the doubling and extension of the Annual Investment Allowance to £500,000, together with making the seed enterprise investment scheme permanent, there is a strong sense that the Government has correctly focussed its firepower on putting the wind into the sails of business investment – something we in the CBI strongly support. That broad based and sustainable recovery, which must have business investment

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to seeing further detail on how the pilot at its core, must also have a focus on increasing our export base. With this in mind, we welcome the decision to afford start-up aid to the scope of the regional air connectivity fund so that George Best Belfast City, Belfast International and City of Derry airport could benefit from airlines choosing to commence new routes from our airports. In the context of the continuing pressure of Air Passenger Duty rates on our airports, this is a positive development.

zone will operate, and what additional tools and levers those investing in it will be able to benefit from, over the coming period. It is crucial though that the introduction of this pilot zone does not distract from the campaign to secure the devolution of Corporation Tax powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This must remain our premier focus in both the business and political communities over the coming months as we approach the Prime Minister’s

Perhaps the key Northern Ireland specific headline from the Budget is the creation of a Pilot Enterprise Zone outside Coleraine. Dating back to our submission to the Government after the publication of last June’s Economic Pact, we made it clear that the introduction of Enterprise

decision in the autumn. We welcome the continued progress that is being made here and reiterate the importance it has for Northern Ireland’s economic future and its attractiveness as a region to do business and invest in. Other initiatives must not take attention away from this fundamental goal.



New Chairman for ACCA Ulster Network Alan McGonigle, Credit Manager at Bank of Ireland (UK) in Belfast and the new Chairman of the ACCA Ulster Members Network, gave Ulster Business his view on some of the challenges facing those in the accounting profession.


n 17th February this year, Alan McGonigle was officially installed as Chairman of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Ulster Members Network, which represents around 1,000 accountants across Northern Ireland. The Ulster Regional Network is one of four provincial networks which make up ACCA Ireland at a national level. ACCA as a global organisation operates in 173 countries supporting 162,000 members and 428,000 students, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business. Alan currently works as a credit manager in Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc and has considerable experience throughout his career working with a variety of SMEs across Northern Ireland. He believes accountants have a big role to play in helping maintain the momentum of the economic recovery. “Many members of our network are working in diverse roles at the coal face both within and alongside SMEs and are acutely aware of the challenges facing the Northern Ireland economy. Our members are ideally placed and well qualified to assist in Northern Ireland’s recovery and make a significant contribution to the local economy,” he said. “My main focus for the coming two year term of office is to strengthen the ACCA brand in Ulster, increase and develop the ACCA membership in Ulster and for ACCA to remain at the forefront of discussions on the major areas affecting the NI economy, namely, the Northern Ireland corporate tax rate, local economic strategy and access to finance for the business community.” Alan’s current role involves assessing SME business credit applications across a variety of business sectors. It is his responsibility to ensure the appropriate credit quality standards are maintained while facilitating the growth and development of the lending business. “The identification of key risks and mitigation of these risks in an effective manner, in order to optimally protect the Bank’s risk assets,


is a core aspect of the role. I am also required to display sound credit judgement, exercise technical ability and effectively communicate and display empathy in the delivery of credit decisions,” he said. As a Credit Manager Alan needs to understand every material aspect of the businesses to which the bank provides facilities. “As in every aspect of business, risk is greatest when knowledge is lowest. Every deal should have the downside risk as thoroughly examined as the upside potential. Most importantly, the effectiveness of the management team is paramount as it is ultimately this element that will pull you through in a downturn,” he said.


“As in every aspect of business risk is greatest when knowledge is lowest.” Of course the banking sector has had its difficulties in recent years, but the new chairman of ACCA Ulster Members Network says Bank of Ireland is making “significant progress” as it continues to deliver on its strategic priorities. He added: “We have transformed our balance sheet and funding position and have a robust capital position. We have repaid and rewarded the Irish States’ investment in our business and we are moving closer to profitability, taking positive action to increase our operating income whilst actively managing our credit risk.” “Business confidence is key to driving the economy forward in Northern Ireland, as an organisation we need to focus and invest in our strong customer franchises in order to fuel business growth. We want to provide our business customers with the products and services they need, on a commercially sensible basis.” Coming into the new role for the ACCA, Alan says there are some key lessons from his own career that he hopes to pass on to help others in business. “The age old mantra ‘cash is king’ rings true,” he said. “The viability of any business is ultimately determined by the strength of its underlying cashflow and its capacity to generate cash profits from trading to meet ongoing cash commitments. Fully understanding the quality, sustainability and adequacy of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) is key to understanding the dynamics of a business and this is one the most important lessons I have grasped in my career to date.”

Businesses reminded of £2,000 tax break


usiness owners are being urged not to miss out on a new tax break which comes into force this month that could save them up to £2,000. TaxAssist Accountants in Ballymena said that while much time will be dedicated to analyzing the implications of the Chancellor’s Budget, small business owners should not forget about a new Employment Allowance scheme which has already been set in motion by the Government. Ian Aiken who runs TaxAssist Accountants, said:  “Whilst local business owners will have been hoping for more good news from the Chancellor’s Budget Briefcase, they must not miss out on the tax break which is already in the bag.   “From this month, small businesses could benefit from the new Employment Allowance, which could cut £2,000 from their employer Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. However, while most small businesses should qualify to receive the benefit, they must indicate their eligibility within the Employer Payment Summary submitted to HMRC. This is normally done online via payroll software.”   Aiken said the impact of National Insurance costs on a small company should not be underestimated: “National Insurance is a major, hidden cost for employers and this new relief is designed to encourage small businesses to take on new staff and boost job creation.”   The Employment Allowance is available from 6 April 2014. You can claim the Employment Allowance if you are a business or charity (including Community Amateur Sports Clubs) that pays employer Class 1 NICs on your employees’ or directors’ earnings. If your company belongs to a group of companies or your charity is part of a charities structure, only one company or charity can claim the allowance. It is up to you to decide which company or charity will claim the allowance. You can only claim the £2,000 Employment Allowance against one PAYE scheme - even if your business runs multiple schemes. TaxAssist Accountants in Ballymena is a local business providing tax and accountancy advice and services to small businesses across Ballymena, Broughshane, Mid Antrim, Randalstown, Ballyclare and the surrounding area.

APRIL 2014



Strategic Reporting


here were important changes in the financial reporting arena that came into force on 1 October 2013 as a result of the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Director’s Report) Regulations 2013. The changes require all companies which are not small to prepare a strategic report separately from their director’s report. This applies to financial years ending on or after 30 September 2013. What is the purpose of the strategic report? The purpose of the strategic report is to inform members of the company and help them to assess how directors have performed their duties under S172 of the Companies Act 2006 (duty to promote the success of the company). The changes introduced by the regulations acknowledge the concerns of a broader set of stakeholders and therefore the legislation has brought in a requirement to include a description of a company’s business model and strategy. What should you consider when preparing your strategic report? A good strategic report should describe the environment in which a business exists (context); how it interacts and reacts to the environment (strategy); and, the result of these interactions and reactions (performance). A good strategic report should show clearly and concisely the inter-relationships and inter-dependencies between these three elements. Are there any reporting exemptions which my company can avail of? Depending on whether your company is quoted or not and it’s size will determine if you can avail of any exemptions (see table). A quoted company being a company whose equity share capital has been included in the official list in accordance with the provisions of part 6 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.


By Laura Jackson, BDO Northern Ireland

particular the information in the strategic report must be consistent with the other information in the annual report. • Be structured and presented in such a way that it effectively facilitates the communication of its content. • Exclude immaterial information but, conversely, should include all material information. • Be as concise as the size and complexity of the business allows. • Highlight the inter-relationships and inter-dependencies between different parts of the annual report. What qualities does a good strategic report have? There are six qualities which should underpin a strategic report. They are: • Provide shareholders with relevant information that is useful for them in making resource allocation decisions and assessing stewardship. • Be fair, balanced and understandable. In

The strategic report represents an opportunity for preparers to provide greater insight into the business by “telling their story”. Each business story will be unique and as a result the world of financial reporting will be enhanced by these qualitative disclosures. Laura Jackson is an Audit Principal at BDO Northern Ireland and can be contacted on e: or dd: 028 9067 7378

The table shows that if your company is quoted, large or medium sized what you must include in your report.





Principal risks and uncertainties

✔ ✔

✔ ✔

✔ ✔

Analysis of the development and performance of the business

Analysis of the position of the business

Analysis using financial key performance indicators

Analysis using other key performance indicators


The main trends and factors likely to affect future development, performance and position



Information about environmental matters



Information about employees



Information about social, community and human rights issues



A description of the company’s strategy



A description of the company’s business model



Quantitative information on diversity



Additional explanations of amounts included in the annual accounts

Fair review of the business

Approval by the board


A Budget to build a resilient economy

By Des Kelly, Tax Partner, Cavanagh Kelly Accountants


eorge Osborne’s penultimate Budget before the 2015 general election has been hailed as a Budget for building a resilient economy, a Budget for ‘makers, doers and savers’ and overall there was positive news for savers, pensioners and businesses.

merged into one new ISA and the annual limit increasing to £15,000 from July 2014. Individuals will see a gradual increase in their personal allowance to £10,500 by April 2015. The introduction of the transferable personal allowance of up to £1,050 for couples will see some couples being up to £210 better off.

For savers, reforms were announced in relation to ISA’s with existing ISA’s being

Pensions have been reformed significantly in terms of their flexibility

and will afford opportunity for greater access to funds in lifetime. In relation to businesses, there was a welcome increase in the Annual Investment Allowance which allows for a 100% first year tax break to £500,000 to the end of 2015. Des Kelly, partner at Cavanagh Kelly Accountants, says “this is welcome news that is good for local businesses wanting to invest as we come out of the current economic cycle”. In addition, for small loss-making companies involved in Research and Development, there was an increase in the repayable tax credit from 11% to 14.5%. There were also initiatives to strengthen the construction sector through the extension of the Help to Buy Scheme.

“This is welcome news that is good for local businesses wanting to invest as we come out of the current economic cycle.” Coleraine has been named as the first Enterprise Zone in Northern Ireland. These zones exist in other parts of the UK and offer hi-tech businesses tax incentives. Des Kelly notes that “it is good to see an Enterprise Zone being announced in Northern Ireland and is something we can market both nationally and internationally. It will be useful in attracting Foreign Direct Investment”.

