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Why regions must collaborate to accumulate

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Funding of €1.2m was awarded to Galway's PorterShed, one of the country's best-known and most successful innovation and enterprise hubs, to support its relocation to a larger premise (stock photo)

Funding of €1.2m was awarded to Galway's PorterShed, one of the country's best-known and most successful innovation and enterprise hubs, to support its relocation to a larger premise (stock photo)

Funding of €1.2m was awarded to Galway's PorterShed, one of the country's best-known and most successful innovation and enterprise hubs, to support its relocation to a larger premise (stock photo)

All other things being equal, if there is one single predictor that puts any town, village or region on the road to success, it is a collaborative approach to economic development. By working together, private, public and community sector players can move mountains, even remote ones.

It's why this week saw the announcement of more than €40m in State funding for 26 collaborative projects, each of which is designed to drive job creation in regions right across the country.

It is the third tranche of funding under the Government's Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), established in 2017 to help regions build on their own unique strengths to create sustainable jobs.

This week's announcement brings the total amount awarded to date under the REDF to almost €100m. As with the two previous rounds, it comes as a result of an open, national, competitive call for collaborative projects aimed at creating sustainable jobs in regional cities and towns, as well as rural areas.

Each of the successful projects is judged to have the potential to make a real and lasting impact on enterprise development, both at a regional and national level.

The REDF's objective is simple. It's about supporting enterprise and development in every region, driving projects that stimulate job creation in every county in Ireland.

It's about developing industry clusters, supporting cross-industry collaboration and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Because REDF funding is divided into small, medium and large amounts, it captures the potential for both major capital expenditure projects and smaller entrepreneurial opportunities.

The projects it supports also cover a variety of activities. For example, funding of €1.2m was awarded to Galway's PorterShed, one of the country's best-known and most successful innovation and enterprise hubs, to support its relocation to a larger premise.

Businesses located in the PorterShed already support more than 700 jobs and its overall project expansion will facilitate the creation of 800 more.

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Future Mobility Campus Ireland, a test bed for connected autonomous vehicles of all kinds, from cars to forklift trucks, in Shannon, Co Clare, was awarded €4.7m in REDF funding. This will develop a 4km road network fitted with high-tech digital sensors, and related engineering and data management space with key technical staff.

The initiative is of value to car brands, technology companies and academics alike. Meanwhile, Grow Remote is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation which aims to activate remote working opportunities across the country. Based in Galway, it started out in 2018 with a few people in a WhatsApp group, keen to develop the country's potential for remote working.

Remote working encourages talented people to stay in rural locations, helps businesses to find untapped talent pools, and eases issues such as commuting times, traffic congestion and accommodation shortages in urban areas. There are now more than 70 Grow Remote chapters across the country, largely run by volunteers. The organisation will receive €450,000 in REDF funding to help develop its activities.

An innovative collaborative approach is also at the heart of Emerald Aerospace Group, a group of 14 aviation and aerospace suppliers nationally but primarily in the mid-west and west, which employ 650 people between them.

By establishing a very effective cluster for business development and marketing, the group, which already accounts for total exports worth €27m annually, aims to grow that figure to €50m by 2022. It will receive €350,000 in REDF funding to help.

The power of the REDF is that it can support such a diverse range of projects, building on strengths that already exist in the regions, and helping to take them to the next level in terms of sustainable job creation.

We know that not all regions have prospered equally since the recovery, and the reasons for this are typically varied and nuanced.

But when it comes to success, one thing holds true. Time and again, we see that regions which perform well are those where real collaboration exists, whether between private enterprises and public organisations, community groups, chambers of commerce or academia.

When collaboration takes hold, real and meaningful projects emerge. In other words, when it comes to regional development, you've got to collaborate to accumulate.

  • Mark Christal is the manager of the regions and entrepreneurship division at Enterprise Ireland
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