Regional enterprise development is a key priority for my Department and I am focused on maintaining existing jobs while also increasing the level of employment and investment in every county in Ireland.
I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-East region, which covers Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, on 7 February last in Naas. The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential.
On the day of the Mid-East Regional Enterprise Plan launch, I turned the sod on the development of the Mid East Regional Innovation Think Space (MERITS) enterprise centre in Naas. This project is receiving funding of just over €1.9 million from the previous €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF).
I also visited Athy on 18 April last for the announcement of the development of the Athy Food, Drink and Skills Innovation Hub in the old Model School. This development will see the conversion of the Old Model School in Athy owned by Kildare County Council into a mixed-use Hub comprising of two commercial kitchens to cater for Food/Drinks Innovation and hospitality training, a Fab Lab for Agri-Tech Innovation, a large co-working /remote working space and soft-landing unit for potential FDI catering for 120 entrepreneurs and apprenticeships annually.
The unemployment rate in the Mid-East region, which includes Co. Kildare (along with Meath and Wicklow) has reduced from 9.6 % in Q1 2015 to 4.1% in Q1 2019, lower than the State unemployment rate of 4.8%.
The focus for Co. Kildare and the Mid-East over the period to 2020, under the new Regional Enterprise Plan, will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to out-perform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date and to ensure that sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained in the region. The collaborative strategic objectives and actions in this Plan, along with the core activities of the various Agencies and Bodies involved in supporting enterprise development over the coming two-year period will support this.
Guided by the new Regional Enterprise Plan, and with access to funding under my Department’s new €45 million Regional Enterprise Development Fund, Co. Kildare and the wider Mid-East region is well positioned to build on its success and to continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.
Innovation is a critical element of regional economic sustainability and in order to grow, firms must be enabled to achieve sales outside their own region.
Enterprise Ireland’s Research, Development and Innovation supports (Innovation Vouchers/Partnerships Technology Centres/Gateways, Campus Incubators, SME Instrument), are available in every county in Ireland. For instance, In Co Kildare, NUI Maynooth performs research as part of a number of Technology Centres, including Irish Manufacturing Research, Food for Health Ireland (FHI) and Microelectronic Circuits Centre Ireland (MCCI).
There are 29 IDA Ireland supported client companies in Co. Kildare, which collectively employ 8,838 people - representing an increase of 4.5% over the previous year. The county has a strong contingent of overseas firms in the technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors. IDA Ireland clients such as Intel, Pfizer, and Procter and Gamble are all located in Kildare and continue to perform well.
IDA Ireland’s efforts to increase FDI in Kildare is strengthened by the presence of NUI Maynooth in the county. The university has been involved in a number of research projects with IDA Ireland client companies and has seven research institutes on campus. These include the Hamilton Institute - a world leading research unit in ICT with a focus on drones, AI and robotics - and the Innovation Value Institute which has been co-developed with Intel.
In November 2018, INIT announced their plans to create a software development centre in Maynooth which will result in the creation of an additional 20 highly skilled jobs. This is their first operation outside of Germany and this investment reflects Kildare's significant potential. IDA Ireland will be working hard to attract further investment from overseas firms to the county.
In addition, in 2018 Science Foundation Ireland approved grants of €3,716,400 in NUI Maynooth across a number of initiatives including the President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Programme and the Research Infrastructure Programme.