For more details on the Budget or specific tax advice please contact Des Kelly on 028 8775 2990 or email:



Credit Unions expansion remit gaining support

By John Simpson


he Minister for Enterprise, Arlene Foster, has been asked by the Assembly to consider extending official support for the activities of Credit Unions in Northern Ireland through a scheme to help finance a wider range of services. Credit Unions have, in recent years, enjoyed a considerable increase in their membership and activities. The Irish League of Credit Unions reports that they now have 425,000 members in Northern Ireland: slightly more than 34% of the adult population. In Northern Ireland, 97 affiliated Credit Unions (CUs) have assets of £1,143m. The expansion of Credit Union membership in Northern Ireland has been impressive but the CU movement is a Europe-wide phenomenon with extensive membership on the island of Ireland, well ahead of a much smaller (proportionate) membership in Great Britain. A slightly unexpected organisational difference now exists. In Great Britain, the Westminster Government has amended the possible forms and scale of assistance for Credit Unions in GB, in ways that have not yet been made possible in Northern Ireland. In part, the legislative differences may be a consequence of the misunderstandings, or administrative oversights, which left the regulation and supervision of Credit Unions (as Industrial and Friendly Societies) in something of a vacuum until the crisis in the Presbyterian Mutual Society forcibly caused an overdue clarification. Now there is clarity that these Societies fall within the supervision and rules of the London based financial services authorities. In Northern Ireland, Credit Unions now operate in


a clearly regulated environment. One consequence of recent changes is that savings by members of CUs, as with customers’ deposits with banks, are now covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and members also have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service At the end of February, the Assembly approved a motion from the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, asking the Executive to make changes in the arrangements and support for the Credit Unions. Some of the 75 Credit Unions in Northern Ireland want to plan to offer full current account banking, with supportive card access. The ambition is to offer services which compete more directly with the existing commercial banks.

“The Credit Union representative organisation makes strong claims for the value of the possible changes.” The Credit Union representative organisation makes strong claims for the value of the possible changes. First, the wider basic banking services would be available across Northern Ireland, sometimes where there were few if any ‘high street’ banks in rural areas. The suggestion is that, in some places, expanded CU activity would make up, in part, for the closure of commercial bank branches.

Given the rapid expansion of internet banking, the CUs might hope to make a stronger claim not that they are substituting for banks but that their services may be more attuned to small savers with more conservative financial demands. CUs do offer loans to members at modest rates of interest (no higher than 1% per month) and are seen as socially responsible in helping members to avoid the penal rates of some money lenders. In addition, the CUs are not in business to make profits. Surpluses go back to the members. At present each CU in Northern Ireland adopts its own loan policy in relation to amount and purpose of the loan. There is a statutory maximum that a CU can lend an individual member of up to £15,000 above what that member already holds in savings. In reality, the average loan amount in Northern Ireland is £3,163 although the amounts vary widely from small loans of a couple of hundred pounds up to £10,000 or more, for everything from home improvements to new cars. Each CU delegates to loans’ officers the assessment of smaller applications. However, the Directors of the CU committee may review and decide larger applications. The CUs in Northern Ireland affiliated to the Irish League have loans outstanding of £449m alongside savings of £965m. The thrust of the business ambition of the CUs is to function with a wider range of services and to be permitted to operate current accounts on a similar basis to the commercial banks. That ambition is currently constrained. CUs can receive funds from benefit payments. They can give a disciplined approach to budgeting accounts for households. However, until recently there was a legislative bar


Representatives from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) gathered at Stormont ahead of the motion to support the expansion of Credit Union services, with Enterprise Trade & Investment Committee Chairman Patsy McGlone. Pictured are Martin Busch, ILCU NI committee member (Lisburn CU); Patsy McGlone MLA; and ILCU NI committee members Patsy McShane (Ballinascreen CU) and Martin Morris (Coalisland CU).

to providing current accounts with the equivalent of cheque drawing authority or backing for credit cards. That legislative bar has now been removed. The arrangements to add, or convert, to current accounts is costly. Start-up fees for a CU are estimated to be about £70,000, including fees, licences, IT upgrade and staff training. The early planning aspirations are that over a five year period 75 local credit unions would, in a phased programme, add current account activities to their services. Interestingly, given that the role of cheques is diminishing (and will disappear) the plans envisage a form of e-banking to facilitate current accounts without even a transition period relying on cheques. Current accounts, when introduced will allow for credit and debit card capability, the introduction of direct debits and payment of standing orders, as well as the receipt of payments such as wages and salaries.

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Government support? In Great Britain, the Government has provided a fund to help offset the start-up costs of operating current accounts and their continuing costs. In Northern Ireland, there is now a request for a similar scheme which would facilitate about 75 CUs to commit to the scheme, contributing 20% of the extra costs from their own funds and backed by time limited Government support of £856,960 a year for five years: £4.3m in total. The Minister, Arlene Foster, with responsibility for the legislation here on the CUs, has not yet advised the Executive how to respond to the request for support from the Irish League of Credit Unions. The commercial banks and the Post Office will have reservations about the extra competition in this market for personal savings. Nevertheless, the precedent set in Westminster makes the case for local incentives stronger on grounds of maintaining parity. There is something of a gap between the

regulatory powers affecting the CUs and the possible official support for providing incentives for their development. Arlene Foster acknowledges that the regulation of the CUs is now the responsibility of the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, which act as dual regulators. However, any Government financial support to expand and develop CU services here would fall to the DETI budget. Mrs. Foster, whilst offering general support for the CU movement, has reserved her position on support for a financial commitment from the Executive. In her speech to the Assembly she concluded that she awaits a ‘fully developed business case in support of the proposal and then it will then go before the Executive and may be referred to Brussels to ensure that any assistance was compatible with the EU rules on State Aid. The ambitions of the CUs now represent a business idea whose timing is nearly overdue.



Planning policy has to move with times By Tom Stokes, Director, TSA Planning While no-one has a magic wand, more flexibility in the planning system would certainly help where breathing new life into them is concerned. And it’s an opportune time to adopt such an approach. The draft Strategic Planning Policy Statement is currently a hot topic in advance of the delegation of planning powers to the new super councils expected early next year.

he sorry state of many town centres across Northern Ireland is an emotive subject – and often a contentious issue.


The overall thrust of current and emerging planning policy is a ‘town centre first’ approach. It’s aimed at protecting town centres and steering retail development towards them.

Politicians have been lining up in recent years to demand that something is done to improve ailing centres.

But retailing is an ever-changing industry, and consumer trends are constantly evolving, too.

Therefore planning policy requires a flexibility to move with the times and reflect retailing and lifestyle trends. In reality the rigidity of the current planning rules can actually hinder economic development and it can stifle opportunities both within and outside town centres. The policy to protect retail floorspace in town and city centres – which in some cases has been vacant for years – presents difficulties for locating a wide range of alternative uses in central areas which would ultimately complement the function of the changing dynamic of these centres. A more collaborative approach is definitely needed between various government departments to ensure town centres are promoted as viable locations for both retail and non-retail investment.

Comment on the Chancellor’s Budget By John Moore, Hays Recruitment


n Northern Ireland, Hays has witnessed significant growth across our business for the past two years, and many of our clients are in the same position, so we welcome the message that Chancellor George Osborne has upgraded growth estimates for the UK. The Budget offered some worthwhile measures but we were hoping for more that would drive business growth and encourage employers to take on more staff.

technology sector, deepening the capacity for further growth in this key area.

The Chancellor highlighted that many enterprise zones are now flourishing in the UK. So the announcement that Northern Ireland is to pilot its first enterprise zone near Coleraine is to be welcomed. The 5NINES data centre project near the University of Ulster looks set to benefit from incentives such as enhanced capital allowances and this represents a real boon for the local

Elsewhere, under 21s have been taken out of employers’ national insurance contributions, which supports the recent work to promote apprenticeships and combat youth unemployment. However, we were hoping to see further cuts to National Insurance contributions for employers, which would reduce the financial risk for SMEs when taking on new staff and create more opportunities for thousands of people.


This announcement also suggests that the government is open to persuasion on the merits of deploying a broad range of economic tools to leverage growth. For many within the business community, the hope is that government can demonstrate a similar degree of open-mindedness in its approach to resolving the debate around a lower level of corporation tax for Northern Ireland.

Aside from the increase in the Annual Investment Allowance, giving 100% capital allowances on capital expenditure, there were few key strategies outlined to support the SMEs which make up the majority of our local economy. In summation, many had hoped that the key financial announcements would stimulate recruitment, drive investment levels forwards and incentivise growth in our economy. While there were positives, it’s clear that the Budget has fallen short in certain key areas. In the longer term, it will be extremely welcome to see government at the national and local level doing what they can to encourage exports and to further stimulate private sector growth. For that reason, all eyes will now turn to the Scottish referendum decision and its impact on the prospects for a lower corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland.

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Branding & Marketing


Re-imagining an iconic Northern Ireland brand How did the Harland & Wolff brand make its way from the side of Belfast’s two famous gantry cranes to a range of high end clothing and accessories? Symon Ross reports.

the rubber tyre and many more groundbreaking developments. Belfast was known as a place of quality, craftsmanship, innovation and entrepreneurship. With Harland & Wolff at the centre of the city’s spectacular growth, the founders of the apparel brand saw an opportunity to put the brand centre stage for a new generation. “There’s nothing more easily and immediately identifiable as made in Belfast than Harland & Wolff. With our products we aim to showcase what Belfast does best and provide people with a chance to own a little piece of heritage,” said Dennis. “We are deeply proud of that heritage. But we are even prouder of being part of the extraordinary renaissance that


arland & Wolff is one of the most iconic brand names in Northern Ireland, synonymous with Belfast’s industrial heritage and its history as one of the world’s most renowned ship building cities. But two young Belfast entrepreneurs have launched a venture that is bringing the name to a whole new audience, and also creating a surge in local industrial pride, by using that brand on an exclusive new range of men’s clothing and accessories. The Harland & Wolff Official Apparel brand was the brainchild of Dennis Bree and Tim McAllister, who both work in design


is taking place in Belfast today.” studios in the city and had been looking for a project of their own. Proud of where they come from they began researching some of the brands which are instantly recognisable as being from Northern Ireland and the famous shipyard – now thriving again in the energy and heavy industry sector – was their first choice.

However, having searched out the region’s landmark brands and set about launching their fashion and accessories label, securing their consent to use the name wasn’t a straightforward process. Kelly Bree, wife of Dennis, and the member of the team who is working for the fledgling company full time, explains.

In recent years we’ve become well used to hearing about the halcyon days of Belfast’s great industrial past. When Titanic sailed out of Belfast in 1912 the city led the world in shipbuilding, linen, rope, tobacco, whiskey and soft drinks. Its engineering works were known around the world and its inventors had come up with liquid gas,

“H&W were reluctant at first as they didn’t see themselves as a fashion brand, they rightly saw themselves as an industrial brand. It took some persuasion but once they saw how we wanted to use the brand and that it wouldn’t be used inappropriately, they decided to licence the brand to us,” she says.


