FINANCE Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has held a series of meetings with the European Commission in Brussels on public sector and social innovation.
Minister Hamilton is also meeting with the Director General of DG REGIO, the Directorate which deals with funding like PEACE and INTERREG, and is addressing the Northern Ireland European Regional Forum.
Commenting, Simon Hamilton said: “Since taking office in July I have stressed the need for Northern Ireland’s public sector to become more efficient, more effective and more innovative. Challenges like pressures on our budget, rising public expectations and changing demographics all mean that if governments like ours want to do their job properly in the future and encourage economic growth and social progress, then they need to innovate.
“States everywhere are wrestling with these challenges so Northern Ireland is not unique. I am keen to learn from what other governments are doing to address these issues and have already met with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to talk about international best practice and have now met with senior officials in the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation to discuss their work on public sector innovation, and how Northern Ireland might play a role.”
The Minster added: “DG Research and Innovation, under the leadership of Irish EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, has set public sector innovation as a priority under its Europe 2020 Innovation Union initiative. I believe that there is much for Northern Ireland to learn from what others in Europe are already doing and also for Northern Ireland to share with the rest of Europe what we are good at in the public sector.
“The meeting was incredibly positive and, following on from it, I hope to develop a strong working relationship with the European Commission that benefits Northern Ireland and underpins my public sector reform agenda.”
Referring to social innovation, the Minister said: “I also spent some time speaking to officials from the DG Enterprise and Industry about the Social Innovation Europe initiative. Northern Ireland has a strong third sector and I am keen for our social enterprises to connect with and learn from their counterparts across Europe.
“Northern Ireland has strong experience in both public sector and social innovation. It isn’t just a matter of us learning from others in Europe. We can show them great examples of innovation that we have pioneered.”
Concluding the Minister said: “As I push forward with my public sector reform agenda, I will not only seek solutions to the huge challenges we face from other states, but I will also highlight Northern Ireland as a place where innovation in the public sector and third sector is happening at a high standard.”