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The Western Development Commission has released a new report identifying the West of Ireland as a Region of Innovation and proposes a new project-based approach to advance innovation across the West of Ireland. This will see an integration of research and new technologies with local communities to create a Living Lab that stretches across the Atlantic Economic Corridor. This testbed for new initiatives has potential to become a global leader in new and emerging sectors, creating a competitive advantage and boosting both employment and investment.

Authored by Dr Brendan O’Brien, the report builds on the global standing of sectors such as Life Sciences, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data & Analytics and looks to the future with emerging sectors such as Agtech, Fintech, Cleantech, Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics. The report lays the foundations for an Atlantic Innovation Region (AIRe) where industry academic government and the public can work together in an internationally recognised living lab to exploit the opportunities presented by our global leadership in MedTech and Sensors as well as our unlimited resources for renewable energy. The ambition here is to integrate these strengths to create a world-class community of innovation.

With more than twenty initiatives and collaborations at various stages of development, this Atlantic Innovation Region has already secured over €1m in funding from industry and government sources. The report calls for the region to bring together community, higher education, industry and government to collaborate on finding solutions to society’s challenges and problems.

“This is a bold and ambitious vision by the WDC to develop the region, beyond the traditional large cities, into a new powerhouse for business progress and societal innovation” says Dr Brendan O’Brien, the report author.

O’Brien goes on to state that “The WDC can become the orchestrator that enables this region to stimulate new social structures, businesses, innovations, partnerships, communications, initiating and fostering a vibrant ecosystem across the region with global links and recognition. The outcome will be a more vibrant region of choice where people can thrive economically, culturally and professionally.”

Already two key projects under the initiative are underway, opening the door to partnerships from industry, education bodies and the public sector across the West.

Launched this week, Smart Ennis is an initiative to reduce traffic congestion within the town and is a collaboration between the WDC, Clare County Council, Ennis Chamber, Cisco and Danalto. The project will ease traffic across Ennis by using sensors to shorten journey times, lessen traffic and reduce the carbon footprint of the town, all the while improving the customer experience for both shoppers and business owners in Ennis.

Projects like Smart Ennis are helping to develop a global competitive advantage in the areas of sensors, data and sustainability and make our towns a more attractive place to live and work. Using cloud-based platforms and IoT sensors to turn various data streams into actionable information, people journeying into this historic town will benefit greatly.

CEO of WDC Tomás Ó Síocháin

Separately, on Clare Island another project is working to make the island a beacon for the delivery of e-Health and virtual health solutions through the innovative use of technology. This project led by, NUI Galway, the WDC ,The HSE, Cliara, (The Clare Island Development Company), Mayo County Council, the DRCD, and Cisco is building a model for connected health that can be scaled in the future to remote communities everywhere so that they have the same access to health care as anyone else in Ireland.

Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission added “The WDC believes that Atlantic Economic Corridor can act as a living lab where private companies can work with public bodies, academia and community groups to develop and test innovative solutions to societal problems. These solutions can be scaled not only across the region but across the country and internationally. Only by acting together can every part of the region benefit by standardising the experience, which will equalise the opportunity for all and maximise the wider potential for everyone and every business”.

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