Home Limerick Business Work of Innovate Limerick is reaping rewards

Work of Innovate Limerick is reaping rewards

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After securing a major international clustering conference, the first to be held outside Switzerland, Limerick’s Innovate Limerick is already seeing it’s work being rewarded. In this interview, members of the Innovate Limerick team talk about its background, its goals and why Limerick is well placed to be a leading European city of Innovation
In September 2013 the
Rathkeale-based Anderson jewellery manufacturing facility closed with
the loss of 140 jobs. It was yet another major blow to a small local
town and raised serious questions about the future of Limerick’s
regional economy. Fast forward two years and the former Anderson
plant is now home to an ‘Innovation Factory’ which is operating
at near capacity with more people to be employed at the 100,000 sq ft
facility than ever before.
Pat Daly, Conn Murray and Cllr Kevin Sheahan announcing plans for former Opera Site
The turn of fortunes of the
Rathkeale site is one of the first success stories to come out of the
new Innovate Limerick model, a new public-private partnership company
developed by Limerick City and County Council in order to integrate
the innovation activities of both the Limerick 2030 Economic
Strategy and the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation
Plan and deliver on this socio-economic innovation agenda.
Within a few weeks of the Anderson
closure, Innovate Limerick had bought the building and immediately
set about turning the space into something new. The innovation model
offered by Innovated Limerick enabled companies like Design Pro to
relocate to the space. Design Pro is a leading provider of precision
automation and machine build services to the medical devices,
pharmaceuticals, electronics and automotive markets. The company now
plans to significantly grow its workforce at the site going forward.
This 100,000 sq ft space could easily have been left to die. Instead
Innovate Limerick, working with local leaders, facilitated the
opportunity for new and existing entrepreneurs to bring this facility
back to life, to create jobs and boost the local economy.
“The seeds for Innovate Limerick
were sown when we considered the great new innovative start-ups that
were emerging from Limerick’s third level academic institutions”,
says Pat Daly, Director of the Economic Development unit at Limerick
City and County Council.
“We asked ourselves ‘How can we
do more to help entrepreneurs and how do we connect the sytem? How do
we make anyone who is involved in innovation or want to be involved
in innovation work together?’ We were keen to create an open
innovation system so as to specialise in scaling companies. Our
mission is to grow these companies faster giving them a quality
location to live and grow”.
This process is now reaping rewards
with new investment is coming through.
Pat Daly believes there is a new
energy in Limerick. “Innovate Limerick is able to present that
story in a clear way”, he says. “We are seeing innovative
companies outside of Limerick now expressing an interest in basing
themselves here because the stories they are hearing are attractive
to the way they do business. We are giving innovation a very clear
focus. We are enabling the private sector to do more and ultimately
what is being created is a unique pro-business innovation model
unlike anything else seen in the country”.
One of the most important aspects of
what makes Innovate Limerick stand out is the fact that it is in a
position to make quick decisions.
“Innovate Limerick shows how
having a dedicated company focussed on innovation with an ability to
join the dots can result in success stories such as the Rathkeale
example”, Daly says.
The former Anderson plant in Rathkeale has been transformed thanks to work of Innovate Limerick
The most dynamic project which has
been led by Innovate Limerick has been the creation of Troy Studios
in the former Dell facility in Castletroy. Limerick’s year as
National City of Culture in 2014 clearly showed Limerick as a strong
cultural and creative location yet we haven’t any anchor industry.
After working on an Irish Film Board bid alongside Ardmore Studios
discussions had started with Ardmore for the creation of a new film
facility which might be located in Limerick. These negotiations
resulted in the recent announcement about the creation of a new
350,000 sq ft studio for Limerick.
“Many people might consider the
word innovation to suggest people in white coats based in a
laboratory”, says Mike Cantwell, CEO at Innovate Limerick. “In
fact innovation can be wide reaching. It can be connective
innovation and creative innovation. We highlighted a need, we
connected with those who might make it happen and as a result we have
creative an opportunity for a major international film studio to be
based in Limerick”.
The board of Innovate Limerick,
which Cantwell describes as ‘dynamic’, is made up of
representatives from the public and private sectors as well as
council representatives. It has representation from entrepreneurs,
innovators and academics and is chaired by Professor Emeritus Eamon
