Our future is largely in our own hands – Gerry Finn
Delegates at the BMW Regional Assembly Conference were informed that the BMW Region’s economic future lays largely in its own hands with a need for building on exiting regional assets and increased collaboration between industry and academia, supported by the enterprise agencies. The Conference which attracted a large attendance from diverse sectors of the regional economy took place in Athlone on Friday 6th May, on the theme of ‘Innovation and Competitiveness – Restoring the Regional Economy’.
The keynote address was delivered by Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation. Minister Bruton acknowledged the many challenges faced by the Government and the emphasis being given to job creation, reducing costs for business and making innovation services more accessible to small businesses. Minister Bruton stated his commitment to engaging with the BMW Regional Assembly to identify broad-based regional strategies.
In his opening address, Councillor Joe Flanagan, Cathaoirleach of the BMW Regional Assembly stated that the BMW Region may not benefit to the same extent as the rest of the economy from an export-led recovery and expressed concern that disparities may widen further. The need to enhance the BMW Region’s innovative capacity (particularly in knowledge-based and R&D sectors), and its attractiveness to high value added industries therefore becomes even more pressing, he said.
Professor Ciaran O’Cathain, President of Athlone Institute of Technology outlined the catalytic role of higher education institutions in promoting enterprise incubation, applied research, collaboration with business and supporting an innovation culture. An innovative start-up Company, Shasta Ltd., was showcased. It has developed the world’s first compact portable sterilising unit for baby bottles with the support of the Midlands Innovation and Research Centre at Athlone IT.
The conference was presented with the findings of an audit of innovation in the BMW Region. This report maps for the first time knowledge-intensive services, innovation, technology and knowledge transfer providers (from both the private and public sector) in the BMW Region. The report produced by the BMW Regional Assembly found that the knowledge-intensive sector contributes €1bn annually to the BMW Region’s economy and were much more resilient in the current economic downturn, but further investment was needed to boost regional performance in these high value growth sectors.
Mr. Frank Ryan, CEO of Enterprise Ireland outlined how Enterprise Ireland is addressing the jobs challenge and working with Companies to develop competitive businesses in the BMW region and grow both exports and employment. Mr. Ryan called for a greater focus on Irish success stories with a need to be more outward looking, stating that Ireland is open for business He also stated that Enterprise Ireland is a major enabler of applied research, incubation and commercialisation in the region’s higher education institutions.
Speaking after the Conference, Mr. Gerry Finn stated that regional innovation and promoting a transition to higher value economic activities had been priorities for the BMW Regional Assembly for many years. The conference had provided a unique opportunity to present the findings of the regional innovation audit to an audience of key business, academic and public agency personnel. He welcomed the Minister’s commitment to work with the Regional Assembly to advance many of the recommendations in the report.
Download the Presentations from The Conference