Smaller Labour Catchments across the Western Region

Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments

Analysis of travel to work data can be used to identify the geographic catchment from which a town draws its workforce, otherwise known as its labour catchment. Measurement of labour markets based on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAs) has been well established in the UK for many years, helping to inform various public policies ranging from employment to transport provision. Companies and large employers use TTWAs to help identify optimal locations to access labour supply.

The use of TTWAs is less well established in Ireland, and where used has largely been focussed on the larger cities especially Dublin. There has generally been little focus on labour catchments in other centres or more rural regions.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has worked with the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO) to examine the labour catchments of towns across the Western Region based on Census of Population data 2006 and 2016. The town labour catchments show that area from which a town draws most of its labour supply; each catchment is based on the inclusions of Electoral Divisions (EDs) that are assigned to a town, based on commuting to work flows.

Last year the WDC published the findings on the labour catchments of the principal towns of the seven counties of the Western Region (Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon). The full report Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments is available for download here (14.2MB). Each of the individual town reports are also available to download separately (Galway City, Sligo Town, Ennis,  Letterkenny, Castlebar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roscommon).

The WDC is now publishing the findings of the other smaller catchments across the Western Region. This is the first time such detailed labour market analyses have been undertaken for the smaller centres across the Western Region. These data and findings can inform local and regional economic development and help support appropriate policies to ensure optimal local and regional development.

Smaller Catchments

The WDC identifies 26 labour catchments, which complement the 7 labour catchments of the principal towns in each of the counties which were published in 2018, see above.

In these 26 publications, the WDC draws on Census 2016 POWCAR (Place of Work Census of Anonymised Records) data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region.

These 26 smaller catchments provide insights into the travel to work patterns of workers living there which are then used to generate labour catchments which show the geographic area from which each town draws most of its workers. Each town’s labour catchment has many more workers living there than the Census measure of the town’s resident workforce and it is a better measure of labour supply. This is particularly useful when considering employment and investment decisions.

Socio-economic profiles

Each of the reports identify the place of work of the resident workforce and provides detailed analysis of the socio-economic profile of workers providing information on age, gender, education levels, and sector of employment. There are comparisons with the rest of the Western Region and the State Average. There is also trend analyses indicating the extent of change between 2006 and 2016.

For ease of presentation the 26 smaller catchment reports are presented by County. Below are links to each of the 26 reports. In practice labour catchments extend across county boundaries, indeed that is one of the rationales for considering labour catchments rather than administrative boundaries; people travel to work regardless of county boundaries and these patterns and catchments provide a better evidence base for informing policy.

Some key points include:

  • Labour Supply: All the town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the Census population at work for that town and have therefore access to a larger labour supply than normal Census definitions would indicate.
  • Profile of ‘Rural’ employment: The profile of employment in these smaller centres provide important insights into ‘rural’ employment, which is much are complex and varied than the perception of rural as largely agricultural employment.
  • Trends: Changes over time, in both place of work and the socio-economic characteristics of workers indicate little change in the geography of labour catchments but much change in the profile of resident workers, most notably in their age and education levels.

County Clare

The two labour catchments within Co. Clare have both recorded an increase in workers resident in the catchments. The Shannon labour catchment is concentrated around the Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Airport and is geographically compact. The Kilrush labour catchment is more extensive and now incorporates a previously separate Kilkee labour catchment. In both there is evidence of longer distances travelled to work than previously.

County Donegal

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Donegal, reflecting the large size of the county, its geography with an extensive border both with Northern Ireland and the sea, and the relatively small size of some of the catchments.

Of the 8 labour catchments, 5 recorded a decline in the number of resident workers in the decade between 2006 and 2016. The three that recorded an increase in resident workers are Donegal, Dungloe and Carndonagh,  illustrating that some more remote areas are experiencing growth.

Each report identifies the top 10 work destinations for residents living in each labour catchment and the extent of cross border commuting is presented.

