WIT Academic: Waterford can become ‘Irish Barcelona’
Waterford should strive to become ‘Ireland’s Barcelona’ according to a leading local academic, who declared Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) ‘ready, willing and able’ to assist in any city-based funding applications to the Government’s National Development Plan (NPF).
Speaking to The Munster Express, Dr Richard Hayes (WIT’s Vice President for Strategy) said that the €4 billion allocated to the NPF in relation to urban renewal, in addition to new technological developments, presented “huge opportunities” for the city.
“Barcelona, as a city, has moved into a more hi-tech space and while we’re talking about cities which are very different in terms of scale, its re-invention is something I believe Waterford should seek to create something similar,” said Dr Hayes.
“It has heavily invested in its dockland and port areas and in transforming those sites, the city has embraced technology and knowledge-intensive, high value employment, moving in the direction of hi-tech, not only in terms of industries and innovation, but in terms of the fabric of the city, be it through bin collection, traffic management, water services and so on, and given our pre-existing relationship with the Polytechnic University of Barcelona (UCP), it struck me that we could learn from what’s been achieved in Barcelona and put what they’ve done there into practice here.”
Dr Hayes believes that a decade of co-operation between WIT and the UCVP should be positively exploited, adding that there is “considerable merit” in the prospect of a Waterford delegation travelling to Barcelona to see how it has re-invented itself.
Dr Hayes continued: “Barcelona is an ideas-led city and we partner with universities there as the drivers of regional change. Part of the infrastructure needed to be able to make the kinds of changes needed in a region is a fit-for-purpose, high-quality third level offering. The proposal for a Technological University that we are currently developing will seek to position WIT and Waterford as drivers in the South East of urban and regional transformation through recognising and building on the very high quality and impactful work we have been doing for many decades.”
Richard Hayes said that Barcelona’s role as Catalonia’s main economic driver has been enhanced by the development of its hi-tech sector.
“They didn’t try to replace one port with another port or heavy industry with other heavy industry,” he stated.
“They’ve embraced hi-tech innovation, through mobile technology, communications and ICT, and these are all areas which Waterford and the South East have made significant inroads in over recent years, and there’s more to do in that regard. Barcelona, again similar to Waterford, has a long history of trade and openness; Barcelona is a very diverse city, very cosmopolitan, lots of different nationalities and food and a huge cultural output. The game changer for Barcelona was the 1992 Olympics, having come from a place where it was largely based on heavy industry, and it used to be served by a pretty poor airport. But over time it has re-imagined itself, it’s now very attractive to students and hi-tech industry and I think these are all goals which Waterford can realise in the future, albeit on a smaller scale.”
In relation to the NPF, Dr Hayes said WIT has welcomed the creation of “competitive funding calls” in support of the Plan’s goals.
“We are fully committed to the emphasis in the Framework on building up our regional cities as the drivers of economic growth—our own research and experience in Europe shows that this is the only way to grow the region and to ensure future prosperity,” he added