A STRATEGIC decision to direct educational resources towards the jobs of the future is paying rich dividends for the Mid West region, which has evolved into a testing ground for some of the world’s most innovative companies.
From robotics to artificial intelligence; data analytics to nanotechnology, Limerick’s third level education system is delivering a steady stream of talent to drive the global ambitions of companies at the cutting edge of science and discovery.
A list of major employers in the Mid West reads like a who’s who of industry leaders, and includes global corporations like General Motors, Uber, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Analog Devices, Edwards Lifesciences, BD, Intel, Cook Medical and Northern Trust.
Many have chosen Limerick and Shannon as their European headquarters, and several others have sited their research and development hubs in the region. Regeneron, which is now one of the biggest employers in the Mid West, operates Ireland’s largest biotech facility just outside Limerick City.
That spirit of innovation also applies to homegrown enterprise and includes the likes of Kneat, the validation software company founded in Limerick in 2006 and now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange; AMCS, the Castletroy-based recycling firm, and Kirby Group, the engineering firm with annual revenues of €360 million.
And with the jobs, come the people – young, confident, ambitious and energetic. A perfect match for a future-focused city. It’s proven a major attraction for foreign direct investors, whose staff predominantly want to live and work in vibrant cities, and Limerick ticks all those boxes.
Named as European City of the Future by the Financial Times in 2018, there are few locations in Europe that can rival Limerick’s attractions as an affordable English-speaking city.
It has a young population and is at the heart of a region of 400,000 people. It offers an unrivalled work/life balance as a gateway to the Atlantic seaboard, with some of the world’s most amazing scenery, golf-courses and attractions. The city itself also has a fantastic selection of bars, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.
It has excellent international access through an uncongested airport and a superb road infrastructure. A highly connected destination in Europe that, uniquely, is as close to the Americas as it is to 26 EU nations.
With the population of Limerick city and suburbs expected to rise by up to 60 per cent over the next 15 years, initiatives already underway are laying the foundations for crucial new infrastructure.
The first special purpose vehicle of its kind in the country, Limerick Twenty Thirty was established by Limerick City and County Council in 2016 as a designated activity company (DAC) to stimulate the local economy by driving commercial development on disused sites.
With a target to develop 1.4 million sq ft of prime real estate property, Limerick Twenty Thirty has already completed the €20 million Gardens International development on Henry Street and is well advanced on the €200 million Opera Site project.
The 3.7 acre development at the junction of Patrick Street, Rutland Street and Bank Place represents the single biggest commercial property investment in Limerick’s history.
With a capital portfolio of €1 billion, Limerick Twenty Thirty is realising its vision to transform the city and county, and enable growth by encouraging future FDI investment.
Meanwhile, the Shannon Foynes Port Company is advancing plans to redevelop buildings and amenities on a 30-hectare site along the Dock Road.
A key focus of this project is the 36,000 sq ft Bannatyne Mills building with planning permission secured to convert it into commercial office space.
The docklands is also the location for the development of a floating data centre which will be the first European project to be undertaken by US company Nautilus Technologies. The ten-megawatt data centre, which will be cooled by water from the Shannon, will provide a blueprint for other floating data centres in Europe.
For Limerick City and County Council chief executive Pat Daly, environmental sustainability will be at the heart of the council’s strategy for the future.
The recently approved Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 sets out a blueprint for the development of Limerick as an environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral economy, and a pioneer in sustainable growth.
This would be achieved through engagement, innovation and resilient urban development, positioning Limerick in the years ahead as a leading location for sustainable living in an increasingly digital world.
Limerick is one of just two EU Lighthouse Cities selected to take part in +CityxChange, a climate change pilot programme, which will lead the rest of Europe on how to reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas.
A €116 million allocation from the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund will help drive Limerick’s physical enhancement.
€73.4 million will go towards the planned waterfront development, including the regeneration of the area around the former Cleeves site, as well as the provision of pedestrian bridges and re-alignment of the road at Arthur’s Quay and Honan’s Quay.
A further €42.61 million will be allocated to the Living City initiative, which aims to revitalise the city centre, with a specific focus on underutilised Georgian buildings.
According to Pat Daly, many transformational and innovative developments have been realised in recent years and Limerick is now recognised as a progressive, attractive and inclusive city with a vision as a green city region leveraging the natural assets of the River Shannon and its estuary.
“We are fast gaining a reputation as Ireland’s innovation capital, and we have firm plans to keep this momentum going until 2030 and beyond,” the local authority chief executive said.