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Good morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.
I am delighted to be with you this morning on this fine campus and to see the ongoing transformation of this former PJ Carrolls Building.
I want to thank President Michael Mulvey for the invitation to join you this morning to open the Dundalk Institute of Technology Industry Engagement Showcase 2019, titled Industry and Academia: Stronger Together.
I also want to congratulate Michael and his team for the initiatives they are taking to drive economic growth in the North East region.
There is no doubt that Ireland has made great progress economically in the last few years.
Since the Government first launched the Regional Action Plans for Jobs in early 2015, 266,900 more people are working right across the country.
166,400 of those new jobs are outside Dublin, and unemployment has fallen in every region over the period.
Here in the North-East and indeed across the Border region, huge progress has been made.
There are over 8,200 more people in employment here since the start of 2015, and the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6 percent to 3.8 percent.
IDA-supported employment was up by 3% in the border region in 2018, and Enterprise Ireland-supported employment was also up by 3% in Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.
Meanwhile, 378 new jobs were created by LEO-supported businesses in the three counties.
So, it’s clear that a lot has been achieved, and I would like to pay tribute to the Trojan work of the regional stakeholders - the local businesses and entrepreneurs, DkIT, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, the LEOs and the Local Authorities - who have worked so hard to secure this success.
DkIT has played its part in the recovery here in the North East. As the leading education Institution in the region with over 5,000 students, including apprenticeships, undergraduates and postgraduates up to PhD level and with a strong and growing engagement with businesses in the region, DkIT is well positioned to fulfil its potential as a driver of innovation and economic performance in the North East.
As you are all aware, there is a strong alignment under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 investments in higher and further education, innovation and enterprise and regional development. I know that here in the North East, DkIT works closely with the enterprise development agencies and LEOs, the Regional Skills Forum and business.
Your commitment to the region is second-to-none, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the Government.
Today, however, we are facing new challenges that threaten the hard-won gains of recent years, not least Brexit.
I want to ensure that we are creating quality jobs that are sustainable in the longer term, so that we can secure Ireland’s economic success, in line with the Government’s new Future Jobs initiative, which I launched in March with the Taoiseach.
I want to increase the productivity potential and performance of all regions, through supporting enterprises to increase their innovation performance, develop their talent base and to scale internationally, by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship in all sectors, attracting leading- edge technological investments to the regions and strengthening collaboration among regional enterprise stakeholders, private and public.
In March, I launched a new Regional Enterprise Plan for the North-East in Cootehill, together with Minister Paschal Donohoe, Minister Regina Doherty and Minister Helen McEntee
A lot can be achieved when a group of people work together, especially in the face of challenges.
That’s why collaboration is at the heart of the Plans, and it’s why they take a ‘bottom up’ approach!
In the words of Henry Ford: “When everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
If ever there was a time to collaborate, it’s now, and I’m confident that ‘the will’ is there to make this Plan work, building on the huge progress already made.
The North-East Plan sees counties Cavan, Monaghan and Louth coming together behind 5 Strategic Objectives of:
• Promoting the talent we have in the region
• Skills development
• Strengthening resilience in SMEs
• Building on niche strengths and fostering clustering
I am delighted DkIT played such a lead role in the formulation of the Plan and is a key player in the implementation of the Plan. I think the examples we will hear and see this morning from DkIT and businesses in the room illustrate the potential for a further step-up in the level of engagement in the Region.
DkIT was one of the first Institutes of Technology to establish a campus-based enterprise and innovation centre, the regional Development Centre in 1989, and has won over €60m in research funding, completing over 315 collaborative projects and 900 industry placements annually. This collaboration with industry is key to ensuring that graduate output is meeting the needs to businesses in the region and I am particularly pleased that 90% of DkIT graduates are employed in the region annually.
I am also delighted that DkIT are partners in 2 of the 23 successful projects awarded funding under the Government’s and my Department’s new Disruptive Technology Fund last year in regulated software and ICT areas. This was a highly competitive process with over 300 applications, so great credit is due to the successful DkIT teams on their awards.
DkIT are strategic partner’s across a range of Regional Enterprise Development Fund which I launched last year including the Monaghan County Council led consortia for an Engineering Industry Cluster and the Monaghan BioScience Project.
DkIT has also been successful in winning funding from Science Foundation Ireland, as part of the LERO Research Centre on medical device software development.
DkIT is a key resource in the region for businesses using Enterprise Ireland and InterTrade Ireland Innovation Vouchers of up to €5,000, which are available through a simplified application process.
The track-record on research commercialisation and start-ups for DkIT is also impressive, with over 200 companies supported through its incubation programme to date, including IntactSoftware, Big Mountain Productions and Hanley Energy.
I am also delighted to see the success of the DkIT new Corporate Partner Programme aimed at building mutually beneficial industry-academic relationships.
This morning I witnessed the signing of a new three-year partnership between ABP Food Group and DkIT.
For business, such MOUs provide a basis for strategic planning around workforce training, education and bespoke programme development, for research and innovation partnerships and meaningful collaborations.
So today is a wonderful opportunity for businesses to hear of the offerings of DkIT for partnership, the pipeline of talent and skills available and the capacity for research and innovation to improve your competitive advantage for the future.
I look forward to hearing of many more partnerships and successes into the future and I do believe through such partnerships we will be Stronger Together.