Cork Institute of Technology hosted representatives from 9 partners for the official launch of the Interreg Europe funded project FOUNDATION on the 24th and 25th of September. The purpose of FOUNDATION is to develop a framework and roadmap for regions facing industrial closures, job losses and uncertainty, to develop economic resilience through collaboration. FOUNDATION is a four year 2 phase €1.57 Million project funded by Interreg Europe under the ERDF. The consortium brings together a mix of expertise from European universities, regional development organisations and local authorities to share experience and make Europe more resilient.

In the 1980s, Cork City suffered a hammer blow with the closure of two major employers, Ford and Dunlop, in the 90’s Apple outsourced all production from Cork with the loss of over 400 jobs, whilst Motorola closed its doors in the 00’s. These are only some of the ‘shocks’ which have taken the city some considerable time to recover from the large loss of, not only those jobs directly, but the many ancillary businesses that suffered as a result. Had the city and region been better prepared, perhaps a recovery would not have taken quite as long as it did.

The partners were in CIT on September 24th for the Official Launch of the FOUNDATION project by CIT President, Dr Barry O’Connor. Dr John Hobbs, CIT V-LINC research group who is leading the consortium provided some background on the project, its’ aims and goals for the group. Dr Hobbs believes “the key benefit of the FOUNDATION project is the ability to collaborate with our international partners and learn from their experiences and let them benefit through ours – that is how real learning occurs. It will be great to understand and share good practices from local partners with first-hand knowledge – for example how the Oulu region overcame the Nokia restructuring to have a thriving ICT sector in the region, how clusters are used in Linz, Austria as an economic development tool to pivot in times of industrial change and how traditional sectors are utilising Industry 4.0 technologies in Cartagena, Spain; Rzeszow, Poland and Gyor Hungary.”

Mr Michael Moynihan contextualised Cork’s struggles in the 80s in his presentation which was based on his book “Crisis and Comeback – Cork in the Eighties,” whilst Dr Justin Dorn from Cork University Business School was able to share the realities of regional resilience to economic shocks, where he provided evidence and data from EU regions to highlight what are the conditions necessary to be a resilient region.

Enterprise specific start-up and scalability programmes and organisations that support, fuel and drive industry engagement, employment opportunities, entrepreneurial dynamism, and regional prosperity can be crucial to proactively aid industrial structural change. The group were grateful for the opportunity to meet Paul Healy and George Bulman who manage the Rubicon Centre who showcased the programmes offered in Rubicon and their office and co-working spaces.

After some project management meetings on the 25th of September the FOUNDATION European partners had the opportunity to undertake a number of study visits to see companies whom have been borne from industrial closures in Cork. The group were hosted by Crest Solutions in Little Island who have over 200 staff who work in the fields of machine vision and industrial automation engineering, software development, quality and documentation and project management. The opportunity to hear from CEO of Crest Solutions Frank Madden and CEO of ASPIRA Pat Lucey, on how they set up their business after industrial restructuring in Apple and Motorola respectively. Frank Madden of Crest Solutions argued that the promotion of self-employment and the opportunity of ‘becoming your own boss’ must be encouraged as a viable career path for those who have been negatively affected by economic shocks, and he spoke highly of the value of programmes like Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers and the mentoring and supports available through the Rubicon Centre. Pat Lucey from Aspira which hires over 100 staff in Cork, Dublin and Amsterdam, also highlighted the impact that Enterprise Ireland and the local business community had when Motorola was shutting down – supporting careers fairs and training opportunities for staff who were set to be made redundant.

The final stop on the site visits was into Cork’s English Market to visit the infamous Pat O’ Connell of Kay O’Connell’s Fish Merchants. Community engagement and empowerment has long been an important aspect of what Pat sees as essential in keeping the doors of the English Market open in the heart of Cork City Center in the 80s, 90s to this day. Pat highlighted the need for a plan B & C were Cork or other regions to lose large employers in the future.

For further information please contact Dr John Hobbs @ [email protected] or follow the project on Twitter @FOUNDATION_EU.