What are the levers for effective regional development?

‘What are the levers for effective regional development?’  was one of the most interesting questions posed recently by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government in its recent ‘Issues and Choices’ consultation paper for the National Planning Framework.

In our WDC Submission to the consultation, we drew on previous WDC analysis including the WDC Policy Briefings ‘Why care about regions? A new approach to regional policy’, ‘Education, Enterprise & Employment – How Can Better Integration Of The 3Es Drive Growth In The Western Region?’ and ‘e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence’ to answer this question.

In our submission we argue that Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for effective regional development.   The central aim of regional policy, the National Planning Framework and the upcoming Regional Economic & Spatial Strategies should be to provide the conditions for regions to grow and realise their full potential.  Developing infrastructure, the 3Es and innovation is the way to do this.  When these three areas complement and support each other, they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated regional policy approach.

Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure has always played a prominent role in regional policy.  The expectation that improvements in physical infrastructure will generate productivity gains for local businesses and increase the attractiveness of an area for investment and for tourism has been a recurring theme.  Less developed regions need to have a similar quality of infrastructures for their residents and businesses as is available in more successful regions. Infrastructural connectivity has a critical influence on choice of location for both indigenous and foreign investors.  The Western Region, and particularly the North West, is disadvantaged in terms of several forms of infrastructure.  For example Sligo was the only NSS Gateway which was not connected to Dublin with a motorway under the Major Inter-Urban motorway investments between 2006 and 2010 and was the only NSS Gateway or Hub to have a 0 improvement in its ‘accessibility to employment’ score as a result of this period of intensive investment, according to research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

In its submission to the NPF, the WDC makes a range of specific recommendations in relation to infrastructural investments needed to facilitate development in the Western Region.  The proposed investments include transport (national roads, regional and local roads, public transport (rail and bus), air and ports), communications (broadband and mobile coverage) and energy (electricity and natural gas).  These infrastructure investments are also highlighted in the WDC’s submission to the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan.

While infrastructure is critical, OECD[1]  work emphasises that transport and other infrastructure developments are not enough by themselves; to have an impact on regional development they need to be associated with, and complemented by, human capital and innovation developments.

The ‘3Es’: Enterprise, Employment and Education

Regions are successful because enterprises in these regions are successful.  When enterprises grow, employment grows and this depends on skilled and educated people.  Policy to support the ‘3Es’ of enterprise, employment and education must work together at both national and regional level to create dynamic regions.[2]

One of the most important issues that needs to be recognised and addressed by the NPF is that narrow definitions of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location is extremely limited and does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the dramatically changing patterns likely to emerge up to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are dramatically redefining the conception of work, enterprise, and their physical location.

A study conducted for Vodafone in 2016 found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work and one third have remote access to their company network. An estimated 150,000 rural workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.  This trend is likely to continue.

If the NPF mainly equates the term ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force, and will not help to achieve effective regional development. The NPF must recognise and support existing and new sole traders, micro-businesses and freelancers working in sectors where lagging regions have comparative advantage or which are not location dependent.

Quality of life is a key determinant in the location decision of many people and current trends in the world of work and technology will increasingly help people to work from the same location where they want to live.

Enterprise

Enterprises create most jobs.  The NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy.  It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth.

Many of the references to enterprises in the NPF Issues and Choices paper focus on high value, high skill exporting enterprises, which are central to export-led growth and tend to cluster in cities and larger urban centres.  However such enterprises cannot provide a full solution for regional development or jobs growth.  While they play a significant role, and have considerable multiplier impacts in other sectors, direct employment in such enterprises only accounts for one in five jobs nationally (2016 there were a total of 400,985 jobs in IDA and Enterprise Ireland supported companies nationally (DJEI) which was 19.5% of total employment (QNHS, Q4 2016)).

Enterprises in employment-intensive, lower-skill sectors are central to maintaining and growing employment both nationally and regionally.  This is termed a ‘whole of enterprise’ approach acknowledging that enterprises across all sectors have the potential to innovate and increase productivity but vary in how they contribute to growth and employment.  If the NPF focuses too narrowly on high skill, high growth enterprises and/or Foreign Direct Investment it will not lead to effective regional development.  Recognising the role and needs of entrepreneurs in local and personal services is important for sustaining as well as creating jobs, in particular in smaller centres and rural areas.  93.1% of registered enterprises in the Western Region are micro-enterprises, employing fewer than 10 people, and in general the region is characterised by smaller enterprise size (CSO, Business Demography 2014).

