Foster says new policy centre can help rebuild the North’s economy

Centre will provide research data for the Stormont executive

Arlene Foster, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, described the centre as “a joined up solution to delivering independent policy research”.

Stormont's Minister for Enterprise Arlene Foster has welcomed the establishment of the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (Nicep), which was officially launched in Belfast last night.

The centre is based at the Ulster Business School and is sponsored by Mrs Foster's department,First Trust Bank and Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Headed by the University of Ulster's Prof Neil Gibson and supported by associate directors Richard Johnston and Gareth Hetherington, the centre will provide research data for the Stormont executive.

University of Ulster academics, principally vice chancellor Richard Barnett, have already been to the fore in carrying out research and policy analysis for ministers and senior civil servants.

Policy analysis
In addition to conducting research and providing analysis and policy advice, the body will also engage with other organisations that have an interest in helping the North achieve its economic potential.


“This focus on the economy demands robust, policy-orientated economic research to ensure we make the right decisions,” said Mrs Foster. “I believe that Nicep has a vital role to play in helping to provide this.”

She described the centre as “a joined up solution to delivering independent policy research”. “I look forward to seeing the centre working closely with my department as we continue to rebuild and rebalance our economy,” Mrs Foster said.

"Not only are we emerging from the deepest recession on record, we are also looking to grow the private sector through our economic strategy and secure the best result for Northern Ireland in areas such as corporation tax ."

Prof Barnett said it was vital that the University of Ulster conduct world-class research that would feed into the policy-making process.

“With the establishment of Nicep [we] are looking to do our part in transforming the economic landscape of a region that has, for far too long, looked to others to solve its problems,” he said.

Nicep director and professor of economic policy Neil Gibson said the development of new policy was integral “to accelerate any recovery and prepare for future challenges”.

Nicep forecasts “modest growth” of 0.7 per cent this year, increasing to 1.5 per cent in 2014 which equates to 6,000 net new jobs and a further 12,000 next year.