County Galway

There are 4 smaller catchments located within Co. Galway and just one, Gort labour catchment, recorded a decrease in the number of workers living there over the decade 2006-2016. Clifden, Tuam and Loughrea labour catchments recorded increases of varying degrees. The data presented also shows the extent of commuting between catchments, for example from Tuam, Loughrea and Gort labour catchments to Galway city.

County Leitrim

Apart from the county town labour catchment of Carrick-on-Shannon, there is just one smaller catchment located within Co. Leitrim, namely Manorhamilton. The number of resident workers in the Manorhamilton labour catchment increased over the ten year period and there is data to show more people are now working in Manorhamilton . The influence of some key employers is evident. Data on dross border commuting is also presented.

County Mayo

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Mayo. Just two of the eight recorded a decline in the numbers of resident workers between the period of 2006 and 2016, these were Belmullet and the Charlestown/Knock Airport catchment. The other 6 recorded increases of varying degrees from 31% increase in the Westport labour catchment to an increase of 2.4% for the Ballina labour catchment. The most important places of work across each catchment are presented along with the labour market profiles of workers living there.

County Roscommon

There are 3 smaller catchments located within Co. Roscommon. All 3 recorded a decline in the numbers of workers resident there. In the case of Boyle and Ballaghaderreen, the geographic size of the labour catchments also decreased slightly. The data presented show the sectors in which people worked, the extent to which people worked inside the town and those who worked outside the town but within the wider catchment and the changes over the 10 years. Across all catchments there is a very significant increase in the level of third level education among the workforce.


Deirdre Frost

Travel to Work Areas and Border Labour Catchments

The WDC will present analysis on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAS) and the smaller labour catchments located along the Border at a conference in Derry, organised by NERI on 1st May see here for more details.

This work is part of a larger piece of work examining the smaller labour catchments across the Western Region which in turn is part of the WDC programme of research on Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments which has been a key element of the WDC Policy Analysis work programme for the last 10 years.

The work on smaller labour catchments follows on from the WDC report published in 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here. (14.2MB)

The map below illustrates all the labour catchments across the Western Region, arising from the analysis of Census 2016 data.

Map 1 Labour Catchments across the Western Region 2016

The analysis of smaller labour catchments reviews the remaining 26 complete labour catchments contained within the Western Region and the 26 reports will be published shortly. Here is a sneak preview of some findings and points of interest.

The 26 complete smaller labour catchments are distributed across each of the counties of the Western Region as the table below shows.

Table 1 The 26 smaller Labour Catchments in Western Region Counties, 2016














The smaller labour catchments range in size from the largest, Ballina in Co. Mayo with 9,034 resident workers, to the smallest, Charlestown-Bellahy with 962 resident workers.

Each labour catchments has a greater number of workers living there compared to the figure reported in the Census for the town at its core, indicating a greater labour supply available than might otherwise be considered.

Of the 26 smaller labour catchments 15 reported an increase in numbers over the 10 year period from 2006 to 2016, while 11 of the smaller labour catchments reported a decline in numbers over the same period.

Generally, those that reported a decline are somewhat remote, for example five of those that reported a decline are located in Co. Donegal, namely, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Buncrana, Killybegs, Bunbeg and Ballyshannon. Belmullet in west Mayo also recorded a decline in the number of resident workers living there over the 10 year period. A further four catchments in east Mayo/Roscommon reported a decline; namely Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Castlerea, while Gort in co. Galway also had a decline in resident workers living there over the 10 year intercensal period.

In the case of the labour catchments in Co. Donegal, the larger labour catchments of Donegal town and Letterkenny, both recorded an increase over the period indicating move from the smaller more rural catchments in the county to the larger centres and this in part accounts for the changes.

For the centres in Mayo and Roscommon which reported a decline in numbers, some of this can be accounted for by growth in adjacent centres such as Castlebar and Carrick-on-Shannon but further analysis is needed to explain the changes in detail.

There is also some evidence of greater levels of longer distance commuting to Dublin and other locations, for example, the numbers travelling from the larger catchments of Galway city, Sligo and Ennis to work in Dublin has more than doubled over the 10 year period. This trend is likely to be evident for the smaller centres also.

