Under Project Ireland 2040 Government identified an ambition to build sectoral clusters of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at regional level. This ambition will be delivered through initiatives supporting the development of business-led clustering of competitive advantage.

As one of the Government initiatives in this area, a multi-annual fund for Regional Technology Clustering was announced in Budget 2019. An initial €2.75 million budget will be administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to support this initiative. This will be in the form of a competitive fund open to the Institutes of Technology (IoT) / Technological Universities (TU). 

Dr John Hobbs, Senior lecturer and Project Manager for the Interreg Europe ecoRIS3 in the Cork institute of Technology welcomes the call. “It is very encouraging to see calls like the Regional Technology Cluster Fund (RTCF) and Call 3 of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund focusing on clustering and sparking collaboration across the Triple Helix. However, Ireland must be careful that regional initiatives are sustainable over the longer term and co-ordinated at a national level if the country is to reap the many benefits, we see from clustering in regions across Europe. Examples such as ecoRIS3 partner Metropolitan City of Turin with their bioPmed and CLEVER (Cleantech&Energy innoVation clustER) clusters which are thriving in a region with a formalised regional cluster policy.” 

On the 1st of July 2019 Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD launched the new Regional Technology Clustering Fund which will be administered through Enterprise Ireland.  

Image: Dr. Michael Mulvey President DKIT, Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys and Mark Christal, Manager Regions and Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ireland at the launch of the Regional Technology Clustering Fund in Dundalk Institute of Technology 1/7/2019.

At the launch Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation said: “I am delighted to announce a new Regional Technology Clustering Fund to support enterprise in the regions. Many EU countries have already developed cluster policies to strengthen co-operation between industry and research. They have proven to be very successful, so the Government wants to strengthen our activity in this space. Having visited businesses and communities all over the country, I firmly believe that collaboration is the new competitive advantage, so I hope to see plenty of new relationships developing between Higher Education Institutions and businesses through this Fund.” 

Mark Christal, Manager Regions and Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ireland added: “Enterprise Ireland’s new “Powering the Regions” plan places significant emphasis on collaboration which is reflected in the Regional Technology Clustering Fund being announced today. The fund aims to encourage collaboration between IOTs, industry and wider academic and enterprise partners in the regions. IOTs also have an important role to play in helping companies to respond to the skills challenges faced by SMEs and to assist companies to enhance their capability to win business in international markets. Developing and supporting regional businesses to build scale and expand reach is a key objective for Enterprise Ireland, particularly with challenges such as Brexit on the horizon.”  

Regarding eligible costs under the programme for a three-year period: Salary costs of up to €80k/year for a Manager plus a maximum grant of €39,000 for travel associated with outreach for cluster members will be funded 100%. To connect the IoT / TU with SMEs in order to drive knowledge and research dissemination. Whilst, a maximum of €60,000 towards operational costs for the administration of the enterprise cluster to e.g. attend workshops and conferences which support knowledge sharing and networking and/or consultancy costs to deliver specialised and customised business support services will be funded at 50% of eligible costs. 

The fund will be comprised of two streams relating to new enterprise clustering and existing enterprise clustering. The closing date for applications is 3pm on the 11th of September 2019. 

For further information on the Regional Technology Clustering Fund, please visit https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/funding-supports/Regional-Technology-Cluster-Fund/RTCF/ or contact Harriet Cotter, Manager - Regional Technology Clustering Fund, Mid-West Office – Shannon, Enterprise Ireland on [email protected]