Clare blacksmith forging ahead with protective screens

The Covid-19 health crisis has forced many small businesses to close, while others have had to adapt to survive. It’s particularly challenging for rural businesses. But an award-winning blacksmith in West Clare is now using his traditional skills to make protective screens for small shops and retailers.

Twenty-five-year old Conor Murray is the fifth generation of his family to trade as a blacksmith at his Kilkee forge, carrying on the skills of his forefathers stretching back to the 1800’s and started by his great, great grandfather, also named Connor Murray.

Conor would normally be busy with his iron craft business, combining his forging skills with those of industrial art and design to make bespoke metal sculptures for public parks, large open amenity areas, as well as garden furniture and stairways.

But the pandemic put a halt to demand for such work and he decided to see what needs and opportunities lay in his own rural community that he might meet during this crisis.

Conor was the Co Clare winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition last year, run by the Local Enterprise Offices or LEO’s.

He said he had noticed that plenty of big supermarkets and shops were being catered for in the supply of protective screens, but that the smaller stores were being left out.

“I decided to use the prize money I had won in the Entrepreneur competition to invest in some new 3D machinery which would allow me to make purpose built ‘sneeze screens’ which could be adapted to the needs of small shops and retailers,” he explained. 

And there has been a huge demand for his products from pharmacies, grocery shops and fast food outlets across Co Clare.

One of his customers is O’Gorman’s shop and service station in Kilkee.

Owner Anne O’Gorman said she wanted to get something to protect her family, her staff and customers.

“My husband had been sick, so he was vulnerable and I decided to ask Conor to come up with a protective screen that would fit in my store. He came up with a prototype which was exactly what I needed, but at the same time is designed in a way that it is not too intrusive, but very secure,” she said.

Padriac McElwee, who is attached to the Clare Local Enterprise Office says the coronavirus has made it very challenging for small local businesses to survive.

But he said Conor Murray was a good example of the adaptability of our entrepreneurs and how they can change their business models to meet the needs of their communities and at the same time survive economically beyond the pandemic.

He said LEO’s offer a number of supports, including mentoring to help businesses look dispassionately at what opportunities they can exploit.

In addition they are also providing a ‘continuity voucher’ which is effectively a consultancy service about how businesses can re open, what health and safety procedures they will need and how best to implement social distancing, and win customers back.

“We have a wide range of expert consultants available that can help businesses in these very challenging times, and assist them to rebuild as they get back to business,” he said.

University of Limerick works with hospital to create 100,000 face visors for COVID-19 fight

The Rapid Innovation Unit at UL, an SFI Confirm Centre funded 3D printing activity that works in collaboration with University Hospital Limerick, mobilised a team to innovate immediate solutions in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The unit has previous experience in rapid design and 3D printing of medical devices in response to clinical requests.

Following a request from Professor Paul Burke, Chief Academic Officer at UL Hospitals Group and Vice Dean of Health Sciences at UL, academics and clinicians at the Rapid Innovation Unit at UL worked to design and manufacture novel solutions where doctors had identified potential shortages of equipment should COVID-19 cases surge.

In less than two weeks, the team designed solutions to three critical clinical challenges facing clinicians due to the pandemic.

These include capacity to manufacture 100,000 face visors for HSE front-line staff, refinement of a shield concept to protect anaesthesiologists during patient intubation for ventilation, and design of adapters for respiratory technologies to undergo a clinical trial.

The design solutions will help to protect the health of front line staff and increase treatment capacities in the hospital system.

The first batch of visors were delivered to UHL this Thursday, while the shield box and adaptors are about to be put into practice. The face visors are in Limerick green and say ‘The Limerick Visor: Front Line Heroes’

 

“There has been a phenomenal collaborative effort to deliver these solutions in a very short timeframe,” explained Professor Leonard O’Sullivan, of UL’s School of Design and the Health Research Institute based at UL.

