€1m fund to link digital hubs is part of €48 million investment in the west

Some €48 million is being invested in the west of Ireland in a new five-year business strategy by the Western Development Commission.

At its heart is an investment in technology, connecting digital working hubs, and promoting the region’s "unmatched quality of life".

The Western Development Commission’s new five-year strategy entitLed ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’, was launched this week - its aim to transform rural Ireland into a smart, connected region over the next 10 years, with new jobs and a growing population.

Launched in the Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre, the Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Canney, also announced that €1m in dormant accounts funding would be made available to create a network of enterprise hubs and digital spaces from Co Donegal to Co Kerry.

The centres, powered by fibre broadband, support the growing trend towards remote working, community hubs, and offer a lifeline for early stage rural-based companies and entrepreneurs.

The Western Development Commission’s ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy has three pillars; regional promotion, regional leadership and sustainable enterprise, with short-term, medium and long-term goals.

Regional promotion will focus on the further development of the WDC’s jobs and lifestyle portal called lookwest.ie and engaging with communities in Clare, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal. Regional Leadership will see the continuation of WDC policy analysis, supporting the Creative Economy and the WDC’s role as co-ordinating agency for the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC ) project, set out in Project Ireland 2040. The AEC covers the spine of Ireland’s western coast that includes the counties from Co Donegal to Co Kerry. And Sustainable Enterprise will take a longer-term view, continuing to invest in new ideas and build on the success of the Western Investment Fund, the on-going promotion of Social Enterprise, and over a 10 year period working with higher education institutions, other agencies and departments to identify one or two sectors that will deliver a competitive advantage for the region at a global level.

Minister Canney revealed today that the WDC has grown, through investment and lending, the original state investment of £25m (€32m ) in the Western Investment Fund to a current portfolio value of €72m. The organisation now has €48m of that fund available for investment and lending across a number of areas.

Minister Canney said the establishment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor offered a significant opportunity for both the region and the WDC to grow and meet the needs of communities all along the Atlantic seaboard.

"This new strategy offers a clear opportunity to raise the profile of the work the WDC does for the west, in the west, and is to be welcomed.”

Chair of the WDC, Dr Deirdre Garvey, acknowledged the role played by those who engaged with the WDC in creating the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy.

“This process has been very helpful in ensuring that the WDC continues to deliver for the Western Region, meeting the needs of key stakeholders, but ultimately the needs of those who live in the West, and seek to ensure that they can offer a future of equal, and greater opportunity for the next generation.”

Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin, said regional development was a priority issue.

"In the context of significant technological change and the need to move to a low carbon economy, it’s vital that we ensure balanced development as we grow to 2040. This strategy acknowledges the work of the WDC team to date and sets out a clear ambition to position the region as global leaders in one or two key areas over the next 10 years."

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