While Ireland has emerged from recession, enterprise numbers are not back to pre-recession levels and even more so in the Western Region and particularly more rural counties.  Between 2008 and 2014 (latest data available) the Western Region lost 8.6% of its enterprises, compared with a loss of 2.4% nationally. Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional Services and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors. Indeed fewer than 5% of the Western Region’s enterprises are in the Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors combined.  The region’s enterprise base is currently quite concentrated and diversification of the enterprise base is a key objective.

Employment

As stated in the NPF, a skilled workforce will attract high value enterprises to a region, but a skilled workforce are less likely to locate in a region unless the job opportunities already exist.  In reality this relationship is not so straightforward.  Job opportunities are a critical, but not the only factor in people’s decisions on where to live, many other personal and social factors influence this decision.  In Ireland many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere in some cases e-Working for a number of days a week. Equally, areas with large pools of skilled labour e.g. counties in the wider Dublin commuter belt, have not necessarily been able to attract employers to locate there instead.  40% of workers living in the Mid-East region work in a different region.

In general, lagging regions have substantial reserves of unmobilised labour, indicated by higher unemployment rates and lower participation rates.  During the Celtic Tiger this pattern was largely reversed in the Western Region with rising participation rates, falling unemployment and high levels of inward migration as many people returned to the region on response to economic growth opportunities. The WDC’s LookWest.ie campaign effectively illustrated many case studies of individuals and enterprises who (re)located to the region at that time.  Labour markets in lagging regions have the potential to respond very positively to improved economic circumstances and stimulus.

The recession however led to high out-migration, which is particularly detrimental to lagging regions, as the propensity to migrate is higher among the more skilled, depriving the region of their skills and leaving the less skilled more dependent on local employment opportunities.  The creation of job or entrepreneurial opportunities for graduates in lagging regions will help retain and attract a highly skilled labour force and, in turn, stimulate further growth and employment.

A key characteristic of the Western Region is that 1 in 5 people who are at work in the Western Region is self-employed (75,000 people were self-employed in the Western Region, QNHS special run, Q1 2016). While farming influences this to some extent, self-employment is higher in the region across most sectors and is particularly important in the most rural counties.

Between 2012 and 2016 the number of self-employed in the Western Region grew by 31.3% but the number of employees only increased 0.6%.  Practically all recent jobs growth in the region has been driven by self-employment. In more rural areas and smaller towns, people who wish to continue to live in these areas have created their own job.  The NPF must both recognise and support this trend.  The Local Enterprise Offices, local development companies and local authorities are most active in supporting this type of business. It would be important to continue and expand initiatives to support them such as:

  • Roll-out of fibre broadband.
  • Provision of serviced, shared workspace including through Community Enterprise Centres, at a reasonable cost.
  • Mentoring and provision of grants for start-up and established businesses.
  • Network facilitation to allow self-employed, particularly in more rural areas who may be quite isolated, to connect with others in other own or other sectors.
  • Training and upskilling for owner/managers and self-employed across all sectors including personal services (hairdressing, childminding), building trades, retail and hospitality.

What is most interesting in recent trends is that since 2012 there has been quite strong growth in the numbers self-employed who are employing other people (from 14,200 up to 19,000) showing the potential for the self-employed to be job creators.

Education

Further and higher education has an important role to play in regional development.  Educational institutions build a region’s human capital assets, attract and retain talent.  Further education and training have a particular role in up-skilling those with lower education levels, who face higher unemployment rates and are at greater risk of long term unemployment.  Lagging regions generally have a greater share of their labour force with lower levels of education.  In 2011 54.7% of adults in the Western Region had only secondary level education or lower, compared with 51.9% nationally.

Higher education brings knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, cultural and community development and innovation to regions.  It can also stimulate entrepreneurship. Within the Western Region, NUI Galway is a key regional asset and economic driver. It greatly contributes to the attractiveness and economic development of Galway city and its wider hinterland.  To the North West the three Institutes of Technology of Letterkenny, Sligo and Galway-Mayo, are collaborating on the Connacht/Ulster Alliance, an initiative that has the potential to expand the contribution of higher education to regional development in this area.

The broader role of further and higher education, touching on innovation, enterprise and employment, needs to be a key focus of regional policy.  Where this works effectively it becomes part of a virtuous cycle producing graduates and skilled workers, and enabling them to find employment in developing enterprises.

