A Smarter Dublin 8

A new programme aims to harness the potential of the area's healthcare tradition and entrepreneurial spirit to improve community wellbeing.


Business, Life

While its often little remarked on, The Liberties has been a centre for medicine for over three hundred years. Institutions such as The Coombe Hospital, St Patrick’s Hospital (founded by Dean Jonathan Swift), De Steeven’s Hospital and the South Dublin Foundling Hospital and Workhouse – what eventually developed into St James’s Hospital – have been intertwined with the social history of the area for centuries and, in many instances, the institutions have pioneered treatment and medical care.

Today, the area boasts Ireland’s largest adult teaching hospital, a world class centre of excellence for geriatric care and ageing and, soon enough, will be the home of paediatric care in Ireland with the arrival in 2023 of the new Children’s Hospital.

Now institutions in Dublin 8 have embarked on an initiative to marry the area’s health expertise and its entrepreneurial spirit, and to unlock the potential offered by new technologies to enhance citizens’ well being.  The Smart D8 partnership, led by Dublin City Council’s South Central Area Office and Smart City Unit, the Digital Hub Development Agency and St James’s Hospital, officially launches its initial two-year programme on 10th March.  Also collaborating in the partnership are The GEC, National College of Art & Design, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Trinity College Dublin Translational Medicine Institute, Health Innovation Hub Ireland, the Tyndall Institute and HSE Digital Transformation. The partners will in turn work with a much wider ecosystem involved in health, research, enterprise and community development organisations in the area.

Orla Veale is the programme manager of SmartD8 and has been working since her appointment last year to establish and launch the new initiative:

“The purpose of this initiative is to investigate how we can utilise digital technologies, services and planning strategies to improve citizens’ health and well-being in Dublin 8. We know that the area has a great tradition of healthcare innovation with a national remit, however we were really excited by the opportunity to test and trial new health and wellbeing ideas and solutions in Dublin 8 and see how we could best address people’s health & wellbeing and interactions with healthcare”.  

SmartD8 is Dublin’s newest Smart City District – a programme spearheaded by the four Dublin local authorities under Smart Dublin. SmartD8 joins established districts in Docklands, DCU Campus, Sandyford and Balbriggan.  “Each smart district works to a different theme, tailored to local community and business sector needs,” says Stephen Coyne, the local enterprise officer for south west inner city. “From the outset we saw the potential to encourage institutions in Dublin 8 to work together under the theme of health”.

“There was already a longer-term ambition for Dublin 8 to develop as a health innovation district, spurred on by the construction of Ireland’s first fully digital hospital (new Children’s Hospital), the rejuvenation of St James’s and the potential offered by two world-class enterprise centres and a third level partner with service design as one of its core specialisms. So it made sense to kickstart the process by establishing a smart city demonstrator focused on the health and wellbeing of the community”.

The partnership has identified key aims of the Smart D8 programme:

  • Build and develop a sustainable & collaborative ecosystem that integrates healthcare, academia, government, industry and citizens;
  • Create a world-class ‘Smart Health and Community Well-being’ demonstrator that offers the opportunity for R&D with the ability to test products and services locally;
  • Work with partners to investigate the extent to which ‘smart’ technology can be used to help and support those in the Dublin 8 area who are living with short or long-term ill health and to develop so-called social prescribing;
  • Identify and accelarate innovation into the community that meets the health and wellbeing needs of the citizens in Dublin 8.

Orla Veale says, “The ambition is to undertake two pilot calls for projects in our first year and to have an ongoing callout of ‘challenges’ for public and private sector organisations, academia and companies to take up – to propose solutions to problems in areas as diverse as mental health, the environment, physical activity, health education.  The challenges are decided based on input and feedback from the community”. 

“SmartD8 will also encourage stronger working relationships between institutions and the community in Dublin 8 and we’re certain that many other benefits will flow from that,” says Coyne.

One example cited is the new Bridgefoot Street Park, which will open in the summer. The approach taken when designing the park was to create a more organic and sustainable landscape that would support pollinators. In addition to local residents, the park will have thousands of grateful new users courtesy of a local beehives around the area, run by Robert Emmet CDP on Usher Street.

“With the help of SmartD8, we can see new technologies adding value to these amenities. Some of the SmartD8 partners are already looking at ways to monitor local bee populations to better understand the behaviour of these essential creatures and the stresses they might be facing from air pollution or limited green spaces and gardens. Because their problems are often our problems too. We know that having access to green spaces that support biodiversity is hugely important to our own wellbeing, and the effects of air pollution pose just as many challenges for us as they do for insects. The framework of SmartD8 allows us to look at different types of challenges and combine diverse expertise.”

The last word to programme manager Orla Veale: “While the last year of Covid 19 has been a very difficult time for us, its also been a year of phenomenal change and innovation. Novelties of a year ago such as remote working, video calls with your doctor and prescriptions by delivery have become commonplace overnight. As hard as it has been for so many, its also a time of fantastic opportunities. We’re excited to see what Smart D8 might unlock.”

SmartD8 Smart City District will be officially launched by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Science & Innovation on 10th March.  The first round of Smart D8 pilot calls will be announced at the Smart D8 launch event. For further information please contact Orla Veale, Smart D8 Programme Manager at orla@smartd8.ie.

More details: www.smartdublin.ie or follow SmartD8 on Twitter.

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