iFactory – a 36 month EU funded programme designed to provide bespoke innovation support to SMEs across Northern Ireland and the border counties – will culminate in a celebration conference and awards ceremony featuring fragrance entrepreneur Jo Malone as keynote speaker in the City Hotel, Derry-Londonderry on January 29.
Led by North West Regional College and managed by the Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Centre (NORIBIC), the £1.65 million iFactory programme was funded through the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and has supported 150 small businesses.
Dr Bernard Toal, Chief Executive of NORIBIC, explains: “Small and micro businesses across the INTERREG IVA region have huge potential for growth but are often hampered by obstacles which the iFactory believes can be overcome with the application of innovation.
“By embracing innovation as an integral and key component of a business’ products, processes and services we have shown iFactory participants how to shorten their improvement journey and move closer to realising their growth potential.
“We are delighted to welcome Jo Malone as headline speaker, given both her personal success in building a worldwide brand and also her extensive experience in helping small businesses realise their dreams of trading on the high street.”
Fifteen partners have worked together to deliver the programme including all of Northern Ireland’s further education colleges, Letterkenny and Sligo Industries of Technology, NORIBIC and West BIC, and five county enterprise boards in the border counties. Each partner contributed their expertise to the mentoring pool which was accessed by participants in one-to-one sessions and web based information through i-learning seminars and conferences.
Lorraine McCourt, Director with the SEUPB, added: “This project has acted as an invaluable catalyst for real innovation development amongst a significant number of locally based SMEs, on a cross border basis.
“By providing the support, expertise and resources these firms need to improve their business offering the iFactory programme has helped them to become more competitive within the global marketplace. I look forward to sharing the experiences and celebrating the success of the participating businesses on January 29.”
The iFactory Celebration Conference and Awards will comprise a showcase of a selection of participating companies and addresses from keynote speakers followed by dinner and the presentation of five iFactory Innovation awards recognising Innovation in Growth, Export, New Service Development, New Product Development and Innovation Continuum.