DIGITAL AGENDA NEWS
North-West Ireland City Region's Digital Ecosystem, conclusions from region’s leaders

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ERNACT organised a roundtable to discuss the digitalisation in the North West City Region towards a cross-border digital transformation action plan.
14 June 2022 - CARPE DIGEM  project
ERNACT owners' Donegal County Council (DCC), Ireland, and Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC), Northern Ireland, together with higher level education institutions (North West Regional College, Atlantic Technological University – ATU Donegal, and Ulster University) and development agencies (Northern & Western Regional Assembly and Special EU Programmes Body – SEUPB) have recently met at Ulster University in the city of Derry to discuss the digital transformation ecosystem in the North West City Region towards a cross-border digitalisation action plan.

The event, in the form of roundtable with the region’s development leaders, was part of a study visit to Derry and Donegal by representatives from other European regions and cities participating in the Interreg Europe funded CARPE DIGEM project, in which ERNACT participates representing DCC and DCSDC. The session provided an overview of the Digital Transformation Ecosystem in the cross-border region to present the results to the region’s leaders, to receive feedback and to discuss how digital transformation fits in with the city region’s wider development plan. 

Public authorities
Among the participating public authorities, Stephen Gillespie, Director for Business and Culture at DCSDC, stressed on the unique collaboration existing in the City Region. The region is being promoted and sold as a single region (i.e., missions to the States bring companies from Donegal and Derry & Strabane together). According to him, the digital transformation of the North West City Region should make use of existing structures to carry out the actions agreed. Furthermore, the 'City Deal' includes a special chapter led by the council on Smart Region that can have a cross-border impact.

John McLauglin, DCC CEO, echoed Steven’s words acknowledging the long-track collaboration and recognising Derry and Strabane as a natural partner for Donegal. DCC aims to have a complete lifestyle offer plenty of opportunities for its inhabitants. He mentioned the need to lift the application of the existing research capacity and he also named ‘Shared Ireland Fund’ as potential funding source that could support the Digital Transformation plan.

Universities
The participants universities also share their thoughts. Paul Hannigan, Head of Atlantic Technological University – Donegal, explained the opportunities that the recently established University can bring to the region. He has been assigned with the task to ensure that the new organisation continues the cross-border collaboration with Ulster University and North West Regional College. Moreover, this collaboration can be benefited from an increased research capacity coming from Sligo, Mayo and Galway.

North West Regional College representatives, Patrick McKeown, Director of Finance and Economic Engagement, and Fergal Tuffy, Technology Innovation Manager, commented on the ongoing work they are developing on the skills required from the companies. Fergal mentioned the different innovation units that NWRC has available (Foodovation, manufacturing, etc) and Patrick emphasized that schemes like ‘Intertrade Ireland’ are being used by them for cross-border collaboration.

Last but not least, Malachy O’Neill, Professor and Director of Regional Engagement at Ulster University, reflected on the new opportunities that the ATU establishment can bring to the city region, where it can become the epicentre of innovation of an expanded campus going from Coleraine to Galway. He mentioned the fact of having an ecosystem already formed and in constant state of readiness. Finally, he commented on the existing capacity on Arts-tech and culture-tech.

Development agencies
The roundtable continued with the views from the development agencies. Declan McGarrigle, Programme Manager at Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), presented the PEACE+ programme that in the coming period gathers the PEACE and the Interreg programmes under a single one and where they are expecting to receive proposals for the economic transformation of the targeted area. He mentioned research collaboration, digital-tech skills, smart villages, mobile DIHs and developing strategies as areas of interest related to the digital transformation plan in the City Region.

Afterwards, David Minton, Northern and Western Regional Assembly Director, commented that the Regional Spatial plan launched by them includes a cross-border collaboration with Derry and Strabane as element within it. He reflected on the importance of the digital transformation of the region to address the current situation where it has been classified as transition region, low investment, moderate innovator and lagging industrial region.


Colm Mc Colgan, ERNACT General Manager and roundtable organiser, highlighted that, "it's an important topic and provided an opportunity to initiate a discussion on the added value of looking at Donegal Digital and City Deal/EU Smart Cities Challenge from a crossborder perspective". According to him, there is a big opportunity to present existing digital transformation efforts on a crossborder basis and transfer existing good practices. "The councils are already providing a strategic framework and the 3rd level sector have been collaborating for some time now on innovation, research and training"





Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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