Industry and academia are working closer than ever and that relationship is starting at an earlier and earlier age and stage, Dr McLoughlin told the 4th eDigiregion International Conference at Waterford Institute of Technology. The two day conference saw delegates from Ireland, Spain, Hungary and Romania working together to promote sustainable regional development and growth under the EU-funded programme.
He said WIT was instrumental in helping upskill for available posts in the medical devices and pharma sectors local people who lost their jobs with the closure of a call centre in the city a number of years ago. It has also partnered with globally-renowned agri firm, Glanbia, to provide it with the industry-ready new staff it needed for a major new plant in Belview.
“Two of the most successful interventions ever for business in Ireland have been Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher Scheme and the Technology Gateway Programme. Innovation Vouchers are simply brilliant and a simple way of encouraging business to engage with Higher Education Institutes on everything from product design to business model development.
“Similarly, the Technology Gateways have been instrumental in supporting companies with over 400 engaging with the Gateways in 2016. It exposes them to a totally new way of thinking. It is critical that funding and the supports for this programme be extended beyond the current phase,” Dr McLoughlin said.
Fifteen Gateways, ‘smart specialisation’ areas have been developed nation-wide with WIT the only Institute of Technology to house three of these innovation hubs across advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and mobile services, he added.
“The whole purpose of the Gateways is to develop relationships with companies and to respond to their needs. Established by Enterprise Ireland, we’ve seen €23 million invested by the state between 2013 and 2017 delivering nearly 1,600 projects to industry with a value of €16.3 million.
“The next phase of funding for the Technology Gateways is being considered by government at present. It has been a magnificent way of growing the relationship between industry and third level institutions. This is smart specialisation in action,” he added.
eDIGIREGION conference organiser, Prof. Bill O’Gorman of WIT said the two day session had been an exceptional event and a coming together over the past three years of those interested in regional development across Europe.
“What we learnt through eDIGIREGION will help the various regions to continue to grow. The lessons learnt in cooperating and collaborating with the various stakeholders is very important. Without that, it is impossible to have good, sustainable regional development.
“The South East is well positioned to move into the next development phase of developing the regional and international eco system of open innovation,” he concluded.