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Donegal Digital Action Plan for Smart Specialisation

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ERNACT Programme Managers Daniela Copaci and Margaret Quinn talk about the policy instrument addressed in the DEVISE project.
22 December 2021 - DEVISE  project
Daniela Copaci and Margaret Quinn ERNACT Programme Managers.

This month we speak with ERNACT Programme Managers Dr. Margaret Quinn and Daniela Copaci, who participate and lead the DEVISE - 'Digital tech SMEs at the service of Regional Smart Specialisation Strategies' project, funded by Interreg Europe. We want to find out more about the policy instrument that they are addressing in Donegal, Ireland.

What policy instrument are you addressing?
We address the Donegal Digital Action Plan. This is a plan developed within the framework of the County’s Local Economic and Community Planning. One of the three main goals of this instrument is to grow ‘An expanded digital cluster, home to indigenous and Foreign Direct Investment companies’. Among the actions to be implemented within the next years and relating to the issue addressed in DEVISE, the plan intends to be a catalyst for the following: new start-ups in the tech sector in County Donegal; encourage existing businesses to use digital processes, increasing their ability to compete, sell additional products and services and create more jobs.

This action will be funded by Enterprise Ireland, the Border Enterprise Development Fund, so we included it as new policy instrument addressed. It is part of a package launched by the Ministry for  Business, Enterprise and Innovation of the Irish Government and managed by the governmental agency Enterprise Ireland, specifically designed to help the counties most impacted from Brexit: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. The main objective of the package is to support businesses across the region to strengthen their resilience and capabilities and drive economic activity. 

Were the Managing Authorities of the policy instruments addressed involved in the project? How?
The Donegal Digital Action Plan Working Group and Donegal County Council have been involved in all project stages - regional analysis, interregional learning process and action plan development. It was  agreed within the Donegal Digital Action plan working group to focus the work in the Action 2: Digital  Innovation - Connecting talent, which objective is to create a collaborative environment for players in the  field of technology research, innovation and tech businesses, as well as non-tech businesses within Donegal’s priority sectors Digital Innovation Hubs action included in the Donegal Digital Action Plan.

Which are the improvements in the policy instruments addressed?
The improvement in the policy instrument refers to the implementation of a new project - the Innovation  as a Service (IaaS). IaaS action aims to increase the uptake of disruptive technology solutions by SMEs in the Border region to accelerate their competitiveness and innovation levels. This is key to enabling SMEs to address the twin threats of Brexit and Covid19.  

This policy change was achieved thanks to the process followed in the project, permanently involving the relevant stakeholders of the Donegal Digital Action Plan Working Group from the very beginning. In particular, the following steps were followed: 6 Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) meetings, regional assessment made based on the DEVISE common methodology, attendance to staff exchanges with stakeholders in Laval and West Flanders, 1 intersectoral breakfast, definition of the action plan bringing the knowledge acquired in the project.

How is helping DEVISE to achieve your objectives?
DEVISE has provided us not only with a methodology assess the current situation regarding the digital transformation of SMEs and ways of connecting the digital suppliers with companies as potential users of their services, but also with an invaluable pool of good practices from other EU regions. Among them, ERNACT got inspiration from several good practices from Belgium, France and Finland, that have been previously shared within the DEVISE partnership:

  • The Imec good practice from Flanders, West Belgium (a research  programme demand for driven, cooperative  research  on hardware, software) has served as inspiration for the IaaS  service in different ways, such as the collaboration and research tailored to the needs of the consortium partners, the access to an extensive pool of expertise of academics and industry partners and a route to valorisation through the industry partners.
  • The Apollo good practice, Laval – France (a programme to support companies in their innovation process by adapting methods usually used by startups) was a valuable input for carrying out the delivery and testing of the service to introduce disruptive digital technologies into the operations of the companies.
  • The Regional Manufacturing Digital Innovation Hub IoT-Compass good practice, South Ostrobothnia Finland, is a very inspirational way of making the technologies and infrastructure available for companies to get to learn more of digital manufacturing and industrial internet and Internet of Things (IoT), to implement company demand-driven pilots.

Would you like to share some results?
It is too early to share The IaaS is currently under implementation and permanent monitoring. The  unique approach of the project is to use sophisticated digital collaboration services to better network and connect  the Border region’s growing network of innovation hubs to technology providers (universities and institutes  of technology) across the Border and West regions in Ireland. 

The project is expected to impact 120  manufacturing SMEs in the Border region, engaging with them over three years to identify and test 60 new solutions of advanced digital technologies, eventually implementing 40. This will have a positive impact on all 120 companies improving their ability to introduce new advanced processes into their businesses and innovation, productivity and entrepreneurial levels. It will also improve the skill levels of employees. 

It is also expected to enhance the capacity of the 12 local digital hubs to service SMEs in their catchment  area enhancing their sustainability, reputation, range and quality of servicesThe  project will improve the capacity and responsiveness of at least 14 knowledge providers (institutes of technology, universities and the private sector) to supply high tech solutions to SMEs by stimulating demand, raising awareness of their offerings and, crucially, putting new systems and processes in place to facilitate effective collaboration with the hubs and SMEs.



Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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