Innovation

To remain competitive, manufacturing and service firms must continually upgrade skills and capabilities, access new ideas and technologies through industry networks, tap the knowledge of their workers, suppliers and customers and search for new market opportunities. This is all innovation.

Innovation policy is often focused on scientific and technological research, but while leading OECD regions produce several hundred patents per year per million inhabitants, more than one third of OECD regions generate fewer than ten patents per year.  Lagging regions need a different kind of innovation policy, one that emphasises absorption capacity and innovation by adoption.

Policy needs to address the issues of regions that are not innovation leaders.  A substantial element of innovation policy should be focused on adoption of innovations developed elsewhere and on initiatives in areas such as human resource management or implementation of new processes.  It should stimulate innovation activity in areas where rural regions have particular strengths such as renewable energy and agri-food.

Regional policy which addresses the levers of effective regional development – Infrastructure, the 3Es and Innovation – through a co-ordinated, place-based, cross-sectoral  approach is needed if the so-called, ‘business as usual’ spatial pattern of growth is to be disrupted and all regions facilitated to realise their potential for economic growth and provide sustainable livelihoods for those who live there.

 

Pauline White

[1] OECD, 2009, How Regions Grow: Trends and Analysis; OECD, 2009, Regions Matter: Economic Recovery, Innovation and Sustainable Growth

Galway businesses back SeaFest 2017

Businesses across Galway and the region are giving their support to SeaFest 2017, with festival activities extending from Galway Harbour to The Latin Quarter and Salthill.
SeaFest 2017 is Ireland’s national maritime festival and will include a variety of marine-themed activities and attractions to celebrate the sea from 30 June to 2 July 2017.For the first time, SeaFest will welcome the contribution of the Western Development Commission (WDC) to the 2017 event.See full story here:  http://seafest.ie/en/galway-businesses-back-seafest-2017/

Key Issues for the National Planning Framework – Submission from the WDC

The WDC  made its submission on Ireland 2040 – Our Plan: National Planning Framework   yesterday.  The Issues and Choices paper covered a wide range of topics from national planning challenges to sustainability, health, infrastructure and the role of cities and towns.  A key element of the paper considered the future in a “business as usual” scenario in which even greater growth takes place in the Dublin and Mid East region with consequent increased congestion and increasing costs for businesses and society, while other parts of the country continue to have under-utilised potential which is lost to Ireland.  The consultation paper therefore sought to explore the broad questions of alternative opportunities and ways to move away from the “business as usual” scenario.

The WDC submission considers these issues from the perspective of the Western Region, the needs of the Region, the opportunities its development presents for Ireland’s economy and society as a whole and the choices, investments and policy required to achieve regional growth and resilience.

This post highlights the key points made in the submission.  The complete, comprehensive submission on the National Planning Framework by the WDC can be read here (4.5MB PDF).  A shorter summary is available here (0.7MB PDF).

 

What should the NPF achieve?

  • The National Planning Framework (NPF) provides Ireland with an opportunity to more fully realise the potential of all of its regions to contribute to national growth and productivity. All areas of Ireland, the Capital and second tier cities, large, medium and small-sized towns, villages and open countryside, have roles to play both in the national economy and, most importantly, as locations for people to live.
  • While spatial planning strives for ideal settlement or employment patterns and transport infrastructure, in many aspects of life change is relatively slow; demographics may alter gradually over decades and generations and, given the housing boom in the early part of this century, many of our existing housing units will be in use in the very long term. If the NPF is to be effective it must focus on what is needed, given current and historical patterns and the necessity for a more balanced pattern of development.
  • To effectively support national growth it is important that there is not excessive urban concentration “Either over or under [urban] concentration … is very costly in terms of economic efficiency and national growth rates” (Vernon Henderson, 2000[1]). Thus it is essential that, through the NPF, other cities and other regions become the focus of investment and development.

Developing Cities

  • As the NPF is to be a high level Framework, in this submission the WDC does not go into detail by naming places or commenting on specific development projects, as these will be covered by the forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES). The exception to this, however, is in relation to the need for cities to counterbalance Dublin.  In this case we emphasise the role of Galway and the potential for Sligo to be developed as the key growth centre for the North West.
  • The North West is a large rural region and Sligo is the best located large urban centre to support development throughout much of the North West region. With effective linkages to other urban centres throughout the region and improved connectivity, along with support from regional and national stakeholders, Sligo can become a more effective regional driver, supporting a greater share of population, economic and employment growth in Sligo itself and the wider North West region.