The entrepreneurs decided to set H&W Apparel up as a higher end, cool brand, rather than a mass market operation, fabricating all the products in Northern Ireland, Ireland or Great Britain. The founders also resisted the obvious cash in potential of hitching their wagon to that other great local brand, the marketing juggernaut that is Titanic. “We didn’t want to set it up as a tourist trap,” says Kelly. “We’re not a company that’s going to fire out thousands of t-shirts with the cranes on them and when you look at the label it says Made in China. Our products have a very high design quality to them. Our shirt was designed by a seamstress who did a lot of research into the history of clothes at the time and the finished product is very detailed. We only made 20 of them in the first run. It would be very easy for us to put Titanic on it and sell lots in the gift shops but we’re not going down that route.” The decision to focus on men’s fashion came about because it is easier to source and manufacture items locally. The first phase of the collection, available at www. represents the history, quality and workmanship of the famous brand through a select choice of shirts, t-shirts, polo shirts and ties as well as limited edition antique brass cufflinks, which proved so popular in the run up to Christmas that they sold out. Hand stitching products like its limited edition shirt in Northern Ireland makes them more expensive to produce, but the founders of H&W Apparel believe that the quality of work is so high it is worth it. “We still have some great makers here and although we don’t have the thousands we once had, we still have the skills and passion at the heart of what we do. We have created H&W Apparel to apply some of these skills and talents to a new generation of engineered garments and accessories,” said Dennis. Its core market to date has been men between the ages of 25 to 50 – or people buying for them – who usually have some ties to Belfast. Selling online, the company plans to add three or four ›

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designs to its t-shirt range each season and has more shirt designs and boots in the pipeline. Kelly says it will expand its range and the quantity it produces once they have the funding to do so. “To get to the next level will take blood, sweat and tears. It will probably be a slow struggle if we don’t have a cash injection. The website is up and running and we have products and packaging we are happy with. But we could sell in greater quantities if we could buy in greater quantities,” she said. “We want to work with other makers and manufacturers from Northern Ireland but for us to do that we need financial backers. Everyone we talk to about it is enthusiastic. They like that Belfast is bringing an iconic brand to the world. There are just not enough people who know about it yet.” That recognition cannot be far off. The team now regularly get emails from people around the world asking where they got such a cool brand name from. And, if you detach yourself from Northern Ireland history, it should come as no surprise that to someone in the US or Japan, Harland & Wolff sits very easily alongside more famous fashion brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch. “I suppose we can dream,” says Kelly. “Maybe one day!”


What’s your global brand strategy? Brett Templeton (left) and Cameron Stewart


rands are narratives, communities and cultures and how they interact.” So says Brett Templeton, Managing Partner of newly-launched agency pluralthinking. An ex-advertising agency planner from Belfast, Templeton left 14 years ago to work as a Strategic Account Director at Hall & Partners, Europe, then for Omnicom’s Flamingo in London and New York – latterly as Managing Partner of Flamingo London. He exited to develop pluralthinking in August last year. He’s joined by Holywood man, Cameron Stewart as Associate Director, Londoner David Hall as Head of Creative Services, and a local team of two. The agency has just formally opened its doors on Holywood High Street. Brett says: “Clients instinctively want to be braver as we come out of the downturn. Research and consultancy can inspire, illuminate, even warn – but you must still take a leap – whether that’s in your positioning, creative or consumer engagement strategy. The right strategic thinking and cultural understanding makes that possible.” pluralthinking is an insight, thinking and cultural intelligence agency that brings together the skill-sets associated with qualitative research, planning and brand consultancy – but with a radical approach. “Collaboration is our DNA” says Cameron. “We think it’s limiting and inefficient to rely solely or mainly on internal resource”. Instead the

team in Holywood collaborates with talented international researchers, communications experts, brand thinkers and agency partners in over 40 countries. “We leverage the flexibility of our approach and the cost advantages of a Northern Ireland location – together with the worldclass technology and creative production available here – to service clients who may be in London, Amsterdam, Moscow or Copenhagen” says David Hall. “And, of course, we are uniquely equipped to work with Irish brands entering new markets”. “It’s a more contemporary business model” adds Templeton. “We call it pluralthinking. pluralthinking is also a point of view that we bring to brands. It’s about brands as communities, brands as good neighbours, brands as conversations.” Based in the Holywood, with a client-service office in London, the agency works everywhere for world-class brands. Founding clients have included Heineken International, Brown-Forman Brands and The Brewers of Europe – although the team’s marketing expertise goes far beyond the drinks sector into consumer goods, services and consumer electronics. The first assignments have taken the team to 14 countries, including taking a look at high-end consumers in Brazil, Taiwan and the US, young spirits drinkers in London and the ‘anti-café’ phenomenon in Moscow. They have just won a project that examines the needs and motivations of London’s consumer ‘tribes’ for a global top 50 brand. Says Templeton: “We curate the best team for the task – then we get them on an airplane.”

Tel: 028 9042 8996


There’s no innovation in visual design

By David Woods, Director of BAG of BEES


hen businesses measure the value of design in visual terms they choose to ignore design’s greatest potential for innovation. At a recent ‘Designing Innovation’ event hosted by the Northern Ireland Design Alliance (NIDA) representatives from business, government and the creative industries muddled together to discuss innovation. Northern Ireland is currently 11th out of 12 regions in the UK’s innovation ranking - this event was staged to kick-start a debate on how design can improve that statistic. During the keynote address, Lee Sankey, Design Director of Innovation and Customer Experience at Barclays Bank, put forward the idea that designers bring real value to business when they are allowed to implement their skills in all aspects of a company, not just asked to make something prettier.

L-R: Lee Sankey, Sara Graham, Janet Coulter, Colin McKeown and Rory O’Connor was well received by users as well as designers, however the media became preoccupied with how it looked.

Lee uses examples from the mobile telecommunications and photography industry to illustrate the impact design-led innovation can have. Blackberry phones are universally maligned while the room was full of people happy to use their apple device. Apple’s investment in design through all aspects of their business was the key difference. Lee highlighted Kodak’s slow response to the new digital camera market – smartphone cameras in particular. Innovative thinking led the small team at Instagram to spot that photos are more about sharing than the chemicals used to develop them.

If we talk about design’s influence purely in visual terms, then the public will measure its success by individual taste. Whether or not you like a particular font will become more relevant than why it was chosen.

Lee’s final example came from – winner of Design of the Year 2013. The website collates the content from every central and regional government website into a single source. Its goal is to have the information people need available as quickly as possible.

Erik Spiekermann himself took to defending the work on Brand Blogs and was met with vocal resistance. His argument was that rather than just looking at the graphic, they had used the process to refine all design output from the city into one cohesive package. In doing so, they removed over


The design team at Edenspiekermann were recently on the receiving end of a public backlash for their work on a new identity for the City of Amsterdam. At first glance it seemed that the logo had not changed, except a line break added between the words “Gemeent” and “Amsterdam”, at a cost of €100,000, this seemed preposterous.

40 regional variations and developed an efficient, single system. Among many other details, they went from having 250 types of printed envelope and letterhead – to just one. The business case is now obvious, even in the short term the new system will save the client a lot of money. Design is empathy, Lee Sankey explained, understanding how and why people use something, to better design the thing they actually want. So the next time you have the opportunity to engage with a creative team, don’t focus on the visual – start by asking “Is there a more effective way of doing this?”

Northern Ireland Design Alliance


First impressions are powerful

Every brand has a message. As brand builders and communicators we use lateral thought to simplify these messages. Creating visual dialogues where disciplined messages are executed in undisciplined ways without compromising their intention or meaning. We understand the consumer is busy and so we develop work that interrupts their journey and is worthy of their time.

Stated is a graphic design studio based in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast, offering a bespoke visual communication service across all media. Sustainable client relationships, integrity and the development of appropriate visual assets underpin the practice. We believe in the innate importance of visual communication, and our clients know how effective design can be of continual benefit to their company’s development.

Recent project / Hadskis - Belfast Niall McKenna, owner of James Street South and The Bar+Grill restaurants in Belfast, commissioned us to develop a new brand for his then upcoming eatery in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. As part of our research we visited the Monuments and Buildings Record (MBR) offices and learnt that a working foundry dating back to the 18th century existed on the very site of the proposed restaurant in Commercial Court. The foundrie’s proprietor was Stewart Hadskis and they were noted for making pots and pans. This rich heritage naturally resonated with the restaurant. We presented the research and name ‘Hadskis’ to Niall who agreed it instantly. The resulting brand was heavily influenced by industrial typography. The identity typeface by choice is angular and commercial. The main signage is cut from 10mm mild steel and its application on associated literature is simple and understated.

028 9543 9092 /

We have completed a vast range of successful projects, crossing many different sectors. This includes branding exercises with The Merchant Hotel, Nike, Vans shoes and the re-brand of the Bishop of London which was featured in Creative Review magazine . Recent project / Beannchor Beannchor represent an very important part of our client portfolio. We are responsible for the The National Grande Cafe Bar, Patisserie Mimi, The Dirty Onion Bar and Yardbird. Being Ireland’s largest hospitality group Beannchor require innovation, dedication, consistency and the ability to meet rigid deadlines. Standing out from the competition is key. From The Merchant Hotel to Little Wing Pizzeria, Indie bars such as Cuckoo and Tilt, Stated continues to create strong identities that capture the spirit of the establishment and the attention of customers.

07856 488 078 /



SMEs punching above their weight


fter a run of recessionary years when most businesses sought to baton down the hatches and cut every possible overhead to the bone, there is a new spirit emerging and budgets are being opened up again. “Once you have cut everything as far as you can, you realise that you have to get back to thinking positively and looking at development and the confidence that is beginning to grow is good news for the design and marketing industry” says Ian Bennington, Managing Director of brand specialists PART TWO.

that they need excellent branding, high level presentation and compelling stories to compete nationally and internationally. Its not just food and drink. Many entrepreneurs are developing new ideas, new products and new services across a diversity of market sectors and establishing instant credibility at the crucial formative stage is essential.

“In over 30 years of heading up branding consultancy Triplicate, I had never seen business confidence at a lower ebb than in the wake of the 2008 decimation of property values in Northern Ireland. In the latter part of 2013 and since starting my new business Part Two in January of this year, I am very conscious of a determination in business people to be more progressive in their thinking and energise their sales using creative design and marketing.

