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Tánaiste publishes plan to help Irish regions play to their strengths

Tánaiste publishes plan to help Irish regions play to their strengths

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar today published Ireland’s new National Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) 2022-2027 to identify and invest in the strengths and opportunities of every region in the country. 

Through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for 2022-27, Ireland is set to receive €396 million to support regional investment. The development of a S3 is an essential pre-requisite for Ireland to receive this structural funding. Pending Government and European Commission approval, the ERDF will support S3 through significant multi-annual regionally focused programmes for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science under policy objective 1 ‘A Smarter Europe’.

The Tánaiste said: "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; 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".

 S3 will focus on five priority areas:

  1. Digitalisation and digital transformation
  2. Green transformation for enterprise
  3. Innovation diffusion
  4. International collaboration on Research, development and innovation
  5. Improving the national/ regional enterprise research and innovation system.

The stakeholder engagement and analysis conducted during the development of the strategy identified regional economic and research strengths and emerging areas of opportunity.  Many sectors, such as ICT, pharmaceuticals, agrifood and the growing renewable energy sector were identified as strengths right across the country.

Funding will go to our Technological Universities (TUs) to help them do industry relevant research and additional staff and initiatives that help with technology transfer between our SMEs and higher education institutions more generally. It will also go towards training, clustering and smart hubs for entrepreneurial research and innovation.

The Tánaiste said: “this Strategy is an opportunity to look at each of our regions and identify what the strengths and opportunities are, and invest in them. We’ve done some of that work already, speaking with local business owners, higher education institutions and other local stakeholders and have identified some really exciting areas to focus on, such as the creative sector and so called ‘blue’ economy in the Northern and Western region, advanced manufacturing, food and financial services in the East and Midlands and ICT, design and the automotive sectors in the Southern region. The document is only the beginning, we will be coming forward with a number of region-specific programmes over the coming months. I’m particularly keen to invest in our TUs. 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 Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said: “the publication of this Strategy is critical in bolstering regional entrepreneurship through investment in the TUs. This plan, matched with the funding, will help leverage the role of further and higher education institutions as anchors for enterprise and for regional growth. It will ensure TU research will be closely linked to innovation and the needs of the economy.”

Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy TD said: “Our Smart Specialisation Strategy is a place-based plan focussed on sustainable, innovation-led growth in our regional enterprises. This plan will guide the development of our regions, leveraging the strengths of each and support them to seize the opportunities of advances in technology and embrace innovation. Recent times have shown regional enterprises are resilient and we must continue to invest in our regions to ensure that continues and 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.”

Minister for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English TD said: “Through Smart Specialisation, the High-tech manufacturing and Knowledge-intensive services sectors in Ireland can continue to be one of the main drivers of economic growth across the regions.  The strategy will ensure we remain competitive through significant investment at a national level in digitalisation and green transformation and it will help us achieve our national sustainability targets. The collaborative approach envisaged under the plan will allow Irish based businesses and our talented people to benefit from the very best of international and national research available that will futureproof the excellence of our innovative systems already embedded in our economy.”

Report available here: National Smart Specialisation Strategy for Innovation 2022-2027

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