Thursday, 2 June 2022
Department of Rural and Community Development
422. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the grant aid available from her Department, if any, for local private digital enterprise hubs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28010/22]
Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, recognises the opportunity for rural rejuvenation that remote working presents and commits to establishing a comprehensive and integrated network of remote working hubs over the lifetime of the policy to 2025.
To date my Department has invested some €100m in the development of remote working facilities across a range of schemes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. The Town and Village Renewal Scheme prioritises the renovation of derelict and vacant buildings in our town centres, with a view to bringing these buildings back into use as multi-purpose community spaces and remote working hubs. The RRDF scheme supports projects that involve the regeneration of historic town centre buildings as Enterprise and Co-Working spaces.
In May I launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the connectedhubs.ie platform. This platform offers a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the Network. The National Hub Network Working Group initially identified and mapped over 400 remote working hubs. To date, approximately 240 hubs have joined the Connected Hubs Network and been on boarded onto the platform, with this number rising on an ongoing basis.
My department also recently completed the assessments of the 2022 Connected Hubs Call, to which I have allocated €5M in funding to further develop and leverage the capacity of the National Hub Network. This is in addition to the almost €9M in funding allocated last year under the same scheme. All existing remote working facilities, including private enterprise hubs were eligible to apply. The successful applicants under the 2022 Call will be announced shortly.
To date my focus has been on establishing the network and on achieving the initial critical mass. Following strong progress on the establishment phase of the project, my focus has now shifted to the next stage of development. I am interested to hear how the hubs and their users see the future of the sector and have directed my officials to engage directly with the remote working community and relevant stakeholders as they assess the impact of both the National Hubs Network (connectedhubs.ie) and the Connected Hubs Call.
While we have acted quickly and decisively to ensure adequate provision of services to date, it is vital that, as we develop a strategy for the development of the National Hub Network, we take stock of what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
I am committed to ensuring that the National Hub Network will continue to make a central contribution to the achievement of the Government's vision for rural Ireland, as set out in Our Rural Future.