500 new jobs in start-ups and multinationals providing everything from sports tech to food and nutrition products are to be created at the National Sports Cluster in Limerick.
The National Sports Business Cluster is to be established in Limerick, where 500 people are already employed in sports.
It will platform from various elite sporting facilities including UL’s sports campus, LIT’s Sportslab (Europe’s leading strength and conditioning centre) in Thurles and a range of companies involved in other sports-related activities, from sports tech to nutrition companies, in Limerick and its catchment area.
Unveiling plans for the new Limerick cluster, Dr Pat Daly, head of economic development and planning at Limerick City and County Council, said that establishing formal clusters can help redress economic development imbalances in Ireland by growing employment through indigenous companies, which benefit most from the establishment of formal clusters.
‘There has been quite an amount of research into clusters and their benefits but there is very strong evidence that regions with formal clusters tend to do a lot better than those without established clusters’
– DR PHILIPPE GUGLER, UNIVERISTY OF FRIBOURG
Key objectives include attracting multinational investment, growing start-ups, incorporating a sports industry economic strategy, establishing specialities within sports innovation and developing a sports tech lab to link third level and industry.
The move was revealed today as it emerged Ireland is to host the leading global clusters conference later this month, the International Cluster Conference.
The International Cluster Conference will be held at the Strand Hotel, Limerick on 30 September and 1 October and is titled Clusters as Drivers of Competitiveness.
Speaking ahead of the conference, which will be held outside Switzerland – one of the world’s leading nations in clusters – for the first time, Professor Dr Philippe Gugler, chair of Economic and Social Policy and Centre for Competitiveness at the Department of Economics, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, said that international experience clearly states that Ireland can benefit significantly from formalising clusters.
“There has been quite an amount of research into clusters and their benefits, but there is very strong evidence that regions with formal clusters tend to do a lot better than those without established clusters,” Dr Gugler said.
“Clusters definitely lead to employment growth, help attract highly-skilled people, result in a high innovation rate, make a region attractive for new enterprises and typically those regions also result in a lot less firms and employment relocating. There is also evidence of a positive impact of clusters on the growth rate of average wages and entrepreneurship, while productivity is also higher,” Gugler said.
According to international best practice, successful clusters require scale — starting out at 20 businesses and typically operating with up to 100 — a full-time CEO and have a radius of up to 90 minutes commute time for member companies.
Among the existing formal clusters in Ireland is the International Aviation Services Centre at Shannon, which comprises a cluster of 40-plus aviation businesses operating in the Shannon Free Zone and has a full-time CEO.
Sport is global
Daly added that international experience shows that clusters also enhance competitiveness across smart specialisations, enhance innovation, accelerate entrepreneurship and have a positive impact on the growth rate of average wages.
‘For us, it’s not a case of “should we” but we have to’
– DR PAT DALY, LIMERICK CITY AND COUNTY COUNCIL
“Sport is global. Ireland has demonstrated its ability to attract the best in class across the ICT, biotech and pharma sectors but sport now represents an opportunity to capitalise on the growing demand for sports products and services. While international economic destinations have progressed this approach the international appeal of Ireland for FDI must be harnessed in this niche but buoyant sector.”
In Sligo, for example, local sports technology company Orreco is winning global business deals with athletes and sports clubs for its technology that analyses athletes’ blood to ensure they are capable of peak performance.
“The benefits from developing strong formal clusters are seen internationally; in the financial services in London, technology in Silicon Valley, fashion in Milan, etc. For us, it’s not a case of ‘should we’ but we have to. We are starting with the establishment of the National Sports Business Cluster and will also look, in due course, at other clusters suited to this region, such as pharma, financial and agritech,” Daly said.
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Sports tech image via Shutterstock