The European Commission has today approved €217m investment package to support regional development schemes across Ireland’s northern and western region.
The north and west of Ireland was downgraded to a “lagging region” by the European Commission this year, signalling a need for further support to reduce regional inequality.
Following recent approval by the Irish Government, the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) Regional Programme drafted by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly, was submitted to the EU Commission for its review and final negotiations.
The EU Commission today approved the final investment programme, which will commence immediately.
Director of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) David Minton welcomed the approval of the funds for the 2021 to 2027 programme. He said: “Ireland has one of the highest levels of regional inequality amongst EU member states. Despite the country’s economic growth, a very uneven pattern of success can be identified where some areas of the country are benefiting significantly less than our capital region. This presents a less positive micro picture of economic success. This investment will significantly address some of our structural weaknesses”.
Mr. Minton said the regional programme submitted by the NWRA was a major investment in the region’s future. He added: “The EU has always been a major contributor to our economy. We are excited to be working with our government partners to deliver this significant investment, which underlines our ambition to be more competitive, more specialised, more urban and more green. It’s an investment in our young people, our talent, our educational institutions, and our towns”.
The Commission’s approval of the programme was also welcomed by Chairperson of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly Cllr David Collins who acknowledged the Government’s support for the NWRA in seeking an enhanced package of ERDF funds.
He added: “Two years ago we launched a campaign titled ‘Let’s Be More’. The approval today of more than €217 million in ERDF funds will help this region achieve its ambition. The investment in the ERDF co-financed programme will help address our structural weaknesses and help us create healthier and more vibrant town’s. However, the biggest challenges lie ahead.
“Our new Atlantic Technological University (ATU) is at an embryonic stage and needs a wider research footprint with more scope to engage directly with local and regional business, industry and enterprise stakeholders. Most excitingly is the opportunity for innovative regional partnerships to improve our entrepreneurial culture.”
The Northern and Western Region’s economy was valued at €22.1 billion in 2019, equating to €24,926 per head of population. This according to Collins is in stark contrast with the state average of €66,716. The region is ‘acutely exposed’ and we need to make sure that this is not exacerbated by forthcoming climate and biodiversity challenges.
Full details of the scheme will be launched shortly but will include:
- Financial support to build the capacity of the new ATU to support regional research, capacity building and innovation
- Support regional industry with enhanced financial supports through TU Gateways (Enterprise Ireland)
- Improve supports to regional enterprise to pursue further commercialisation of products and services
- Delivery of a regional smart hub network for research, training, innovation, commercialization
- Underpinning the region’s existing enterprise ecosystem with training and innovation supports
- Working with SEAI to ensure households get deep energy retrofits
- Addressing the high rate of derelict and vacant properties in the region