Successful EU information seminar held in Derry

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In this article Martina Anderson MEP explains the importance of engagement by the city’s university, business, community and voluntary sectors as well as SMEs to engage with the EU to ensure access to all funding and information assistance.

I was greatly encouraged by the numbers from various research and innovation projects as well as representatives from Magee University who participated in a recent EU funding Information Seminar that I organised in Derry.

It was encouraging to see the level of interest and participation in this Information Seminar. I thank Collette Fitzgerald from the OFMdFM EU Desk and Laura Leonard from Belfast City Council EU Unit for facilitating this seminar. I intend this to only be the start of a process of engagement on EU funding streams for the benefit of all across, Education, Research & Development, Community & Voluntary and SME and all other eligible sectors in Derry and the North West.

Colette and Laura provided the seminar with information about the EU funding structures and the importance of making the right contacts in Europe. They stressed that they were more than happy to help those in Derry make the right contacts and the best use of Europe.

The seminar was intended to equip the different sectors with additional support mechanisms to assist them in opening up opportunities to the EU and to encourage them to use my office in Europe as a conduit for information on available funding and information streams.

I have been working on issues at a European level for some time, way before I took on the role as MEP, and have long recognised the value and opportunities that the EU can provide for Derry.

Along with my colleague and my very capable replacement in the Assembly, Maeve McLaughlin MLA, I worked to ensure that an EU Unit is established in Derry City Council.

In carrying out my role as MEP, and being mindful of the fact that I represent the entire Six-counties, I will nevertheless bring a special focus to EU matters that could be of specific benefit to Derry and the North West.

If doors can be opened I will not be left wanting and am accessible to engage with anyone who wishes to maximise the potential of Europe for Derry.

The rationale for facilitating the seminar in Derry can be explained through some statistics. In recent years, the North as a whole has drawn down close to £36 million in funding for R&D. Of this, 75% has gone to the two universities. And 75% of that amount has gone to Queen’s University.

There are numerous funding opportunities in the EU but as these figures demonstrate the University of Ulster – including Magee Campus – is not accessing a proportionate level of funding. There is obvious potential to draw down much more than the North West has done to date.

With the One Plan in its delivery phase, Project Kelvin at our disposal, the plans to expand Magee, research centres such as C-TRIC and the ISRC, Derry has an abundance of potential. The EU properly and efficiently accessed can be the means to achieving the full potential of these assets.

In a recent meeting with EU Commissioner, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, I was informed that the EU has €8/9 billion for R&D which will become available in the next month. I would therefore, encourage those involved in R&D and other innovation projects to explore any possible assistance available through this funding stream.

A recent meeting which I had with the EU Funding Advisory Panel also focussed on the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme with a budget of €80million aimed at advancing European Global competitiveness.

Invest NI, DETI and OFMdFM have a number of officials working in this area already but again I believe that there is a need for greater communication with SMEs etc to ensure that full advantage of the various funding streams is utilised for the benefit of local economies. Invest NI and InterTradeIreland have now taken this requirement on board and have agreed that they will assess the support network they provide to examine how it can be improved.

I am now also exploring opportunities to strengthen the Derry/Boston link to include an EU connection. The Department of Health here is developing an EU/US health research link which I believe Magee University could capitalise on given the proximity of the Kelvin Project, the proposed Science Park, C-Tric etc.

This is an expanding area for the EU and almost €9 billion has been earmarked for health from the overall €80 billion in the next EU Research programme - Horizon 2020 - coming on stream for 2014-2020.

The European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee which I am a member of published a Draft Opinion in May, urging the Commission to include more health-related topics in Horizon 2020 so the issue is very current in the Parliament and we should take advantage of it.