Northern Ireland SME Access to Finance Report

Report and publications 15 May 2024

Devolved Nation project overview

The make-up of sub-national economies can vary significantly within a particular nation. Factors such as location (urban/ rural/coastal), the background of business owners (gender, age and ethnicity), the local business base, the size/maturity of businesses, and the sectoral make up all have a part to play. This project seeks to understand the extent to which these differing characteristics affect or influence attitudes towards the use of external finance amongst the SME population.

Having supported the Northern Ireland Enterprise Barometer since 2021, the British Business Bank has worked with Enterprise Northern Ireland to better understand the differences between sub-national access to finance economies and developed bespoke interventions accordingly. This series of reports pilot project seeks to adopt a similar approach across Wales and Scotland, in partnership with Economic Intelligence Wales and Scottish Enterprise respectively, whilst simultaneously undertaking a Devolved Nations comparison.

Northern Ireland Findings

  • Over half of Northern Irish SMEs (56%) reported using finance
  • 38% requiring additional financing over the next year
  • 51% requiring finance felt confident about securing it

Sub-national findings

  • North East and East were most likely to anticipate growth
  • Fermanagh businesses were more inclined to be using business overdrafts

Devolved Nations comparison

  • External finance usage was higher in Northern Ireland (56%) and Scotland (62%) than in Wales (49%)
  • Northern Irish businesses were most likely to expect to grow over the next year (54%), than in Scotland (38%) and in Wales (22%).