Developing Towns

  • While the NPF is to be a high level document and the focus is largely on cities it is important not to assume that development of key cities will constitute regional development. All areas need to be the focus of definite policy, and the NPF should make this clear.
  • While cities may drive regional development, other towns, at a smaller scale, can be equally important to their region. Recognising this is not the same as accepting that all towns need the same level of connection and services.  It is more important to understand that the context of each town differs, in terms of distance and connectivity to other towns and to the cities, the size of the hinterland it serves and its physical area as well as population.  Therefore their infrastructure and service needs differ.
  • Towns play a central role in Ireland’s settlement hierarchy. While much of the emphasis in the NPF Issues and Choices paper is on cities and their role, for a large proportion of Ireland’s population small and medium-sized towns act as their key service centre for education, retail, recreation, primary health and social activities.  Even within the hinterlands of the large cities, people access many of their daily services in smaller centres.  The NPF needs to be clear on the role it sees for towns in effective regional development.

Rural Areas

  • Rural areas provide key resources essential to our economy and society. They are the location of our natural resources and also most of our environmental, biodiversity and landscape assets.  They are places of residence and employment, as well as places of amenity, recreation and refuge.
  • They are already supporting national economic growth, climate action objectives and local communities, albeit at a smaller scale than towns and cities. But a greater focus on developing rural regions would increase the contribution to our economy and society made by rural areas.
  • The key solution to maintaining rural populations is the availability of employment. It is important that the NPF is truly focused on creating opportunities for the people who live in the regions, whether in cities, towns or rural areas.

Employment and Enterprise

  • In the Issues and Choices paper a narrow definition of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location seems to be assumed. This does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the likely changes to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are redefining the conceptions of work, enterprise and their physical location.
  • If the NPF mainly equates ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address the needs of a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force.
  • Similarly the NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy and enterprise base. It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth across all regions and particularly in sectors where regions have comparative advantage.

Location Decisions

  • While job opportunities are a critical factor in people’s decision of where to live, they are by no means the only factor. Many other personal and social factors influence this decision such as closeness to family (including for childcare and elder care reasons), affordability, social and lifestyle preferences, connection to place and community.
  • Many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere or, in some cases, e-Work for a number of days a week. The NPF needs to recognise the complexity of reasons for people’s location decisions in planning for the development of settlements.

Infrastructure

  • New infrastructure can be transformative (the increase in motorway infrastructure in recent decades shows how some change happens relatively quickly). Therefore it is essential that we carefully consider where we place new investments.  To do so, capital appraisal and evaluation methods determining the costs and benefits of different investment projects need to be re-examined if we are to move from a ‘business as usual’ approach.
  • Investment in infrastructure can strongly influence the location of other infrastructure with a detrimental impact on unserved locations. The North West of the country is at a disadvantage compared to other regions with regard to motorway access. This situation will be compounded if investment in rail is focused on those routes with better road access (motorways) in order for rail to stay competitive, or if communications or electricity networks are developed along existing motorway or rail corridors.
  • The WDC believes that the regional cities can be developed more and have untapped potential, however better intra-regional linkages are needed. The weaker links between the regional centres – notably Cork to Limerick and north of Galway through to Sligo and on to Letterkenny, are likely to be a factor in the relatively slower growth of regional centres in contrast to the motorway network, most of which serves Dublin from the regions.

Climate Change

For the future, the need to move to a low carbon, fossil fuel free economy is essential and needs to be an integral and much more explicit part of the NPF.  The National Mitigation Plan for Climate Change is currently being developed, and it is essential that actions under the NPF will be in line with, and support, the actions in the Mitigation Plan.

How should the NPF be implemented?

  • While much of the role of the NPF is strategic vision and coordination of decision-making, in order for the Framework to be effective it is essential that the achievement of the vision and the actions essential to it are appropriately resourced. The Issues and Choices paper does not give a detailed outline of how the NPF implementation will be resourced, except through the anticipated alignment with the Capital Investment Programme.
  • It should be remembered that policy on services and regional development is not just implemented through capital spending but also though current spending and through policy decisions with spatial implications (such as those relating to the location of services). Therefore it is essential that other spending, investment and policy decisions are in line with the NPF rather than operating counter to it.
  • While the NPF is to provide a high level Framework for development in Ireland to 2040, it seems this Framework is to be implemented at a regional level through the RSES. The Framework and the Strategies are therefore interlinked yet the respective roles of the NPF and the RSES are not explicit and so it is not evident which areas of development will be influenced by the NPF and which by the RSES.
  • In order to ensure that the NPF is implemented effectively it is important that there is a single body with responsibility for its delivery and that there is a designated budget to help achieve its implementation.

 

It is expected that a draft National Planning Framework document will be published for consultation in May.  Following that a final version of the Framework will be prepared for discussion and consideration by Dáil Éireann.

 

As mentioned above the full WDC submission on the Issues and Choices paper Ireland 2040 Our Plan- A National Planning Framework is available here (PDF 4.5MB) and a summary of key point and responses to consultation questions is available here (PDF 0.7MB).

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] http://www.nber.org/papers/w7503

New WDC Publication: WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest Policy Briefing WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence, which is now available for download at the following link here.

e-Work is a method of working using information and communication technology in which the work is not bound to any particular location. Traditionally this has been understood as working remotely from the office, usually from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week. e-Working can provide particular opportunities in regions like the Western Region where many are living some distance from key employment centres.

The WDC Policy Briefing, which includes case studies from companies and individuals, examines:

  • The extent of e-Working.
  • The way in which weaker broadband access in more rural locations impacts on the rate of e-Working.
  • Factors driving e-Work.
  • Recommendations on how e-Working can be further promoted.

This Policy Briefing shows that e-Working is a widespread practice but somewhat hidden from official statistics. It also shows that while there is demand for greater e-working, broadband speeds need to be improved.

The WDC Policy Briefing contains recommendations to support more e-Working, including priority rollout of the National Broadband Plan to those counties with the lowest broadband speeds. Additional case studies are also available for download from here.

Deirdre Frost

e-Working – the future of work in the Western Region?

More e-Working possible with the National Broadband Plan

One in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work. That is according to a new WDC Policy Briefing e-Working in the Western Region – A Review of the Evidence, published today.

e-Working means using information and communication technology to work remotely, usually from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week.

“Statistics on e-working are limited” noted Deirdre Frost, WDC Policy Analyst “but the research does suggest it is very extensive in the Western Region and could be even more important in the future. This is important when thinking about future living and working patterns, which the current National Planning Framework is considering”.

The benefits of greater e-working – compiled from a variety of research sources – even for as little as one day per week, can include:

·        Improved productivity of workers living in rural areas and commuting to jobs in urban areas (estimated at €1,342 per worker per annum).

·        Individual households benefitting from journey time and fuel cost savings (estimated at €89.00 per household per annum).

·        Reduced transport demand, improving congestion and lowering transport emissions – important benefits for climate change mitigation.

·        Better employee work-life balance.

The WDC Policy Briefing looks at e-working in the Western Region and includes case studies from companies and individuals showing how e-work operates in practice.

Deirdre Frost, WDC Policy Analyst noted “While there is demand for greater e-working, broadband speeds need to be improved.  The WDC Policy Briefing notes that according to a study by Vodafone a quarter of those who work from home – or nearly 100,000 adults – say their current broadband service is not sufficient to meet their requirements for e-working, and that it limits the work related activities they can do from home”.

The WDC Policy Briefing recommends the following to increase e-working:

·        Rollout under the National Broadband Plan should start in counties with the lowest broadband speeds, for example, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon.

·        Employers’ bodies should highlight best practice and help create a greater awareness of the rights, regulations and responsibilities of e-workers.

·        Government needs to prioritise e-work as a policy objective with co-ordinated action and targets, recognising the benefits it can bring including climate change mitigation and employee well-being.

For further information please contact:

Deirdre Frost, Western Development Commission, 094 986 1441 or 086 605 3317

The full report is available at

http://www.wdc.ie/wp-content/uploads/WDC_Policy-Briefing-no-7.pdf

 

Note on WDC Policy Briefings:

This Policy Briefing ‘e-Working in the Western Region- A Review of the Evidence’ is the seventh in a series of WDC Policy Briefings to highlight and provide discussion and analysis of key regional policy issues. It is an objective statistical resource for people and organisations who are interested in the Western Region’s future.

