LIMERICK’S standing as ‘Ireland’s sports capital’ is to receive a further boost, with the promise of 500 jobs over the next five years through a new sports cluster.
The establishment of Ireland’s first ever sports business cluster - to be based in Limerick - was revealed last week, and the cluster is to be up and running within year, with a chief executive to be appointed.
The National Sports Business Cluster is to be established in Limerick, where 500 people are already employed in sports, and will platform from the elite sporting facilities established at the likes of UL’s sports campus, LIT’s Sportslab in Thurles and a range of companies involved in other sports related activities, from sports tech to nutrition companies, in Limerick and its catchment.
Unveiling the plans, Dr Pat Daly, head of economic development and planning at Limerick City and County Council, said that establishing formal clusters can help redress economic development imbalances by growing employment, and through indigenous companies, rather than major multi-nationals, which benefit most from establishment of formal clusters.
“Limerick has a proud tradition in sporting circles but that has translated into very real business in the city and region. Today there are around 500 people employed in over 30 sports related companies here, in areas such as sport science, sports tech, sports admin and professional sports and there’s an opportunity to take this to the next level. Establishing a formal cluster will help us achieve that,” said Mr Daly.
“The benefits from developing strong formal clusters are seen internationally; in the financial services in London, technology in Silicon Valley, fashion in Milan, etc. For us, it’s not a case of ‘should we’ but we have to. We are starting with the establishment of the National Sports Business Cluster and will also look, in due course, at other clusters suited to this region, such as pharma, financial and agri-tech,” he said.
International experience, he said, is that clusters also enhance competitiveness and innovation, accelerate entrepreneurship and have a positive impact on the growth rate of average wages.
The International Cluster Conference, which will be held at the Strand Hotel on September 30 and October 1 next.
Titled ‘Clusters as Drivers of Competitiveness’, it will give key stakeholders, from public and semi-state sector representatives to academics, an understanding of the tangible benefits that formal clusters are delivering globally and what’s required to establish them.
Among the key speakers at the event will be one of the world’s leading authorities on clusters, Dr. Christian Ketels, of Harvard Business School.
Other key note speakers over the two-day conference are Professor Dr Philippe Gugler, Chair of Economic and Social Policy and Centre for Competitiveness at the Department of Economics, University of Fribourg, Switzerland; Dr Gerd Meier zu Köcker, Director, Institute for Innovation and Technology, Berlin; Professor Jacques Bersier, Vice-President, Science and Technology Centre, Fribourg, Switzerland; and leading Irish expert Dr Eleanor Doyle, Acting Head, School of Economics & Competitiveness Institute.
Speaking ahead of the conference, which will be held outside Switzerland – one of the world’s leading nations in clusters – Dr. Gugler said that international experience clearly states that Ireland can benefit significantly from formalising clusters.
“There has been quite an amount of research into clusters and their benefits but there is very strong evidence that regions with formal clusters tend to do a lot better than those without established clusters.
“Clusters definitely lead to employment growth, help attract highly-skilled people, result in a high innovation rate, make a region attractive for new enterprises and typically those regions also result in a lot less firms and employment relocating. There is also evidence of a positive impact of clusters on the growth rate of average wages and entrepreneurship, while productivity is also higher,” he said.
Among the existing formal clusters in Ireland is the International Aviation Services Centre at Shannon, which comprises a cluster of 40 plus aviation businesses operating in the Shannon Free Zone and has a full-time CEO.