New ‘smart specialisation’ strategy to invest in Ireland’s regions

11 Jul 2022

Leo Varadkar speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Technological universities in Ireland are set to receive funding through the new strategy to boost research and collaboration with SMEs.

The Government has published a new strategy today (11 July) to identify and invest in the strengths and opportunities in every region of Ireland.

The National Smart Specialisation Strategy for 2022 to 2027 is an essential prerequisite for Ireland to receive €396m in funding from the European Regional Development fund to support regional investment.

“The world is changing in so many ways. From how we work, to how we get to work, to how we communicate with one another, to how we access public services,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD.

“Digital technology and the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels are transforming every area of our lives, and that trend will only accelerate. This, coupled with huge global uncertainty with Putin’s war on Ukraine, rising inflation and increased economic competitiveness, mean that now more than ever we need to invest to protect our economic progress and prepare for the future.”

The new strategy will focus on five key areas: digitalisation and digital transformation; green transformation for enterprise; innovation diffusion; international collaboration on research, development and innovation; and improving the regional and national enterprise research system.

Sectors such as ICT, pharma, agrifood and renewable energy have been identified as strengths across the country during analysis ahead of the development of the strategy.

Ireland’s growing number of technological universities are set to receive funding through this strategy, which will help them perform industry-relevant research, hire additional staff and fund initiatives that enables technology transfer between SMEs and higher education.

Varadkar said that northern and western regions have been identified for the creative sector and ‘blue economy’ that utilises marine and coastal resources; the east and midlands for advanced manufacturing, food and financial services; and the south for ICT, design and the automotive sectors.

“The document is only the beginning,” he added. “We will be coming forward with a number of region-specific programmes over the coming months. The talent and skills of our people is the engine behind our growth, and we need to make sure we are preparing our workforce for the future.”

Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy, TD, said that recent times have shown regional enterprises are “resilient” and that continued investment will ensure that our regional enterprise base “remains competitive and productive”.

“At its heart, the plan emphasises the necessity of collaboration and as more regional programmes come online will help ensure our regions are ably supported to meet the challenges of the now and into the future.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic