Michael Devane



Sustainable Development within the Atlantic Economic Corridor


The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) is a Business led initiative to create a North-South economic zone along the Western regions from Donegal to Kerry. It is a partnership between Business, Community and the Public Service, specifically the ten Local Authorities and the Development Agencies.  

The concept is to create a linear city of scale that will reverse rural decline, increase employment and GDP growth and develop a sustainable economic hybrid of inward investment and the sustainable use of natural resources. It is a “bottoms up” approach to economic development, with a practical approach to leveraging the resources, assets and people we have within the corridor. 

The economic model supports the EU policy of Polycentric Development, designed to overcome regional disparities. Linking urban and inter-urban centres creates scale, access to assets and allows broader access to this natural resource base without the same transport and mobility need experienced with current urban development.  

A need for a new economic model arises from a desire to create a sustainable Low Carbon, High Value economy, that is required to double the Gross Value Add (GVA) per person. It seeks a greater retention of skilled labour and a reversal of social dependence, requiring a more flexible design of future work.  

The potential of the island’s resource base is immense, ranging from Agri to Marine Food, from Clean Water to Green Energy, from activated Carbon to Marine Bio-resources. This base is largely untapped. Future investment must consider the economic context of Natural Resource fused with sectors like Life Sciences, Information Technology, Transport, as well as sectors directly based on natural resource e.g. Food and Tourism.   

Innovation is a key catalyst in the creation of this hybrid model, making creativity and enterprise a core workforce attribute. A new focus on the education and skills outcomes is necessary to better match the new entrants to the available work. However, the real challenge is the innovative design of work, creating flexibility, enhancing lifestyle, increasing greater participation in the workforce and extending the working career span. This will change forms of employment and the conventional forms of reward. 

Anticipating change is difficult but there is a consensus that people will a) be able to work for a longer time span, b) require a better work-life balance, c) will seek rewards that support them intellectually and emotionally as well as economically and socially. No doubt this will give rise to new forms of employment such as remote working or alternative forms of contracting. However, work associated with natural resource sectors like Tourism and Food, or Service sectors like Education and Health, we anticipate an increase in social enterprise versus private, reflecting broader community ownership and more flexible forms of contribution and reward. 

The AEC initiative presents many unknowns, posing new challenges, including; 

  • The creation of an economic model that fuses natural resource with other sectors, as a basis for a low carbon, high value economy. 
  •  The development of a flexible, skilled workforce, with the capacity to re-generate itself. 
  • The growth of community investment to support the acceleration of social enterprise and localise wealth within community and NFP trusts. 
  • The development of new enterprise and industry that is unique to the hybrid model and to the AEC. 

Such challenges also create a shared excitement as we invite people participating in the symposium to respond to those challenges and the vision we have set; 

“To realise the hidden, untapped, present opportunity to bring jobs and investment, and to develop acity of scale” in the Atlantic Economic Corridor.

About Michael Devane:

Michael Devane is the Chair of the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)Business Forum, a network of Chambers and Business organizations that are focused on the economic development of the Western Region/s. He is a founding member of the AEC initiative and a member of the AEC Taskforce set up in 2017 to oversee and support the development of an economic axis from Kerry to Donegal. 

He is a retired Business Partner with Quilly but continues to focus on the strategic development of enterprise and industry, particularly in the Western half of Ireland. He is a former board member of the Galway Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce, where he led initiatives on economic development and the establishment and expansion of Research, Development and Innovation capacity in Ireland. 

Michael is an advocate of innovation led economic development of Ireland’s natural resource base and was a founding member and Chairman of SmartBay Ireland, the national platform to support research and innovation in the Marine ICT sector. Michael believes in the active engagement of industry leaders in Ireland’s economic and technology development and has served on various oversight and advisory boards including, the Industry Advisory Board of KTI (Knowledge Transfer Ireland), and Chairman of ICHEC (Irish Centre for High–End Computing. He was chair of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUIG and was instrumental in combining research centres to form INSIGHT (Data Analytics Research Centre) the largest research center in the State.  

Michael was the VP and Managing Director of Lucent Technologies International Sales until 2007. He had direct responsibility for all of Lucent’s Operations and Investments in Ireland including its transition from a manufacturing entity and the development of Bell Labs, Ireland. Previously he was VP of Lucent’s Supply Chain Operations in Europe until 2004. His operational background within the ICT and the Discrete Manufacturing sectors, include, experience in organization and business development and new venture startups, within both multinationals and small enterprises. Much of his career has focused on the transformation of enterprise, the development and expansion of new or foreign direct investments. He has significant experience in re-structuring operations, including the transition and outsourcing of manufacturing and engineering activities and the creation of new value opportunities and capability. Michael has over 25 years experience in managing and leading multinational companies in Ireland / Europe. Michael has both Executive Operational Management and Industry Consulting experience and background across multiple industries and enterprises. 

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