As part of the preparation of the respective Actions Plans, Munster Technological University hosted an interregional visit. The majority of our planned Foundation Seminars and Workshops have taken place on-line (due to Covid-19 restrictions), some of the detail of the GPs in particular regions of relevance to Action Plans has been lost by the lack of ability of our partners to connect face to face. This interregional visit was a chance for some of the interested partners to learn for Cork’s Good Practices and for partners to work together in our preparation of the respective Action Plans.

The Interregional Visit started on Monday the 4th of April with the arrival of the Finnish delegation which included three members of our Partner, the University of Oulu, namely Ossi Kotavaara, Matti Muhos and Katariina Ala-Rämi. They were joined by local stakeholder Hanna Honkamäkilä, Manager of International Affairs at the Council of Oulu. On Monday afternoon our Finnish visitors and MTU had meeting to discuss the progress of their respective Action Plans and share information of their Good Practices. This was a useful discussion as several GPs from Oulu are being utilised in the writing of the MTU Action Plan and Vice Versa.

Tuesday the 5th of April was a busy day as it included members from all participating Partners. In addition to our Finnish partners Tautvydas Pipiras and Povilas Bacevicus from the Lithuanian Innovation Centre, were joined by their local stakeholder Rimantas Serva of Panevezys City Business Council. Whilst Louise Slater was also in attendance representing Oldham Council. The morning started with a tour of MTU’s Cork campus from Foundation co-ordinator, Dr John Hobbs. This was followed by a presentation about the ‘South West Regional Enterprise Plan’ by Jonathan Hoare the Programme Manager. This was an engaging and participatory presentation which included much interaction from those in attendance. It was clear to see the interest in this GP and how it will potentially influence the Action Plan by the Lithuania Innovation Centre. Following this there was a presentation by Dr John Hobbs, a leading authority on the development of clusters. Dr Hobbs explained how the National Cluster Policy can help build resilience for the Irish economy. The development of clusters is an important aspect for the Oldham Action Plan as they explore the potential of creating a Green Energy Cluster to help build resilience and grow the local economy. Carole O’Leary from MTU’s Rubicon Centre, outlined the intricoes, origins and aims of the GP ‘Student Inc.,’ which provides training and mentoring for students who have a business idea to help them become entrepreneurs.

Wednesday started at Cork City Hall with a tour of the council chambers and the Lord Mayor’s office. Dave Catherall from Oldham Council joined the visiting delegation just in time for a presentation from Ruth Buckley, the Chief Information Officer for Cork City Council, on Cork’s digital strategy. Cork City Council has actively engaged in a wide range of projects to assist Cork’s development as a smart city. Working collaboratively the city are committed to exploring smart and sustainable solutions which will promote inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development.

Following the audience with the Deputy Lord Mayor, the group returned to MTU for an overview of each visiting partner region’s draft action plans. These draft action plans showcased the learnings that partners through Foundation have engaged in over the past three years through the sharing of GPs and how that information is being integrated in partner regions to build realistic, affordable action plans which will be greatly beneficial to these territories. Paul Sutton, Economic Development Officer at Cork County Council, was in attendance for this session and was able to explain how MTU’s Action Plan is in alignment with the provision of more co-working space for rural towns across County Cork and how the Council can support and implement certain actions derived from Austria and Finland in particular.

The day ended with a ‘Design Thinking Workshop,’ led by Dr Hobbs and his colleague Dr Barraí Hennebry for the Visiting Delegation. This allowed the partners to collaboratively share learnings and more concretely focus their respective Action Plans in terms of finetuning specific actions, stakeholder involvement, indicative timelines for implementation, costs and funding sources. External benchmarking from partner regions were really helpful for this process. Dr Matti Muhos Professor at University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute, believed ‘this was an engaging and productive workshop which helped partners to envision the impact that they would like to have on their region and how to set meaningful, achievable goals within their Action Plans in order to achieve this vision, or AP has definitely benefited from the collaboration.”