EU awards ‘Oscar’ to DkIT research centres for active ageing project

8 Jul 2013

Louth County Manager Joan Martin receives the three-star reference site award from EU Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes at the Reference Sites award ceremony for excellence in the field of innovation for active and healthy ageing in Brussels, Belgium

An initiative that is being spearheaded in Co Louth, Ireland, by two Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) research centres has been named as one of the top projects in Europe at an EU awards ceremony for active and healthy ageing practices. It’s part of the EU vision to increase the average healthy lifespan of European citizens by two years by 2020.

The DkIT-based Netwell and Casala and Netwell research centres are working alongside University College Cork (UCC) and others in an EU-supported project called the Collaboration on Ageing (COLLAGE).

At a recent awards ceremony held in Brussels, Belgium on 1 July, COLLAGE was among 32 initiatives that were named as a ‘reference site’ by the European Commission – but COLLAGE was only one of only 13 to receive the top three-star status.

EU Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the EU’s Digital Agenda, described the awards as the “Oscars of innovation for ageing”, and stressed that COLLAGE and the other recipient projects were paving the way for a healthier and ‘age-friendly’ society.

Such research programmes on active ageing in the EU will also provide professional advice to member states and regions for the design of innovation strategies under the EU’s €70bn Horizon 2020 programme.

Reference sites are examples of a comprehensive, innovation-based approach to active and healthy ageing, such as coalitions of regions, cities, integrated hospitals, primary, community and third-party care organisations that are able to demonstrate their impact and show particular innovative practices which could be transferred to other European contexts.

Older people in Europe

“Our regional activities in Louth have established a global reputation for leading new ways in service delivery and collaborations on the ground providing innovative services for older people,” said Rodd Bond, director of the Netwell Centre.

Working alongside its partners in COLLAGE, he said that the DkIT centres aim to play their part in the EU’s aims to increase the average healthy lifespan of Europeans by two years by 2020.

“The emphasis now is on scaling up the projects and applying them throughout Europe.”

This will mean providing professional advice to EU member states and regions for the design of their innovation strategies for smart specialisation and enhancing local ability to access Horizon 2020, Europe’s circa €70bn flagship research and development programme for 2014-2020.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic