Agenda item


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting in August 2022, it had received an update on the progress to support the development of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor (DBEC), including finalisation of the strategy and action plan. Since that meeting, the work had continued, and the strategy had now been completed and agreed by all DBEC partners. It aimed to articulate a vision for the partnership to enable sustainable economic growth across the region and to provide an evidence base for action, 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 reported that Members of the DBEC political advisory group had met in Dundalk on 14th October, 2022 to discuss the emerging findings and to consider the strategy and emerging action plan.


            The strategy had a vision of becoming 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 like Professional Services, Advanced Manufacturing, ICT, Life Sciences and Advanced Agriculture.


            The strategy articulated a number of strategic objectives for the partnership, including;


·        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;

·        Align with and support economic development partners to increase trade and investment along the corridor; and

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


            The next steps for this work were to develop a detailed action plan in order to focus resources and bring forward priority interventions. The partnership recognised that this would require dedicated resources and had agreed, in principle, to the recruitment of two staff resources (as previously advised). The recruitment process for these posts was currently under way and staff would be housed within Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

            The Director of Economic Development advised that, as with all elements of the work to date, the eight councils had been co-funding the research activities. The indicative budget for development work and resourcing in 2023 was 260k. In line with previous agreements, this would be resourced by the eight councils based on population share. The Belfast proportion was £35,805.83. The Committee were reminded that, at its meeting in April 2022, a budget of £15,000 had been agreed as an initial contribution. In order to progress the action plan, the Committee was asked to approve a further allocation of £21,000. The budget would be held by Newry Mourne and Down District Council through their role as Chair and Secretariat of the DBEC partnership. Belfast City Councils contribution would be allocated from existing budgets.


Shared Island Fund update


            It was reported that the strategic objectives for the DBEC work included enhancing cross-border collaboration in Research and Development and Innovation, targeting investment in high growth sectors as well as infrastructure that strengthened connectivity and access to markets and labour. To progress this work, the partnership had applied for funding through the Irish Government’s Shared Island Initiative. They were successful in attracting funding of €150,000 in September 2022 to carry out a feasibility assessment to develop a network of regional innovation hubs within the corridor region. These locations would support current or emerging business clusters in particular locations, to the benefit of the entire region. 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 highlighted 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 stated that a procurement exercise was underway to secure external expertise to carry out this work, aiming to commence in January 2023. This was being led by Fingal County Council and Belfast City Council officers would participate in a project steering group.


            In addition, Dublin and Belfast City Council were awarded €250,000 to carry out feasibility research on capital projects to support the circular economy. There had been extensive work with colleagues from both councils involved in preparing the terms of reference for a procurement exercise, with Dublin City Council as lead partner. This was expected to be finalised in January and Belfast City Council would work closely with Dublin officials at all stages.


            The Director of Economic Development pointed out that opportunities for funding from the Shared Island Fund, as well as other interventions such as Peace Plus, were being actively explored in order to bring forward some of the interventions identified through the DBEC strategy and emerging action plan.


            The Committee:


·        Noted the progress to date to develop the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor; and

·        Approved Belfast City Council’s contribution of £21,000 to Newry Mourne and Down District Council to enable the delivery of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor Action plan in 2023. 


Supporting documents: