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29 Jun 2022

BREAKING: University of Limerick announce 'game-changer' expansion plan

BREAKING: University of Limerick announce 'game-changer' expansion plan

The University of Limerick is planning a 'game-changer' expansion

THE University of Limerick (UL) and Clare County Council have this morning unveiled multi-million euro plans to develop a huge new economic zone on the college's north campus.

In a move described as being a "game-changer", the project could create upwards of 3,500 jobs, and generate a gross added value of €1.795bn to the local economy.

The joint strategy has seen UL and Clare County Council apply to government to designate lands adjoining the north campus of the University - in South East Clare - as an Economic Strategic Development Zone (SDZ).

It will pave the way for an 'Innovation District' allowing enterprise partnerships and immersive academies of learning at the third-level institution.

UL president Prof Kerstin Mey and the chief executive of Clare County Council Pat Dowling have formally written to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien to seek the designation.

"The decision to seek the designation of the lands as an SDZ is a culmination of the joint will of both our organisations to facilitate the development of academies of learning and centres of excellence on the University campus in County Clare,” said  Prof Mey.

"These academies are the cornerstone of the most significant revision of the relationship between higher education and enterprise. They are intended to establish Ireland, and in particular the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area, as a treasury of talent constituting a vital resource towards securing future employment opportunities, attracting foreign direct investment into the region, sustaining both multinational and indigenous enterprises and the ongoing economic and social development of Ireland," added the college's president.

Now, Mr O'Brien will consult with Limerick City and County Council, residents and other interested parties before making any decision in relation to designation.

If it's granted, a two-year consultation will then take place with landowners and stakeholders in relation to the development of a masterplan.

It is anticipated that the decision regarding the designation will be made by government this year.

According to today's release both UL and Clare County Council believe, should the designation be successful, that the site has the capacity to become a "game changer" both regionally, nationally and internationally.

They say the project has the potential to generate upwards of 3,500 jobs, with additional employment being generated in the construction phase and subsequent spin-off developments.

Foreign and indigenous enterprises will partner with the University in designing and delivering dual, immersive education, advanced research and re- and upskilling.

"Talent is key to attracting Foreign Direct Investment, and creating attractive places is key to attracting talent," said Mr Dowling, "The South Clare/UL Economic Strategic Development will be an environment with high quality placemaking providing for a full range of education, research, living, working, and recreational spaces integrated within the University campus environment."

Economic forecasts have suggested that the site could generate a gross added value of €1.795 billion annually to the Irish economy.

The project will establish UL as a European Centre of Excellence in dual education, advanced research with industry and knowledge exchange. It will confer a lead status on the University as an institution of international repute in enterprise data stewarding, Clare Council and UL say.

The establishment of the site as an Innovation District with enterprise partnerships, immersive academies of learning and necessary amenities will provide a considerable economic, social and cultural boost to the Limerick city region, says Clare County Council and UL.

“The development of this area with clustering of domains of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship will in time cite Limerick on a par with the great centres of knowledge-led social and economic advantage in both Europe and the United States,” said Professor Mey, "It is intended that this zone would be accessible and integrated with Limerick city and have sustainable transport links, including the redevelopment of the Errina canal link,” said Professor Mey.

"This is a world class, global location for industry of scale that will allow the University to expand over the next 50 years of its lifetime, and give us more space for student accommodation as well as advanced learning and research spaces," she added.

Prof Mey said: "We do this hand in glove with our commitments to the city and the recent opening of the UL city centre campus is evidence of that. We have great ambition to grow our existing campus footprint and extend further into the city at the same time. To make UL the catalyst of change it needs to be to attract students and world class researchers and academics, the city, the future SDZ and the campus expansion are integrated elements of our vision for the future of this university."

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