21st October 2021

Smart towns and villages in Northern Ireland and the border counties

Investment strategy for a €30 million programme to deliver improved social and economic outcomes

PEACE PLUS is a €1bn investment programme to advance social, economic, and environmental development in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.

Urban Foresight has been commissioned to develop a strategy and project framework for one of the core investment areas of PEACE PLUS.

The €30 million Smart Towns and Villages programme will primarily target rural areas to deliver economic regeneration and transformation.

Projects will include advanced digital infrastructure, skills programmes, and measures to transform vacant spaces and community facilities.

A social innovation-led approach will be used to be used to co-design projects with local communities. This will ensure that solutions are specific to local areas and meet people’s real needs. It will also encourage greater cross-community working and support efforts to make a lasting contribution to peace and reconciliation.

“Our objectives are to define a strong vision and to create a practical roadmap for investments in smart towns and villages” said Gordon Hector, Head of Policy and Strategy at Urban Foresight.

“This project is a great opportunity to build interest and support for major investments to transform rural economies in Northern Ireland and the border counties. It’s also exciting to show how smarter rural places can support the wider cultural, economic and peace-building mission of PEACE PLUS.”

Over the coming months Urban Foresight will work closely with the Special EU Projects Body that administer the unique PEACE PLUS programme. This will include extensive engagement with local stakeholders across Northern Ireland and the Irish council areas of Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, and Louth.

The project will benefit from Urban Foresight’s experience of developing targeted investment strategies in digital infrastructure and smart solutions. This includes the UK’s first collaborative smart city strategy and action plan for the Scottish Cities Alliance, and the Digitally Connected Communities Framework for the London Borough of Southwark.

The project will also benefit from expertise in pioneering smart rural solutions, such as in Angus and across Europe.


Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

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