Murphy from the University of Limerick.
“The input from our third level
academic institutions have also been key to our development”, he
says. “They have great R&D incubation systems, they have new
start-ups. Innovate Limerick provides a space to give further support
to start-ups when they outgrow these incubation spaces. This is a
very important factor in keeping our young innovative companies based
in Limerick as they mature. What Limerick now has is an entire
ecosystem of entrepreneurs who are connected to each other and most
crucially are sharing their knowledge”.
The launch in 2013 of the Limerick
Economic and Spatial Plan for the first time developed a combined
vision of the Limerick of the future. What is outlined for Limerick
is visionary and ambitious and is led through a number of portals
such as the Limerick Economic Forum, the local authority and the
public and private sector.
“The 2030 plan is about a new
vision of Limerick”, Pat Daly says. “Then comes job creation and
activity that goes with that and then how we market all of this. The
great part of the 2030 plan is that the key stakeholders who can help
make it happen are all on the same page. Now when we approach
potential investors we have clear vision, we have clear buy-in across
the board locally. We are telling them what is going to happen and we
are asking them to play their part in our future”.
Signatories of the Limerick Charter
Daly says that both Innovate
Limerick and the local authority have developed very strong
relationships with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and also with Connect
Ireland allowing Limerick to nurture links with many of our ex-pats
who have left Limerick to become leaders in their particular field.
“We are there to facilitate those
who are now considering returning home to be able to establish
enterprise here in Limerick”, Daly adds. “Ultimately it is the
job of Innovate Limerick to ensure doing business in Limerick is
easy. We hope that when innovators and entrepreneurs knock on our
door we can open may more doors for them”.
There are many outside of Limerick
are commenting on what Limerick is doing to create such a vibrancy
across the city and county. Pat Daly gives great credit to the new
leaders we have seen emerge across various sectors over recent years.
“The vision and the plan we have
has allowed all of us to sing from the same hymnsheet”, he says.
“It sounds simple but it really is so powerful. To have so many
major stakeholders to agree on one big vision is a major achievement.
Now it is a case of all of moving forward with the same message.
There is nothing like an idea when its time has come and I believe
that Limerick’s time is now”.
The proof is being seen in the
investment. Limerick recently saw the arrival of Uber and the
creation of 300 new jobs. This, along with the creation of Troy
Studios is testament to the fact that Limerick is out selling itself
hard. The facilitation and the welcome we are now giving to potential
new investors has real power and is being acknowledged.
The former Dell facility in Castletroy will now be home to Troy Studios
The next exciting phase for Innovate
Limerick is an International Cluster Conference which the city will
host in September.
“There is no doubt that we have a
very strong manufacturing sector”, Mike Cantwell says. “We have
an extremely dynamic pharma sector. Our medical technologies cluster
is expanding rapidly and our sports cluster is powerful. Yet Limerick
has never really developed our brand as a strong cluster location”.
Innovate Limerick has developed a
strong working relationship with the Fribourg University in
Switzerland, one of the leading experts on clustering in Europe and
traditionally home to the international cluster conference. After
some negotiation it was recently confirmed that Limerick will now
host this conference for the first time outside of Switzerland this
October. The city will welcome many of the world’s leading experts
on the area of clustering to the city in what should prove to be a
superb opportunity to showcase Limerick as a cluster destination but
for us also to put our thoughts across when it comes to the world
view of clustering.
Pat Daly acknowledges there is a lot
more to do but is confident that things are happening. “There will
always be some cynicism when a new plan is launched and the Limerick
Economic and Spatial Plan 2030 has been no different”, he says.
“The proof has got to be in the investment that is happening across
Limerick. In the retail sector we saw 30 new stores open in the city
last year. We saw the first multinational investment in the city
centre in a generation with the Uber announcement. We have seen the
Council purchase some key sites in order to activate development. We
will see the completion of the Hanging Gardens site on Henry St soon.
This is action. People are now seeing results and are slowly coming
round to the belief that the Limerick 2030 plan means business and is
reaping rewards”.
Innovate Limerick supports Limerick’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020 – to find out more log on to www.limerick2020.ie

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