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The portal, created and hosted by UUEPC, combines datasets on various facets of business, including the number, sector and ‘business birth-rate’ across various towns, cities and regions.

Speaking on the need for this dashboard, Senior Economist at Ulster University, Dr Karen Bonner, said:

There is a wealth of business data out there but it is contained in various formats across different government agencies, and that makes it more difficult for users to access or understand.

Although economists are very familiar with the data, the creation of this user-friendly dashboard means other academics and decision-makers can now access data that will help them become better informed and help them make evidenced-based policy choices.

We will update the dashboard monthly, adding ever-more indicators to facilitate insights about our business demography.

Speaking on the value of this initiative, Andrew Webb, Chief Economist at Grant Thornton Ireland, said:

As economists we use accurate, up-to-date data and indicators and we want to ensure those resources are available to our teams across the island of Ireland, as well as policy makers.

To deliver on this ambition, we have committed resource to this project, resulting in a single point of access, beautiful visualisations and the ability to compare various indicators.

This is the first dashboard of its kind and one that will add real value to all of its users and represents a really significant contribution to effective policy making.

Speaking on the origins of the project and wider policy aims, FSB NI Policy Chair, Alan Lowry, said:

We are very excited to partner with UU and Grant Thornton in this ground-breaking initiative. There is a well-known maxim that to manage something, it needs to be measured; this dashboard helps policy-makers to do just that.

Our previous research showed that Northern Ireland significantly lags behind Scotland, England and the Republic of Ireland when it comes to the number of businesses starting up each year. While conducting the research, we became aware of the challenges in establishing an accurate picture of the local business landscape, often because ‘legacy systems’ lack user-friendliness or accuracy.

If we are to grow the economy, we need to see more businesses starting up; but to put the right policies and supports in place, we first need to be able to measure what we have. This dashboard has a major role to play in that process and it will develop further to let data be compared across different countries using technology to remove the heavy administrative burden. That will help us get closer to ‘real-time’ data, which will change the face of reporting and enterprise policy-making as we know it today.

Access the dashboard