EU Co-funded scheme aimed at accelerating economic growth and sustainable job creation announced

The fund was announced by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney, TD, together with Ministers Dara Calleary and representatives of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly.

The Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme will be administered by Enterprise Ireland and will be open for applications from today.  Co-funded by the Government and the EU through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Scheme will capitalise on existing regional enterprise partnerships and complement priorities set out in the Regional Enterprise Plans and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES).

The new scheme will assist small business in the region and help develop functioning ecosystems to support entrepreneurship, start-ups, and scaling companies. This will be achieved by providing appropriate infrastructure, key staff & resources to deliver innovative solutions. 

The Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme is one of a number of initiatives under the ERDF Northern & Western Regional and the Southern, Eastern & Midland 2021-2027 Regional Programmes.

Welcoming the Scheme, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney said;

“I am delighted to announce that applications for the first call for the €145m ‘Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme’ are open for applications from today through Enterprise Ireland.

There is €35 million available under this first call of the Scheme which will support innovative clusters, local infrastructure projects and feasibility and priming funding for early-stage project development.

This funding will further build capacity and encourage innovation in the regions and will ensure that we continue to create employment and opportunities all over the country.”

The overall objective of this Scheme is to drive job creation and enterprise development in each region throughout Ireland. In addition, Smart Regions funding will support the micro and SME client base in strategic regional locations by addressing deficits in key infrastructure.  Successful projects will be collaborative in nature, innovative, financially viable, sustainable and will support existing regional infrastructure.

Also welcoming the Scheme, Cathaoirleach of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, Cllr John Naughten stated;

“As the Managing Authority for ERDF in our region, we are delighted to play a role in securing these funds, both for Enterprise Ireland, and our regionally based companies. This scheme is a departure from other previous supports, and recognises the value in regional based planning, connecting policy and funding. The Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme will support investments in key areas identified through our Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.”

Brendan Mooney NWRA, Assistant Director, ERDF Managing Authority said:

“The Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme, is co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund. The Northern & Western Regional Assembly together with Enterprise Ireland, envisage this scheme to be a catalyst for regional based companies to achieve their ambition and help fosters a thriving business environment across the entire region”.

Cathaoirleach of the Southern Regional Assembly, Cllr Terry Shannon said; 

“The Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme will make an important contribution towards job creation and economic growth in our regions. It will empower enterprises to work collaboratively to drive product and process innovation. This regional focus in particularly welcome, it allows us to build on regional strengths and to address key gaps in local infrastructure”. 

The first call for the Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme is open for applications from today and closes on 31 March 2024.   Under a competitive process, applications are now sought for funding under four streams, with varying investment levels, up to €10m in: 

1. Local infrastructure projects 

2. Innovation clusters and consortia 

3. Services to SMEs to drive Innovative Solutions 

4. Feasibility & Priming Grants. 

Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Dara Calleary added;

“This Government is committed to fostering and delivering balanced regional development. The €35 million call under the Smart Regions Enterprise Innovation Scheme which opens today will assist regionally based SMEs collaborate with other partners to embrace digitisation, green economy and other new opportunities.

This new Scheme, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will build on the €126 million in regional enterprise funding the Department has already provided to support innovative enterprise focused projects across all regions of the country.

I want to acknowledge, in particular, the Chairs, the Regional Programme Managers, and the steering groups who have driven the development and delivery of the 9 Regional Enterprise Plans to 2024 and have done incredible work in their respective regions. This scheme will assist them in realising the ambitions in the Plans and unlock the potential of their region from the bottom up through collaboration. No doubt this will have major impact in all regions of the country.”

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