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Covid scheme helps Northern Ireland SMEs to achieve business innovation

Pictured with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons (centre) at Born & Raised Waffles in Ahoghill are (left) Alan McKeown, Invest NI’s Chief Transformation Officer and Michael Henderson, owner of Born & Raised Waffles.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has today welcomed the support that the Economic Recovery Innovation Grant (ERIG) has offered to 248 SMEs across Northern Ireland.

The scheme was developed by Invest Northern Ireland to help SMEs to recover from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic by developing new, and improving existing, projects, services or processes through innovation. It received £5.5million of funding from the Department for Economy’s Economic Recovery Action Plan.

The Minister visited Born & Raised Waffles in Ahoghill, one of the 248 businesses that received an offer of support through ERIG.

Pictured at Born & Raised Waffles in Ahoghill are (l-r) Economy Minister Gordon Lyons; Michael Henderson, owner of Born & Raised Waffles; and Alan McKeown, Invest NI’s Chief Transformation.

The Minister said: 

“Innovation helps to ensure a company grows and stays competitive in market, making it a core part of my Department’s 10X Economic Vision. It is encouraging that so many businesses, such as Born & Raised Waffles, have used the Economic Recovery Innovation Grant to progress their innovative ideas and projects.”

Born & Raised Waffles produces and supplies homemade snacks and sweets from its bakery and waffle truck.

The Minister added:

“ERIG has given Born & Raised Waffles the confidence and ability to adapt its product range, so that it can increase its reach in new markets. This type of strategic thinking is how SMEs continue to meet customers’ needs, and how we drive our economy forward.”

Invest NI offered Born & Raised Waffles ERIG support towards the cost of new equipment, marketing, and product trials and testing, to launch its new stroopwafel product. The company has developed its own unique recipe to create the soft cinnamon waffle biscuit.

Michael Henderson, owner of Born & Raised Waffles, said:

“The pandemic forced us to change the nature of our business from local deliveries to exploring how to build a bigger customer base online. Invest NI’s ERIG support helped us to explore innovative ways in which to do this.

“After much research, we decided to add stroopwafels products to our business, as they have a longer shelf life than the Belgian Liège waffles we had been selling to date, making them more effective for exporting. ERIG helped us to purchase new equipment and to test and develop our idea, so that we now have a suitable product for online ordering.

"We will also use our new product to develop distribution deals with coffee shops and retailers, creating a new customer base so we can grow more effectively.”

Alan McKeown, Invest NI’s Chief Transformation Officer, said:

“Covid-19 has presented unique challenges and opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Innovative ideas can add value to a business, brought to life by testing, validating, and development. This can often be a daunting process for SMEs to start. We developed this scheme to help SMEs to adapt through innovation so that they could increase their growth. It’s now great to see so many small businesses such as Born & Raised Waffles flourishing following ERIG support, and I look forward to seeing where this new product development will take them.”

In recognition of Born & Raised Waffles’ commitment to innovation, it has been awarded a Gold Level Innovator Certificate from Innovate NI.

Invest NI is committed to driving innovation in Northern Ireland and is a proud partner of Innovate NI, a Department for the Economy programme, helping local businesses innovate successfully.

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