From Northern Ireland to North America:

Invest NI in Canada

As Northern Ireland’s economic development agency, Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) is responsible for growing the economy through foreign direct investment and trade.

The agency’s 24 international offices play a key role in this – teams in the Americas, Europe, IMEA and APAC help high-growth international companies expand into Northern Ireland, and help Northern Irish companies export internationally, connecting them with trading partners across the globe.

The Invest NI Americas team does this in the US, Canada and Latin America from offices in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, LA, Toronto, and Santiago, Chile. In honour of Canada Day on 1 July, here’s a look at Invest NI’s work in Canada…

Promoting Transatlantic Trade

The focus of Invest NI’s Toronto office is helping companies export to Canada, which is a key market for Northern Ireland. When the UK and Canada signed a free trade agreement in December 2020, it helped secure a £20 billion trading partnership – £11.4 billion of that is from UK businesses exporting goods and services to Canada.

Canada is one of the largest countries in the world by geography with 10 provinces, three territories and multiple major cities. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so the goal is to identify business opportunities best matched with Northern Ireland strengths and work with companies that can fulfil those needs.

The team follows Canadian news daily, keeping tabs on government and business at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to identify potential opportunities. They also follow what’s going on in Northern Ireland in our priority sectors: technology, financial services, materials handling, waste and recycling, agricultural machinery and technology, food and drink, and life and health sciences. Staying in contact with client companies and HQ colleagues helps provide a good grasp on who’s ready and willing to export into Canada.

We offer one-on-one support to Northern Ireland companies, and also:

  • plan trade missions for exhibitions like the Collision tech conference and Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show
  • hold industry update webinars with local trade associations to educate firms on what’s happening in market
  • introduce them to buyers, distributors, and trading partners
  • help develop market entry strategy
  • provide marketing and PR support

Invest NI is also the face of Northern Ireland in Canada, maintaining relationships with regional clients, Canadian business organisations, government entities (both ours and theirs), and the Northern Irish diaspora community.

Helping Companies Succeed

Canadian companies may not be aware that Northern Ireland produces fantastic fintech, cybersecurity and AI technology, or that the region’s been called the “Silicon Valley of waste and recycling” equipment, with companies like Terex Ecotec, Ecohog, Steelweld Enviro Products, and EDGE Innovate all providing waste management solutions in Canada. That’s why Invest NI has to be a bit of a storyteller, promoting the strengths of our companies on a one-to-one basis to potential buyers, and on a wider basis through marketing and PR.

With Invest NI’s support, Axis Technology and Bloc Blinds advanced their R&D and secured significant export deals in Canada. Lift manufacturer Pollock Lifts used our Trade Advisory Service to break into Spain, where they secured four new contracts. They used this success as a springboard into Canada, where they are now making strides. Cloudsmith, Anaeko, Elemental Software, The Vet Service and Locate a Locum have all utilised Invest NI offerings to grow and strengthen their businesses – they all actively export into Canada.

Invest NI has collaborated with the Irish Whiskey Association to get Northern Irish whiskey brands listed with local liquor boards and profiled in the Toronto Sun and Travel Courier. For many years, Bushmills was the only whiskey from the north sold in Canada. Now, brands like Dunville’s, McConnell’s, Hinch and The Quiet Man are gaining traction in the market.

As a result of marketing and PR support, Canadian Business has profiled Northern Ireland’s AI strengths and a key trade association has profiled Northern Irish agricultural machinery companies on their podcast, reaching Canadian equipment dealers.

Collaborations with wider UK government partners have also resulted in success. Invest NI supported an Innovate UK mission to London, Ontario, which led to joint funding for seven bilateral partnerships between Canadian & UK agri-tech companies. One of the funding partnerships includes Northern Ireland’s Devenish, which plan to develop the next generation of algae-derived products for use in poultry production, to be trialled on British and Canadian farms.

Northern Irish Diaspora

The Northern Irish diaspora plays a hugely important role in Invest NI’s work in Canada.

4.6 million Canadians – more than 13% of the population – claim full or partial Irish ancestry. One of Northern Ireland’s best exports is without a doubt its people. They go global and they do great things. You only have to look across media, culture, the arts and business in Canada to find someone from Northern Ireland. Mairead Lavery is a great example: The Queen’s University Belfast alum is the first female CEO of Export Development Canada in its 75-year history and was also listed as one of the 25 most inspirational women in Canada in 2020.

Invest NI keeps in close touch with the diaspora community, who are generous with their time and connections, making introductions that have resulted in business wins. Recently, Northern Irish tech company Thrive.App was chosen to build an employee engagement app for the Toronto Region Board of Trade. This wouldn’t have happened without the help of Brenda Gardiner, the organisation’s CFO & COO, who is from Northern Ireland and made introductions to her HR and IT teams.

The Invest NI team is very appreciative of how engaged the NI Diaspora community is in the agency’s work in Canada.

If you are interested in collaborating with Invest NI in Canada, contact Michael Barton, Regional Director - Canada.


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