Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Enterprise Support Services
14. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide a report on Enterprise Ireland supports for jobs and business in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52992/21]
I ask the Tánaiste to provide a report on Enterprise Ireland supports for jobs and businesses in County Carlow and to make a statement on the matter. Today we heard the great news about the technological university for the south east, which I believe is a game changer. I was involved in the process for the past few years and I really welcome this. I know it will open many doors for employment in Carlow, Kilkenny and the south east. I know this will be a priority for the Tánaiste.
I think we can all agree that the final confirmation about the university is good news and will lead to opportunities for sustainable growth in the area. It will develop enterprise in the local area in combination with our education system.
Delivering balanced regional recovery is identified as a priority within the Government's national economic recovery plan. As part of Enterprise Ireland's regional strategy, Powering the Regions, Enterprise Ireland has committed to building on the south east's regional strengths working with partners such as the local enterprise offices, the south-east business innovation centre, BIC, and the New Frontiers programme in Institute of Technology Carlow, to deliver initiatives that assist entrepreneurship and foster an exciting new generation of innovative and ambitious start-ups in Carlow and the south east.
In addition, my Department and Enterprise Ireland are actively collaborating with local stakeholders to identify gaps in the south east's enterprise ecosystem and to plan and help fund enterprise-enabling infrastructure aligned to regional enterprise plans out to 2024. In 2020, a total of 3,171 people were employed across 89 Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Carlow, which demonstrates the resilience of export-led industry in Carlow in an incredibly challenging year.
Under the regional enterprise development fund to date, over €4 million has been approved for four projects in County Carlow, namely, Insurtech network centre, Crystal Valley Tech, Incupharm and the National Design Innovation Hub. This will assist new collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region and nationally.
In September 2021, two pre-accelerator projects were also launched in the south east to assist promoters validate business propositions and which will run until December 2021. A further €377,520 was approved for Institute of Technology Carlow under the regional technology clustering fund to assist the development of an industry-led engineering cluster to expand capability and competitiveness in the south east.
In response to Covid-19, the enterprise centres scheme was launched in August 2020 for both profit and not-for-profit enterprise centres. Two enterprise centres in Carlow were approved to receive €128,478 under this scheme.
I assure the Deputy that as we transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy and accelerate the pace of the digital transformation, this Department, working with our agencies, will continue to assist enterprise development and job growth in all regions, making them more resilient to these challenges.
I welcome the more than €4 million invested in Carlow, which is particularly important with regard to the enterprise centres. I welcome the supports being extended to businesses in Carlow. I welcome the overall budget for 2022 with up to €90 million to be invested in Irish start-ups through an extension of the innovation fund. Enterprise Ireland funding of €9.3 million has been allocated to 24 regional projects across the country with start-up grants for SMEs and to help them recover from the pandemic. The disruption caused by Brexit was a big factor, as the Minister of State will be aware.
I recently visited the company HaloCare, which empowers older people to live quality, more connected lives in their own homes. It has raised approximately €6.2 million in investment from its founders and other investors, including Enterprise Ireland. I am aware of the excellent work being done by HaloCare. I visited it a few weeks ago and I was blown away by what it has to offer. Companies like this will be vital, particularly for older people. HaloCare concentrates on giving older people the chance to stay in their own home, which is so important for families. It is important to give the funding to these companies.
I am familiar with HaloCare and what it does. It complements what we are trying to do, which is to develop and fund businesses and organisations that can create jobs and, more importantly, can have an impact on society both within the country and beyond.
The Government is committed to keeping people living in their homes for as long as they possibly can. We developed a scheme across a number of Departments to provide supports to enable that and to provide other suitable accommodation when the need arises if they can no longer stay in their own homes. I visited Carlow a few times and I have seen some lovely projects there. I believe the Deputy and other people down there understand that concept quite well.
The €90 million innovation fund the Deputy mentioned is committed to supporting businesses like HaloCare and social enterprise initiatives as well. It is a really exciting project and another tool in our kit to be able to assist companies in bringing their concepts, ideas, initiatives and projects to a new level. We have identified a gap in the market and we think this fund will be able to help these businesses with the investment they need. This €90 million fund will lead onto a much greater investment with matching funding from outside as well.
The Minister of State and the Tánaiste are both welcome to Carlow and to Carlow-Kilkenny at any time. I welcome investment, particularly in small counties like mine. It is vital for Carlow to have this. We now have the game changer with the technological university for the south east. We have much to offer with Carlow well located close to Dublin and all the vital areas that people need to get to.
I welcome that this week, 30 Irish companies are participating in a five-day visit to Toronto, Montreal, Boston and New York. It is really important that such trips happen. It is all about what we can learn and the business we can do overseas as well.
When will the facility IDA Ireland is building in Carlow be operational? That will be very important. We have been waiting for so long for jobs in Carlow and I really welcome this measure.
I do not have a date for when it will be operational but I am glad it is nearly ready. The answer to that would be as soon as possible. As the Deputy knows, considerable work has gone into that over the years. Earlier, I outlined the work of Enterprise Ireland, which complements the work of IDA Ireland, the local enterprise offices, LEOs, the local authorities and other stakeholders in creating jobs in Carlow. Carlow has done well in the creation of jobs, working with the local business community. That is on the back of a strong education system, which is being enhanced with the technological university and the options that will bring.
The key for us is that right across Departments, through the regional enterprise plans and working with our local agencies, often driven by local authority involvement, there are various stakeholders. These include education, business, community and business development agencies. They all come together to help fund great projects and ambition.
The Deputy referred to a trade mission that is under way to bring in companies from abroad that want to take on international markets. The small and medium enterprise task force was set up by the Tánaiste this time last year and we want to drive on with companies that want the opportunity to take on international markets. We can support that drive and ambition. The SME task force has set high targets to achieve that. Enterprise Ireland will publish its new strategy in the weeks ahead, again highlighting that ambition to target more companies to take on international markets.