Punching above one’s weight is a very appropriate description of what needs to happen at the outset. Presenting to buyers, seeking investment, convincing suppliers and generating early cash flow are all things that are made very difficult if one does not have professional and credible presentation. Yet many fledgling businesses or those with limited funding can find this very challenging. My experience has been that being able to access opportunities to have an excellent brand, packaging and website is hugely catalytic and many companies we have helped have had assistance from Invest NI or other agencies and this has accelerated their progress.

For example, in food and drink, one of the more robust sectors here, we are inundated with new businesses starting up with fresh ideas or established producers expanding their horizons and looking to export. As they do this, they are acutely aware

If a business attempts to generate market traction without good branding and differentiated presentation, they often have limited success and are then compelled to invest in it latterly which wastes time and inhibits progress”.


After starting up his own business in 2005, Ryan Lynch decided in early 2013 to give his store a completely new look combined with a highquality offering for his customers. He partnered up with the Henderson Group and SPAR Feeny was established…

Why I’m happy to choose

Henderson Group What made you decide to go into business? I studied a business degree at the University of Ulster Jordanstown and after graduation I established a career in the FMCG sector and started working for well-known brands such as Britvic, and latterly MSVC. It was an industry I felt very comfortable in and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges it presented. When the opportunity to run my own business presented itself it made perfect sense to seize it. How and when did you start the business? My family are in the construction business and we had the opportunity to purchase a retail unit in Feeny in 2005. The property required significant redevelopment, so with the family expertise in construction and my passion for retail, we got to work! Together we worked hard to completely renovate the unit and we opened the doors to business later that year. How difficult was it to become established initially? Establishing the business was challenging, but certainly worthwhile. Whilst we had acquired the existing retail unit and completely overhauled the interior we still had a vision to extend the shop and increasingly improve the store’s offerings for our customers. I felt this was important to do at the very start and therefore in the first year we expanded the store from 1600 sqft to 2800 sqft. This was driven by our focus to provide a good offering of fresh food. With this in mind all our refrigeration section was extended and a Food to Go counter was installed. The opportunity to develop several other retail units

alongside the store was presented and as a result they now house a chip shop and a pharmacy, which I think helps to complement the destination as a one stop shop. I am 100% confident it has been worth all the time and effort it has taken to develop the store. In 2013, I established a partnership with the Henderson Group and I rebranded the store to SPAR. I needed the support of a company which would deliver strategic and effective marketing, high quality product ranges and have the ability to increase foot fall in my store. The support I have received from the Henderson Group this year has completely surpassed my expectations. What are the benefits of becoming a retailer with Henderson Group? We have now been in retail for over 10 years and recognised with the increasingly challenging economy and retail industry that our store would benefit from a change, therefore last year we established our partnership with the Henderson Group. This would involve not only a fresh look and feel for the store but also by joining forces with the Henderson Group, who are a local, strong and reliable company. Driving fresh is hugely important to ensure the future success of my business and this particular sector is a big focus for the Henderson Group. The Henderson Group’s improved delivery service, which offers a 24hr lead time on all fresh orders and an extensive range of fresh produce available, has without a doubt had a significantly positive impact and greatly contributed to the growth of my business. My shoppers have welcomed the SPAR brand change, commenting on how they now feel they receive even better value for money and thoroughly enjoy the

addition of SPAR own brand products. To date we have added over 140 new lines to our range and our shoppers just love them! What qualities would you say you need to be a successful business man/woman? To be successful I think you need to thoroughly enjoy what you are doing and without a doubt take your business seriously! It’s important to plan and be organised, this will help to ensure you achieve your aims and goals. Never forget, you need a team behind you to ensure success and it’s important to acknowledge and reward them accordingly. Also remember to value your customers as without them you have nothing. What practical advice would you give to a young budding entrepreneur?  Passion, determination and the ability to get up and start again when things go wrong are indispensable qualities for budding entrepreneurs. From a practical point of view, financial assistance in the early stages can mean the difference between success and failure. This must not be underestimated. A sound business plan is vital and ensure you have realistic cash flow projections. Stay focused which will help to demonstrate that you really mean business and will help to ensure longevity and success. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take on help and advice, the guidance and support I have received this year from the Henderson Group has been invaluable and has strengthened my business as a whole.

Ravenhill Stadium ready for kick off

by Mark Haslett, Hamilton Architects

Family Stand • This accommodates the team training facility with a large basement hiding a double height gym with associated changing rooms, seminar rooms and offices. • At 2nd floor level the safety control room and a TV studio are located.


avenhill Stadium is the home of Ulster Rugby. Uniquely it is home to both the professional team and the domestic game with numerous domestic fixtures throughout the year, the most famous being the School Cup final held every St Patrick’s day. Many people will have been disappointed that Northern Ireland did not agree on a single National Stadium. We see this as a benefit as each of the three main sports can have a purpose designed stadium with differing characteristics for each individual sport. What sets Rugby aside from the other sports? It has been said that Rugby is a game played by thugs and watched by gentlemen and this is certainly true of the supporters. There is no segregation of fans in rugby with those supporting opposing teams standing side by side of the terraces. It is the standing terraces that set rugby apart and it is central to the concept of the new Ravenhill that there are terraces to each of the four sides of the ground. To add to the atmosphere an early design decision was to have the fans as close to the pitch as possible. The fact that alcohol is allowed at rugby matches is also important adding to the social aspect of the game. The new design allows direct access from the terraces to new ground floor bars and toilet accommodation. The seated stands have been designed with as steep an incline as possible to aid views and to provide a ‘cauldron’ like atmosphere. We are confident that a packed Ravenhill will have the best atmosphere of any rugby club ground in Europe.


Mark Haslett, Project Architect

Grandstand • This will accommodate state of the art changing rooms for match days. • Two new ground floor bars and food concessions are provided with direct access to the West terrace (formerly the promenade). • Large male and female toilets are located at each end of the stand. • At 1st floor level there are two members-only bars with access directly off the seating area and a committee room where visiting officials and dignitaries are received.

Key Project Challenges Our team have worked closely with the Ulster Branch to deliver an exemplar stadium which meets best practice in rugby stadia design whilst taking account of central strategies such as developing the grass roots of the game locally. Key challenges in redeveloping Ravenhill: • To keep the ground operational during the works: The two new end stands were constructed initially with the existing Grandstand and Premium Stands still being used. This meant that the capacity during the construction phase was not less than it had been previously. The new stands were prepared for the beginning of the 2013/2014 season. As soon as the 2013 season finished the Old Grandstand was demolished and its replacement has been constructed since. All facilities are due to be complete by the upcoming Heineken Cup match on 5th April 2014. • To provide a new home for the professional team: The Family Stand at the Aquinas end of the ground houses a new team training facility under the seated area. There are full gym facilities, changing rooms, seminar and video analysis rooms and a team room together with associated offices housed in this stand. • To provide an education and heritage centre: The first floor of the Memorial Stand will house the proposed Nevin Spence Centre. The Nevin Spence Centre is named in memory of the highly talented young Ulster Rugby player who died in a farming accident along with his brother Graham and father Noel in September last year. The new centre will exist to promote the qualities that Nevin Spence embodied, namely a healthy lifestyle and sporting excellence. The Nevin Spence Centre will contain interactive and audio-visual content and will enable visitors to explore the history of rugby in Ulster and the benefits that the game has for supporters, players and society in general. It will also provide a dynamic stimulus for learning in alignment with the school curriculum and Ulster Rugby’s existing grassroots programmes.

Memorial Stand

• To create a state of the art stadium with best

• At ground floor level this accommodates two new bars with direct access from the terrace.

possible spectator safety and comfort: Small details

• There is an official shirt sponsor shop located centrally.

are important such as the quality of the PA system, the

• Large male and female toilets are located at each end of the stand.

inclusion of the large fixed external screens, additional

• At 1st floor level there is a 55 seat lecture theatre and a space which is being fitted out as

toilet and bar facilities, and the best possible accessible

the Nevin Spence Centre.

viewing areas for those with disabilities.


Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards praised


he Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards have been praised for “encouraging Northern Ireland organisations to approach the future with great hope and confidence”. Now in their eighth year, the 2014 awards will take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 19, hosted by the BBC’s Karen Patterson and, as in previous years, the gala dinner is likely to be a 400-plus sell-out. The awards – which this year include a new Career Inspiration Award along with a number of revised categories – again aim to unearth those exceptional companies and organisations in the north which are putting an emphasis on developing, nurturing and getting the best out of their people. The Career Inspiration Award will focus on how businesses and schools/colleges are motivating young people and putting the building blocks in place to enable them to achieve the initial steps towards their career ambitions. Department for Employment & Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry was among guests at the formal launch of the awards in Titanic Belfast.

Launching the 2014 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in Titanic Belfast are business partner representatives. Front (from left) – Judith Owens (Titanic Belfast), Anna Beggan (Tughans), Caoimhe Mannion (Tesco NI) and Gillian McAuley (Power NI). Back (from left) – Gary McDonald (Irish News), Nick Gray (Liberty IT), Mark Regan (H3 Health Insurance) and Employment & Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry (Investors in People).

“From our inception in 1991, FPM has sought to attract, develop and reward the very best talent to ensure our business and our clients’ future success, because business – and indeed life – is about people and relationships,” he told guests.

Dr Farry said: “These awards help to recognise excellence and dynamism in the workplace and clearly support the skills work being taken forward by my department.

He said the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards are contributing enormously to raising the profile of best workplace practices and providing a showcase for organisations and individuals to celebrate hard work and style.

Among the guest speakers at the launch was Feargal McCormack, managing partner of Newry-based chartered accountancy practice FPM, a previous winner of five Workplace & Employment Awards (including Right Place to Work in 2013).

“The challenge for business is to unleash the energy in their team members to be creative and innovate collectively, because a united team, on an agreed journey and a common vision and purpose, is required to deliver sustainable


growth. Things don’t just happen – it’s people who make things happen. “These awards help to create the correct attitude among employers and employees, to change the mind-set to one of continuous improvement, and I urge all organisations to put themselves forward in at least one of this year’s Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards categories. “As you celebrate success you create a hunger for more, and your staff resource gets stronger and stronger. This also helps to raise your standards and expectations to keep winning.”

