I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.
My Department is committed to supporting enterprise development throughout the country. Enterprise Ireland (EI), has approved funding to enable community groups throughout the country to develop the entrepreneurial talent in their area and support innovative business ideas to create jobs.
In 2016 Enterprise Ireland awarded €3 million to 32 projects under the Community Enterprise Fund. The goal of this initiative was to stimulate and support enterprise and job creation throughout the country at local, community and regional level.
Under the current Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Government, through EI, awarded €60 million to 42 projects across all regions to build enterprise capability. This competitive fund had four funding streams, one of which was targeted specifically at local and community enterprise. Under this initiative 7 projects were funded.
EI funding has also supported the development of a national network of business innovation centres and specialist bio-incubation facilities under the Campus Innovation Programme. Incubators now exist on every university and Institute of technology Campus in the country. Such facilities are an important element of public assistance for technology-intensive start-ups, and also an important driver of regional development. The majority of companies who participate in the programme remain in their region after they have completed their incubation period.
The centres provide critical space for research-driven start-up companies and make available a wide range of support services and business mentoring.
In 2016 EI approved further funding for extensions to three existing Incubation Centres (Athlone Institute of Technology, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology).
At present there are 1,748 people employed in companies in Enterprise Ireland funded incubation centres. There are 3 incubation centres in the Border region:
- IT Sligo (Innovation Centre): currently has 22 companies employing 75 people.
- Letterkenny IT (CoLab): currently has 32 companies employing 124 people.
- Dundalk IT (Regional Development Centre): currently has 15 companies employing 87 people.
EI has co-funded, with local enterprise development groups, 157 Community Enterprise Centres across the country totalling €64 million. There is now a Community Enterprise Centre located in every county. The agency has also provided €2m, via competitive funding, to support the role of 46 Business Development Function/Managers in Community Enterprise Centres. These centers collectively employ approximately 6,000 people across 1,200 companies and are key hubs of enterprise activity in many areas.