However, it is also true that rural areas remain very important places of work. Across many of the 26 labour catchments the second most important place of work after the town itself is the rural parts of the county. Smaller centres and rural areas are very important employment centres and the analysis will show that this employment extends across sectors such as Education, health and Social Work, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Retail and Commerce.

Further detail will be available following the presentation at the NERI conference and will be posted here


Deirdre Frost



€1m fund to link Digital Hubs from Donegal to Kerry

Pictured in Ballinasloe, Mr. Tomás Ó Síocháin (CEO, Western Development Commission)     Pic. Micheal Dillon



  • Technology will transform rural Ireland into a smart, connected region over the next 10 years, with new jobs and a growing population
  • Western Development Commission to seek to develop global niche with multi-million 10 year investment as part of ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy

Growing and developing the West of Ireland by investing in tech, connecting digital working hubs, and promoting the region’s unmatched quality of life, is at the heart of the Western Development Commission’s new five-year strategy ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’, which is launched today.

Under the strategy, almost €50 million in structured supports will be offered in investment and lending to companies and businesses, with a focus on innovative or tech businesses that are developing or have the potential to develop a global niche.

Speaking at the launch today in Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Canney TD, also announced that €1m in Dormant Accounts Funding will be made available to create a network of Enterprise Hubs and Digital Spaces from Co Donegal to Co Kerry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

The centres, powered by fibre broadband, support the growing trend towards remote working, community hubs, and offer a lifeline for early stage rural-based companies and entrepreneurs

The Western Development Commission’s ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy will build on the growth of remote working and facilitate innovation within a globally competitive region that offers a quality of life that’s among the best in the world.

The strategy has three pillars; Regional Promotion, Regional Leadership and Sustainable Enterprise, with short-term, medium and long-term goals.

  • Regional Promotion will focus on the further development of the WDC’s jobs and lifestyle portal called and engaging with communities in Clare, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal
  • Regional Leadership will see the continuation of WDC policy analysis, supporting the Creative Economy and the WDC’s role as co-ordinating agency for the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) project, set out in Project Ireland 2040. The AEC covers the spine of Ireland’s western coast that includes the counties from Co Donegal to Co Kerry
  • Sustainable Enterprise will take a longer-term view, continuing to invest in new ideas and build on the success of the Western Investment Fund, the on-going promotion of Social Enterprise and over a ten year period working with higher education institutions, other agencies and departments to identify one or two sectors that will deliver a competitive advantage for the region at a global level.

Minister Canney revealed today that the WDC has grown, through investment and lending, the original state investment of £25m (€32m) in the Western Investment Fund to a current portfolio value of €72m. The organisation now has €48m of that fund available for investment and lending across a number of areas.

A key goal of the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better strategy’ will be to take a ’10-year view’ by investing the €48 million in the Western Region in early stage businesses, micro-loans for communities and significant investment in one or two key sectors – which can build a competitive advantage for the region.

The new €1m fund for Enterprise Hubs and Digital Spaces will help raise the profile of the hubs, the work they do and a build a single online point of access for public, private and community hubs along the Atlantic coast. The fund will also help Centre Managers to grow the business, learn from each other, offer clear routes to further supports and, in the longer term, build a pipeline of innovation in communities.

Commenting today, Minister Canney said: “I welcome the opportunity to launch the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy on behalf of the Western Development Commission. In particular, the establishment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor offers a significant opportunity for both the region and the WDC to grow and meet the needs of communities all along the Atlantic seaboard. I want to acknowledge the commitment and engagement of the Board and staff of the WDC in taking on this new role. This new strategy offers a clear opportunity to raise the profile of the work the WDC does for the west, in the west, and is to be welcomed.”

