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Ministers welcome ‘Regional Innovation Valley’ designations for Irish regions

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Peter Burke TD, has welcomed the designation of all three of Ireland’s NUTS 2 regions as Regional Innovation Valleys under the European Commission’s New European Innovation Agenda initiative. This inclusion recognises the regions’ potential as hubs of innovation and economic growth within a network of 151 similarly designated regions across Europe.

Regional Innovation Valleys aim to strengthen regional innovation ecosystems, bridge the innovation gap in Europe and improve Europe's overall innovation performance.

Welcoming the announcement, Minister Burke said:

“I welcome today’s announcement that the Southern Region, the Eastern and Midland Region and the Northern and Western Region are to join 151 regions across Europe as part of the European Commission’s Regional Innovation Valleys initiative. Being part of this initiative will unlock new European funding and international collaboration opportunities for our regions, while fostering an environment where innovation can thrive.”

The Minister also emphasised the long-term benefits for the regions:

"The inclusion of all of Ireland’s regions as part of this initiative is reflective of my Department’s commitment to ensure that Ireland’s innovation ecosystem at national and regional level is supportive of regional enterprise strengths and potential, driving our strategic priorities around the twin digital and green transition, and leveraging knowledge and insights from European partners through international collaborative initiatives. With our ongoing implementation of Ireland’s Smart Specialisation Strategy, my Department will continue to work with stakeholders in our three Regions to pursue further EU funding streams and opportunities for international collaboration with the European Commission that will emerge as part of this designation."

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD, said:

“Today’s announcement opens up a host of opportunities for businesses in the West and all around the country. The potential partnerships, mentoring and access to investors and funding sources offered by this initiative will be instrumental in bolstering the overall productivity, competitiveness, and future sustainability of our regional enterprise base.”

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Emer Higgins TD, said:

“I am delighted that all three regions in Ireland have been awarded Regional Innovation Valley status. This is an important initiative that will bring new opportunities for small and medium sized businesses in all regions of our country, offering potential new collaborations, access to funding sources and other key supports to encourage and drive innovation.”

The Commission will also support these regions through community building activities, matchmaking events and targeted communication actions.

Notes to the editor

About Regional Innovation Valleys

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.

Under the New European Innovation Agenda, the Regional Innovation Valleys aim to harness the potential of deep-tech innovation across the different EU territories, and to promote innovation cohesion. The agenda set out an ambitious goal to identify upwards of 100 regions committed to enhance the co-ordination and directionality of their research and innovation investment and policies at regional level and to collaborate on inter-regional innovation projects including in deep tech innovation, linked to key EU priorities.

 The specific aims of the EU Regional Innovation Valleys are to: 

  • harness the potential of deep-tech innovation across different EU territories and address the innovation divide
  • strengthen innovation ecosystems across the EU, by accelerating the development and deployment of innovation, including deep-tech innovation
  • bring together less and more innovative regions with a view to addressing reduction of reliance on fossil fuels, increasing global food security, mastering the digital transformation (including cybersecurity), improving healthcare and achieving circularity

A key component of the Regional Innovation Valley initiative is its matchmaking process, which plays a vital role in connecting various stakeholders within each region’s innovation ecosystem. This matchmaking process (European Commission Regional Innovation Valley Matchmaking Map) involves:

  • identifying synergies to facilitate connections between enterprises, researchers, and public institutions which have complementary strengths and objectives
  • creating partnerships by establishing cross-regional and cross-sectoral partnerships to drive collaborative innovation projects
  • providing access to a pool of experts and mentors who can offer guidance and support to emerging projects and enterprises
  • matching innovative projects with potential investors and funding sources to accelerate their development and implementation

Regional Innovation Valleys Expression of Interest process

The call for expression of interest enabled regions to express their interest to become regional innovation valleys and work together. Regions were invited to indicate on which main challenge (including food security, renewable energy, circular economy, digital transition, healthcare system) they would like to strengthen their research and innovation (R&I) investments and policies.

Based on the European Innovation Ecosystems Work Programme, a panel of independent experts, found that Ireland’s regions demonstrated a clear commitment to:

  • enhance the co-ordination and directionality of their R&I investment and policies towards EU priorities
  • engage in interregional innovation collaboration with other regions, based on shared or complementary smart specialisation strategy priorities
  • strengthen their regional innovation ecosystem and connect to other regions to constitute connected Regional Innovation Valleys 

Accordingly, each region was awarded the label Regional Innovation Valley.

The successful regions will commit to enhance the co-ordination and direction of their research and innovation investment and policies at regional level and to collaborate on inter-regional innovation projects linked to key EU priorities.

In turn, the European Commission will support efforts to turn the diversity of the EU’s territories into a strength by leveraging the specific assets of each region, as well as facilitating collaboration to build new EU value chains. This will enable regions with aligned areas of specialisation and complementary capabilities, as well as different levels of innovation performance, to collaborate and take forward joint innovation projects targeting EU priorities.

The New European Innovation Agenda

The New European Innovation Agenda, adopted on 5 July 2022, aims to position Europe at the forefront of the new wave of deep tech innovation and start-ups. It will help Europe to develop new technologies to address the most pressing societal challenges, and to bring them on the market. Europe wants to be the place where the best talent work hand in hand with the best companies and where deep tech innovation thrives and creates breakthrough innovative solutions across the continent.

The New European Innovation Agenda

The NUTS2 Southern Region comprises counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Cork and Kerry.

The NUTS2 Eastern and Midland Region comprises counties Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Louth, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Longford.

The NUTS2 Northern and Western Region comprise counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.