Ibec and ESRI announce launch of major new all island economy research project

November 16, 2021

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today announced the launch of a major three-year joint research programme between Ibec and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

At present, significant data gaps are hindering the capacity for both forecasting exercises for the Northern Ireland economy and in assessing the impact of key events and policy measures on an all island economy where the population is set to grow to at least 8 million by 2048. Enacting evidence-based policies that protect the competitiveness of the all island economy will be crucial to weathering an exceptionally volatile external environment and securing its long-term prosperity. 

This research programme, which will engage with the UK National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), will address the absence of a data-based, statistical macroeconomic model for Northern Ireland, similar to what is presently available for Ireland and the UK. It will also produce a range of other micro policy analysis papers, including one examining the impact of Brexit on cross-border trade on the island.

Speaking ahead of the virtual launch event today, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “We’re excited to be collaborating with both the ESRI and the NIESR on this research programme that will undoubtedly play an important role in the future development of the all-island economy. This research can contribute constructively to ensuring evidence-based policies are at the heart of the shared island partnership approach to connectivity, sustainability, and prosperity.”

ESRI CEO Alan Barrett said: “The ESRI has been developing and refining our macro-economic models of the Irish economy for almost forty years. Over this time, we have seen the value of having these analytical tools to assess the impacts of economic policies and events. But we have also learned much about the functioning of the economy through assembling and analysing the data which underpin models. Through this programme, we hope to expand our knowledge on the economy of Northern Ireland and the linkages with Ireland and the rest of the UK.”

NIESR Director (CEO) Jagjit Chadha welcomed this new initiative: “It is critical that following Brexit and Covid that we try to understand economic developments at the level of the regions and across each of the devolved nations. We have worked for some time on the Scottish economy and are now developing our work on Wales. The particular circumstances that face Northern Ireland with its links to Ireland will present our modellers with some significant challenges but with the support of our friends at ESRI and Ibec, our London-based team will relish this new project.” 

The programme will seek to develop a model of the all-island economy that will both aid the wider understanding and knowledge of how it functions and also support policy priorities for the all-island agenda, in the aftermath of Brexit and COVID-19. It is envisaged that the new model will be used to produce economic forecasts on an all-island basis and to provide a framework to analyse the impact of a range of public policies of relevance to business. These issues include but are not limited to: business operations; the all-island labour market; skills, education and innovation; infrastructure; and climate change. The modelling framework will be able to capture cross-border spill-over effects resulting from changes across a range of policy variables in either (or both) jurisdictions.