Donegal Digital partners are actively participating in Local Enterprise Offices organised Local Enterprise Week. On Monday, 6th March, we organised ‘Supporting start-ups through the Donegal Digital Innovation Hubs network’ session to engage with digital SMEs and start-ups in the county to assist them innovating, progressing on their digital transformation strategies and adopting Industry 4.0 solutions. Four speakers shared their expertise and knowledge to inspire over 20 attendees.
gteic digital hub network to facilitate growth
Mícheál Ó Duibhir, Development Officer at Údarás na Gaeltachta, is responsible for the Digital Economy in the Gaeltacht regions and the development of the national 31 gteic digital hub network. He explained that Údarás na Gaeltachta has a three-sided mission supporting the Economic, Social and Cultural development of the 7 Gaeltacht Regions and the Islands: promote and grow Irish as a living community language, support job creation and consolidate viable Gaeltacht communities.
The network of Digital Innovation Hubs focuses on enterprises, innovation, remote working and Gaeltacht Diaspora, facilitating entrepreneurs, companies and remote workers an opportunity to establish and grow businesses through high-quality workspaces with high-speed broadband. 26 gteic hubs are currently operational and 5 others will open by end of 2023. Mícheál mentions that they offer a wide range of services, including, seminars and tech talks, regular networks events, mentoring and training, participation in partner programmes (European and University partnership programmes), strategies for entrepreneurs and business owners, and access to financial supports. Success is demonstrated. Start-ups can benefit from insurtech, immersive technologies and growth while they return to diaspora and remotely work.
An environment for startups to thrive
Anne Marie McLaughlin, Innovation Manager at inishowen innovation, is dedicated to ensuring that Inishowen Innovation drives the whole community forward by providing a focal point to support new innovative start-ups, to promote digitisation of existing businesses, to increase access to emerging technologies and showcase Inishowen as an innovative and dynamic digital-based community. “Inishowen is recognised as one of the best places to start or grow a business because it offers an award-winning quality of life, culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and a collaborative business environment”, she highlights.
Anne Marie explains that, to create the environment for start-ups to thrive, where collaboration and supports needed are available, we need to have a strong ecosystem with a network of resources, people, investors, institutions and companies. “We stablish this network of all the components needed for success, and the hub can act as the base or source for this community. A source for all these business development supports to access to the right people and funding, connections to others in the same world that provide moral, technical and practical supports to create, establish and grow a business”, continues Anne Marie. Inishowen Innovation has a network already established. “The person sitting at their desk or in their home with an idea can see that there are opportunities, a place where they can go to ask for guidance and be pointed in the right direction. Also for students, they will see clearly that there are chances, that they don’t need to go elsewhere. As well as for those who might be thinking about returning”, she adds.
A range of supports across the entrepreneur landscape
A range of supports across the entrepreneur landscape
Enterprise Ireland works with companies to start, innovate and scale in global markets. Evelyn Smith, Senior Development Adviser Entrepreneurship and HPSU Operations, explains they offer financial and non-financial supports, capability programmes, competitiveness, innovation and strategic networking relevant to each stage of company development. In addition, being partners with Local Enterprise Offices, Business Innovation Centres, Regional Hubs, Third Level Institutes (including industry-led research collaboration), multinationals and investors, they can assist companies go through five stages of development: idea / concept, early validation, pre-seed, seed funding and growth and internationalisation. “Depending on your stage of development, there is a range of supports across the entrepreneur landscape including advice, mentoring, funding and training programmes”, she explains.
She also presented various of the programmes they have in place: Start in Ireland, an online resource for entrepreneurs and start-ups launched in 2021; New Frontiers programme, Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme that is delivered by the Technological Universities, Institutes of Technology and partnering Universities; and, Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up (HPSU) to introduce an innovative product or service to international markets, capable of creating a minimum of 10 jobs in Ireland with the potential to achieve €1m turnover in 3 years.
Initiatives encompassing a range of key features to deliver significant benefits
Leah Fairman, National Hubs Executive at Western Development Commission, presented Connected Hubs, an initiative of the Government of Ireland, which is creating since 2020 a network of 400 hubs under the 'Our Rural Future' programme. ConnectedHubs encompasses a range of key features that deliver significant benefits to member hubs, hub clients, employers, local communities and the wider economy: private offices and meeting rooms, coworking and collaborative spaces, hot desks, online meeting technologies and spaces, virtual office facilities, World-class enterprise and business supports to help you grow your start-up or emerging business and, networking and community events with businesses and professionals locally and throughout the network. At the moment, 310 hubs participate in the initiative offering, among others, 22,000 desks 417 meeting rooms and 16 podcast studios.
The development of a National Hub Network, linking and supporting remote working hubs throughout the country, represents a unique opportunity to grow start-ups. They also offer start-up programmes such as Empower, a free initiative run by the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Innovation Hubs to promote and fast-track female entrepreneurship; NDRC, to help startups succeed at every point of their journey through coaching and mentoring, with a founder-first approach delivered by international experts; Specialist hubs like Irish Tech Hub Network to connect best-in-class hubs across Ireland who have significant potential to catalyse innovation in their regions, or sector specialism hubs.