Limerick Institute of Technology along with the three local authorities in the Mid West have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will pave the way for the formation of the European Zone for Inter-Regional Development (EZ-ID), allowing higher education institutes to work with regional governments in driving innovation in their regions across Europe.
The project stems from the RUN-EU (European Regional University Network) initiative of which LIT, and its TU consortium partners AIT, are members, along with six other universities in five European countries (Austria, Finland, Hungry, Netherlands and Portugal).
The MoU was signed by all the regional governments from the RUN-EU regions, following a discussion on the role European universities should play in regional development and in the leadership of regional innovation ecosystems as a way to create a European Zone for interregional development.
The President of LIT Professor Vincent Cunnane, CE of Limerick City and County Council Dr Pat Daly, Director of Services Liam Connelly - on behalf of CE of Clare County Council Pat Dowling, and CE of Tipperary County Council Joe MacGrath signed the progressive document during a virtual ceremony on April 14, 2021.
President of LIT Professor Vincent Cunnane said, “The signing of the MoU for the European Zone for Inter-Regional Development copper fastens the role LIT and our Higher Education partners play in driving social and industrial innovation in our regions across Europe by working in partnership with local government. The EZ-ID also opens up new possibilities for international collaborative research and development activities among members, thereby strengthening our individual and joint RDI capabilities.
“As we move towards becoming a Technological University, our commitment to EZ-ID and that of our associated partners in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary local authorities, allows for a joint approach between education and local government in addressing societal challenges such as climate change and social innovation, as well as supporting economic and industrial development.”
Vice President of Research Development and Innovation Dr Liam Brown explained that the members of RUN-EU saw the establishment of RUN-EU as a key first step in the development of the EZ-ID.
“RUN-EU, as a newly formed European Universities Network that is expected to increase the competitiveness of European Universities and our regions, will be integral in promoting the kinds of future and advanced skills necessary for social transformation across the European Union. The EZ-ID members will benefit from the collective knowledge and skill set of 75,000 students and researchers and 8,000 staff in eight Higher Education Institutes across six countries,” he said.
Dr Pat Daly, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council said, “I’m looking forward to seeing how Limerick City and County Council can work with the project partners to harness the talent and innovation coming from LIT. Our Smart Limerick strategy is on using technology to better serve the people of Limerick so the objectives of this agreement means we can pilot the novel ideas and processes in real life scenarios.”
“Our focus is on internationalising Limerick and this project will see us work with partners across Europe, gaining knowledge and collaborations which can only be positive for Limerick and the Mid-West region.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council, added: “Education plays a vital role in regional development. Here in the Mid-West, Clare County Council and our partners have ambitious plans for future development that will require a large pool of skills and a targeted, co-ordinated approach. As a local authority, we are uniquely positioned to identify key opportunities and challenges in the region. Strengthening the link between local government and education can reinforce connections in research and industry, which will contribute significantly to meeting requirements for future regional development.
“In signing this Memorandum of Understanding, Clare County Council underlines its commitment to working collaboratively with our partners in the region to drive and support innovation, and to position the Mid-West as a vibrant place to study, work and live.”
Chief Executive of Tipperary County Council Joe MacGrath said, “The Council is pleased to be a signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Regional University Network and Regional Government Partners in moving towards the development of a European Zone of Interregional Development and to support the work of both Limerick Institute of Technology and Athlone Institute of Technology in their shared journey towards Technological University status. Tipperary County Council has enjoyed a productive and collaborative working relationship with LIT in delivering projects of importance to the county over many years and we look forward to building on this in the months and years ahead.”
The EZ-ID membership includes education partners in Higher Education Institutes from regions other than capital cities and include Limerick Institute of Technology (Ireland), Athlone Institute of Technology (Ireland), Polytechnic of Leiria (Portugal), Polytechnic of Cávado and Ave (Portugal), Széchenyi István University (SZE) (Hungary), Häme University of Applied Sciences HAMK (Finland), NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands), and FH Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences (Austria) as well as regional Government representatives including Limerick City and County Council, Clare County Council, Tipperary County Council and Westmeath County Council.
The RUN-EU alliance is also supported by a 38 Associate partners, 9 of which are Irish. These include Limerick City and County Council, Innovate Limerick, Limerick Chamber of Commerce, Explore Engineering, the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation, Confirm, AIT-Enterprise Forum, Fáilte Ireland and IDA Ireland.