For your 2014 entry pack and awards information visit

Determined to change the opinion of estate agency


ichael Chandler Estate Agents is going from strength to strength. Since its inception in 2009 the agency has earned its reputation for selling property and has proudly helped hundreds of homeowners across Northern Ireland find their dream home. Michael expects that the market will continue to strengthen throughout 2014 as buyers become more and more confident that prices have now stabilised. The company reports that it is not uncommon for bidding wars on well-presented properties and there is almost a shortage of new homes coming onto the market to satisfy the current demand. The bold move to new larger state-of-the-art premises on the Ormeau Road has further strengthened the agency’s position within the market. So why is Michael Chandler Estate Agents experiencing such success? Its secret – to throw away the rule book and rewrite the role of estate agents. “We believe customer service is paramount to be able to maintain steady growth and secure future business” explains Michael. “If that means working every hour God sends then so be it. It is likely that if you carry out your business in an ethical and thorough manner, then


you will be able to become successful, expand your business and reap the rewards of the hard work and effort you have put in. It is also vital you gain the trust and approval of customers at all times. “We take a very proactive approach to selling every property we are entrusted with and deliver a comprehensive marketing plan that has been proven to get results. We create beautiful, well-written brochures, listing all the features, benefits and lifestyle possibilities and use excellent photography to capture the best features of the property. Our Premier Marketing Package also includes a video tour and floor plans which has proved very effective for luxury homes. “Our office benefits from a wall mounted state-of-the-art 42 inch touch screen display enabling us to interact with visitors and prospective purchasers, utilising the “Draw Search” facility on our website to guarantee the maximum exposure of the homes we sell. “The recession has had a profound effect on the property sector and purchasers must ensure they have the right finance in place which is affordable in the long term. We have exciting plans underway...,” enthuses Michael. ” add a mortgage and financial advice service to our business model. We are really looking forward to the launch of Michael Chandler Mortgage Services in the month ahead.”

Flags, firebombs & flashbacks

Executive Motoring

By Pat Burns

Sponsored by


Fleet registration figures continue to rise in 2014 New fleet and business vehicle registrations have continued to go from strength-to-strength during 2014, as February’s year-onyear industry figures indicate significant percentage increases.

Key to a new driving partnership

Across the UK automotive industry, new car registrations rose by 3.0% year-on-year to 68,736 units and, in terms of the contract hire and vehicle leasing market, fleet registrations rose by 3.6% to 37,029 units. Commenting on the recent figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Philip Miley, Sales & Marketing Director, Fleet Financial said: “There is clear evidence of strengthening consumer confidence across the automotive industry. What makes these figures even more impressive is that they are set against a backdrop of what is traditionally a quieter month in both Northern Ireland and the UK on-the-whole, ahead of the March plate change.” “An overall rise in GDP is reflected in February’s automotive registration figures with the fleet and contract hire market benefitting as a result.” “2014 is off to a positive start from Fleet Financial’s point-of-view and we are confident this is set to continue.” “In fact, together with recording a 3% increase in January and February deliveries, by the end of last month we saw a 43% increase on future orders taken against the same period last year.” “Like many local businesses based in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, we have been heartened by seeing some green shoots of recovery and we hope that the level of both public and private investment into the local business community continues to rise throughout the year.” Fleet Financial is a contract hire, vehicle leasing and management company with offices based in Newtownabbey and Manchester. February 2014 2013 % change Mkt share ‘14 Mkt share ‘13

Total 68,736 66,749 3.0%

Fleet 37,029 35,759 3.6% 53.9% 53.6%

Business 1,820 1,713 6.2% 2.6% 2.6%

Year-to-date 2014 2013 % change Mkt share ‘14 Mkt share ‘13

Total 223,298 210,392 6.1%

Fleet 112,238 110,976 1.1% 50.3% 52.7%

Business 9,762 9,078 7.5% 4.4% 4.3%

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

See how we can help your business succeed. For your next business vehicle, call us on

T: 028 9084 9777 W: E:



usiness in the Community has received the keys to a new Toyota Plug-in Hybrid Prius, courtesy of Fleet Financial and Charles Hurst Toyota.

The organisation, which promotes responsible business and promotes good environmental practice is delighted to be using this vehicle, which can run totally on electric power, boosting fuel efficiency, reducing running costs and lowering CO2 emissions. Ed Wright, Sustainability Director, Business in the Community and one of eight drivers who will be using the car explains: “This is the third car on loan from Charles Hurst and their corporate division, Fleet Financial and we’ve certainly seen the benefits of using a hybrid car. Whilst using the fully electric function for city driving, it also has the advantage of being able to switch to unleaded petrol, which is great for longer distances. We made substantial mileage and CO2 savings with the previous Prius and look forward to seeing even more savings with this new vehicle.” Ross Graham, Sales Manager, Toyota adds: “The Prius is a great option for fleet users. Its battery can be recharged from a mains electrical supply and we’ve had customers getting 168mpg. This type of car lacks nothing in the way of luxury with heated seats, reversing camera and all the mod cons drivers want from a quality car.” Damian Campbell, Sales Manager, Fleet Financial explains: “We work closely with customers to help them understand the many vehicle options available. We also help them understand the financial implications from a monthly cost, CO2, MPG and where savings can be made for both the business and the individual driver. Over 60% of all car journeys here are under five miles and hybrid cars offer the perfect, low cost, highly sustainable solution for business use.” Fleet Financial is offering Business in the Community members a free, no obligation consultation to review the efficiency and sustainability of their company vehicles. To find out more about Business in the Community, visit


Mazda’s three scores


ow in its third generation, the sporty Mazda3 range offers a choice of four and five door models along with three petrol and one diesel Skyactiv engines. The range is powered by a choice of three naturally-aspirated Skyactiv-G petrol engines – the new 1.5-litre unit that develops 100ps and 150Nm, and the 2.0-litre powerplant with two different outputs – 120ps and 210Nm, or 165ps and 210Nm. Diesel variants are powered by Mazda’s award-winning 2.2-litre 150ps 380Nm Skyactiv-D turbo diesel engine, which meets advanced Euro VI regulations. Buyers have a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The all-new Mazda3 posts some exceptionally competitive combined economy and CO2 emission figures. The diesel-powered Skyactiv-D 150ps four-door Fastback manual returns 72.4mpg and emissions of just 104g/km, while the Skyactiv-G 120ps petrol-powered five-door hatchback manual returns 55.4mpg and 119g/km. The new Mazda3 raises the company’s generous equipment levels to a new high, outperforming many established C-segment rivals in terms of innovation, specification and price. Buyers have the choice of five specification levels – from SE to the flagship Sport Nav. Every model comes with Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) which helps to reduce or prevent low-speed collisions by automatically applying the brakes if the driver fails to act, i-stop idle-stop system, and Hill Hold Assist (HHA) to prevent roll back on inclines. It is also officially one of the safest cars


on the road after receiving a 5-Star safety rating in the latest Euro NCAP tests. Strong residual values, coupled with lowest average depreciation and 2014/15 company car benefit-in-kind tax bills lower than a host of rivals are set to make the Mazda3 the prudent financial choice for fleet managers and drivers alike. The latest data from vehicle valuation experts CAP Automotive reveals that the Mazda3 range tops the tables and beats numerous lower medium sector rivals in terms of average forecasted depreciation. The all-new range has one of the highest average residual values with an average three years/60,000-mile residual value of 37 per cent, which is only three percentage points behind the more expensive Volkswagen Golf.

Indeed, low CO2 emissions start at just 104g/km from the 2.2-litre 150ps diesel engine and from only 119g/km for the petrol engine range. Benefit-in-kind tax in 2014/15 for the petrol engine range starts at just £42 a month if a basic rate taxpayer (20%) or £85 at the higher rate (40%) on the entrylevel Mazda3 Hatchback 100ps SE (119gkm) model. Similarly, on the diesel engine range it starts at only £48/£96 for the all-new Mazda3 Fastback 150ps SE (104g/km). On-the-road prices start at £16,695 for the 1.5-litre petrol100ps SE Hatchback and extend to £23,345 for the 2.2-litre diesel 150ps Sport Nav Auto Hatchback. Prices for the Fastback featuring the emission-busting 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D 150ps (104g/km) engine start at £19,245 for the SE derivative and extend to £22,145 for the Sport Nav variant.

The E-Class. ^ CO from 109g/km. 2 The E-Class. CO2 from 109g/km.^

The numbers work. The With 17" numbers alloy wheels, LEDwork. headlamps and leather upholstery, the E-Class Saloon lets you arrive in style, for less. With 17" alloy wheels, LED headlamps and leather upholstery, the E-Class Saloon lets you arrive in style, for less.

For more information or to book a test drive please contact us today. For more information or to book a test drive please contact us today. Mercedes-Benz of Belfast on 02890 689000 Mercedes-Benz of Belfast 6 Boucher Crescent, Belfast, BT12 6HU. Mercedes-Benz of Belfast on 02890 689000 Mercedes-Benz of Belfast 6 Boucher Crescent, Belfast, BT12 6HU. *For Business Users only. Advance payment and fee applies. Official government fuel consumption figures in mpg (litres per 100km) for the new E-Class range: urban 20.3(13.9)-68.9(4.1), extra urban 36.2(7.8)-70.6(4.0), combined 28.3(10.0)-68.9(4.1). CO2 emissions 234-109 g/km. Official EU-regulated test data are provided for comparison purposes and actual performance will depend on driving style, road conditions and other non-technical factors. ^Model featured is a new Hybrid SE Saloon at £40,525.00fuel on-the-road including figures automaticin transmission andper optional metallic £645.00 (on-the-road price includes VAT, delivery, 12 months’ Road *For Business Users only. Advance payment andE 300 feeBlueTec applies. Official government consumption mpg (litres 100km) forpaint theatnew E-Class range: urban 20.3(13.9)-68.9(4.1), Fund Licence, number plates, first registration fee and fuel). *All payments subject to VAT. Finance based on an E 220 CDI SE Saloon on a 36 month Contract Hire agreement with an advance payment of £369.00. 10,000 miles per annum. Excess mileage charges may extra urban 36.2(7.8)-70.6(4.0), combined 28.3(10.0)-68.9(4.1). CO2 emissions 234-109 g/km.approvals Official EU-regulated test dataSaloon are provided for1comparison actual performance driving road offers apply. Rental includes Road Fund Licence for the contract duration. Guarantees and indemnities may be required. Orders/credit on selected E-Class between January andpurposes 31 Marchand 2014, registered by 30will Junedepend 2014. on Subject tostyle, availability, conditions and other non-technical factors. ^Model featured is a new E 300 BlueTec Hybrid SE Saloon at £40,525.00 on-the-road including automatic transmission and optional metallic paint at £645.00 (on-the-road price includes VAT, delivery, 12 months’ Road cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Some combinations of features/options may not be available. Please contact your Mercedes-Benz Retailer for availability. Credit provided subject to status by Mercedes-Benz Financial Services UK Limited, MK15 Fund Licence, number plates, first registration fee and fuel). *All payments subject to VAT. Finance based on an E 220 CDI SE Saloon on a 36 month Contract Hire agreement with an advance payment of £369.00. 10,000 miles per annum. Excess mileage charges may 8BA. Price correct at time of going to press. apply. Rental includes Road Fund Licence for the contract duration. Guarantees and indemnities may be required. Orders/credit approvals on selected E-Class Saloon between 1 January and 31 March 2014, registered by 30 June 2014. Subject to availability, offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Some combinations of features/options may not be available. Please contact your Mercedes-Benz Retailer for availability. Credit provided subject to status by Mercedes-Benz Financial Services UK Limited, MK15 8BA. Price correct at time of going to press.

