Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD, has announced a total of €8.24 million in grants to 95 enterprise centres throughout the country under Enterprise Ireland’s Enterprise Centres Fund.
Grants will range in size from €10,000 to €150,000.
The funding is considered crucial for the future of the enterprise centre sector in Ireland as hubs around the country implement a recovery plan for businesses within their remit over the next six to 12 months.
Mr Varadkar said the funding made available through his Department would help enterprise centres all over the country modernise their facilities, protecting the health and safety of people working there and helping to secure jobs.
The 95 centres will receive grants ranging in size from €10,000 to €150,000.
A major analysis of the sector earlier this year shone a light on the devastating effects Covid-19 has wrought on enterprise centres in every county, with almost 88% of centres reporting a drop in income of between 21% and 80% as many of their entrepreneur tenants struggled to keep their own businesses afloat.
Among its stark findings were that while the vast majority of hubs had seen tenants closing their doors temporarily (83.5%), one-third (33%) of centres said some tenants have shuttered their businesses permanently.
The chairperson of the National Association of Community Enterprise Centres (NACEC), Gary O’Meara, welcomed today’s funding announcement, saying it was the culmination of months of research and collaboration between NACEC, Enterprise Ireland, the Dept of Enterprise and other key stakeholders from across the public and private sector, and which resulted in the publication of the Enterprise Centres/Hubs Covid-19 National Impact + Recovery Plan by NACEC last August.
He added: “Hubs, if managed correctly, have the potential to really drive economic activity and social prosperity throughout our regions and across rural Ireland, and I believe NACEC is now very well placed to help make these new future of work opportunities a reality.”
Mr O’Meara added that as traditional workplace dynamics have been overturned by Covid-19 and new social distancing requirements, enterprise hubs and co-working spaces are in an ideal position to provide a new ‘Hub-Home-HQ’ model as companies and their employees embrace new ways of working.
Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland CEO, said: “Over the past 20 years, enterprise centres have provided important infrastructure for entrepreneurs and are an essential part of the start-up ecosystem across Ireland.
“The centres, many of which are regionally based, provide space, connectivity, mentoring and support to start-up founders and teams, helping them to scale nationally.”
She added that the funding just announced would ensure that enterprise centres, many of which have been negatively impacted by Covid-19, can sustain their businesses, pivot and further develop their services to support the next wave of start-up companies.
According to the NACEC Strategic Plan 2019-2021 launched last year, its enterprise hub members supported over 5,500 jobs in over 1,800 businesses, with a salary contribution to the economy of €247.5 million per annum.