Professor O’Sullivan noted that brothers Aidan and Kevin O’Sullivan, research fellows at UL, had “pulled out all the stops to lead the team to deliver these rapid response solutions for the hospital.”

The collaboration between the Rapid Innovation Unit and the consultants was facilitated by the Health Sciences Academy, a partnership between UL, the UL Hospitals Group and the Mid-West Community Healthcare Organisation.

The HSA, based at the Clinical Education Research Centre at UHL, was established to strengthen links between practicing clinicians and researchers from the University.

The Rapid Innovation Unit worked with local companies on the manufacture of the visors, which will go straight into use on the front line of the COVID-19 fight and were warmly received by the team at the hospital.

Professor Paul Burke explained: “We have heard the World Health Organisation repeatedly stress the importance for governments, healthcare professionals, scientists and industry to act with speed in response to COVID-19.

“It is heartening to see our Health Science Academy being able to facilitate the Rapid Innovation Unit to work closely with our clinicians and local industry to do precisely that,” he added.

Regarding the face visors, Professor O’Sullivan explained the local companies had enabled capacity to manufacture up to 5,000 visors a day.

“The visors can be for multiple use but it is likely also be for single use given the current circumstances,” he explained.

The normal production time on a project like this would take months, but it was done in just nine days. This was accomplished through the local companies working very intensively together, Professor O’Sullivan said.

“We had a team of three consultants and three designers involved in daily brainstorming and design review meetings, which is something you don’t have except in a critical situations,” he explained.

“We went to the coalface to establish what the critical needs were and we delivered solutions. This had to be done as quickly as possible. The local industry partners worked tirelessly to meet the volume production requests,” said Professor O’Sullivan.

Mr Tony Moloney, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, UL Hospitals Group, said: “It seems like a long time ago but it was only on March 26 that the scientists and clinicians who form the Rapid Innovation Unit met for the first time on this. Everything we have ever done as a group has been done remotely in keeping with the COVID-19 guidelines.

“The Limerick companies involved have also been on those conference calls, out-of-hours and seven days a week, and I’m told what would normally take months from concept to production has been completed in a matter of days. Three of the four projects initiated are already complete. These are products that will protect healthcare workers and ensure they are there for their patients at this time,” he added.

This story was provided courtesy of Limerick.ie

Leading retail technology innovation from Claremorris

There are not too many indigenous companies operating in the West of Ireland who can count the dotcom bubble of the 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2007 among the challenges they have overcome during almost 40 years in existence – but retail technology firm CBE can do just that.

Indeed, CBE’s consistent success in the ever-changing world of retail payments technology suggests that this business situated at the heart of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is well placed to thrive for another 40 years.

Based in Claremorris, Co Mayo, CBE is one of Europe’s leading innovators in retail technology, serving the supermarket, convenience, forecourt and hospitality sectors. It has a staff of almost 150 people, having started out with just three in 1980.

“In the early days we were just buying third-party software from UK suppliers,” says Sean Kenna, chief executive of CBE. “But it didn’t fit all customer requirements, so we decided to set up our own software development company in 1995.”

 

CBE is now a one-stop shop for anything to do with retail technology. Every day, shoppers throughout the UK and Ireland routinely use their products when making purchases at cash registers, self-checkouts or card readers in local shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, hotels and a host of other outlets.

 

“We take on all the various areas around the technology of a retail unit – development of the software, supply of the hardware, project management, training, on-field support, consultancy and ongoing software support. We like to come in at the start and offer a complete partnership approach.”

 

The company employs 146 people between its offices in Ireland and the UK, with 70 percent of them based in head office in Claremorris. Recruitment of additional sales staff and software developers should see staff numbers rise to 150 soon.

 

Sean joined CBE as a sales rep in 1980 and was its managing director for 15 years before becoming CEO in late 2016 – after company founder and chairman Gerry Concannon stepped back from the role.

 

Claremorris was initially selected as the location for CBE because it was well positioned for a company aiming to drive sales across Connacht, but the town has continued to serve CBE well even after its business horizons took on global dimensions.

