Agenda item


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 11th August, 2022, it had received an update on the progress to support the development of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor (DBEC), including work on the strategy and action plan. Since that meeting, the strategy had now been completed and agreed by all of the DBEC partners. It articulated a vision to sustainable economic growth across the region, identifying areas of focus for the partnership to address future opportunities and seeking to address any gaps in existing provision.


The Director of Economic Development advised that the vision of the strategy was to become a leading economic corridor in Europe, achieving sustainable growth through collaborative Research and Development, a highly skilled workforce and enabling infrastructure. This included an ambition to be world renowned as a major international centre in growth sectors such as Professional Services, Advanced Manufacturing, ICT and Life and Health Sciences.


He highlighted that the strategy articulated a number of strategic objectives for the partnership, which included;


·        Increased skills and training to meet the labour requirements of the region, building on and expanding the existing workforce;

·        Advocated for cross-border infrastructure to strengthen connectivity and access to markets and labour;

·        Enhanced cross-border collaboration in Research and Development and Innovation, targeting investment in high growth sectors and the green economy;

·        Promoted sustainable and climate-conscious growth along the corridor, aligned with councils’ development plans and wider policy objectives;

·        Aligned with and supported economic development partners to increase trade and investment along the corridor; and

·        Marketed the region and elevated the DBEC brand so that the region becomes globally renowned as an attractive place to live and do business.


He stated that the action plan outlined key pillars to support effective delivery, including ways of working, governance and resourcing, and communication and marketing. Priority actions identified across the short and medium term included:


·        Undertaking further stakeholder engagement and developing a coherent marketing and communications strategy in line with the strategic objectives;

·        Progressing the Shared Island feasibility study around sectoral Innovation Hubs along the corridor, with the aim of preparing an application for external funding by Quarter 4 2023. In parallel with circular economy activities at Belfast City Council and Dublin City Council, gathering insights on circular economy initiatives along the corridor;

·        Identification and preparatory scoping for relevant external funding opportunities, including Peace Plus and Shared Island;

·        Undertaking research on existing skills strategies and enterprise plans and identifying key barriers to skills development with the aim of developing a clear skills policy and strategy; and

·        Mapping of key assets along the corridor with development potential and highlighting infrastructure gaps.


He advised that, as part of the governance structure for the partnership, the DBEC political advisory group continued to meet. There were 24 councillors who made up a Political Advisory Group (3 nominees from each council area), with the Council nominees being Alderman Dorrian and Councillors Beattie and Hanvey.


Shared Island Fund


The Director of Economic Development reported that, in order to bring forward collaborative activities aligned with the strategic priorities set out in the plan, a number of applications for funding were submitted to the Irish Government’s Shared Island Initiative in late 2022.


The DBEC partners were successful in attracting financial support of €150,000 to carry out a feasibility assessment on the development of a network of regional innovation hubs across the corridor region. These locations would support current or emerging business clusters in particular locations, to the benefit of the entire region. He advised that the project would look at pairing up locations based on sectoral strengths and clusters, such as Fintech in Dublin and Belfast.


The Director of Economic Development stated that the proposal also incorporated an ambition identified by the Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission to support growth sectors such as Fintech and capitalise on linkages with cities such as Dublin.


He highlighted that a procurement exercise was underway to secure external advisory support for this work. It was being led by Fingal County Council and Belfast City Council officers would participate in a project steering group. A preferred bidder had been selected and it was expected that this project would commence in the first week of March 2023.


He pointed out that, in addition, Dublin and Belfast City Council were awarded €250,000 to carry out major feasibility research on capital projects to support the circular economy. Opportunities to develop the sector within the context of the Dublin Belfast Corridor would be considered as part of this work, although the primary focus was on the cities of Dublin and Belfast. There had been extensive work with colleagues from both councils preparing the terms of reference for technical support, with Dublin City Council as lead partner. This tender was issued through a procurement framework following guidance from the Office of Government Procurement in Dublin. The Tender was currently open and would close on 20 March 2023. The partners continued to monitor and review opportunities for further funding from the Shared Island Unit. Officials from the Unit made a presentation on live and pending opportunities to the Political Advisory Group meeting in January. The partnership was also monitoring relevant opportunities for funding under Peace Plus.


The Committee noted the contents of the report and the progress to date to develop the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor partnership.


Supporting documents: