Opportunities and challenges facing the South East
The South East has an opportunity to become a competitive economy, a hub for ideas and innovation with
a high quality of life and high degree of connectivity, according to an IBEC submission on a vision for the region in 2040.
But the region faces a number of challenges including two-tier economic growth, the 'poor' road network and the pull of two major and overlapping economic centres in Dublin and Cork.
Another huge challenge is that 41 per cent of all premises in the region do not have access to high speed broadband.
SMEs without access to high speed broadband are unable to compete on a level playing field.
Significant investment in IT infrastructure, particularly broadband will be essential to ensure that the wider region can maintain connectivity and a profile as an innovation-centred region.
The region has a consistently higher level of unemployment than the national average, lower third level
education attainment rates and relative under investment in the existing third level education base.
The South East ranks the lowest for science, technology, engineering and mathematic-related graduates
as a share of the labour force.
On the positive side, the report says the assets, research capacity, industrial base and clustering of companies already on the ground in the region provide a solid base on which to build for the future.
The capacity to grow and the scope for development within the region is substantial.
With the right
support and investment the potential for the South East in particular, to alleviate some of the congestion and housing challenges facing Dublin and contribute to national economic success is compelling.
Action must be taken through the National Planning Framework to realise the vision for balanced development and build on the existing capacity within the South East region.
If we invest, the region will benefit for many years to come and business will create more jobs.
Failure to invest will result in jobs, growth and human capital being lost.
Through the NPF, Government needs to step-up investment significantly and build the infrastructure required to reach the scale needed to serve as a counterweight to Dublin and support sustained growth in the South East.
The South East has the potential over the period to 2040 to develop into a region characterised by an
excellent quality of life, strong connective infrastructure and leading clusters in high-value industries.
Dublin's congestion issues may present opportunites for the South East.
The region has the capacity to better cope with population growth than Dublin commuter towns. However, for people to migrate
employment opportunity must exist. A focus on physical and broadband infrastructure is required.
Opportunities exist for the South East to develop and grow through the creation of a connected
and embedded unitary multi-campus technological university that will deliver greater integration and
direction across regional sectors, by focusing on traditional and growth areas such as agriculture
and agri-food; advanced manufacturing, tourism, creative industries, fintech and lifesciences geared
towards relevant, high-end, high-value employment.
A strong pharma/medical device cluster exists in the region and presents opportunity to attract other such industries.
These industries will thrive and grow if there is a feeder system of graduates in science and also if research opportunities and partnerships can exist and grow between them and a technological university in the region.
The region's higher education providers have been demonstrably successful in facilitating inward
investment and enterprise development through graduate formation and research and development.
Additional investment into higher education will enhance the capability of existing institutions.
The region has been hugely successful in research and is already home to a number of significant,
international-scale research institutions and centres.
These centres have collaborated effectively with
regional industry and these innovation-centred collaborations have created the conditions necessary
for the attraction of high-value employment to the region.
Enhanced investment in higher education provision will improve the ability of higher education to contribute to the creation of high-value jobs in innovation-centred areas.
Investment in essential infrastructure including broadband and upgrades to the national road network
including the N25 Rosslare-Cork, N24 Waterford-Limerick and N11 to Wexford are central to the
region's future economic development and growth.
Building up transport links between regions would offer a scale of development and critical mass that will help drive development regionally and nationally.
A strong city as the engine of growth for the region coupled with an integrated network of multiple well connected and attractive urban centres within the region served by good quality roads, transport and amenities will deliver tangible benefits for the South East. Among recommendations, the report says that through NPF 2040, a primary focus for future sustainable growth must be on increased investment in connectivity, infrastructure provision and skills to develop sufficient critical mass to attract and sustain significant levels of commercial activity and employment.
The upgrade of the N25 Rosslare-Cork and N24 Waterford-Limerick will be vital to facilitate the co-ordination of development across the South East.