ISME – the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association – has said we need to revive Cork’s maritime centre because of its huge potential for the future.
Set up in 2010, IMERC (Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster) was ahead of its time in identifying opportunities in the maritime sector for Ireland, according to ISME.
‘In its six years of existence, IMERC was extraordinarily successful in incubating and developing incredible businesses n Ringaskiddy,’ it said.
‘Those brilliant SMEs were the first to complain when IMERC was defunded by UCC and CIT, following the publication of a puzzling corporate governance ‘review’ in August this year. Whatever the local reasons behind IMERC’s demise, we can’t afford to dawdle in getting it, or something like it, back in action before the year is out. The size of the prize is simply too great to ignore,’ it added.
‘Ireland is home to many innovative maritime “stars,” just like the ones in IMERC. We have the capacity to incubate and grow many more, from Arklow all the way to Killybegs,’ the business body added.
‘The opportunity hasn’t gone away. The talent, the intellect and the corporate memory is still there in Cork. So is the Naval Service. Having seen its success, IMERC has spawned a number of imitators around the world, such as the Maritime Alliance in San Diego, the Oceans Advance cluster in St Johns, and next door to us the Plymouth marine cluster in Britain.’
ISME says the cost of getting IMERC 2.0 off the ground is a tiny decimal of the €350m UCC plans to spend over the next five years – yet the economic payback would be multiples of the investment.
‘As an island nation, the potential for the maritime sector in Ireland is the envy of most European countries,’ said ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell. ‘Our geography gives us a unique opportunity to cultivate it. If exploited intelligently and effectively, the maritime sector could contribute significantly to our GDP, as well as yielding thousands of high-calibre, high-value added, high-paying jobs all around our coast.’
He added: ‘With Brexit almost upon us, we must maximise the potential of the marine. The only thing we ask of our Government is the political will and determination to get it done.’