ERNACT secures €6.6m for City Region & its European partner regions for digitisation of industry & public services

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ERNACT is a Derry City & Strabane District and Donegal cross-border initiative – still delivering for both councils after 30 years.
20 April 2023 - ERNACT  project
ERNACT has already secured €6.6 million in the past six months, across a number of European projects (Data2Sustain, INNOCAP, CODIL, ENAIBLER, COPOWER) for digitisation of public services and SMEs from the new EU innovation programmes for the 2021-2027 budget period. Digitisation now involves a whole new emerging generation of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain or Virtual Reality (VR).

ERNACT is a cross-border legal entity jointly setup and managed by Donegal County and Derry City and Strabane District councils. It was established in 1991 to stimulate cross-border digital transformation cooperation in the North-West cross-border area, primarily by actively engaging with other European regional and local governments through EU research and innovation funding programmes. 

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Sandra Duffy states that ERNACT is continuing to play a hugely important role in bringing forward the digital transformation of the North-West cross-border region. “The work that ERNACT is doing in terms of digital transformation is essential if we want our companies to grow and develop their digital tools. This exciting work allows us to keep up to date with current advancements in technology and look at ways in which to adapt it effectively into the way we live and work.”

The membership of the ERNACT board, jointly appointed by both Councils, comprises of Councillor Rena Donaghey (Chairperson), Councillor Conor Heaney (Vice-Chairperson), Councillor Martin Reilly, Councillor Jack Murray, Stephen Gillespie (Director of Business and Culture), and Brian Boyle (Head of Information Systems). ERNACT’s European office is located in CoLab in the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) in Letterkenny. With its small but highly qualified staff team, equipped with unique digital transformation skills, it is very highly regarded across Europe in the digital transformation area and leads the management of complex EU innovation and research projects with large budgets (€2 million +), involving multiple public sector, regional government and university partners. 

Commenting on the value that ERNACT brings for the City Region, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Liam Blaney added that, “ERNACT is an extremely important European wide network to Donegal County Council and the Northwest region. It places us amongst the best public sector ICT initiatives in Europe where we can participate, learn, and develop in collaboration with other public authorities. It’s great to see starting two new projects on Disruptive Technologies and Artificial Intelligence and how the learnings from these projects can be implemented locally into developing and delivering better and new innovative public services. Through the ERNACT and Donegal Digital networks, the Northwest region has been to the forefront of this innovation and will continue to seek new opportunities, projects, and funding.”

Our unique organisation has been very successful to the extent that we are currently managing (EU programme period 2013 -2020) approximately million €31 of EU project funding on behalf of the two councils and our some 150 European public sector partners across Europe, with which we have legally binding EU contracts.

When the two Councils set it up, ERNACT was the first European network exploring how regional and local authorities could apply communications technology in the performance of their functions. This was at the very beginning of the EU’s interregional cooperation programmes in the early 1990s and before the World Wide Web was released into the public domain. ERNACT Board Chairperson and DCC Councillor Rena Donaghey stated that, "these projects will provide resources and expertise for our regions and cities to develop new approaches and policies to stimulate tech investment from start-ups and inward investment. I look forward to this being applied to the new challenges and opportunities of emerging disruptive technologies”.

In addition, Vice-Chairperson, DCSDC Councillor Conor Heaney, reflected that “the governance capability, systems, and experience in the North-West Cross-border area and the credibility, track record and relationships built up with many regional governments across Europe as a result of managing very complex and large budget projects should not be underestimated. It provides a unique competitive advantage, not enjoyed by too many other regions or cities in Ireland or indeed across Europe.”

North-West Ireland Cross-border Digital Transformation Action Plan
ERNACT, on behalf of DCC and DCSDC, attempts to pursue a coherent cross-border approach to digital transformation and the development of a regional tech innovation ecosystem in the City Region through the cross-border digital transformation Action Plan. This respects and integrates innovative actions already underway by key regional stakeholders including the North-West Regional College, Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Ulster University, North-West Regional Development Group, Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) and Special EU Programmes Body – SEUPB.

Several areas are highlighted in this Action Plan: including stimulating innovation to develop a Digital Transformation Ecosystem in the region and attracting and developing talent, and includes inputs from the Intelligent Cities Challenge programme for Derry and Strabane and the Donegal Digital strategy. “The Donegal Digital action plan has proven to be an invaluable resource for businesses and organisations towards the digital transition of Donegal. With partners from both the private and the public sector, it is a unique inter-agency plan that facilitates the perfect work and life balance across the county”, states Brian Boyle, Head of Information Systems in Donegal County Council.

Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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Upper Franconia
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