 

The opening of Knock Airport in 1985 – as well as its ongoing expansion ever since – was a major boon for the company as it built its UK operations and motorway access to Dublin has also been a benefit.

 

“Then, Claremorris was one of the first towns to get high-speed fibreoptic which meant we could expand our support hub here and not have to move to a bigger centre,” Sean says. “We have over 30,000 terminals that we support every day, so we need very fast communications infrastructure.”

 

During the dotcom era it could be difficult to attract staff as software developers were drawn to the cities, and it took tenacity to negotiate the financial crisis.  A determination to retain staff through that difficult time paid dividends. “When the recovery came around, we didn’t have to recruit or retrain. We had some very high calibre people ready to hit the ground running,” Sean says.

 

Fast forward to 2019 and CBE is well established in its main markets of the UK and Ireland. It also has a nationwide contract with KFC in Denmark and is increasing its reach through consultancy services in Europe and Asia.

 

CBE is currently recruiting as it develops large projects with companies in the global oil industry and Sean is confident that its ongoing success and attractive and affordable location will draw in high-quality candidates as people increasingly look West to combine challenging careers with a better quality of life.

 

Claremorris was an ideal location for CBE when their commercial ambitions were limited to Connacht – it still is as they continue to expand around the world.

 

Premium ride-on toy truck drives sales for Roscommon design engineer

As a child, Wayne Auchmuty couldn’t find what he was looking for, so as an adult he built it. The design engineer from Lecarrow, Co Roscommon, spent much of his childhood in the cab of his father’s truck, and always wanted a scaled down truck that he could call his own.

The desire stayed with him, and in 2008 Wayne contacted Scania in Sweden to enquire about getting a licence to develop a high-spec model of their trucks as a ride-on toy. Scania encouraged Wayne, who had only just graduated from college, to get back to them when he was in a position to work on his concept.

 

Wayne did so in 2015 after he had established his own company, Lakeside Engineering Design, and Scania gave him a single use licence to develop a prototype. After he delivered the prototype, Scania granted a licence to produce it as an official toy and his new company, Scaled Rigs, was born late last year.

Scaled Rigs then posted a high-quality video of their ride-on truck modelled on the Scania S730 on Facebook to test market interest. “We were hoping to sell maybe 30 pieces in a year, but we had 50 orders within eight weeks,” Wayne says. “We started production in March this year and have been flat out since.”

The keen interest in the product is all the more remarkable as it costs €4,500  ex works – reflecting the premium design and build of the toy which is powered by a 24-volt battery and has a stainless-steel laser cut and fabricated chassis as well as the all-important Scania V8 engine noise. “We went for quality in everything and people see that when they get them,” says Wayne. “It’s more akin to a mobility scooter in its driveline than it is to a kid’s toy.”

As Wayne expected, most of the first wave of customers have been truck companies but a theme park in Norway is looking to buy 12 Scaled Rigs trucks, and other theme and holiday parks have also expressed interest.

Meanwhile, Mercedes has asked Scaled Rigs to develop a toy truck based on the Mercedes Actros and they are also building one for Vlastuin in Holland, who make the American bullnose version of the Scania truck.

Trailers and accessories are also in demand, and the company has just signed agreements with retailers in Holland, Germany, Poland, Italy, Ireland, the UK, France and Belgium.

 

 

 

Kerry offers chance to work hard, play harder

With a love for making sense of numbers, Emily Brick turned her passion into a business by building a suite of analytics products which assist schools in supporting students to achieve their academic potential through ongoing analysis of exam results.

Now living in Tralee, Co Kerry, Emily previously worked in Dublin for five years, but made the move back home to start her own company. “Setting up in Kerry made sense, the cost of living is much cheaper, so there’s a lot less expenses to worry about and I have a great support network around me.”

Her plan was always to go back to Dublin once the company was up and running, but after setting up in Kerry – which is perfectly situated along the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), she realized there was no need to leave. “Life in Kerry is easier, there’s no commute and it’s much more affordable. And there’s a lovely sense of community here, local business people have been very helpful and very willing to give me their time, help and advice.”

 

Emily was inspired to set up Athena Analytics in 2017 after spending a year working in the Department of Education in Melbourne, Australia. “I saw lots of ways that schools in Melbourne were analysing their exam results and after doing some research found that schools in Ireland did not have the same processes in place.” The main product, the Athena Tracker, provides an immediate view of how a student is progressing in terms of their own potential and as a result no student is getting lost within a very busy school system.

Over 200 are now using the Athena Analytics products, but the setting up process wasn’t all smooth sailing. “Initially I worked from my parents’ house in Barrow and had great difficulty with Wi-Fi access and even mobile phone coverage – I had to stick my head out the window or run out to the garden to get a good signal for a phone call – but after moving into HQ Tralee things become a lot smoother. I have great Wi-Fi access, good phone coverage and a landline. It’s a very professional space and there’s room for growth.”

Emily also has bright plans for the future, having begun a new project with some of the third level institutions in Ireland which will be launched soon and she’s hoping to add more staff to her current team of two. “I teach at CoderDojo in Tralee, so between the student teachers and the kids, I can see the young talent emerging in Kerry, I look forward to expanding the business here. Plus, I’m a big fan of the outdoors, so Kerry and its beautiful Atlantic coastline has a lot to offer me. It’s easy to get around, so you can use your free time productively rather than sitting in traffic. You can leave work in Tralee at 5pm and be in the sea at Banna Beach by quarter past 5.”

 

300 jobs to be created in €21m RDI hub in Killorglin

One of the country’s longest-established financial services and technology companies has partnered with Kerry County Council and the Institute of Technology in Tralee to create more than 300 new jobs over the next four years.

The jobs will be in a research, development and innovation hub which has been built and donated by Fexco, and was opened in Killorglin in County Kerry earlier this month.  “The basis of the partnership is to help to create new high end jobs in Kerry, through building on the strength of Fexco in IT and software development,” explained Fexco chief executive, Denis McCarthy, “and using that to help to attract other large corporates to the area, and to provide a space for start-up businesses as well.”

The new facility cost €21 million. “You can see every penny in it. It really is a fantastic space,” Mr McCarthy said. “We are commited to the local community here, and we have put a lot of our own money into this building, and we have got a grant from Enterprise Ireland, so it really is a partnership.”

Fexco was established in Killorglin in 1981. It was one of the first companies in the country to apply developing computer technology to financial services, payments and transactions and it has thrived.

The company employs 2,500 people in 29 countries across the globe. More than 1,000 of those are based in Killorglin.  Mr McCarthy said it is possible to be very successful in a small town such as Killorglin in the fintech space. “The quality of life in Killorglin is really fantastic, and we are hoping to attract people who want a change in lifestyle,” he said. “We find it is more difficult when people are younger, in their 20s, but when they hit a certain age and start having families, often what you find is that people are looking for a higher quality of life, and especially given that you can buy a mansion of a house in Kerry for the cost of a 2-bed apartment in Dublin, there are certain pretty logical reasons why a place like Killorglin can be attractive.

Innovation has made Fexco a world leader in the payments and foreign exchange sectors.
The new research, development and innovation centre will host 125 of its existing R&D staff, and it has promised to create a further 305 jobs by 2024.  The new jobs will be in RDI Hub, a not-for-profit public/private partnership between Fexco, Kerry County Council and the Institute of Technology in Tralee.

The hub is a first for the area and is being backed by Enterprise Ireland, which is investing €3.6 million in the project and will validate the jobs being created.

NUI Galway unveils extensive development programme

NUI Galway has launched a new strategy which places the 175 year old institution as a central driver of transformational change for Galway and the West of Ireland.

The new strategy, titled “Shared Vision, Shaped by Values”, has been developed following extensive dialogue with students, academics, alumni, policymakers, and the wider community, marks a new approach for NUI Galway, and places the shared values of respect, excellence, openness and sustainability as the guiding light for the future direction of the University.

