The Mayor of Waterford, Cllr. John O’Leary welcomed the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform, Eliza Ferreira, to Waterford City on Monday, 19 September 2022 to see first-hand some excellent examples of how supports from the EU Funds have enhanced the South-East in so many ways.

Strong research culture at SETU

This included a visit to South East Technological University (SETU) to meet with local researchers to hear about the wide variety of research being carried out at the new university which have been funded by ERDF, including SFI centre projects, Enterprise Ireland projects and Interreg.

Commissioner Ferreira met with Joy Rooney, Portalis Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the Portalis project, along with representatives from Walton Institute, SEAM, and PMBRC, and other Interreg project STREAM. Researchers explained the impact of their project as related to digital and green themes and regional development.

She was impressed with how SETU Waterford has created a research and innovation ecosystem which links researchers and students with entrepreneurs and established companies to create a strong research culture, supported by the Research Support Unit, and was very interested to hear the ambitions to grow this further internationally as a Technological University.

ERDF funding

The Mayor and the Cathaoirleach of the Southern Regional Assembly, Cllr. Oliver Walsh also accompanied the Commissioner along the Viking Triangle toward the Apple Market to see how the space is used today after regeneration support from the ERDF Southern & Eastern Regional Programme 2014-20.

Since 2014, the Southern & Eastern Regional Programme, which is managed by the Southern Regional Assembly in the City, has delivered supports worth €621 million in the form of supports to micro-enterprises, research and commercialisation activities, low carbon initiatives, rapid funding response to the pandemic, and sustainable urban development projects, such as the Apple Market. Waterford City and County Council was able to match its own funds with €4 million from the ERDF to transform the area into the 21st century as a modern public space for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The Commissioner also met with the enthusiastic students at Youthreach on O’Connell Street to listen to their experiences and opinions on their education. Cllr. Lola O’Sullivan, Deputy Mayor of the Metropolitan District and Deputy Chair of the Waterford and Wexford Educational and Training Board explained how Youthreach works to motivate and inspire their students through a variety of training courses, supported by the European Social Fund.

Legacy of EU investment in Waterford

Cllr. Oliver Walsh, Cathaoirleach of the Southern Regional Assembly said, “Welcoming Commissioner Ferreira to Waterford to showcase the legacy of EU investment in the City in so many ways, from public realm works, training for young people, to high level research and commercialisation at the Technological University campus, has shown how good the investment has been”.

Smart, green, and digital future

The Regional Assembly recently submitted a proposal to the European Commission for a new round of ERDF investment through the Southern, Eastern & Midland Regional Programme 2021-27 worth €641 million, €265 million of EU funding and €376 million of funding from the Government of Ireland. This will be invested in developing smarter, more competitive regions, creating greener more energy efficient regions and a Just Transition, and sustainable urban development in our regions.

Commissioner Ferreira said, “Ireland will receive support to further develop its economy in a fair and green manner, ensuring that no region is left behind. Ireland has a far-reaching smart, green and digital future ahead.”