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Ireland’s entrepreneurs are encouraged to grow and ‘go west’

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Méabh Conaghan is regional director West Region at Enterprise Ireland

Méabh Conaghan is regional director West Region at Enterprise Ireland

Méabh Conaghan is regional director West Region at Enterprise Ireland

While supporting Irish businesses to develop, scale and grow is Enterprise Ireland’s mission, it’s vital that as part of this journey we ensure that all regions across Ireland benefit from the development of vibrant and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Delivering and supporting growth across all regions is a key ambition for Enterprise Ireland, and earlier this week the organisation published its 2022 end of year statement which showed that 68pc of the 218,718 jobs at Enterprise Ireland-supported companies at the end of last year were outside of Dublin. The West Region performed strongly, with employment increasing there by 8pc in 2022, which represents 1,088 net new jobs in the region.

A key regional support which continues to contribute to this growth is the Government-funded Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), which is administered by Enterprise Ireland. Over the past five years, REDF has been a crucial element in supporting the development of strategic projects and innovative start-ups all over Ireland.

The aim of the REDF scheme is to support new collaborative and innovative initiatives which will drive enterprise development and job creation in each region throughout Ireland. This is achieved by co-financing the development and implementation of projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level.

Since 2017, there has been three national REDF calls. And in the West of Ireland alone, there has been €22.7m invested into the development of nine REDF projects over the last five years. This includes funding for eight physical locations and a virtual remote working consortium.

Together, these nine REDF supported projects, which also received funding from other partners, are projected to support more than 5,000 jobs over the next five years. Not only that, but we estimate that for every job created, another is supported in the service economy, making REDF-funded projects a powerful engine for regional growth.

A recently published report from KPMG showed that start-ups based at Galway tech innovation hub PorterShed (Eyre Square) have created 835 jobs since 2016.

Not only that, but they have attracted €35m in inward investment to the region and contributed €14m to the Irish exchequer. This is an amazing foundation for the two new PorterShed buildings that have recently opened.

The REDF has also funded the Galway Technology Centre (GTC) in the Mervue area of the city, which is adding 12,500 sq ft to its current space of 50,000 sq ft, making it one of the biggest enterprise centres in the country. It aims to provide dedicated spaces to companies once they are established and have five or six employees.

CREW or Creative Enterprise West, based at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) in Galway, supports start-ups that are specialising in digital content. Its new REDF-funded Creative Industries Innovation Hub will provide 13,500 sq ft of space dedicated to these businesses and this hub is due for completion by the end of this year.

While it’s vital to provide new innovation hubs and technical facilities for start-ups, it is the support systems and the people who work with entrepreneurs that are most critical.

The West of Ireland benefits hugely from truly dedicated people like Mary Rodgers of PorterShed, and Elaine Donohue at the Bia Innovator Campus, which is co-located with Teagasc in Athenry.

Bia Innovator is a jewel in the crown for the food sector, offering office space, test kitchens, consumer research, training, access to commercial units, industry expertise and much more. Elaine brings a wealth of information and knowledge from the food industry to help more than 40 on-site food businesses and offering consultancy to many more.

Other REDF-funded projects in Co Galway includes an enterprise centre in Gort – Forge Works – which operates as a community hot-desking space, the Nua na Mara marine innovation development centre in Connemara, and an extension to the SCCUL enterprise centre in Ballybane which focuses on social enterprise.

Through the REDF, we look to enable sustainable wealth creation in the region through a hub and spoke model. We encourage the funded projects to collaborate with each other and to expand across the wider region. For example, the GTC secured funding for an employee to specifically develop outreach programmes.

Having ATU and University of Galway in the region is also a fantastic boon to entrepreneurs as they offer research and laboratory facilities, including peer-to-peer supports to startups in their dedicated innovation centres.

Would-be entrepreneurs interested in setting up in the West of Ireland can be confident there is a dynamic enterprise infrastructure in place to offer varying levels of support as they establish their operations, scale and grow.

From the Start Your Own Business supports offered by Local Enterprise Offices across the West to the NDRC accelerator programme in PorterShed, and the Enterprise Ireland regional team based in Mervue, there is so much help and advice available for entrepreneurs.

If you are starting or growing an export focussed business, reach out to any of the support agencies for guidance – we’re here to help.


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