For South West College, bringing together what is international and what is local is nothing new. For students, facilities such as the IDEA centre and the IMAGE centre have long since been a sign that a rural education setting doesn’t mean a purely rural education. While the signing of a more recent Memorandum of Understanding alongside Ulster University means that South West College are part of the SMART Region initiative, spearheaded by First Minister, Arlene Foster, which aims to help regions use their own natural assets alongside more city-like features, services and technology in order to try and achieve its potential for future development.
Now, South West College are well underway with their involvement in the Target Project, a three year international project to enhance the capacity of manufacturing companies to innovate and embrace new technologies.
With manufacturing companies in the NPA region predominately small in size and facing considerable challenges such as geographical isolation and a comparative lack of benefits, the Target project is aimed at supporting them by helping them adopt new innovative technologies, processes and practices to help make them world leaders in their sectors.
The Target Project has a 2.1 Million Euro budget and is planned from May 2015 to June 2018, with partners spread across Europe. The project Partners are: South West College Northern Ireland (Lead Partner), Centria University of Applied Science Finland, Arctic University Norway, Lulea University of Technology Sweden, Cavan Innovation & Technology Centre & Cavan & Sligo Local Enterprise Companies.
The main aim of Target is to support and equip manufacturing companies so that they can compete on a global scale, to develop the entrepreneurial capacity of the regions businesses, and utilise and develop knowledge among partners to enhance the uptake of new technologies. The project is funded under the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA). The partners are universities and other education/innovation providers across the NPA region. The project will strengthen the capacity of the manufacturing sector, including the adoption of new innovative technologies, processes and practices, to build competitive advantage, by developing a toolbox of supports, which, through the introduction of new technologies, knowledge and skills, will help to position manufacturing companies in the region as world leaders in their sectors.
Representatives from the partner organisations have already come together at the Tromso campus of UiT-The Arctic University of Norway to discuss progress in the implementation of the project and to agree tasks and priorities going forward. The meeting discussed inter alia, the challenges faced by manufacturing companies in the region, the range of skill sets of the partners, the most appropriate mechanisms and approaches to be used in the transfer of knowledge and expertise, and the form and structure of engagements with the companies selected to participate.
Edel McCusker, Programme Co-ordinator, South West College explained that, “the aim of this project is to develop the tools to allow manufacturing companies in the NPA Region to adapt and embrace the next generation of technology and innovation”. She described how “each of the partner organisations have specialist skill sets focused on ensuring that the local and regional manufacturing base will be globally competitive and innovative through the utilisation of the advanced technology and digital manufacturing techniques available through the partnership”.