 

The strategy will see NUI Galway focus on its continued contribution to enhancing policy and society, enriching creativity, improving health and wellbeing, realising potential through data and enabling technologies, data science and sustaining our planet and people. With these strengths, NUI Galway will lead through its contribution to the region’s international reputation as a recognised centre of excellence for Medical Technologies, Data Science, Culture and Creativity, Climate and Oceans, and Public Policy.

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “We are a university with no gates. Our location at the very edge of Europe gives us a unique perspective and an opportunity. Our regional footprint is the largest of any University in Ireland spanning the Atlantic seaboard. Galway is the most international city in Ireland. Our uniqueness means we can work in ways others cannot. At the edge, we look at the world from a different angle. Between sea and land, we see the horizon every day and, like all great explorers, all great adventurers, we wonder what’s on the other side. This places us in an international context and enhanced co-operation with other international institutions, from this place and for this purpose, will also therefore be a focus of our new strategy.

“For the public good, NUI Galway belongs to the people. In this strategy and in these times, we will use our location for the benefit of Ireland as an institution formed by values. Our research, our teaching and our engagement – with our students and our staff – has purpose, evoking also our sense of people and place, further contributing profoundly to the sustainability and development of culture, creative industries, data science, medical technologies, marine ecology and our economy. For example, given our geography at the intersection of Europe with the North Atlantic, the climate information we can gather is unique. The University will deliver subsequent climate research for the benefit of humanity. Beidh an Ghaeilge freisin i gcroílár straitéis agus structúir na hollscoile, luachmhar agus aitheanta mar luach dár gcomhluadar,” he added.

The strategy also outlines an ambitious development programme, titled “Building for the Future”, which will see NUI Galway leading the transformational change of Galway and the West of Ireland, with major social, economic and cultural impact for future generations.

550 Enterprise spaces mapped across the AEC

AEC Officers in the 10 Local Authorities throughout the AEC, are surveying available enterprise spaces in the major towns in each county. This initiative, under the guidance of the AEC Taskforce Enterprise Space Working Group, utilises a Collector App, and the AEC Available Enterprise Property Search Portal. Both the App and the Portal were developed by Mayo County Council and are being utilised by all the AEC Officers.

Over 35 towns have been surveyed and more that 550 enterprise spaces have been identified.  The enterprise spaces include offices, industrial warehouses, enterprise  buildings, and both greenfield and brownfield development and strategic sites. The data collected includes details of the property type, age, size, construction type, ownership/tenancy, services, fit-out standard, car parking, permitted use and the types of premises that are adjoining the property.

The AEC Property Portal, which is unique to the AEC, allows users to search by town, by county, by AEC region, by property type and by category. The search provides users with information that is vital to decision-making, to the re-purposing and development of vacant enterprise stock and to informing strategic town planning.

It is an invaluable resource for potential investors and entrepreneurs seeking to set up a new enterprise, growing an  existing business or relocating to the Atlantic Economic Corridor region.

County Number Towns
Donegal 27 Ballybofey, Stranorlar
Leitrim 8 Carrick on Shannon
Sligo 23 Ballisodare, Ballymote, Sligo town
Roscommon 16 Roscommon town,
Mayo 71 Ballina, Castlebar, Claremorris, Knock Airport, Westport
Galway City 41 Galway city
Galway County 36 Athenry, Ballinasloe, Clifden, Gort, Loughrea, Tuam
Clare 229 Ennis, Kilrush, Newmarket on Fergus, Shannon, Sixmilebridge
Limerick 24 Abbeyfeale, Kilmallock, Newcastle West
Kerry 75 Cahersiveen,  Castleisland, Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney, Killorglin, Listowel, Sneem, Tralee
Total 550

 

 

AEC driving remote working, second sites and investment through hubs

When the Western Development Commission (WDC) decided to investigate the opportunities for remote working along the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) the assumption was that there would be around 30 hubs operating between Donegal and Kerry.

The research identified that there is in fact over 100 hubs along the AEC including Udaras na Gaeltachta plans to help regenerate Irish speaking communities by opening 31 high speed hubs known as “gteics” in Gaeltacht areas. Many of the hubs are already up and running and some are still in development.

The WDC regards remote working as a key to reinvigorating the region, in line with government policy, and has embarked on a three-year AEC Hubs project. It will focus on such challenges as low occupancy rates in some regional hubs, lack of a centralised ICT system, and the need for improved marketing and branding.

The AEC hubs project has been enabled by initial funding of €1m euro from the Dormant Accounts Fund.  Tomás Ó Síocháin CEO of the WDC believes the development of a network of 101 hubs, with a common booking engine and an easy to access map of such facilities, will benefit employees and employers. Already the WDC has brought the key players together to identify challenges and explore opportunities for collaboration at two hubs strategy workshops in Limerick and Sligo in late 2019 With over 160 participants the key themes that emerged from both include the need for centralised resources including a booking engine; market & promotion toolkit and knowhow; back Office IT Suite / Virtual Network supports; funding and procurement support and more.

Mr Ó Síocháin, believes the AEC Hubs project is timely for many reasons.  “It’s a given that technology will continue to advance, increasing the potential for working away from head office whether that’s in Dublin or across the Atlantic,” he explained. “And obviously there is now a huge push towards a low carbon economy”. He also believes that we are witnessing a fundamental change in people’s attitude to working, a concept which is much more fluid for today’s younger generation for whom “a job for life” is almost an alien notion.

The AEC Enterprise Hubs Project caters for a range of facilities from the Portershed in Galway where 135 workers mostly from the tech sector are now based, to more rural community spaces, some with just a handful of desks but high hopes of giving long-gone emigrants a route home.

“Remote working is an ideal tool for rural and regional development because it is sector agnostic,” said Ó Síocháin. “It’s not just about foreign direct investment or the med tech sector. Any job where people spend part of their day sitting at a computer screen is a candidate for remote working”.

To underline the scope technological advances are creating, Mr Ó Síocháin cites companies like California-based Stripe, founded in 2009 by Limerick’s John and Patrick Collison, which now locates employees in particular time zones rather than in specific buildings. “You can see how that makes sense for global companies who need people in a US time zone or a European time zone”, he points out.

Tracy Keogh is one of the founders of Grow Remote which started in 2018 as a WhatsApp group for people who believed remote working could be a key to regenerating regional communities, ravaged by emigration and unemployment. Keogh was struck by the number of empty retail units in towns and villages throughout the country and realized that remote working wasn’t making an impact in some places. “Some rural hubs had an occupancy rate of only 25 per cent”, explained Tracy. Grow Remote focuses on promoting remote working opportunities – with the emphasis very much on salaried jobs with protections such as sick pay, holiday entitlements and pensions.  “It’s all about making remote work visible and accessible,” she said.

Grow Remote now has 110 chapters (networks of co-working managers, freelancers, nomads, remote workers and remote working companies) in Ireland and abroad, and in October 2019 it won a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award,  for its contribution to  raising awareness of remote working  opportunities.

Occupancy may be an issue in some rural hubs but not in the Portershed in Galway which opened over three years ago. There are now 135 workers from 42 companies based there and demand for space is so intense that the Portershed will open another city centre hub in 2021 with capacity for 250.

“You can feel the energy when you come in the door,” explained manager Mary Rodgers who said the opportunity to brain storm and to network often opens doors for those working in busy hubs. “We have a good coffee machine and the queue is where the deals are done”, she said. The perks for the workers include having a receptionist and meeting rooms laid on with “zero overheads”.

Given that the average salary for the 135 people based in the hub is 65,000 euro, it also provides a hefty annual injection for the local economy.

