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Four companies have been successfully selected for the first stage of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition presenting ideas to help Belfast City Council maximise revenue from business rates.

nquiringminds (Southampton) and The Behaviouralist (London) join Analytics Engines and RF Proximity, from Belfast, in winning up to £5,000 to develop a proof of concept for their ideas. A second phase later this year will award up to £100,000 in total to two companies for further development.

Nick Allott, CEO of nquiringminds said “we are innovating in big data and our ideas and analysis will help cities to look at their assets and infrastructure in a way that ensures their vibrancy and growth, bringing in the right revenue to balance the needs of the city with its prosperity. Attracting the right business to the right area and generating income and growth in jobs and business is at the heart of this big data challenge. We deal in complexity and ‘hard’ and are committed to innovating to get a great outcome for Belfast.”

Business rates are a valuable source of income for both the Northern Ireland Executive and Belfast City Council as rates based capital is the foundation for the delivery of public services.

The council launched the SBRI competition in partnership with the Department of Finance Land and Property Services (LPS) and Future Cities Catapult aiming ‘to encourage the development of a timely, accurate, cost effective and equitable solution which can be implemented to maximise business rate revenue for the city.”

Funding has come from the Executive’s Pilot SBRI Challenge Fund which is jointly managed by the Department of Finance and the Department for the Economy.

Congratulating the successful companies Councillor Aileen Graham, Chair of the council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “We are delighted at the interest shown in the competition and the standard of the entries put forward – it is particularly gratifying to see local companies competing with, and being able to hold their own, against innovative companies from other areas.”

“By maximising business rates revenue, Belfast can provide best services to the whole community to enhance the quality of life and boost our economy,” she added.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, whose department is supporting the competition, said: “I believe that our public sector should embrace innovative solutions to improve services and ensure value for money. I look forward to seeing how this competition progresses and how these proposals will be further developed to maximise the rating revenue for Belfast City Council and
the Executive’s funding pot for public services.”

Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, also welcomed the competition. He said: “The SBRI has proven to be one of the most effective ways we can use the buying power of the public sector to drive innovation and I am particularly pleased to see local companies competing and winning contracts against competition from across the UK and Europe”.