New National Development Plan pledges funds for infrastructure and research

4 Oct 2021

Cabinet meeting in UCC today. Image: Julien Behal Photography

The renewed NDP commits to long-term investment in almost every sector, including a Green Transition Fund for businesses.

The Government of Ireland today (4 October) launched a renewed version of the National Development Plan (NDP) for the years 2021 to 2030.

The new plan is the largest to date, promising €165bn of investment in Ireland over the next nine years with a particular focus on infrastructure and the climate crisis. It’s part of the broader Project Ireland 2040, the 2020 annual report of which was also launched today.

“We need to anticipate what the Ireland of 2040 will look like – what our jobs will be like, how we will travel, how we will live. With a rapidly rising population, Ireland needs to invest big in infrastructure,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD.

“This updated NDP will see this level of investment grow to 5pc of gross national income, from €12.7bn this year to €19.3bn in 2030. We are investing in the future and going for growth.”

Among the projects mentioned in the new NDP was the National Broadband Plan. The Government committed to accelerating some parts of the roll-out, “bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled for years six and seven of the deployment plan to an earlier date”.

The NDP also made repeated references to the importance of remote working hubs across Ireland and pledged to provide “supports” to them.

‘This is a National Development Plan for a cleaner, greener, connected Ireland’

The Government pledged to “progress key international interconnection projects” such as the Celtic Interconnector, and reaffirmed its aim to have the project completed by 2026. The resilience and capacity of Ireland’s electrical grid has been the topic of much political discussion in recent weeks.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, TD, welcomed the allocation of €12.9bn for his department and said it reflects the “sheer scale of ambition and pace” that it has set out in the recent Climate Act.

“This is a National Development Plan for a cleaner, greener, connected Ireland – one that supports communities and our climate goal to cut emissions in half by 2030.”

On the topic of the climate crisis, the NDP also committed to establishing a Green Transition Fund to “drive industrial sectors to play their part in the national decarbonisation objective, while building resilience in businesses that are particularly exposed to future increases in carbon pricing or further regulations”.

It also included plans to launch a Digital Transition Fund to “incentivise businesses to progress along a digital transition ladder”, digitise existing activities, and create of new products and markets.

In terms of education, the NDP commits to capital investment in technological universities (TUs) around the country. It highlighted a number of ongoing and approved projects on the campuses of TUs, and said “further campus development and expansion will be supported where required”.

The Government also plans to invest in research partnerships between TUs and other universities via Science Foundation Ireland. The NDP commits to continued funding of the National Grand Challenges Programme to facilitate research and innovation projects across areas such as climate, health, digital and agriculture

Minister of State at the Department of Higher Education Niall Collins, TD, commented: “The NDP published today recognises the importance of investments in further and higher education, research and innovation to Ireland’s future prosperity and resilience.

“Whether in buildings, equipment or research excellence, investments in this area are fundamentally investments in our people, and in the skills and talent that will enable Ireland to flourish as an economy and society. The NDP will enable us to invest in new and upgraded infrastructure, both buildings and digital, to support capacity expansion and skills development.”

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Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin