WICKLOW County Council has been awarded a Primary Grant of €199,600 for Clermont Enterprise Hub GLC from Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Innovation Scoping Scheme (REISS).
This funding is intended to allow Wicklow County Council to engage a consultant to prime the development of a Wicklow Naturally Food Incubation Centre at Wicklow County Campus, Rathnew comprising regional infrastructure of scale for agri-food and drinks SMEs including specialist food production units, co-working innovation kitchens, and scaling and growth support services.
It will enable the recruitment of a project manager to advance plans for the centre, retention of an architect led design and multi-disciplinary team to prepare plans, appointment of a financial team to complete a business model and a financial analysis review, and the launch of a promotional awareness campaign.
The focus of the new infrastructure will be to respond to industry needs for food enterprise space and innovation supports to accelerate growth in the regional food and beverage sector and will contribute to maximising the potential of the 55-acre site at Wicklow County Campus.
Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Tommy Annesley, stated: “Historically Wicklow is synonymous with good food, it earned the name ‘The Garden of Ireland’ with its green and clean image. This is a fantastic opportunity to play to our strengths, it also fits in with our plans for the overall development of the campus and the development of on-campus skills.”
Wicklow is a proven incubator and growth zone for agri-food and drinks companies. To drive the latent potential of the sector, Wicklow County Council facilitated the development of a dedicated Food Strategy in 2018, which sets out an ambitious vision for the agri-food and drinks sector.
In 2019, a feasibility study was commissioned by Wicklow County Council and Wicklow Naturally into the viability of a dedicated food hub for the county. 84 per cent of respondent food and drink businesses in County Wicklow intend to expand over the next few years. 50 per cent stated that dedicated food units would enable them to expand their business. 20 per cent of respondents stated that they are unable to find larger premises for their business.
Food Hubs are recognised for their unique potential to spur productive, inclusive, and sustainable economic development.
Welcoming the announcement, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, Brian Gleeson said: “This will help tackle the challenge of the prohibitive high capital set-up costs of food-grade workspace for start-ups and small businesses and help to create a pipeline of new food businesses with the ability to create jobs.”
The Wicklow Naturally Food Hub is expected to realise many benefits within three years, including having four food and drinks production tenants embedded in four independent food production units, creating 40 new jobs, and kitchen for product development, training, and small-scale production enabling 40 new food and drink start-ups to create 80 new jobs.
It is envisaged that 1,500 industry professionals will be participating in training and networking events, with 70 food and drink professionals attending regular networking meetings.
Wicklow County Campus is working towards a zero carbon status in the near future through the use of solar energy and biomass heating systems and this will carry forward to the Wicklow Naturally Food Incubation Hub, helping to deliver on the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019 and the European Green Deal plan to build a fairer economy while protecting our planet.
The Food Hub will facilitate the development of scalable, sustainable, and profitable food businesses across the mid-east by providing the physical environment for food entrepreneurs to interact with each other. It will support Wicklow food and drink companies if they need to adjust, pivot, or reposition themselves and will help them respond to new market realities arising from Covid-19, Brexit, climate change/sustainability, and digital transition.
The main purpose of REISS is the investigation and preparation of major new collaborative and innovative initiatives that have the potential to make a significant impact on enterprise development in a region, across regions, or nationally. It provides early-stage financial assistance to potentially significant projects that can be primed to deliver a regional impact.
Clermont Enterprise Hub CLG is a not-for-profit company overseeing the construction, development, and management of key, demand led enterprise hub infrastructure. Wicklow Naturally, County Wicklow’s promotional food and beverage brand are located on the campus.