Outside Dublin: The Lay of the Land
According to a recent Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland report, much of small-town Ireland is still reeling from the financial crisis, and the lack of high-speed broadband is implicated as a major impediment to recovery. Nevertheless, there are currently quite a few initiatives and digital hubs in development or expanding around Ireland, and these are emerging as a timely pressure valve for some of the infrastructural issues that the Dublin Digital and Tech economy is experiencing.
Gary Mullan of Prosperity met with Eamonn Sayers of the Guinness Enterprise Centre to discuss the Centre’s goal of networking 120 regional Enterprise Hubs.
According to Eamonn: “The goal is to provide shared resources, consultancy and guidelines on best practice and also to allow start-ups to use the Guinness Enterprise Coworking space, while Dublin firms can base themselves in connected hubs throughout the country”.
Eamonn goes on to add that The Guinness Enterprise Centre has also partnered with many of the leading universities around the world to provide a resource of graduate expertise which the hubs will be ultimately able to tap into.
The creation and growth of regional enterprise hubs tends to be based on a massive amount of resources, effort and goodwill. There are many instances of business people who have left a region and who have decided to invest back into the community. Whereas the Prosper Group takes a more coordinated approach, consisting of 350 business people who meet 3 times a year to assess and work with local business and help them to grow.
The Ludgate Digital Hub in Skibbereen is an excellent example of what the initiative and hard work of local participants and business mentors can achieve. Ludgate has a board of 13 all working on a pro bono basis and is cited as an example of innovation succeeding in rural Ireland and is indeed a striking blue print for other rural areas. To date significant private investment has been obtained to construct Ludgate, and the hub’s goal is to attract 75 people to work in a creative workspace with an aim to eventually generate 500 direct jobs and 1000 indirect jobs.
Another example of a new and exciting Digital Hub that successfully proves it is possible to live and work in a remote and beautiful location is the Sneem Digital Hub. The Sneem Hub is an IDA supported project with high speed broadband and high-tech video conferencing services and is a fantastic example of an initiative aimed at rejuvenating regional economies.
Prosperity recently discussed the vison behind the Sneem Digital Hub with its founder, Padraig Burns. You can access the interview HERE.
Padraig believes that this is a fantastic opportunity both for Sneem and for workers who are hard pressed to afford urban rents and who are hopeful of a better work life balance.
Padraig makes the point that in terms of the local economic impact, 20 new jobs to Sneem is equivalent to 4000 new jobs in Cork City.
Other Digital Hubs and initiatives are based at Kells; there’s the Building Block in Sligo; Crystal Valley in Waterford and One Region One Vision in Galway
There is an initiative in Galway that is a partnership between NDRC and Galway City Innovation District called Portershed, and this represents a major part of Enterprise Ireland’s general strategy to create a sustainable start-up ecosystem throughout Ireland.
Through a joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB, Cork City is set to have access to the most powerful broadband services of any city in Ireland. This will build on the roll out of such services to not just Skibbereen but to other Cork towns such as Carrigaline and Mallow and there are plans to extend this to Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Blarney, Tower and Charleville.
While Cork has the higher number of tech companies, Limerick has been winning the most funding for tech companies and start-ups.
Amongst the impressive rise of regional tech hubs, Limerick stands out. Limerick is developing a cluster of digital and tech hubs, including its centrally located Opera site which aims to host 3,000 jobs, many of them in Digital and Technology, and a Sportstech hub which aims to bring 500 jobs in sports research and technology.