The fund will offer financial support to businesses undertaking technology trials, which offer opportunities for the future commercial rollout of high speed broadband services.
The Fund, which is financed under the European Regional Development Fund Sustainable Competitiveness Programme 2007-2013, will have a particular focus on the delivery of broadband services into rural areas.
Launching the fund, Arlene Foster said: “Both the Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland recognise the strategic importance of the availability of high quality broadband services to the development of the Northern Ireland economy.
“The Broadband Fund represents an opportunity to further develop Northern Ireland’s already world-class telecommunications infrastructure, to support the growth of local businesses and efforts to attract foreign direct investment to the region.
“The delivery of next generation broadband services is high on the agenda of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Fund provides an excellent opportunity to pilot emerging technologies that will inevitably be part of the range of broadband solutions.
“One of our biggest challenges will be to identify affordable, commercially sustainable solutions for the delivery of services into rural areas. That challenge is not unique to Northern Ireland and successes under the Fund carry the potential for global application.
“I would encourage businesses of all sizes to seek assistance from the Broadband Fund and help contribute to the development of Northern Ireland’s economic and technological future.”
Groupe-Intellex is a Belfast-based business development company and a previous beneficiary of the Northern Ireland element of a UK Broadband Fund, which was managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).
Eoin Lambkin, Director of Groupe-Intellex believes local companies should not hesitate to seek financial support from the Northern Ireland Broadband Fund to promote the growth and development of broadband services.
Eoin said: "Four years ago, DETI’s broadband fund supported a small Groupe Intellex project, enabling us to bring a new world-leading mobile technology from the United States to Belfast.
"The project led directly to new investment in a spectrum licence to support new types of mobile broadband services - uniquely covering both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and overcoming the issues of international roaming in the border areas. The technology is being deployed for use in a range of new groundbreaking applications. These include Connected Health; linking patients at home with new healthcare monitoring systems and improving the value of NHS services and mobile data communications for vehicles, for example in improving passenger safety on public transport.
"The broadband fund has helped Groupe Intellex create and enter new markets and to grow new enterprises and employment. Now is the time to for local companies to take advantage of the financial support available and ensure Northern Ireland remains a European leader in the innovative use of advanced communications."
Full details on the operation of the fund are now available on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment website or by request -telephone 02890 529560.
Notes to Editors:
- The Broadband Fund will operate as a competitive fund, with applicants required to submit detailed project proposals to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
- Applications for funding may be made by any business, with different levels of assistance available according to the size of the business. Part-assistance with the preparation of the proposal may also be available for small enterprises.
- The Fund will be used to support research into the application as opposed to research of broadband technologies.
- The Department will make a number of formal “calls” inviting project proposals over the duration of the Fund. This notice represents the first of those calls and full details on the operation of the Fund are available on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment website www.detini.gov.uk or by request (telephone 02890 529560).
- Media enquiries please contact DETI Press Office, telephone 028 9052 9297. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.