South West College (SWC) hopes to strengthen Northern Ireland’s marine economy by adapting existing technology and maximising the potential of the province’s aquatic resources.
As part of the €2.1m TARGET Project - an initiative spear-headed by SWC which seeks to make local manufacturers more globally competitive – the college is already using various technologies in innovative ways. It now intends to explore new methods of using that same technology to bolster Northern Ireland’s marine economy, after gaining inspiration from a recent conference that addressed Blue Growth.
Padraig McNamee, Head of the Department of Technology at SWC, attended The Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme Annual Conference 2017 last Thursday (September 21) at the Marine Institute in Galway. He was joined at the event by TARGET Project Co-ordinator Edel McCusker, and SWC Programme Manager, John Moore, along with other TARGET partners.
Entitled ‘Blue Opportunities: The Marine Economy in the NPA’, the conference focussed on Blue Growth in relation to the Arctic and to the Atlantic Strategy. It also addressed areas such as marine entrepreneurship, the marine and coastal environment and sustainable tourism.
Padraig said: “What I found particularly interesting was that, as an island nation, we’re lagging behind. We actually get quite a small percentage of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from the marine economy, at about 0.8%, compared to the global average of 2%.
“But there’s plenty of scope for us to develop and explore our marine resources in a way we currently are not, both in exploitation of physical resources – fishing and wind and extracting minerals from the sea – and marine tourism. We’re also quite close to substantial inland resources, such as the Fermanagh Lakes and Lough Neagh.”
Having already introduced a range of technology to local manufacturing companies for multiple uses, SWC is confident this same technology can be used in yet more innovative ways to facilitate Blue Growth. This will ultimately support entrepreneurship further and increase production within the marine economy.
“We as a college will be looking at how we can use the learning from the TARGET Project, which has been aimed at land-based work, to explore marine opportunities,” said Padraig. “It’s more about upscaling what we’re doing – not necessarily doing it bigger, but doing it better.”