WDC executive Pauline Leonard who has carried out a study of hubs along the AEC pointed out that there is huge variation in terms of occupancy. “Some of the smaller hubs are struggling and may be at only 50 per cent occupancy or less, while hubs in urban areas or those associated with third level institutions are doing much better,” she explained.  Her research showed that some hubs still take bookings on the phone or on email rather than through a website.  A surprising number of respondents – 60 per cent – said they got most of their clients through word of mouth – but yet the research showed many are poor at fostering links with local communities.

Some regional hubs have evolved because so many in one catchment area were commuting to work in places like Dublin. Others operate as “second site” for large city-based companies who have clusters of staff in one community. Hubs can also provide backup for people who normally work from home but occasionally need to escape the chaos of family life for important conference calls to clients or colleagues.

With Vodafone currently trialing holographic meetings in the UK, Tomás Ó Síocháin points out that virtual meetings with people who could be in a different continent is not as Star Trek as it might have seemed a decade ago, “In five years’ time that technology could be the norm. Our Skype calls will be replaced by a hologram call” he said.  The WDC intends to lead from the front when it comes to remote working and is currently looking at proposals that could see staff work up to three days a week from a home or hub.

Making hubs sustainable is a priority according to Tomás Ó Síocháin and it’s a concern shared by the manager of one of Ireland’s newest regional hubs, Cillian Murphy from the Elliott Centre in Kilkee, Co Clare.  “Clare county council has a very good digital strategy – funded from the public purse- and clients pay just 10 euro a day to use their hubs,” he explained. “We just cannot compete with that. We have to charge 20 euro a day so we are at a disadvantage”. The Elliott centre did get significant funding under the Towns & Villages Renewal Scheme as well as from Enterprise Ireland, Leader and the local Chamber of Commerce. “But one of our challenges is that the government is good at investing in buildings but not in people,” said Mr Murphy who points out that staffing is an issue.  The Kilkee centre is expected to cater for many with holiday homes locally who can now extend their weekends knowing there is a hub close by. “That benefits the town”, said Mr Murphy.

It is believed the AEC can carve a very powerful proposition in Co-working and Remote Working for rural areas to drive investment and regional growth. Interestingly, social enterprise represents 60% of Hubs across the AEC. This shows the local connection and strong reflection of community needs in both big and small hubs.

 

FAB Leitrim Gets Creative

Two projects underway in Leitrim are embracing technology to deliver benefits for the creative sector and beyond. The Mobile FABLAB and the Creative Heartlands projects are funded under the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Competitive Fund.

The FABLAB project will establish a Mobile Fabrication Laboratory that will provide access for SMEs, enterprise & innovation hubs and schools to digital fabrication technologies. This will allow them to increase their level of innovation and technical skills  to develop new ideas and increase the skill set of employees. The project which has secured over €140,000 is led by Leitrim LEO in collaboration with the Local Enterprise Offices from Cavan, Roscommon and Longford.

Speaking about the announcement Head of Enterprise for Leitrim Joe Lowe said that “This mobile lab will foster innovation, education and new business development and connect entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, innovators and developers with resources for prototyping, product development and manufacturing. This is particularly important for traditional manufacturing sectors as they transition to Industry 4.0.”

Leitrim is regarded as being culturally vibrant, with remarkable activity and capacity across multiple art forms. Leitrim boasts a strong network of communities rich with artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers and musicians. The Western Development Commission’s publication Creative West noted that the creative sector in Leitrim had the highest proportion of people working within the creative sector (4.4% of total employment in the county) with Sligo the second highest on 4.2%.

The Creative Heartlands will support a creative cluster and skills development to build on existing structures such as the Sligo Leitrim Roscommon Film Project and Creative Frame CPD Network in the region. The project will achieve this through a number of investments in infrastructure, equipment and personnel.

The project will invest in three film editing suites, installed in the Leitrim Sculpture Centre (LSC), Roscommon Arts Centre and Northside Community Centre.  Audio recording equipment will also be available to the cluster members.

Both projects are innovative in their use of technology to sustain employment and support enterprise development.