651726-1_MBUK_Belfast_380x280.indd 1

14/03/2014 16:


Improving an icon


he fourth generation of the iconic Range Rover follows the innovative spirit of the original design first unveiled over 40 years ago. The world’s first SUV with a lightweight all-aluminium body, the new Range Rover takes the capabilities of the marque’s flagship to a new level, with even greater luxury and refinement, enhanced performance and handling on all terrains. While instantly recognisable as a Range Rover, the new vehicle takes a significant step forward with a bold evolution of the model’s design.

perfect bespoke vehicle, the unique luxury ambience of the new Range Rover can be extensively tailored with an indulgent choice of colours, finishes and special details, from the immaculately-trimmed colour-themed interiors of the exclusive Autobiography series, to the stylish range of alloy wheels up to 22 inches in diameter. An all-new state-of-the-art lightweight suspension delivers class-leading wheel travel, providing exceptional wheel articulation and composure to deal with the toughest conditions.

At just under 5m long, the new Range Rover has a very similar footprint to the outgoing model, but with a smoother and more streamlined profile – the most aerodynamic Range Rover ever.

Outstanding traction and dynamic stability is provided by the proven Range Rover full-time intelligent 4WD system, with a two-speed transfer box, working in parallel with the sophisticated electronic traction control systems.

The luxurious interior has a modern character, incorporating distinctive Range Rover design cues, but with a fresh and contemporary treatment.

The new Range Rover’s capability is also reflected by its position as the best towing vehicle in its class with a 3,500kg trailer capability.

With over 118mm more legroom, the rear compartment offers more space and comfort, with the option of the new two-seat Executive Class seating package for the ultimate in rear-seat luxury.

With its acclaimed line-up of high torque engines, the new Range Rover delivers swift and effortless performance. Customers have a choice of a petrol 510PS V8 Supercharged and two diesel (3.0-litre 258PS TDV6 and 4.4-litre 339PS SDV8) engines, all of which are now paired with a smooth and responsive

To enable customers to create their


eight-speed automatic transmission. The new Range Rover features an allaluminium monocoque body structure which is 39 per cent lighter than the steel body in the outgoing model. Combined with weight savings throughout the chassis and driveline, the lightweight structure contributes to a model-formodel weight saving of up to 350kg compared to the outgoing vehicle. The weight saving helps the 510PS V8 Supercharged model to accelerate from 0-60mph in just 5.1 seconds, a reduction of 0.8 seconds over the outgoing model. At the same time, fuel consumption is cut by 9 per cent. The lighter structure has also made it possible to introduce the 3.0-litre TDV6 engine into the model line. With performance just as strong as the previous 4.4-litre TDV8 Range Rover, the smaller engine takes the total weight saving up to 420kg, and delivers a dramatic 22 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, achieving figures of 37.7mpg and 196g/km. The new Range Rover’s environmental credentials will soon be further enhanced by the introduction of a state-of-the-art high-efficiency diesel hybrid model that produces only 169g/km of CO2.


In Transit


he launch of a new Ford Transit van is an important occasion. The UK’s best selling van for the past forty years sets the standards for other vans to match and it’s big business – there are more Transits sold every year than 3 Series BMWs. The all-new Transit provides businesses with best-in-class costof-ownership and load carrying capability. The two-tonne model – available from £20,795 – offers customers significantly reduced maintenance and repair costs, exceptional durability, increased cargo volumes, and smart loadspace features, as well as best-in-class fuel efficiency with the extended choice of Transit ECOnetic models. The Transit ECOnetic models deliver best-in-class CO2 emissions from 169g/km (with 62mph fixed speed limiter), equivalent to combined fuel consumption of 44.1mpg. Compared to the outgoing Transit, fuel consumption has been improved by a further six per cent. Powered by a 125PS 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel from Dagenham, equipped with Auto-Start-Stop and Ford’s innovative Acceleration Control feature, the Transit ECOnetic range now extends to six different van models with gross vehicle mass (GVMs) of up to 3.5 tonnes. The standard Transit powertrain features the fuel-efficient 2.2-litre

Duratorq diesel engine with a choice of three power ratings (100PS, 125PS, 155PS) and a 6-speed manual transmission; customers also have the option of 125PS and 155PS HDT6 engines which meet the Euro HDT VI emission standards. Available in front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, the new van also offers extended two year/30,000 miles service intervals, with the time required for scheduled maintenance over 90,000 miles cut from 5.4 to 4.2 hours over the outgoing model. An all-new interior, with a stylish new instrument panel, incorporates a range of smart stowage solutions including a fullwidth overhead shelf and a large hidden compartment under the dual passenger seat. A 230V power socket can be used to charge tools or laptops without the need for special adaptors.

dynamics, quality and personalisation. Inside, the new Mini Hatch is quieter than the outgoing model, as well as being more spacious than before, safer and finished to an even higher standard. The new Mini is the first car in its segment to offer the option of LED headlamps for both dipped and main beam. Keyless-go is now standard across the Mini Hatch range. The start/stop switch located in the middle of the centre console features a heartbeat illumination which pulses before the engine is started. A number of switches have been relocated including those for the electric windows, which are now integrated into the door trim.

A new Classic


ven though the new Mini Hatch is instantly recognisable, the car is completely new from the ground up. Every component has been back to the drawing board in an effort to improve its function, performance or style. The result is ‘The New Original’, a Mini which is distinctly familiar but enhanced in every way. It features significant improvements in technology, engine efficiency and power delivery as well as driving

APRIL 2014

The new Mini features a range of three entirely new engines, each featuring TwinPower Turbo Technology to increase driving fun and improve environmental efficiency. The trio all offer improved performance figures, with maximum power across all three variants produced lower down the rev range, while fuel consumption and emission levels have been reduced by as much as 27 per cent when compared to their predecessor models. The Cooper Hatch has a three-cylinder petrol engine with a peak output of 136hp, while the S Hatch is powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine which develops 192hp. The new Cooper D Hatch comes with a three-cylinder diesel engine with an output of 116hp but offers an average combined economy of 80mpg. Prices start at £13,750 on the road.



Chris Guilfoyle has joined Close Brothers Commercial Finance as Vendor Manager, Asset Finance across Northern Ireland and the Republic. Chris has previously worked for Caterpillar and RBS Lombard, Ireland. Ciaran Lowry has joined Henderson Foodservice as Business Development Executive for its new brand, The Coffee Porter. Ciaran has 25 years experience in the catering and foodservice industry. David Gavaghan has been appointed Chair of Visit Belfast’s Board of Directors. David is the current Chief Executive Officer of Titanic Quarter Limited.

David Kelly has been appointed as Managing Director for HML Ireland. He will be responsible for aiding development of the business in the Republic. David Quigg has been appointed as Trading Manager for Ambient Groceries. Previously employed at Musgrave Retail Partners and Asda, David has over 20 years wholesale trading experience. Davy Private Clients has appointed Henry Algeo to its Business Advisory Board. The former Group Managing Director of Brewin Dolphin Holdings has held board level and senior management positions with several UK stockbroking firms.

Jenny Reid will be joining the National Children’s Bureau NI as Projects Assistant. She will be responsible for providing high level support across a range of projects. John McGahan has joined Santander as the Director for Invoice Finance in Northern Ireland. He has spent 12 years as the Head of Invoice Finance for Allied Irish Bank (UK). Kevin Keegan has been appointed Head of Human Resources for Ulster Bank. He has served as Chairperson of Make a Wish Foundation Ireland for the past six years.



Kieran McGaughey has joined Cleaver Fulton Rankin as a Paralegal in the Property Department. He has experience of both residential and commercial property. Laura Wright has become a Customer Service Advisor at Atlas Communications. Her new role will involve liaising with customers at all levels and sales teams throughout Ireland. Manus Savage has taken up a position in the Sales Division of Atlas Communications. Before joining Atlas, Manus worked for some of Northern Ireland’s leading software companies.

Also joining Atlas Communications is Robert McIlroy. Robert will become an ICT Support Desk Engineer, providing support and managing Altas’ field engineering team. Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus, has been elected to the European Cancer League Board. Roisin has been a member of ECL since joining Cancer Focus four years ago. Ruth Montgomery has joined the National Children’s Bureau as a Participation Officer. Ruth holds a BA Hons in English and Modern History and an MSc in Communications, Advertising and PR.

Stephen Mills will become Business Development Manager-Marine for McCue Crafted Fit. He will be responsible for enhancing the company’s reputation throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe. Steve Amos has been elected Chair of the Clanmil Housing Group. He has been a member of the Clanmil Board of Management since 2011 and runs a consultancy business. Dow AgroSciences has appointed William Corrigan as National Business Manager. William will be responsible for managing the company’s range of grassland and cereal products in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

APRIL 2014


PHOTOCALL 1. The Invest NI Leadership Experience event was a great success with over 200 business people attending. Pictured are event speakers Sir Tim Smit KBE, Eden Regeneration Ltd and Cofounder of the Eden Project, Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI with Mary Spillane, a consultant in business and leadership development and Padraig Canavan, formely of Kofax and Singularity.


2. The Keogh family are officially launching their range of hand cooked crisps in Northern Ireland. Keogh’s crisps have already won five Great Taste Awards and are Ireland’s only producer of gluten free flavours. Tony, Ross, Derek, Tom and Peter Keogh are pictured on the Keogh’s farm. 3. Diageo Ireland Demand was named ‘Best Larger Place to Work’ for the second year in a row at the Annual Great Places to Work Awards 2014. From Diageo Northern Ireland are Gemma Bell, Corporate Relations Manager, Jorge Lopes, Country Director and Lynn Graham, HR Business partner. 4. Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and Sinead Loughran, alumni of the Study USA Programme, met President Bill Clinton on his recent visit to Ireland at a reception hosted by Queen’s University Belfast. 5. Henderson Foodservice has signed a deal to supply all twelve of Wine Inns’ premises with its new coffee solution, The Coffee Porter. Pictured are Paula Beckett, Independent Contract Manager, Henderson Foodservice; Lisa Kelly, manager of the Chelsea Bar and Ciaran Lowry, Business Development Executive, The Coffee Porter.