 

 

FREED project Invitation to Tender,€30,000 available to support Energy Innovations

 

Western Development Commission

FREED project Invitation to Tender,€30,000 available to support Energy Innovations

The Western Development Commission (WDC) are a partner in the FREED Project, established to support the development of innovation in energy technologies currently unavailable within the Northern Periphery & Artic regions, which runs until the end of 2018. This will be achieved by selected companies, SME’s or start-ups, collaborating with private finance to bring technology transfer of IP to create products and bringing them to market.

The FREED Project invitation to tender call is now inviting applications from companies, SME’s or start-ups to develop innovative energy technologies. The WDC are using the etenders platform and the tender documents are available at http://www.freedproject.eu/itt-call-ireland-2/, the closing date for applications in March 15th 2017. Aimed at businesses that are currently active in the Energy Technology sector, FREED is offering financial support to develop and take innovative energy technologies to commercialisation. A total investment sum of €30,000 is available for this call together with in-kind support offering incubation capabilities, market access and unique access to private investment. The innovative technology selected will be promoted through the project across the partner region in the NPA area and beyond.

Ian Brannigan (CEO) of the Western Development Commission said: ‘’The West of Ireland Region continues to develop a strong bio-economy and with this support for innovation the WDC seek to grow the regions capacity and evolve to the next level of sustainability.’’

Candidates are to submit technology innovation proposals, which address identified challenges in the following four thematic areas:

  • Intelligent grid (IoT
  • Energy storage
  • Smart and efficient buildings and environment
  • Renewable energies

A condition of being awarded the contract is that technology development and the commercial development of the output must take place in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region, as defined by the European Union Interreg Programme.

The FREED Project has seven full-partners from across and outside the NPA region:

  • University of Oulu, Finland
  • South-West College, Northern Ireland
  • Western Development Commission, Ireland
  • Green Angel Syndicate, Scotland
  • Narvik Science Park, Norway
  • Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland
  • European Institute for Innovation, Germany

Associate-partner: Sustainable Venture Development Partners Ltd, UK

The FREED Project is funded under The Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014-2020 (NPA) which is a cooperative programme between nine partner countries of: Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom (Scotland and Northern Ireland) in cooperation with the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Norway.

ENDS

For further information please contact –

Mary Keaveney, Project Officer

Western Development Commission

PH:00353-9498-61441

Email: marykeaveney@wdc.ie

Website – www.freedproject.eu

Facebook – www.facebook.com/FREEDproject/

Twitter – @Freedproject

Notes to Editor

The Western Development Commission (WDC) is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

The WDC’s five strategic goals are:

  1. Contribute to balanced regional development by ensuring that the Western Region maximises its full potential for economic and social development.
  2. Promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  3. Support the sustainable economic and social development of the rural economy.
  4. Provide risk capital to SMEs and social enterprises.
  5. Operate the WDC as a competent and effective organisation.

How is the Western Region doing?

On 31 January, the WDC was invited to give a presentation to officials of the Department of Social Protection working across the Western Region. The objective was to give an overview of the WDC’s analysis of data across a range of socio-economic issues.

Analysing regional data provides information on the areas for which we are responsible and highlights the multi-dimensional nature of the concept of regional development.  A regional perspective is necessary since changes and inequalities not only occur among individuals but also the places where they live

This (very) comprehensive presentation analyses the following indicators:

  1. Population: Preliminary Census 2016 Results
  2. Labour Market: QNHS Q1 2016, special run
  3. Income: County Incomes & Regional GDP, 2013-2014
  4. Enterprise: Business Demography, 2014

These are some of the key points emerging from the analysis.

Population

  • Population of Western Region grew +0.9% 2011-2016 compared with +3.7% growth nationally.
  • Three counties in the Western Region showed population decline 2011-2016 –(Donegal -1.5%, Mayo -0.2% and Sligo -0.1%) – only counties in Ireland to do so. In addition Leitrim and Roscommon had the lowest growth.  Galway city had 5th highest population growth in Ireland.
  • Every county in Ireland had a positive natural increase (more births than deaths) during 2011-2016. Donegal, Sligo and Mayo however had enough negative net migration to lead to population decline.
  • All western counties, and all but six areas nationally, had negative net migration between 2011 and 2016. Donegal and Sligo had the two highest rates of negative net migration.
  • Male out-migration considerably higher than female leading to a +1.5% increase in the female population of the Western Region and only +2% growth in the male population.
Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Labour Market

