The Western Development Commission (WDC) has made recent submissions to Government in a number of areas that will set the framework for regional development in the coming years. These submissions, on the review of the National Development Plan (NDP), the related establishment of the National Investment Framework for Transport and the development of a National Smart Specialisation Strategy, identify key challenges for the Western Region but also highlight the ongoing work of the WDC to address these challenges with solutions in the medium and long term.
The WDC is committed to working with others to realise that potential to raise the profile of the West at home and abroad.’Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO WDC
The aim of the revised NDP should be to provide the conditions for regions to grow to support the Ireland 2040 objective of “sustainable development of the regions”. Research carried out by the WDC shows that both COVID-19 and Brexit have had a disproportionate impact in the region because of the relative importance of key employment sectors, such as agriculture and tourism in the west. Enterprise, employment and education can address this. The WDC is leading the development of the connectedhubs.ie National Hubs Network that will help to support access to public enterprise supports, access to education and through remote work offer employees the opportunity to work in a broadband connected hub close to where they live.
The Western Region, historically, has had lower levels of investment and there is an on-going need to improve regional connectivity and accessibility. A constraint for regional entrepreneurs is the lack of physical and digital infrastructure. The NDP must expedite the roll-out of high-speed broadband as well as the development and leverage physical infrastructure and investment to enhance regional connectivity and accessibility. In the interim, the development of the Connetedhubs.ie and Broadband Connection Point network will support connectivity and accessibility for those in areas of poor broadband.
Building on regional strengths can promote long-term economic development while also contributing to national economic growth. This requires integrated strategies for regional development policy across sectors based on governance arrangements that consider regional needs. The WDC has, in its submission to the National Smart Specialisation process, identified areas of existing and emerging regional strength that can create a sustainable competitive advantage in the long term. The three sectors identified are the Life Sciences (which includes MedTech), Artificial Intelligence, Data and Analytics (particularly in the area of sensors and mobility) and the Creative Industries and Creative Economy. If these and other regional strengths and areas of comparative advantage are considered in the implementation of the NDP, it is likely to be far more effective. Building up the global expertise in these sectors will have a spill over effect that will also support and develop other sectors.
WDC CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said that ‘While every region across the globe can identify challenges, it is also important to recognise that the Western Region, as a region of remarkable physical beauty, offers a fantastic quality of life, a skilled workforce and access to education. These factors, when aligned with the long-term potential of offshore wind as a source of renewable energy for our communities and economy offer huge potential to improve the standard of living for all. The WDC is committed to working with others to realise that potential to raise the profile of the West at home and abroad.’