The new Killybegs Marine Cluster, the first dedicated to the Blue economy, was officially launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD this week (Monday 11th April)
The facility, which is based at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) campus on the town's Shore Road, will see commercial fishing, fish processing, marine engineering, aquaculture, renewable energies, offshore marine services and marine tourism pool their expertise to harness the potential of what was on their doorstep, the Atlantic ocean.
The Killybegs Marine Cluster is one of twelve clusters on the island of Ireland established as part of Enterprise Ireland’s National Cluster Programme and is the only Cluster dedicated to the Blue Economy. The Killybegs Marine Cluster, in collaboration with Atlantic Technological University (ATU), is currently 100% funded by Enterprise Ireland under the Regional Technology Cluster Fund (RTCF).
Commenting on the launch of the Marine Cluster, Minster McConalogue said, “I am delighted to be here today to join in on marking this momentous occasion. The Cluster has the potential to be an embarkation point for Killybegs and the North West. As a Donegal man, it makes me proud that the first Blue Economy Cluster is in my home county. We are a maritime region with a strong tradition of blue economy. I welcome the support and recognition of Enterprise Ireland, Atlantic Technological University, the Killybegs community and businesses, along with local politicians including Cllr Naughton.”
President of the ATU, Dr Orla Flynn spoke of the diverse geographical spread the new university presented in serving one unique region.
"We are a region in transition and it will be part of our mission to be a vehicle for talent, to be an anchor institution and to be a connecting point from an international perspective. As we say in ATU, the future is here."
Aidan McKenna, Regional Director of North-East and North-West Region, Enterprise Ireland was keen to add, “Enterprise Ireland are delighted to support the Killybegs Marine Cluster under the Regional Technology Clustering Fund. We work with Karl Bonner, the Educational Outreach Manager for the cluster, and ATU Letterkenny on an ongoing basis in order to strengthen increased SME productivity, drive SME competitiveness and support internationalisation activity for the cluster. While we are building on an established tradition of cooperation that exists among members in Killybegs, we are already gathering evidence that this targeted engagement with industry is assisting member companies to diversify and expand their operations.”
Manager of the Marine Cluster, Karl Bonner explained the objectives of establishing the cluster, including new business development, seeking out opportunities in International markets, fostering skills and talent and providing our members access to research, development and innovation while closely working with industry to develop the wider ecosystem around Killybegs.
He added the Blue economy is quite broad and encompasses many industries including commercial fishing, fish processing, marine engineering, aquaculture, renewable energies, offshore marine services and marine tourism.
"The 20 member companies in the Killybegs Marine Cluster move across these seven active and identifiable marine sectors and together these businesses have a combined revenue in excess of €300 billion per annum and provide sustainable employment for more than 1,000 people throughout the entire calendar year.
He said there was an internationally recognised and ambitious cluster with 95% of turnover generated by its members in export markets.
Industry representative, Brian Leslie, company director, SeaQuest Systems Limited, Killybegs said he wanted to see a bit more synergy between the companies in this area to see how they can tie in with the technological university as well as training in conjunction with the Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) and Enterprise Ireland.
The launch on Monday is a welcome boost to the town of Killybegs which has recently faced challenges due to fishing quotas and brexit.