Re­search jobs key to fu­ture of Skel­lig area

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - NEWS - By SINEAD KELLE­HER

MANY ru­ral ar­eas are in de­cline, but the Skel­lig re­gion is figh­ing back and has come up with an in­no­va­tive way of cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment and has contributed to the em­ploy­ment of 10 peo­ple, a num­ber which is set to in­crease fur­ther in the com­ing years.

The jobs are linked to ed­u­ca­tional re­search op­por­tun­ties in the re­gion thanks to the de­vel­op­ment of the SMARTLab Skel­lig ini­tia­tive in re­cent years. This has led to re­search fund­ing of more than €250,000 for the Skel­lig re­gion, which in turn has meant more jobs in re­search ed­u­ca­tion and has po­si­tioned the Skel­lig re­gion as an in­ter­na­tional re­search hub.

The re­search fund­ing comes from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) and Bord Ias­caigh Mhara (BIM).

The fund­ing has al­lowed a num­ber of peo­ple to live and work in the re­gion on in­ter­na­tional re­search projects, and it is hoped in time that more em­i­grants will be able to re­turn home for jobs.

One of the key ar­eas of re­search cur­rently be­ing car­ried out is the CoDesRes project (co-de­sign­ing for Re­silience in Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment), which fo­cuses on the in­ter­na­tional sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals.

Re­search and projects in south Kerry will bring to­gether dif­fer­ent gen­res in­clud­ing marine bi­ol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal science, arts and ed­u­ca­tion, to help fo­cus on four goals in the ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion, land and marine en­vi­ron­ments, sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment.

The re­search ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive is be­ing led by Naisc Skel­lig Di­as­pora Net­work and by Liv­ing Iver­agh DAC, who are both bod­ies of peo­ple with ex­per­tise to help de­velop the re­gion.

They de­vel­oped the Muinín project – muinín trans­lates as con­fi­dence – which is an in­ter­ven­tion to help the Skel­lig Re­gion grow and de­velop.

One of the key ar­eas to help de­velop the Skel­lig re­gion is the busi­ness of ed­u­ca­tion, and steps have been taken to build an in­fra­struc­ture of lo­cally based ex­per­tise and a fac­ulty of re­searchers and teach­ers.

This has been brought about by the SMARTLab Skel­l­lig ini­tia­tive and has led to three PHD students work­ing in the re­gion. These in­clude Lucy Hunt, who is an in­ter­na­tional re­searcher and was the Volvo Ocean Race ed­u­ca­tional of­fi­cer last year as well as Vinny Hy­land and Eleanor Turner.

The SMARTlab Global Net­work is led by Prof El­iz­a­beth Good­man, whose aim is to al­low PhD students base them­selves there they live and work. SMARTlab has an alumni of over 50 PhDs.

SMARTlab Skel­lig’s Dr Anita McK­e­own, who moved to Ca­her­siveen to con­trib­ute to re­search de­vel­op­ment has been in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing the €250,000 fund­ing to the re­gion for re­search projects and is lead­ing the CoDesRes project.

“Grow­ing a lo­calised hub for in­ter­na­tional re­search that builds on ex­ist­ing tal­ents and knowl­edge, as well as a sup­port­ive foun­da­tion and men­tors for the fu­ture is the crit­i­cal aim of our work,” said Dr McK­e­own.

It is hoped the num­ber of PHD students will grow to 10 and that each of those will in turn un­der­take more re­search and em­ploy re­searchers.

“There is a host of ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties hap­pen­ing in the Iver­agh re­gion at the mo­ment; there is a great new en­ergy in the re­gion, with many new peo­ple re­turn­ing and setting up new busi­nesses, or re­lo­cat­ing their jobs and work­ing re­motely for employers based world-wide. This re­gion has al­ways been a place of learn­ing, and we are fo­cus­ing on that,” said June O’Connell , chair of Naisc Dis­apora Net­work.

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