4 5

PHOTOCALL 6. Over 100 HE teachers attended the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) conference to discuss health and nutrition in schools and the upcoming HE skills agenda. Keynote speakers included Cherrie Kenny Education Services Manager LMC and Nicola Wilde, Education and Health Manager Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (pictured).

6 8


8. The First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness hosted over 120 Silicon Valley business executives in a bid to attract further foreign direct investment. They are pictured with Dave Mosley, President, Operations and Technology of Seagate in Silicon Valley with Invest NI CEO, Alastair Hamilton (left). 9. Enterprise and Energy, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster spoke at the opening of the Social Enterprise and Community Renewable Energy (SECRE) Conference. Hosted by the University of Ulster and Action Renewables, Dr Sharon Loane, University of Ulster; Ville Kuittinen, Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Mick O’Reilly, Action Renewables are pictured with Foster.


10 APRIL 2014

7. Hughes Insurance has achieved The Aldermanbury Declaration, an initiative endorsed by the Chartered Insurance Institute to embed professionalism in the industry. Pictured are the Hughes Insurance team: Jo Metcalfe, Customer Service Advisor; Dean McCahey and Zoe Crawford, Training and Development Officers; Neil Spiers Junior IT Analyst and Jillian Strictland Customer Service Advisor with Training Manager Fiona Coulter (front and centre).

10. Lecturer Dr Kieran McLaughlin, Raj Samani, VP, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee EMEA, Professor Máire O’Neill, Course Co-ordinator and Craig McKeown, Director, Forensic Services at PwC in Belfast are pictured at the fourth Annual Cyber Summit where Queen’s University Belfast announced a new Masters in Cyber Security.


PHOTOCALL 11. Ballymena-based Stephen’s Catering Equipment has scooped up the top accolade at IFEX 2014 for its Garland Group Induction Griddle cooking technology, named Overall Product of the Show. Soraya Gadelrab, Event Director, IFEX with Paul Connell, Masterchef with Garland and Ian Manson, Sales Director, Stephen’s Catering Equipment, are pictured.


12. Technology business Oli, supported by Invest NI, have formed a unique partnership with The Guardian newspaper group to deliver a series of digital destination guides for tourists and other travellers. James Hanna, Oli, is pictured with Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI. 13. At the All Party Group on Small and Medium sized Enterprises’ second meeting, Chair Judith Cochrane MLA highlighted the ‘1 more in 4’ campaign. She is pictured with Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA, Chief Executive of Enterprise NI Gordon Gough and Angela McGowan Vice-Chair of the Board of Enterprise Northern Ireland and Danske Bank Chief Economist.



14. A new Skill project at the East Belfast Mission, assisting organizations developing social enterprise ideas, was launched by Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster. Foster is pictured with local MLA Sammy Davis, Rev Mervyn Gibson, Chairman of East Belfast Partnership and Mandy Patrick, Chair of Partnership’s Tourism Committee. 15. Roy Walker presented three local stores from the Supervalu, Centra and Mace retail groups with the prestigious ‘Store of the Year’ title in Musgrave Retail Partners annual award event. With Roy Walker are winners Peter McCool of McCool’s SuperValu Ballymoney, Neil Sweeney of McElhinney’s Centra Brookmount Omagh and Michael Wilson of Wilson’s Mace Coleraine.






17. Ninety-eight companies attended a recent ‘Suppliers Day’ event in Antrim for NI Water, allowing companies to learn more about NI Water’s procurement process. Bill Neill from Control Engineering Solutions and Ronan Larkin, Director of Finance and Regulation at NI Water are pictured.



19 20

16. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) NI Chairman and Partner at Kernel Capital, Jayne Brady joined Andy Hopper, co-founder of Acorn Computers and past IET President as he presented the first NI Engineering Excellence Award to Wrightbus Co-founder, Dr William Wright CBE (right).

18. Famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has become the star of four online films launched by Tourism Ireland to entice holidaymakers around the world to plan their own visit to Ireland. On his visit he saw a range of attractions including Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. 19. Speaking at the Ulster Society’s Annual dinner, sponsored by Tughans and Danske Bank, Darren McDowell, Chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, said economic recovery is beginning to take hold in Northern Ireland. Pictured are John-George Willis from Tughans; Darren McDowell; Simon Hamilton, Finance Minister and guest speaker; and Niall Harkin from Danske Bank. 20. Tourism Ireland invited ten top French business travel planners to Northern Ireland, including a writer from leading publication Voyages & Stratégie, showing them NI’s potential as a business tourist destination. Caroline Phelan, Tourism Ireland Paris; Laurie Thollon, HRG Meetings; Maya Miniconi, OPA Turquoise and Joanne Taylor, NITB are pictured.

APRIL 2014


PHOTOCALL 21. County Tyrone company JPM Trailers Ltd is creating 12 new jobs following a significant increase in export sales as a result of a range of Invest Northern Ireland support. Pictured is Kevin McCann, Invest NI, with Pat O’Neill, JPM Trailers.


22. The Lord Mayor of Belfast welcomed the EUROCITIES Culture Forum with over 70 delegates from 45 European countries to Northern Ireland for the first time. He is joined by Councillor Guy Spence, Deputy Chair of Belfast City Council’s Development Committee; Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy with Derry City Council; Laura Cassio from the European Commission in Brussels and Matteo Lepore from Bologna, Chair of the EUROCITIES Culture Forum. 23. Nic Stirk, CEO of SLA Mobile was named one of Ireland’s ‘Best Managed’ companies in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards programme for the fourth year in a row. Stirk is pictured receiving the award from Enda Kenny, TD.

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24. Denise Curtis, Personal Lines Manager at the Newry branch of Northern Ireland insurance broker Autoline won the title of ‘Undercover Insurer’ Champion in a UK-wide competition. Denise was unaware she was being judged on the ‘Undercover Boss’ style programme making her win unique. 25. Catherine Mason, Translink Group Chief Executive recently won the prestigious 2013 Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport/RSA Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution’ to the industry. Pictured are Nick McCullough, Chairman CILT Northern Ireland, Catherine Mason and Vincent McIvor, Head of Commercial Sales, RSA




18 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE


Northern Ireland ‘gears up’ to host 2014 European Rally Championship


or the first time, the FIA European Rally Championship is coming to Belfast in April. Around 130 drivers are expected to take part in the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally, the only round in the UK and Ireland. Broadcast on Eurosport, the rally is predicted to attract over 10 million viewers across the globe and looks set to generate over £1m for the local economy. Two of Europe’s brightest young stars, French Peugeot Rally Academy drivers Craig Breen of Ireland and Dutch driver Kevin Abbring, have been announced as definite starters. Other competitors will be coming from across Europe including Holland, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK as well as Finland and the USA but will also include many local drivers such as the youngest Donegal International winner Sam Moffett in an RRC (Regional Rally Car) Ford Fiesta, his brother Josh in a Mitsubishi Evo and Ireland’s recent Billy Coleman Young Driver Award winner Stephen Wright in an R2 Peugeot 208. An exciting new development means up-and-coming young drivers, like Alex Parpottas, Petter Kristiansen and Gino

Arlene Foster and Circuit of Ireland entrant Dessie McCartney (centre) from Bangor with Rally Event Director Bobby Willis at the launch of the 2014 Circuit of Ireland Rally.

Bux, will also be seen as the Rally counts as Round Two of the new-for-2014 FIA ERC Junior Championship. Spectators will have a chance to see what Northern Ireland has to offer; Event Director Bobby Willis explains the course is set to cover more than 230 kilometres across counties Down and Antrim. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Belfast City

Centre and villages including Newtownards, Lisburn, Downpatrick, Banbridge and Hillsborough will be hosting different parts of the event over the weekend. Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster adds: “Tourism Ireland will be working hard in our European markets to capitalise on the promotional opportunities these pictures and the rally will create.”

‘Slam Dunk’ Funding For Teenage Basketball Star A Glengormley teenage basketball player selected to be a part of the Ireland U16 basketball squad at this year’s European Championships has been named as the latest recipient of the Rainbow Communications Sports Award in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust. 15-year-old Connor McCann was chosen to receive this prestigious Award to help fund his international team training as he prepares for the European games in Macedonia this summer. Conor received his award from Chairman of the Mary Peters Trust, Eilish Rutherford, and Director of Sales and Marketing at Rainbow Communications, Stuart Carson. For more information on Rainbow Communications visit,


That’s about the only answer you won’t get from Agnew Fleet Manager. From reduced paperwork to bespoke reporting – we have the solution.

Want to know how to save time, money and take control of managing your fleet? Then Agnew Fleet Manager is the answer. It brings everything you need together – all at the touch of a button. Pair this with our competitive rentals and find out how Agnew Corporate is the complete fleet solution. Call us on: 028 9038 6600 Take control today - we’d be happy to give you a full demonstration of how Agnew Fleet Manager could benefit you.

18 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE


The Gadget Guide Technology journalist Adam Maguire reviews some of the most recently released and soon to be available gadgets.


Sony Xperia Z1 Compact With the Xperia Z1 as Sony’s flagship phone, Sony hopes its Compact cousin will appeal to those looking for a slightly less obtrusive device. Sony’s Xperia Z1 is a nice phone. It’s got a sharp screen, plenty of power under the hood and a very user-friendly interface to boot. If there is one overwhelming negative about the device, it has to be its 5” display, which makes it bulky in the hand as well as the pocket. For that reason alone, the Z1 Compact deserves to exist. It takes a lot of the same components – camera, processor, RAM – and squeezes them into a far more palm-friendly size. The Z1 Compact also continues the Xperia trend of being waterproof and dust-resistant, while Sony’s suite of apps offer a few more touches to set the device apart. The camera is great, too, though its low-light performance does leave a lot to be desired. Pretty and powerful without being fragile, this phone is definitely worth your consideration. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is available from free on a range of networks

Nokia Lumia 1320 Taking the ‘phablet’ category to a whole new level, the Nokia Lumia 1320 packs a 6” screen into a high-end phone – putting it within the ballpark of Apple’s iPad Mini. Nokia is arguably a late arrival to the world of the phablet – that is a device that’s somewhere between a phone and a tablet. Perhaps as an attempt to make up for lost time, it has come out the gate with all guns blazing. The Nokia Lumia 1320 has a whopping 6”, Full HD screen, powered by a 2.2GHz Quad Core processor and plenty of RAM. As is the case with most of Nokia’s recent fare, the device runs Windows Phone 8 – a small player compared to Android and Apple’s iOS but a very user-friendly one all the same. Nokia manages to pack in this massive display in a way that doesn’t make it feel quite as bulky as it should – that being said, this is still a substantial device.

then Nokia’s phablet is not a bad place to start. Sadly, though, as it’s a Windows Phone device, do not expect to be spoilt for choice when it comes to apps.

