NW Strategic Growth Partnership celebrates its cross border collaboration success with education MOU

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Members of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership met at the An Grianan Hotel in Burt Co. Donegal this week for a winter plenary session to celebrate and raise awareness of the hugely important work of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, the North West Development Group and the North West Development Fund.

This high-level meeting was held between senior Government officials from both the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government and civic leaders and partners and officials from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council.

A key element of the meeting was the launch of the North West Tertiary Education Cluster’s Memorandum of Understanding, showcasing the important vision of further and higher level education provision in the North West. This unique and innovative partnership between ATU, Ulster University, the NWRC and Donegal ETB assists with the growth of third level education places across the region. It emanates from the strong cross border working relationship over the years and the excellent work done to develop each institution’s capacities to achieve their respective missions through enhanced cooperation.

Members attending the meeting received a comprehensive overview on the achievements of the North West Strategic Partnership and the positive impact it has on the North West City Region.

There also was a series of detailed discussions by panels made up of key partners and representatives. Among the topics discussed were the Territorial co-operation of the North West City Region; Infrastructure and spatial growth and how to achieve Net Zero by 2045 and the potential of green growth with the Regional Energy Agency Investment Concept.

Delegates were also given the opportunity to hear at first-hand about the joint cross border Colmcille Arts and Culture Project from Donegal County Council project officer, Deirdre Harte.

The North West Strategic Growth Partnership is a unique structure that was first established in 2016 through the North South Ministerial Council, to provide support and discussion to the North West City Region.

Jointly led by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council, and chaired by the two Mayors, the meeting is supported by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD). The Partnership is established in conjunction with and supported by The Executive Office and The Irish Government.

Jointly chairing the meeting was Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Councillor Patricia Logue, who welcomed the innovative cross border work being taken forward by all partners.

She said: “This is a significant meeting that is attended by very senior officers from government across the island of Ireland who are doing a tremendous amount of work to look at the growth needs of the region. I was very impressed with the level of work that is taking place on important issues relating to further and higher education and was delighted to welcome the Teritary Education Partnership to the meeting to hear at first-hand about their ambitious and forward thinking vision for third level education provision across the North West City Region. The signing of an updated Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their existing relationship will allow all four institutions to continue with their work in capitalising opportunities to improve third level education provision for all.”

Referring to the panel discussions, the Mayor said they highlighted the joined up approach being taken across all our partners to really develop and address the regional priorities for the growth and development across this North West City Region.

“It was also positive to hear about the achievements of the North West Strategic Partnership and about the success of the Colmcille project in creating greater awareness and appreciation of the life of St Colmcille. I was also glad to hear about the commitment to achieving Net Zero and putting green growth top of our agenda going forward.”

An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Martin Harley welcomed all participants to the meeting and highlighted the significance of this unique partnership.  He said that by working together the partners had successfully linked local and central government to work collectively to address regional growth and development.

Welcoming the signing of the updated MOU, he said: “The signing of the updated MOU formalises the existing strong working relationship between the four institutions to work together to enhance opportunities for students in research, innovation, education and training. Through this collaborative approach they can ensure the student pathway is enhanced to provide a quality further and higher education experience for all.”

He said: “It is also important that we acknowledge the achievements of these partnerships and the fund and how since 2016 we have been working collectively as a unique partnership to support the region’s commitment to growth.   I am proud of what we have achieved since this time and the leadership role we have taken to ensure there is a joined-up approach to everything that we do. It is important that we continue to focus on a collaborative cross border vision for the region in terms of spatial planning, transport connectivity, education provision and green transformation.

Extending a sincere thanks to everyone participating in the meeting, Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie said it was more important than ever that these strong links with senior government officials are retained and re-emphasised the importance of collaboration.

John G. McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council also thanked all participants saying the partnerships were hugely beneficial in further strengthening links between the two Councils, its partners and the two governments. Referencing the signing of the MOU between the education partners, he reiterated how collaboration is key to successfully develop a City Region that is thriving, sustainable and prosperous.

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