  • The Western Region’s labour force declined marginally (-1.2%) between 2007 and 2016. Within this the male labour force fell by -6.1% while the female rose by +5.7%.
  • The Western Region has a lower share of its labour force aged under 35 years and a higher share aged over 44 Its labour force participation rate is lower for both men and women, and across all age groups (except 65+).
  • Total employment in the region fell by -5.8% 2007-2016 compared with a -6.5% decline in the rest of the state (all counties outside Western Region)
  • There has been exceptionally strong growth in self-employment in the Western Region since 2012, increasing by +31.1% in the region compared with +7.2% in the rest of the state.
  • Growth of self-employment tied to sectoral pattern of growth with strongest jobs growth since 2012 in Agriculture, Construction, Accommodation & Food Service and Wholesale & Retail, all with high self-emp
  • Since 2012 the Western Region has had jobs decline in 7 out of 14 sectors, in the rest of the state there was only decline in 1 out of 14. Jobs recovery in the Western Region is not as diversified across the economy as elsewhere and more concentrated in domestic sectors
  • Unemployment numbers declining steadily in region, but share of long-term unemployment growing. Western Region has higher unemployment rate in all age groups (except 65+ & 25-34) and particularly among youth.
Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Income

  • Disposable income per person in the Western Region was €17,260 in 2013 (92.3% of State). Provisional 2014 figures show some growth (€17,768) but still well below the 2008 peak (€21,167).
  • Longer term, the gap is narrowing, the Western Region had disposable income of 84.3% of State in 1995, 92.3% of State in 2013.
  • Within the Western Region, Roscommon had a significantly lower income relative to the State in 2014 (87.2%) compared with 2005 (95.8%). Clare has also fallen relative to the State starting at 95.5% in 2005 and dropping to 93.3% in 2014. Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Donegal have all improved their position relative to the State since 2005, albeit with some variation. Galway and Sligo had greatest improvements.
Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Gross Value Added

  • Dublin region is the only region where the preliminary 2014 GVA per person figure is higher than the peak GVA per person in 2007. None of the other regions have recovered to the 2007 level, though the difference in the West region is slight.
  • Dublin and Mid-East and South West, only regions with a greater share of national GVA than share of persons at work.
  • In 2005 there were 60.6 index points between the lowest GVA per person in a region (Midland, 65.4) and the highest (Dublin and the Mid-East, 126.0).  In 2014 the difference between Midland (59.2) and Dublin and the Mid-East, (130.6) was 71.4 index points (71.3 in 2013).
Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Enterprise

  • The share of enterprises nationally that are based in the Western Region is declining and was 17.1% of the total in 2014.
  • Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional activities and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors in the region. Less than 5% of the region’s enterprises are in Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications combined.
  • There has been a far greater decline in enterprise numbers in the Western Region than the rest of the state since 2008 and the region had a weaker performance – greater decline or lower growth – in every sector (ex. real estate).
  • The enterprise base differs across more urban and rural counties. Highly rural counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal have 34-36% of enterprises in Industry and Construction but in more urban counties of Clare and Sligo it is around 30%.  A higher share of enterprises in Galway and Sligo are active in knowledge services sectors, though even Galway is below national average. Local services play a larger role in more rural counties.
  • Western counties had among the greatest losses of enterprises since 2008. Donegal lost more than 1 in 3 of its Construction firms; Wholesale & Retail declined most strongly in Donegal and Clare; Accommodation & Food Service declined across most counties.
  • Knowledge services performed best, though from a low base.
Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

The full presentation can be downloaded here  (PDF, 2MB)

 

Pauline White & Helen McHenry

2017 – A very important year for Broadband and the National Broadband Plan

2017 – Contract Signing and Build Commencement

2017 is the year when contracts are to be awarded to one or two telecommunications companies to rollout a high speed broadband network as part of the much awaited National Broadband Plan.

For those companies and citizens across regional and rural Ireland trying to operate with very basic broadband services, this is a really important milestone. Not only will it signal the start of an actual physical build out of the network, it will also provide some reassurance that Government policy is actually starting to deliver.

It had been expected that contracts would be signed in June 2017, though late last year the bidders (there are three), indicated they may need more time to prepare their bids. See Dáil Q&A.

Notwithstanding the scale of the project and process, the bidders have had years to prepare for this bid and it is imperative that contracts are awarded and the build commences. Rural businesses have had to endure poor services for too long and in a global marketplace where online connectivity is a basic pre-requisite, rural businesses have to work harder than their urban counterparts to stay in business. Recent research highlights the significance of broadband infrastructure compared to other infrastructure in supporting local enterprises and their development.

Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce

In the meantime, just before Christmas 2016, the Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was published. This report seeks to address the gaps in the current delivery of telecoms infrastructure and is focused more on addressing improvements in the short term, in addition and separate to the National Broadband Plan which is over a longer time frame.

This is a very welcome initiative, not least because there is a lot of dissatisfaction with mobile phone coverage, especially in rural areas. Also, anything that can ‘fill gaps’ in existing broadband provision should be progressed, as even when contracts for the NBP are signed, some will be waiting years for the planned new broadband infrastructure.

There are 40 actions aimed at assisting the rollout of mobile services and high speed broadband, to homes and businesses. These include measures to streamline planning procedures for telecoms infrastructure, actions to build out new ducting along the M7/M8, and measures to help consumers directly.

Key actions include:

  • The Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment will work with telecoms operators and ComReg (Commission for Communication Regulation) to identify mobile blackspots and come up with measures to address these blackspots.
  • All local authorities are to assign a Broadband officer who will act as a single point of contact for engagement with telecommunications operators building out infrastructure.
  • ComReg will develop and publish a new network coverage map, and develop a testing regime to measure the performance of mobile phone handsets which will help people to make informed choices on products and services they purchase.
  • There will be a new licensing regime to allow people to install high quality signal repeaters on their buildings – homes and businesses, which will boost their connectivity.
  • Work on building 95km of duct along the M7 / M8 Motorway, which will complete the ducting on the Cork-Dublin route is being undertaken by Transport infrastructure Ireland.
  • From Q1, 2017, all Local Authorities will apply waivers in respect of development contributions for telecoms infrastructure developments.
  • Other key actions include the review and updating of the relevant statutory planning guidelines to ensure consistency by local authorities, and the introduction of an online system to streamline the planning application process.

Spectrum Developments

  • ComReg expects to allocate spectrum in the 3.6GHz band in 2017. This will release an additional 86% of spectrum capacity, allowing fixed wireless and mobile operators to deliver services.
  • It is expected that by 2020 the 700MHz spectrum band is to be made available for use by the telecoms sector which will be particularly important in rural areas.

Finally, there is to be an Implementation Group established which is to drive and monitor the implementation of these actions.

 

For rural users, in the Western Region and across the country, lets hope 2017 will see delivery of these actions, that NBP contracts are awarded and the building of the National Broadband Plan Network commences.

Deirdre Frost

WDC Policy Analysis 2016

Happy New Year to all our WDC Insights blog readers!  As we start into 2017 this is a good time to reflect on what we’ve done over the last 12 months.

2016 was a busy year for the Western Development Commission’s Policy Analysis team and this infographic summarises some of our key work throughout the year.

twittergraphic16_12_16hi_res-01

 

Highlights include:

  • 42 posts on our WDC Insights blog on topics ranging from self-employment and eWork to county incomes, local government finance, rural development and broadband roll-out
  • 6 WDC Insights publications highlighting key findings of our analysis of rail freight, labour markets, enterprise and Census 2016
  • A detailed report on the Preliminary Results of Census 2016 for the Western Region
  • 5 submissions (public and private) to national policy consultations on the viability of rural towns, development plans for both the natural gas and electricity transmission networks and Census 2021
  • 6 presentations regionally and nationally, as well as chairing and participating in conferences

And at the end of the year, we produced our first infographic ‘This is the Western Region’ highlighting a variety of statistics about the Western Region.

2016 also saw us (finally) join the Twittersphere @WDCInsights

Looking forward to 2017.

 

Deirdre Frost, Helen McHenry & Pauline White

 

If you want to take a closer look at our ‘WDC Policy Analysis 2016’ infographic you can download the pdf here.

This is the Western Region

For the year end the WDC policy analysis team has produced an infographic of the Western Region highlighting key statistics and important elements that contribute to the economy and life of the region.

We have included population and population changes for our seven counties (on a handy little map reminding you of where we are) as well as key employment, unemployment and self-employment statistics.  Alongside these we have income and enterprise statistics for the region and we looked at connectivity and highlighted other regional characteristics including rail freight use and wind energy.

wdc_infographiclow_res-01

 

 

We hope you enjoy it, if you want to take a closer look, download the pdf here (1.4MB) and, in case you are wondering where it all came from, the data sources are listed on the second sheet

 

Helen McHenry