The rate of business start-ups in Northern Ireland - the so-called business birth rate - has consistently lagged behind other parts of the UK, despite an increasing range of support. To evaluate why this is the case, FSB Northern Ireland and Ulster University Business School have produced this report and associated campaign - ‘Back to the Start-up’.

The report examines areas such as the policy landscape, support available, the entrepreneurial ‘ecosystem’ and explores how a lack of attention to social and cultural influences might be affecting the rate of business start-ups here.  FSB is fully committed to removing the barriers, to championing entrepreneurship and bringing all of its benefits to the fore.     

We hope our campaign will act to stimulate the conversation and make progress, so that in future starting a business will be viewed much like when we enter employment - as the norm, rather than the exception.

Key considerations

Our recommendations

Create a balanced enterprise ecosystem across Northern Ireland. 

We propose that there is real value in seeking to develop a truly balanced enterprise ecosystem across Northern Ireland. This system would have more than a single focus on leveraging the institutional supports available with an ambition and that this, in itself, will be enough to increase the rate of business start-ups.

Commission a new steering group. 

There is a need constantly to research what is working, what isn’t working and why - and for the partners, guided by the available intelligence, to have the courage to make necessary changes.

A ‘coming together’ of relevant stakeholders in what could be a business start-up ‘Forum’ could be charged with responsibility and corresponding authority, to overview the development and implementation of a coordinated strategy that fosters an enterprise ecosystem in Northern Ireland.

Strategic leadership now and in the future.

An intermediate to long-term strategy requires more vision, self-belief, determination, calculated risk-taking as well as strategic leadership. All of these traits are well-recognised behavioural traits and competencies of entrepreneurial people.

Celebrate entrepreneurs.

Northern Ireland also needs to celebrate entrepreneurial people, in every context, from business start-ups, to those who choose to grow their businesses, to those active in developing social enterprises, right through to entrepreneurial individuals within our health and social care sector, our universities and our communities.

We should make a big deal of enterprising and entrepreneurial people in Northern Ireland who challenge the statusquo in markets, technologies, institutions and in society in ways that add value to citizens - including those who start-up businesses. We need to start a revolution in this regard - success in this enterprise will, in consequence, bring the business start-up rates we seek.


Read the reports

Summary Report 

Get the key facts and recommendations with our summary report. 


Full report 

Take a deep dive and get the full picture with our full report.

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