Skip to main content

The Atlantic Innovation Region (AIRe) is intended to create areas of local competitive advantage for the West of Ireland and deliver a sustainable pipeline of investments to the WDC Investment Fund. This project contributes to the development of a Smart Region by creating a living lab that enables the region to act as a testbed in the areas of data and sensors, connected health and cleantech. AIRe underpins a viable ecosystem of innovative start-ups across the entire western region. Working with partners such as NUI Galway, The Atlantic Technological University, Local Authorities and Industry partners, the WDC is working to orchestrate collaborations across the region and make them available to start-ups and SMEs to facilitate innovation. AIRe is underpinned by a network of more than 100 Enterprise Hubs along the Atlantic Economic Corridor from Donegal to Kerry. These hubs are a direct connection to communities of sole traders, SMEs, entrepreneurs and individuals within bigger organisations that can form a network of innovation along the Western Seaboard. 

Creating an Atlantic Innovation Ecosystem Publication

An analysis of the future of industry suggests that industries that will continue to grow include transport (with a focus on autonomous and electric vehicles), IoT, renewable energy, digital services, creative, health, and food. However, the core competencies in these industries will become technology-focused, with sensors, data, artificial intelligence and regulation becoming central to success. Future disruption is likely to be exogenous as IT converges with existing industries to disrupt them fundamentally. The WDC aspires for the western region to be at the heart of this disruptive convergence of IT and traditional industry and to shape it so that it contributes to the region’s sustainability. 

The most important characteristic of the AIR Living Lab (LL) is the network it creates for multiple actors to come together to test innovative solutions to societal problems. Using a quadruple helix1 approach, the Lab acts as an orchestrator to bring together cross-cutting competencies in creativity, data, sensors, and mobility to tackle emerging challenges in vertical industries such as healthcare, energy generation, and transport. The living LL creates a network for the Atlantic Economic Corridor, the Regional Enterprise Plan Program Managers, the WDC Sustainable enterprise department, and the connected hubs network. This network allows the actors to work with industry, Academia and civic society in a way that combines local knowledge and sectoral expertise to identify challenges and to source partners to solve these challenges. The LL is also linked to the WDC Investment Fund, providing a path to scaling for successful start-up ideas that emerge from experiments. Furthermore, because the LL is virtual, it is scalable, builds on existing resources and does not compete with existing actors but complements them and develops synergies.

AIRe is a member of the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL)


WDC Creative Economy report and Strategic Activation Plan

WDC Creative Economy Report (internal) and Strategic Activation Plan 2022

The WDC has a significant track record of investment in creative economic research, policy analysis, development and activation. Harnessing evidence based data, the WDC has invested in strategic activation of creative business development and infrastructure e.g. through the WRAP fund. Working in collaboration with key regional, national and European partners, the WDC continues to lead the agenda to maximise the creative economy in the Western Region/AEC in order to consolidate existing enterprise activity, attract investment, create jobs and sustain prosperity.

Jeweller and Sculptor Niall Bruton in his studio at Donegal Craft Village.
Jeweller and Sculptor Niall Bruton in his studio at Donegal Craft Village.

The WDC Strategic aim is to position the Creative Economy as a competitive advantage for Western Region/AEC on the global stage. This aim sits in the context of and aligns with the Western/AEC region of innovation. In order to establish if the aim is achievable, this work set out key tasks as follows:

  • Map the creative economy in Western Region/AEC
  • Identify and Engage Senior Stakeholders
  • Identify priority opportunities for the creative economy and cross sectoral including specifically Virtual Reality.
  • Identify funding for these key opportunities
Tish Carroll, designer/maker in her 'Mother Says Design' Sligo studio.
Tish Carroll, designer/maker in her 'Mother Says Design' Sligo studio.

Building on the WDC investment and future focused strategic activation, data indicates that this is the opportunity to establish a CreaTech region to drive competitive advantage and subject to the appropriate investment to potentially create at least 1000 FTE jobs within the next five years. The lifeblood of the creative economy, self-sustaining enterprises in the creative industries are an integral element of the product and service supply chain in entertainment, tourism, pharma, med tech, fin tech, education, health, non-profit cultural and arts, retail, manufacturing, construction, energy, public sector among others. Often invisible, there is significant cross sector and cross industry interoperability.

The Q3 2021 – Q1 2022 review of creative industry activity, using available, accessible public data, identifies significant creative enterprise activity in the Western Region/AEC, with the key components of an ongoing CreaTech industry across the nine counties.

Read the full report below.

WDC Creative Economy Report (internal) and Strategic Activation Plan2022

Letterpress & Linoprint Workshop