If screen real estate is worth more to you than anything

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is available from free on a range of networks



Previews Dell Latitude 13 Education Standard Dell’s tweaked laptop is designed to roll with the punches in a classroom – though its sturdy nature could make it a good choice for any worker on-the-go. In terms of power and performance, the Dell Latitude 13 Education Standard is about as straight-forward a laptop as you might imagine. As the name suggests it has a 13” screen – so it’s quite manageable in terms of size, while it has a relatively standard amount of processor power and memory under the hood. What makes this different, however, is the way it has been tweaked to make it that bit more durable. It has a rubberised trim around the screen to handle knocks, a sealed keyboard and trackpad to protect against spills and a solid-state hard drive so there are no moving parts inside. Perfect for clumsy students; but equally ideal for roving business types who cannot afford to treat their tech with kid gloves. The Dell Latitude 13 Education Standard is now available online

Pono Player Dreamt up by a music legend, the Pono Player is an iPod rival designed specifically for audiophiles. With the rise of the smartphone, you might have assumed the sun was now setting on the standalone music player. Tell that to Neil Young, who has spent the last few years piecing together his vision for portable music. He has taken issue with the compressed – and as a result lower-quality - music being sold on the likes of iTunes and has put a team together to devise an alternative. The Pono Player - a quirky, Toblerone-shaped device – is that alternative and it will be coupled with a music store that sells high resolution versions of thousands of albums. Given all the money spent on high-end headphones in recent years, there is a chance that this push for high-resolution music might find a market. Whether people will be willing to buy a new device – and probably re-purchase their back catalogue – to experience this, remains to be seen. The Pono Player is currently in a Kickstarter fundraiser and will eventually sell for $399

APRIL 2014



Quintin Oliver, Strategem International Have you ever unexpectedly run into someone you know from home in a far flung destination? On the top of Table Mountain in an unexpected blizzard of snow I met my Belfast neighbour. What do you enjoy most about working internationally? From over-enthusiastic security guards in Baghdad to fascinating conversations with Syrians about vegetarian cuisine, the diversity is awesome What’s your favourite city/country in the world and where has disappointed you? New York wins hands down every time, though Istanbul is amazing. China was disappointing. What do you look for in a good hotel? Considering I spent New Year in a refugee camp in Kurdistan, I will opt for a clean bed and a veggie breakfast to set me up for the day ahead.

How often do you travel, where to and why? I travel a lot, from Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin (London as rarely as possible!) for domestic lobbying, to Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine for conflict resolution. That being said, much of my travelling consists of cycling around Belfast. Other than your phone what are the three things you couldn’t do without when travelling for work? A good helmet, my paper diary (!) and trusty backpack (from which I can live for a week). Have you found a good way to work while you are on the move? I always carry a bundle of old fashioned paper material for when the Wifi crashes. What would be your top tips for anyone embarking on a job that involves a lot of travel? Embrace it. I’m inspired by the many people you meet at airports and on the Enterprise to Dublin - so use it as a networking opportunity. What’s your favourite App for passing the time? While Slugger O’Toole keeps me company, I must admit that my twitter addiction has developed apace in recent years - you can expect to read updates from anywhere about pretty much everything from me.


What’s the best airline you’ve flown with and the best hotel you’ve stayed in? Strangely I like cheap and cheerful EasyJet! As for the best hotel, it has to be a small place by the Blue Mosque on the Bosphorous in Turkey. Have you worked out a way you avoid jet lag? Not really - though I am lucky that I don’t need a lot of sleep so I just work through it. I’m the annoying one with the airplane reading light always illuminated. Do you speak any languages and if so have they been of use on business trips? This may be hard to believe but I had a wonderful conversation with the Archbishop of Medellin in Colombia in ancient Greek. Where in the world would you most love to work that you haven’t been to yet? East Africa - much to be learned, much to be achieved. Where are you off to next? I’m spending Easter at my partner’s cottage getaway on the Mull of Kintyre - long wet walks, trees and good malts.


NI Travel News enters the digital age Not only can holiday-makers read the magazine how and when they want, there will also be a whole new interactive experience for readers with a range of videos, virtual tours, booking sites, special offers and last minute deals available at their fingertips. “In this day and age, where more people are reading news on the move through their mobile devices and tablets, it is important to give your customers the choice to enjoy your product in whichever manner they wish,” said NITN director Jonathan Adair. “You really have to be all things to all people.”

Checking out the online edition, which will complement the existing printed edition, are NI Travel News directors Jonathan Adair (left) and Brian Ogle (right) with Ciaran Mulligan of digital edition partner


or twenty four years the only dedicated travel publication in the province, Northern Ireland Travel News (NITN), has been a ‘travel bible’ for readers to find out about the local travel industry, holiday destinations and travel-related items.

Now, they have entered the digital age with the launch of a free interactive App and multi-media edition running across all forms of computer, tablet and mobile device, launched in association with award-winning travel insurance website

The move will complement, rather than replace, the existing print edition however. “The printed edition will remain as important as ever to us and we will continue to make it available to the travelling public at travel agents, airports, ferry terminals, hotels and newsagents across Northern Ireland,” he added. Available from a range of online outlets, the app looks set to be an ‘app-solute’ success!

City Airport launches unlimited Wi-Fi


he days of being stuck at airport terminals without access to Wi-Fi are over at George Best City Airport. Sponsored by Ulster Bank, this latest investment, which is available throughout the terminal, will allow those in the departures and arrivals areas to stay connected ‘on the move’. “We understand that, in this day in age, people expect an internet connection wherever they go, and the 2.5 million passengers we transport through the terminal each year are no different,” said Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport. “Whether they are travelling for business or leisure, an unlimited internet connection at the airport will no doubt make their journey more productive and enjoyable and I am therefore delighted the airport will now provide a totally unlimited internet connection at absolutely no cost to the passenger.” Passengers who want to use the Wi-Fi connection at the airport, which has been powered by Virgin Media, can do so by simply signing in from their device in any area of the airport. To access this connection, passengers should select the ‘Free WiFi City Airport’ network.

APRIL 2014

Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, and Ian Jordan, Head of Business Direct at Ulster Bank, launch the new Wi-Fi service.

Over the past four years, over £15m has been invested in facilities at Belfast City Airport to enhance passenger experience and the decision to allow unlimited Wi-Fi access certainly does this. But it is a move that is about more that just convenience. “It was also our way of thanking our passengers for their custom throughout the last 30 years,” Ambrose explains.







Business Diary May 2014 date




7 May 10.30 - 15.30

Event: Business Connections Organiser: Enterprise NI

Holiday Inn, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast

For further information and to book contact:

13 May 08:30 - 12:30

Building Momentum for Growth – Delivering Growth Organiser: Invest NI

Clothworthy House Arts Centre, Antrim

For more information contact:

13 & 14 May All day

International Business Women’s Conference 2014 Organiser: Women in Business NI

Various locations across Belfast including: The Waterfront Hall, The MAC, Belfast City Hall, Titanic Belfast and Stormont Cost: See

For further information contact:; T: 028 90 393 837 or visit

14 May 09.30 - 16.00

Connections Plus: Sales Excellence Organiser: Business in the Community

WorkWest, Glen Road, Belfast Cost: FREE

For further information visit:

18 May 11.45 - 12.15

CBI Annual Economic Briefing & Lunch Organiser: CBI Northern Ireland

Hilton Hotel, Belfast Cost: Member – £55pp Non-member – £65pp

For further information contact: or visit

20 May 10.00

CITB-ConstructionSkills NI Information Event Organiser: CITB Construction Skills NI

CEAL, Carrick Enterprise Agency, Carrickfergus Cost: FREE

For further information contact: ; T: 028 9082 5466 or visit

21 May 09.30 - 16.00

Connections Plus: Access the Buyer (Facilities Management Sector) Organiser: Business in the Community


For further information visit:

29 & 30 May All day

Smart Business Show Organiser: Smart Business Show

Odyssey Arena, Belfast Cost: FREE with pre-register promo code “ULB”

For further information contact: or visit

If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Sonia Armstrong ( FEBRUARY 2014






Who or what has been your biggest influence or inspiration? Shane Logan, Ulster Rugby – his passion and drive in achieving his goal and objectives. Do you have any “golden rules”? Do what you say you are going to do. Integrity is hugely important to me. What would you regard as a “cardinal sin” for anyone doing business with you? A breach of trust or confidentiality. If you hadn’t been in business what would you have liked to have done? I enjoy scuba diving and if I had the opportunity I would have liked to have been a professional commercial diver. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most) how important is money to you? 3 to 4. Money is not important to me. The health and happiness of my family are much, much more important.

Fact File Name & Job Title: Mark O’Brien, Commercial Branch Manager, Bank of Ireland UK, High Street, Belfast

What is you most treasured possession? My family.

Family: Married to Siobhan. We have two sons, Chris and Tim

What are you currently reading? Rala A Life in Rugby.

Interests: Travel and sports. Particularly rugby. I’m a huge Ulster Rugby fan

What was your first paying job? Shop assistant in my Uncle’s clothes shop in Derry. What do you like most about your current role? I have a great team here in Belfast City branch. I really enjoy working with and supporting staff as they develop their skills and knowledge in a rapidly changing financial services industry. What’s the worst job you’ve ever done? I have been very lucky in my career. I can’t say I have really disliked any of the jobs that I have done except washing the dishes! Are you switched on 24 hours or is there a time when you switch your phone off? My wife will tell you I am a 24/7 person.

In the last few years, while on holiday I have placed the phone in the safe in the room but I was “allowed” to check my emails once a day! Has your personal life suffered because of your career? I have a very understanding wife and we particularly enjoy family holidays. I also made a point of spending time with my kids as they grew up especially with sport; often travelling throughout Northern Ireland watching them play rugby or judo. What do you consider your best business decision or idea? A number of years ago, I provided advice to a family haulage business that was in financial difficulties. The business took my advice and is still flourishing.

What has been your toughest challenge to date? Dealing with the challenge of a child with a potentially life threatening illness. What advice would you give to the 18-year-old you? Get your qualifications in a subject that you are really passionate about. Travel as far as you can and see the world. Which person, living or dead, would you like to have met, and why? Nelson Mandella, I admire what he achieved and how he delivered for his people. When are you most happy? At home with my family or at Ravenhill. How do you want to be remembered? As a good friend, a fair boss. As someone who you could turn to in a time of challenge.

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Ulster Business - April 2014  
Ulster Business - April 2014