Infrastructure, connectivity and positioning of Shannon region in a national economic context high on Shannon Chamber’s agenda for 2020

With the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for Ireland’s southern region scheduled for publication in early 2020, Shannon Chamber is hopeful that the recommendations it submitted as part of the consultative process will be contained within the plans to develop the region in the years ahead

Of specific interest to Shannon Chamber will be the provision of:

  • adequate access of an appropriately high standard into and out of Shannon, including road, rail and air access;
  • the development of walkways and cycleways from Shannon to Bunratty and onwards to Limerick;
  • provision for various coordinated actions and planning initiatives to build on the inherent economic, social, lifestyle and spatial links between Limerick and Shannon and the immediate hinterland areas, thereby significantly enhancing the area‚Äôs future economic impact and growth; and
  • strategies to develop a ‚Äėhigh-value, low-carbon economy, including the provision for a connected autonomous vehicles‚Äô (CAVs) test bed in Shannon and the region – Shannon Chamber welcomes the recent announcement by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD, that Co. Clare has secured one of the largest allocations under the third call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) with ‚ā¨4.7 million approved for the development of a Future Mobility Campus and test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) at Shannon. This is a transformative project for Ireland.


Delivering Shannon Chamber‚Äôs review of the year and planning ahead for 2020, CEO Helen Downes said that access into the region, via Shannon Airport, must be a priority for the region‚Äôs key stakeholders, including the collective Chambers. 

‚ÄúAs a contributor to the Copenhagen Economics‚Äô report, ‚ÄėAssessment of aviation policy as a driver of economic development in the West and Mid-West of Ireland‚Äô, commissioned by Limerick Chamber and supported by Shannon, Ennis, Galway and Tipperary Chambers, and published in late 2019, Shannon Chamber will be placing increasing emphasis on ensuring that Shannon Airport is given the required financial support to secure EU hub connectivity post Brexit,‚ÄĚ stated Ms Downes.

“ We will also be advocating for a review of aviation policy so that capacity at each airport is fully utilised, in line with the Government’s stated ambition to attain balanced regional development and, that Exchequer funding be made available to all airports with under 3 million passengers per annum, as permitted by EU guidelines, to enable them develop as gateways for tourism and industry in their regions.

‚ÄúThe Chamber network in the Mid-West region will be a collaborative force in ensuring that the recommendations of the Copenhagen Economics Report are delivered,‚ÄĚ added Ms Downes.

Releasing Shannon Chamber’s Review of 2019, Ms Downes thanked all stakeholders, public and private sector, local, regional and national, for their contributions to the Chamber’s activities in 2019. She also thanked member companies for their continuous collaboration and interactions to enable the Chamber more aptly add value to their respective memberships.

Thanking the Board for their input throughout the year, Ms Downes said: ‚ÄúTheir support for the Chamber and their commitment to developing Shannon to its optimal enabled us to frame and deliver a robust programme of activities in 2019.‚ÄĚ


Review of the Year 2019

Key attainments of Shannon Chamber during the year include:

  • 19 business events, a combination of breakfast briefings, workshops, seminars and business lunches held on a diverse range of topics aimed at strengthening member companies‚Äô operations.
  • 2 major conferences hosted ‚Äď the inaugural Human Resources (HR) conference, which addressed the HR and people management landscape, and the 3rd annual Mid-West Lean Network conference held in the University of Limerick.
  • 10 workshops delivered by the Mid-West Lean Network and hosted by member companies throughout the region, which attracted capacity attendances.
  • 48 training programmes delivered to 630 executives in 140 member companies by its training network, Shannon Chamber Skillnet. This brought the total number of programmes delivered in the past four years (since the establishment of Shannon Chamber Skillnet) to 180 involving 2,132 executive trainees.
  • Recognition in Chambers Ireland Awards – Shannon Chamber‚Äôs initiative to establish the Mid-West Lean Network to create a centre of excellence for continuous improvement and competitiveness in the Mid-West region was recognised by Chambers Ireland through being shortlisted in the most ‚ÄėInnovative Initiative‚Äô category of the Awards.
  • Responding to the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for Ireland‚Äôs southern region (March 2019). Shannon Chamber‚Äôs submission concentrated on strengthening Shannon‚Äôs profile to the draft Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan (MASP). Amendments to the RSES (MAY 2019) took on board many of Shannon Chamber‚Äôs recommended wording to strengthen the Shannon component of the MASP.
  • Participation in workshops to devise a new tourism strategy for Clare, an initiative of Clare County Council and Shannon Heritage; Shannon Chamber looks forward to contributing to the public consultation process.
  • Participation in the formulation of the Mid-West Regional Enterprise Plan 2020.
  • Production of a 16-page Shannon supplement in conjunction with the Sunday Business Post and companies in the region.
  • Continuous involvement in the development of the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) Taskforce to drive significant regional development, to complement and balance Ireland‚Äôs thriving east coast.
  • Collaborating with Limerick Chamber, IDA and Career Zoo to deliver a major ‚ÄėTech on the Wild Atlantic Way‚Äô event in Thomond Park, Limerick in February 2020.
  • Representation, via Shannon Chamber director, Kevin Thompstone, at UNIDO‚Äôs Annual General Conference in Abu Dhabi in November. The invitation to attend was extended by the Director General, Li Yong, resulting from his visit to Shannon in April 2019.


Fostering Enterprise Development through Training

Training delivered by Shannon Chamber Skillnet in 2019 to a cross-sectoral spread of companies generated new collaborations, sharing of best practice, local engagement and networking that would not otherwise have occurred. The provision of training has also enabled SME managers to develop comprehensive business management skills. Greater participation in training by the SME sector will be a key focus of Shannon Chamber Skillnet in 2020.

