The team at WhiteLight Consulting were thrilled to work with the amazing team at the Regional Development Centre in Dundalk to plan and manage their 25th anniversary awards lunch and commemorative book launch on 21st November. It’s been an incredible journey for the RDC, the team and the companies that have come through it and we’d love to share their story with you:
When the Regional Development Centre in Dundalk opened their doors back in 1989 the Simpsons was a hit TV show and Garth Brooks was topping the charts. Some would say that not much has changed. However the establishment of the Regional Development Centre on campus at the then Regional Technical College was truly visionary.
Hard to believe now, but back in those days, the IDA was trying to encourage the concept of Campus Entrepreneurship. The first on campus incubation centre of its kind in the Institute of Technology sector, opened in Dundalk back in 1989 and the RDC quickly became a driving force in the North East and Cross Border economies.
“We started by creating a really dynamic environment in which companies could thrive. We connected entrepreneurs, academics and researchers, funders and state supports to provide an exceptional development environment.” explained RDC Manager Irene McCausland.
Now the old Regional Technical College is the state of the art Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Regional Development Centre is more dynamic than ever.
“We are a small but specialised team. We all have a background in industry. We work collaboratively with entrepreneurs. We support them in practical ways but also challenge them to overcome difficulties so that their business reaches its full potential.”
The client list, both past and present, reads like a Who’s Who of successful and sustainable Irish companies.
“We have worked alongside some of Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs to support them in the development of their business. Some are household names like Colm Piercy of DigiWeb, Paddy Matthews of Matthews Coach Hire and Patrick Joy of Suretank. Others, like CDE Global, Mcor Technologies and Barracuda FX, are specialists in their field but market leaders across the planet.”
Monitoring, measuring and evaluating the outcomes of their activities in the RDC has always been important to the team.
“We’ve incubated over 130 companies, conducted 238 applied research projects, supported 1,062 entrepreneurs and secured over €24million in project funding.”
Perhaps the most impressive figure however is the 2011 regional economic impact study indicating that the value of the RDC activities to the regional economy is in excess of €38m per annum. This truly positions the Regional Development Centre as a driving force in the regional economy.
McCausland continued “It has always been our goal to help client companies achieve their maximum potential. This has seen us strive to develop market leading business development training programme for our clients. We have successfully partnered with other Higher Education Institutes, Universities and bodies across Ireland, the UK and the Europe to develop exceptional programmes such as NEEP, New Frontiers, ICE, VITAL and Honeycomb that deliver tangible results for entrepreneurs and the real economy.”
The work of the Regional Development Centre is supported by the Governing Body and President of Dundalk Institute of Technology. Indeed the vision of 1989 is as real today as it was then. The RDC have led-out on the Accelerating Campus Entrepreneurship (ACE) in the past 10 years with the aim of producing “the entrepreneurial graduate”.
“Entrepreneurship is embedded in all faculties across the DkIT campus so that graduates emerge with critical entrepreneurial skills in problem solving, team building, communications and negotiations. Whether they go on to start a business or work in the public, private or not for profit sectors, those skills will change how they see the world and will stay with them for life. This new approach to education bodes well for the Irish economy as we position ourselves for recovery and sustainable growth.”
Today on-campus entrepreneurship and incubation is common-place. Incubation, enterprise supports, industry-academic engagement, applied research and technology transfer have come a long way since then.
So as the Regional Development Centre in Dundalk celebrates a 25 year milestone, perhaps it is time to raise a toast to the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that saw one Regional Technical College take the brave and bold step to connect academia with entrepreneurs.
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