1) The Economist talks about getting back to business.
Worth a read.
Panos Lioulias, chief executive of Qubis, a venture-capital outfit that nurtures spin-offs from Queen’s University in Belfast, thinks indigenous entrepreneurs are a big part of the remedy. Northern Ireland’s universities turn out top-notch graduates in physics, life sciences, computing and the like—the basic stuff of start-ups. One of Qubis’s stars is Andor, founded in 1989 by a physics graduate student, Hugh Cormican, who hit on new imaging technology. Andor went public in 2004 and is now valued at £195m ($314m). Sheena Lewis, an academic biologist, launched new diagnostic tests for male infertility in May; she says she is already getting inquiries from India and China.
But such firms, however successful, offer a limited number of jobs: Andor employs only 300 people. So for many, foreign direct investment is the real key. In the past, as the Republic of Ireland was attracting the likes of Google and Dell, its troubled northern neighbour found it tougher, despite offering low costs and desirable skills. That has begun to change—and not only because of economic turmoil in the south.
Many businessmen praise Invest Northern Ireland, the agency charged with regional development, for pulling in high-quality inward investment, especially in finance, technology and business services. In the 12 months to March it secured over 2,800 new jobs, 80% of them paying above the private-sector average. The hitch is that, under EU rules, the state financial aid that lubricated such deals will end in 2013.
Northern Ireland is now agitating to cut its corporation-tax rate from Britain’s 26% to something more like the 12.5% in Ireland. “With this tool we will not only grow the Northern Ireland economy but also contribute to the UK’s,” says Arlene Foster, enterprise minister at Stormont. London may well agree—if the province gives up some of its central-government grant in exchange. Others argue that inward investment will anyway be constrained by economic woes elsewhere, and that Ulster’s best asset is its educated workers, so any gamble that imperils the funding of public services is a mistake. A decision is expected from Whitehall in the autumn.