Dáil Éireann - Volume 574 - 13 November, 2003
Written Answers. - National Spatial Strategy.
Cecilia Keaveney Cecilia Keaveney
115. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 22 October 2003, the type of well thought out activities that Enterprise Ireland are implementing in the region encompassing County Donegal to ensure that technology and innovation supports are in place to develop the capability of companies in the region. [27002/03]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): The provision of technology and innovation supports to client companies is a day to day matter for Enterprise Ireland, and not one in which I have a direct role. Enterprise Ireland adopt a two pronged approach to promoting economic development through innovation and technology development by working with its clients to build capability and also working to enhance the environment for business.
However, Enterprise Ireland works with its client companies across all aspects of their business, from strategy to production, research and development to marketing and finance. Support is provided to client companies in a holistic way. Each company has a designated development adviser who provides support to meet the needs of the company. Enterprise Ireland's range of supports includes strategy development, production and operations, marketing, human resources development, finance and research and development. The strategy, which Enterprise Ireland is pursuing in the north west region, has proven to be successful in terms of creating new jobs and driving economic growth in the region.
Enterprise Ireland undertakes a comprehensive range of activities throughout the north west region to support the technological and innovative capability of clients in the region. The cornerstone of this strategy is building a strong research capability, within companies and externally. For example, there is an initiative in place to increase the number of companies undertaking research and development for the first time and to improve the effectiveness of the innovation process in companies already undertaking research and development. Companies in the north west, have participated in training courses and seminars funded under this initiative.
The region's two institutes of technology and St. Angela's College, Sligo, are important sources of support and expertise for companies. They are also a source of critical support for new technology companies with high growth potential. Enterprise Ireland has provided €900,000 for new product and process development research projects and technical support in the three colleges through the innovation partnerships scheme and the food centre at St. Angela's. All of this work is carried out in collaboration with or on behalf of companies in the region. Over €114,000 was awarded to new business start-ups under the enterprise platform programme, a partnership between the colleges, Enterprise Ireland, business innovation centres and other development organisations in the region.
Cecilia Keaveney Cecilia Keaveney
116. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 22 October 2003, the plans in place to assist the Institute of Technology in Letterkenny and colleges in County Derry to develop business related programmes in collaboration with industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27033/03]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): Inward investment to the island of Ireland as a whole is a critical driver of growth in both economies. In this regard IDA Ireland has developed a number of cross-border links, to strengthen the partnerships and the promotion of the north-west region as a whole for new inward investment activity.
The most significant initiative is a proposed new virtual cross-Border business park to position the north-west region as a key technology magnet on the island of Ireland. This concept, which is being jointly developed between IDA Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland, envisages the provision of the highest levels of infrastructure in telecommunications and property solutions linking Derry city and Letterkenny.
 The broadband connections envisaged to make this happen will not just link the key population centres and the business parks but also link the key third level colleges in the north-west – Letterkenny Institute of Technology, University of Ulster, Magee Campus and the North West Institute of Further and Higher Education. It is estimated that investment in excess of €10 million will be required to make this happen and an application for support under the EU's INTERREG programme is currently being prepared. Both IDA Ireland, in Letterkenny and Invest Northern Ireland, in Derry, will also provide a mix of high quality properties on their business parks to meet the needs of new and expanding enterprises. These properties will make provision for all comers from the smallest entrepreneurial business to the largest international company. Through this co-ordinated focus and the consequent much improved promotional opportunity, it is hoped that there will be a significant increase in the critical mass of technological and innovation activity in the region and raise its profile as a location for high-technology investors.
Enterprise Ireland is also proactive in increasing the overall level of innovation in the north-west region. In this regard, linkages to third level colleges are important. Currently, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT (LYIT) are working with Enterprise Ireland to launch a new programme called CEIM, Commercialising Entrepreneurial Ideas and Management Development. This initiative is being funded under the Peace II cross-Border Fund and Enterprise Ireland, which is providing funding for commercialisation of research and development, CORD, to eligible participants on the course. It is expected that the CEIM programme will commence in January 2004. Experience with such activities has shown that entrepreneurs who develop their businesses in the region tend to remain there, leading to significant local employment.
Enterprise Ireland provided three start-up companies based at Letterkenny IT with grant assistance under the campus companies programme in 2001-02. The start-ups were part of a cross-Border enterprise platform programme. Support for companies under the 2003-04 cross-border programme are currently under consideration. Under the innovation partnership scheme, researchers in Letterkenny IT have received funding in recent years for collaborative research with industry. Preliminary discussions have been held with Letterkenny IT concerning funding for an incubation centre under the regional business incubation programme, part of the BMW regional operational programme. No firm proposal has been received.
Enterprise Ireland is supporting two networks aimed at making the combined research and technology resources of the participating academic institutions available to Irish companies at regional level – the technology transfer initiative an inter-regional, inter-university collaborative project, and TecNet, which has the primary objective to provide industry with comprehensive research and development, consulting services and technology transfers by utilising the skills and facilities available within the institutes of technology. TecNet held a major technology conference in Letterkenny on 22-23 October 2003 at which several international speakers and over 170 people attended.
Discussions are in train between Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland concerning the possibility of joint actions in the north-west region. While these discussions are at an early stage, it is likely that the resources in the colleges in Letterkenny and Derry will be involved.
Dáil Éireann 574 Written Answers. National Spatial Strategy.