NWRA elected member Councillor Declan McDonnell addressing the Committee of the Regions Plenary meeting in Brussels.

North West region gets EU 'Regional Innovation Valley' status

THE Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) has welcomed the designation of Ireland’s northern and western region as a Regional Innovation Valley (RIV) under the European Commission’s New European Innovation Agenda initiative.

Regional Innovation Valleys (RIVs) aim to strengthen and advance European innovation ecosystems, connecting all EU territories, to address Europe’s burning societal challenges, and to foster stronger cohesion across the European Union.

The NWRA said the designation will enhance the Assembly’s ability to coordinate research, innovation and policies while addressing regional challenges. The northern and western region comprises of counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

The southern region, the eastern and midland region also received the designation meaning that all three Irish regions will benefit from the initiative.

RIV designation will provide an opportunity for collaborative working within a network of 151 similarly designated regions across Europe in developing their potential as hubs of innovation and securing economic growth.

Specifically, the aim is to harness the potential of deep-tech innovation across different EU territories, address the innovation divide, strengthen innovation ecosystems, and bring together less and more innovative regions to address reducing reliance on fossil fuels, increasing global food security, mastering the digital transformation (including cybersecurity), improving healthcare and achieving circularity.

A key component of the RIV initiative is a matchmaking process to facilitate connections between enterprises, researchers, and public institutions, create partnerships, provide access to a pool of experts and mentors and match innovative projects with potential investors and funding sources to accelerate their development and implementation.

Addressing the Committee of the Regions Plenary meeting in Brussels, where the announcement was made, Councillor Declan McDonnell of the NWRA said: “The recognition of the northern and western region of Ireland as a Regional Innovation Valley will greatly enhance the NWRA’s ability to coordinate research, innovation investment and policies. It will enable us to address regional challenges, while maintaining a strong alignment with EU priorities.

“By collaborating with our universities, and sectors such as agrifood, agritech, marine and blue economy, tourism, renewable energy, medtech and advanced manufacturing and engineering research centres, we can significantly boost regional competitiveness and also ensure the implementation of the New European Innovation Agenda within our region.”

Director of the NWRA, Denis Kelly, said: “By building on the national and regional smart specialisation strategies, the NWRA will work together with key innovative players in our region to address responses to specific local and regional challenges through the enhanced development of thematic/technological areas, including deep-tech innovation.”