The European Union has named Ireland’s Northern and Western region as European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) 2018 recognising the “enormous strides” the region has taken to foster entrepreneurship and arrest decades of economic decline.
The counties coming under the scope of the award are Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal, as well as the counties of Connacht – Mayo, Galway, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon.
The EER award identifies and rewards EU regions and cities with outstanding, future-oriented entrepreneurial strategies.
The award comes at a crucial time for the region as it looks for ways to insulate itself from the unpredictable impacts of Brexit and offer an alternative economic focal point to Dublin and the east coast.
Following the announcement, Marc Kiwitt of the Committee of the Regions, the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives said “The European Entrepreneurial Region is a project that identifies and rewards EU regions and cities which show an outstanding and innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth, and competences.”
The award was accepted yesterday on behalf of the NWRA region by David Minton, director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA ), the regional body which administers EU development funds.
“This is an amazing honour and an opportunity for a part of Ireland that has been traditionally marginalised to emerge stronger and more attractive as a place to live and work for our young people, a viable alternative to living on the hugely overburdened east coast,” Mr Minton said.
“The past eight years has seen regional and national policy invest in innovation, invest in people and invest in education. Eight years ago, employment levels in the construction industry were decimated due to economic stagnation. Out of this stagnation has emerged a commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past. In committing to resilience and investing in sustainability, this region has become truly entrepreneurial.”
Mr Minton said this spirit of entrepreneurship was driven by the network of collaborative local enterprise offices (LEOs ) supporting more than 45,000 businesses. The concept of ‘entrepreneurship as a career’ has also come from smart programmes such as Young Entrepreneur of the Year and New Frontiers, Enterprise Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative, early-stage, startups.
Previous winners – including cities such as Glasgow, Barcelona and Lisbon – have used the year to establish successful programmes and ongoing schemes to encourage innovation, business and job creation.
In 2018 the EER designation will be marked with a series of keynote events and initiatives all through the year to support and build on existing and new job creation projects and innovation across Ireland’s Northern and Western region.