The Mid West Regional Authority (MWRA) is looking to Europe to increase the online presence of rural small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in County Clare.
The MWRA is one of six lead agencies in an EU project named CREATE, which aims to deliver a full package of advice and support to SME’s to enable them to fully exploit the potential of faster broadband.
Representatives of the MWRA recently attended the project launch, hosted by lead partner Herefordshire Council in the UK, which brought together delegates from across Europe, including parliamentary representatives, businesses and partner organisations, to hear more about the project and help shape its programme.
The MWRA says it is currently in the process of creating a workgroup of IT and online marketing professionals which, once established, will guide SME’s in County Clare. The MWRA is working with Ennis Innovation Centre and Clare County Council as associated partner.
The new service will include specialist support through business advisors, access to e-guides providing ideas on how to use broadband effectively, access to virtual cloud clusters enabling businesses to collaborate with others regardless of their location, and access to specialist experts to help businesses up-skill, network and collaborate to develop new products and markets.
Mr. Liam Conneally, MWRA Director outlined the benefits of ‘going trans-national’ in terms of highlighting the importance of ICT to SMEs in the partner regions in their efforts to remain competitive in the marketplace.
He also outlined a call to action that CREATE alone was “not enough” and that the EU would need to increase its investment in broadband provision and back-haul capacities if the aims of CREATE were to be achieved across the more rural regions of the EU.
"Working with the Ennis Innovate Regional Innovation Centre," continued Mr. Conneally, "we will be looking to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship through the creation of a Virtual Consortium consisting of like-minded SMEs across EU partner regions who have already demonstrated a strong growth potential. Members of the Consortium will become leaders in their regions as they demonstrate to other SMEs the potential of virtual clustering. The Consortium will include SMEs from sectors such as Green and environmental technologies; Creative industries and digital media; Security and Defence; Biomedics; and Automotives.”
"This project will also serve to demonstrate to policy makers and practitioners the critical purpose that next generation broadband serves. Through the creation of a virtual network the project will demonstrate how such networking can improve productivity, enhance creativity and stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation in SMEs, and provide them with scope to tap into and explore new markets," added Mr. Conneally.
Ms. Majella O’Brien, EU Projects Officer for the MWRA explained that rural Irish business are behind their European counterparts in embracing cloud clustering.
She added: “Our remit in rolling out this project is to encourage rural enterprises of the benefits of partnering with other companies to avail of shared cloud-based services, thus increasing competitiveness and export market potential through exposure to other markets. Research shows that 1 in 3 businesses in Europe are currently availing of cloud-based services with this figure set to rise to 1 out of every 2 by 2015. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses in the Mid West Region of Ireland are not left behind.”
The CREATE project, which has secured €1.5 M of INTERREG IVB North West Europe (NWE) funding, is being led by Herefordshire Council with partners from the European Regions Network for the Application of Communications Technology, VOKA the West Flanders Chamber of Commerce (Belgium), Nièvre Numérique (France), Scottish Enterprise and the MWRA (Ireland). For more visit www.create-nwe.eu. The project can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.