Having successfully applied for and been awarded funding by Skillnet Ireland, the business support agency of the Government of Ireland, to deliver training programmes to its member companies over the next three years (2020 ‚Äď 2022), Shannon Chamber, via its Skillnet network, is developing a comprehensive suite of training programme for delivery in 2020.  New sectors arriving in Shannon, such as automation and artificial intelligence, present opportunities for new areas of training to future-proof Shannon as an investment location.

Shannon Chamber Skillnet is led by a Steering Group comprising Shannon Chamber executives and the following company representatives:

  • Vicky Howard, operations director, Reagecon;
  • Orla Mc Carthy, HR director, Pepper Finance Corporation Ireland;
  • Liam Kirby, operations training leader, AXA Partners;
  • Edmund Jennings, managing director, CREGG Group;
  • Barry Lowe, engineering manager, Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon;
  • Aidan McMahon, founder and CEO, Gentian Services Ltd;
  • David Brown, former finance manager, IDEX Pump Technologies (Ireland) Ltd; and
  • Fiona Gilchrist, Shannon R&D strategy lead, Jaguar Land Rover.


A Valuable Events’ Series

Shannon Chamber’s annual events’ series has a clear focus Рto inform and transform through the exchange of knowledge and insights on business and economic development that can deliver benefit to members. The wide range of seminars, breakfast briefings, business lunches and social events organised during 2019 included keynote addresses from John Slattery, president & CEO, Embraer Commercial Aviation; performance psychologist, Caroline Currid; Niall Gibbons, chief executive, Tourism Ireland and; Professor John Fitzgerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

A one-day seminar on scaling up a business, at which world-renowned guru on the topic, Verne Harnish, imparted his vast reservoir of knowledge, is already encouraging companies throughout the Mid-West and from other parts of Ireland to focus on attaining higher levels of growth. Shannon Chamber will host similar events in 2020.


The Mid-West Lean Network ‚Äď Gaining impact

An increase in the uptake of lean and continuous improvement processes by Chamber member companies is clearly evident in the numbers enrolling for the Mid-West Lean Network‚Äôs annual workshop series, which, in 2019, saw 10 events focused on specific areas of lean being hosted in member companies‚Äô premises ‚Äď in Takumi, Lufthansa Technik Shannon, Molex, Ei Electronics, Cook Medical, Analog Devices, Roche Clarecastle and the Gateway Hub, Shannon Airport House.

The annual conference, with headline sponsorship from Three and associate sponsorship from the University of Limerick, LBS Partners, DB Schenker, Indigo, Molex and supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, had a capacity audience. Two Shannon companies, Advanced Technical Concepts and Molex emerged as joint winners of the A3 Project storyboard award, a new initiation to the conference in 2019.

The Mid-West Lean Network, which now has 110 member companies and 260 individuals involved in the network, is supported by Enterprise Ireland and led by a steering committee comprised of executives from Zimmer Biomet, Advanced Technical Concepts, LBS Partners, Molex, Cook Medical, Ei Electronics, AAG, and Idex Pump Technologies (Ireland) Ltd.  Outgoing chair, Claude Costelloe, site lead, Zimmer Biomet Ireland, whose two-year term of office expired in December 2019 handed over the reins to Jony Kelly, enterprise excellence manager, Analog Devices, who will lead the network through the next two years, 2020/2021.


Shannon Chamber HR Forum

Described by members as one of the most beneficial mechanisms for HR managers to share best practice and thinking in HR and employment law and for networking, the HR Forum, led by Derek McKay, managing director, Adare Human Resource Management, hosted its inaugural HR conference in May 2019 at which global technology futurist, Sophie Hackford, gave the keynote address. Ms Hackford gave an incredible whistle-stop tour of science and technology breakthroughs from around the world including an insight into the technologies that are shaping the future of organisations. Planning for the 2020 conference, which will take place in May, is already underway.


Mid-West Regional Enterprise Plan 2020

Shannon Chamber was an active participant, with key stakeholders in the region, in the formulation of the Mid-West Regional Action Plan 2020 with representation on three strategic objectives teams ‚Äď A Digitally Enabled Region, Talent and Skills, and Regional Messaging.

Shannon Chamber welcomes the recent announcement by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD, that Co. Clare has secured one of the largest allocations under the third call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) with ‚ā¨4.7 million approved for the development of a Future Mobility Campus and test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) at Shannon. This is of immense significance both regionally and nationally and will deliver to the goals of creating a digitally enabled region.


Continuous Progress on Regional Development via the AEC

Shannon Chamber maintained active participation in the Atlantic Economic Taskforce through its director, Kevin Thompstone and CEO, Helen Downes. Progress that has been made in establishing the AEC Taskforce as an effective vehicle for stakeholders to collaborate in identifying and developing projects that can help to better balance future development, attract investment and add real value to the economy of the West include:

  • AEC officers in each of the 10 Local Authorities, part funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, have mapped out 227 enterprise spaces along the corridor. This information will be an invaluable source of information for potential investors and businesses in developing and growing their businesses or relocating to the Atlantic region.
  • A three-year AEC Enterprise Hubs strategy is being implemented to create an interconnected community network for the 101 enterprise hubs identified as either operating or in development in the AEC region.
  • The Western Development Commission (WDC) continues to implement a range of initiatives under the Atlantic Economic Corridor branding.  These include the website, newsletters and case studies on businesses across the AEC. Companies in Shannon, Limerick and Clare feature in the case studies.  

Shannon Chamber will continue to actively participate in the AEC Taskforce during 2020 to ensure that the assets of the AEC are maximised to attract investment, and create jobs and prosperity in the region.