A new plan that seeks to maximise the strengths of different regions in Ireland has been published.
The five-year National Smart Specialisation Strategy focuses on localised investment opportunities across the country.
Ireland is set to receive €396 million of EU funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support regional investment.
The development of the specialisation strategy was a prerequisite to unlock the structural funding.
The plan was unveiled by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
“The world is changing in so many ways,” he said.
“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 (Vladimir) 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.”
The plan focuses on five priority areas – digitalisation and digital transformation; green transformation for enterprise; innovation diffusion; international collaboration on research, development and innovation; and improving the national/regional enterprise research and innovation system.
Stakeholder engagement and analysis conducted during the development of the strategy identified regional economic and research strengths and emerging areas of opportunity.
Several sectors, including ICT, pharmaceuticals, agri-food and the growing renewable energy sector, were identified as strengths across the country.
The plan will see funding go to Ireland’s Technological Universities (TUs) for industry-relevant research.
“This strategy is an opportunity to look at each of our regions and identify what the strengths and opportunities are, and invest in them,” Mr Varadkar said.
He added: “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 Technological Universities. 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 added: “The publication of this strategy is critical in bolstering regional entrepreneurship through investment in the Technological Universities (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.”