The National Technological Park (NTP) formally inaugurated in 1984 is located approx. 5 Km from Limerick city centre at Plassey on the left bank of the river Shannon. It is composed of 650 acres of land much of which remains parkland. It was the first technology park in Ireland and is a joint venture between the University of Limerick, Shannon Development (The Regional Development Agency for the area) and the IDA Ireland (the development authority with responsibility for attracting foreign investment to Ireland). The park is now home to a mix of high tech international industries and indigenous Irish industries. ICT, materials and e-business are the main development areas. Overseas firms include, Cognizant Technologies, Modus Media and Vistakon. Smaller Irish industries tend to be in the technology area and include Ashling Microsystems and Piercom. The businesses in the park employ almost 4,000 people. At the centre of the NTP is the University of Limerick (UL) a university of over 10,000 students.
This is an interesting example of the technopole model of regional development whereby a university with a strong research and development component associated with its courses, plays a central role in regional development and provides graduates who are in a position to recognise opportunities and become associated with innovative enterprises in the region. The existence of a science or technology park in the region is seen as a means both to attract large firms to locate there (in particular to locate R & D departments) and to incubate small firms.
In terms of the environmental and planning impacts the park consists of low-density development in a high quality environment. There are strict design guidelines produced by the park management company to ensure that all development proposed fits with the design framework for the park.
Completed (This is an ongoing and evolving technological park which will continue to develop.)
Type(s) of MILU
Interweaving: use of the same space for different functions.
Use of the fourth dimension of space, i.e. time.
RED - the urban fabric and its infrastructure.
Shannon Development, University of Limerick and IDA Ireland.
Planning and design:
National Technological Park Plassey Ltd.
National Technological Park Plassey Ltd.
1. Good synergies between the partners.
Strong Technological Education :
There are particularly strong and effective links between the University of Limerick (UL) and the NTP. UL has consistently pioneered technological education and graduates of the university are seen as the potential employees of the industries based in the NTP. All of UL’s programmes contain placements in industry, which solidifies links between the university and industries.
Access to Technology and Research :
The research facilities and research teams based in the university are also seen as a key resource for companies in the NTP. Park companies have been able to access the specialist resources of campus research centres such as MAC – the National Microelectonics Applications Centre and Teltec - the Telecommunications Research Centre.
Incubation of New Industry:
Innovation Works Limerick is a business incubation centre, and provides an integrated system for incubating and growing knowledge based high potential indigenous companies. In addition to providing space, InnovationWorks provides business development programmes and support.
2. Regional Development Issues:
A key role has been played by the Regional Development agency - Shannon Development in bringing together all of the partners to develop the NTP, and in continuing to support innovative initiatives in and surrounding the NTP. Shannon Development is a regional development agency which has developed an integrated range of initiatives to foster the economic growth of the Shannon region. The company is unique in Ireland in that it has such a broad regional development remit. Other regions must depend on a diverse range of agencies, often operating out of Dublin, to carry out the various activities which Shannon Development has responsibility for in the Shannon Region. In many ways Shannon Development is an anomaly in an otherwise centralised system. One facet of Shannon Development’s approach is that it has consistently strived to foster conditions in the area which would encourage innovation. The NTP is one example of this approach.
The management company for the Park – The National technological Park Plassey Ltd. ensures the orderly development of the park and works to maintain the high quality environment of the park. The physical master plan for the park, combined with strict tenant eligibility criteria and development guidelines, ensures that the quality of the environment is maintained. A recent initiative has been the layout of various woodland walks throughout the park, which aim to ensure that the parkland atmosphere is maintained despite ongoing development.
3. Multiple Uses of the University Facilities:
In terms of Multifunctional uses the University of Limerick has been very innovative in terms of the use of its facilities. The university has state of the art sport facilities, the University arena includes Ireland's first 50m swimming pool and the largest indoor sports hall in the country. UL also has a purpose built concert hall, which also functions as a conference venue as it is equipped with simultaneous translation facilities. The university’s extensive student accommodation (over 1900 student rooms by the end of 2004) is a particular asset, as the park does not have other residential development.
The university's facilities are marketed to prospective businesses locating in the NTP as key local attractions. These facilities are thus used for the university population, the population of the NTP and indeed the tourist population. One multifunctional use of the student accommodation is that it is used as tourist accommodation and conference tourist accommodation during the summer months. Likewise, the university facilities are used as conference facilities by the businesses in the technology park. Thus, the National Technological Park illustrates multifunctional use:
In spatial terms (combining business/ industry with education). In functional terms, for example the concert hall can be used as a conference venue, and In temporal terms, student accommodation used as tourist or conference accommodation during the Summer months. A good example of this use was the use of the campus and its facilities as the location of the Corporate games in 1991 and 2001.
The one area in which the NTP perhaps has deficiencies is its sense of place or its identity as a distinct enclave. There is no residential development in the park, save for the student accommodation mentioned above and the park, does suffer from the type of placelessness which many business parks suffer. Its separation from the city is also a flaw. However, an interesting new project, the ‘Riverside City Project’, is being developed in Limerick, which may address some of these issues and it is hoped, will link the city more coherently to the resources of the University and the National Technological Park. This Riverside City Project, is a major project involving a myriad of partners including Shannon Development and the University of Limerick. The currently derelict Park Canal will be regenerated and used as the link between the medieval area of Limerick city and the University.