Engineering, food and life sciences top the bill as the areas of opportunity for bringing full employment to Ireland by 2018, the CEOs of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland told Siliconrepublic.com.
Earlier today, the Irish Government revealed plans to invest €250m in eight regional locations in Ireland to spread job creation more evenly throughout the land.
The €250m plan is made up of €100m in Enterprise Ireland funding and €150m in IDA capital investment funding.
But what shape will these plans take and how will regions best be organised to grasp new opportunities for their people?
Food, software and engineering
We spoke to Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon about the plan.
“In 2014 when we did our employment survey every region in the country grew last year. This is about working with every region to come up with a plan, identifying what the strengths of the region are, what we can be really good at in that region and what the State and all the players have to do to maximise that potential.
“It is a bottom-up approach and we are doing very wide consultation in every country and out of that we will come up with various initiatives. This funding being announced today provides the capacity for regions to compete for funding to be able to implement those plans, so it will really be about responding to what every region comes up with to maximise that potential.”
When asked what skills people should be best equipped with to ensure they share in the momentum in their region, Sinnamon said it was a work in progress, but that engineering and opportunities in the food sector loomed the largest.
“We’re certainly working very closely with the institutes of technology and the third-level colleges and with Solas and all the employer groups to identify the skills that will be needed and working with players to respond to those needs.
“From an Enterprise Ireland perspective, the largest sector in Ireland is food, and when food does well it has a massive spin-off in terms of the local economy in terms of direct purchases and the knock-on effect locally is massive.
“For the past two years, international software and services have been really strong in terms of job creation and really what we saw last year was growth in every sector. And one sector that is a big focus for us now is the engineering sector, where you have really superb products developed by Irish companies who are world leaders in their field and these are companies we will work closely with to maximise the size of those companies and the growth potential.”
Property solutions can make the difference between winning and losing FDI
IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan outlined the practical shape of the capital investment and said that key to the plan is capturing the momentum of the pharma business boom in the south-east and south-west, and the IT boom that has outstripped growth in Dublin and its surrounding region.
“The IDA specifically is investing €150m in property solutions for our client companies and indeed for indigenous companies.
“That €150m relates to investment in strategic sites, upreach to business and technology parks and specifically €45m of it relates to nine new advance technology buildings which will be located in regional locations around the country.
“The first three of these will be constructed this year in Castlebar, Sligo and Tralee, and they will be followed by six others, Athlone, Carlow, Dundalk, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. These will act as key attractors for the regions and give us competitive advantages nationally, regionally in terms of attracting FDI.
“The provision of a property solution where a company can actually get up and running immediately is a key attractor and makes the difference between winning and losing investment.”
Just like Sinnamon, Shanahan outlined Ireland’s strengths in science, technology, engineering and maths as key to the plan succeeding.
“We are concentrating on a number of sectors at the moment, including life sciences, which includes pharmaceuticals and medical technologies, financial services and technology from hardware to internet companies
“We are also seeing some success in engineering and manufacturing. We will be announcing our new strategy for foreign direct investment over the coming weeks and we will identify other sectors that we will be focusing on.”