Chair of the WDC, Dr Deirdre Garvey, acknowledged the role played by those who engaged with the WDC in creating the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy. “This process has been very helpful in ensuring that the WDC continues to deliver for the Western Region, meeting the needs of key stakeholders, but ultimately the needs of those who live in the West, and seek to ensure that they can offer a future of equal, and greater opportunity for the next generation.”

Speaking at the launch, Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin, said: “Regional development is a priority issue. In the context of significant technological change and the need to move to a low carbon economy, it’s vital that we ensure balanced development as we grow to 2040. This strategy acknowledges the work of the WDC team to date and sets out a clear ambition to position the region as global leaders in one or two key areas over the next 10 years.

“These projects are of vital national importance and the WDC welcomes the opportunity to play a key role in making these goals a reality. These goals can be achieved through continued collaboration with communities, as well as with State and industry in the Western Region. Work Smarter, Live Better aligns with the Government’s broader ambition as set out in Ireland 2040 and in particular the Atlantic Economic Corridor.”

Contact: For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact StoryLab: 071 930 0942 or the WDC at 094 986 1441

The ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ Strategy 2019-2024 is available at



The WDC is a State agency established under statute to foster and promote the economic and social development of the Western Region (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare). The work of the Western Development Commission focuses on investment, lending, regional development and policy analysis. offers an overview of business activity and life in the Western Region. . The WDC works collaboratively with other state, community and industry stakeholders to develop the region.


The building, a former library, was refurbished by Galway County Council in 2015 at a cost of €5m. It has a size of 4,000 sq. ft. over two floors and offers high speed broadband as well as free car-parking. It is situated just five minutes from the M6 to Galway and Dublin.

Seven EU regions come together to address Simplified Procedures in Aquaculture

The “Improving policies to boost SME competitiveness and extraversion in EU coastal and rural areas where aquaculture is a driver of the regional economy (EXTRA-SMEs)” project is an Interreg Europe project which brings together 9 participating partners from 7 EU countries. The five-year project aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments addressed by the project partners, concerning the expansion of rural and coastal SMEs in wider markets for the promotion of the products, by promoting simpler and improved administrative processes and procedures and innovative production solutions.

The Western Development Commission, as the Irish partner in the project organised an interregional workshop on the 20th and 21st of March at the Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo. The topic of the workshop was “adopting simplified administrative procedures for aquaculture SMEs”.

The purpose of the workshop was to promote interregional learning and capacity building. With 40 stakeholders from seven EU countries participants gained insights and understanding of the different political priories and initiatives in the field across member states, identified common challenges and needs, and suggested inputs to action plans.

The workshop hosted presentations and discussions from Jan Feenstra, Mowi Ireland; Liam Carr, NUI Galway and Dave Jackson from the Marine Institute. Each presentation gave valuable insights into the Irish approach to aquaculture procedures and its impact of SME’s.

Speaking at the Workshop Ian Brannigan, Head of Regional Development at WDC said “The West of Ireland has long recognised the potential of its significant natural resources. This international approach to realising the potential of the aquaculture sector in enhancing simplified procedures is a testament to all the parties attending. The WDC is delighted to host this workshop in Sligo today”

Approximately 14,000 aquaculture businesses operate in the EU, from which over 90% are SMEs. These contribute significantly in the economic growth and employment rates of coastal and rural areas, providing 85,000 direct jobs. However, aquaculture SMEs are characterised by systematic, as well as systemic, weaknesses regarding competitiveness and exports (especially in reaching international markets). On top of that, EU aquaculture SMEs face international competition from world’s regions where industry is subject to lower regulatory requirements. Worldwide, aquaculture is growing rapidly and it is expected to overtake capture fishing. This strong trend presents a significant economic opportunity for aquaculture SMEs in the EU, presenting at the same time a challenge for increasing competiveness in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. Although the European Commission has rolled out a comprehensive framework of policy and tools to support the development of aquaculture, challenges for aquaculture SMEs, such as licensing, spatial planning, and finding support for innovation and extraversion, persist. It is thus a matter of regional policies to improve the competitiveness of SMEs. To this end, EXTRA-SMEs will support the project partners exchange experiences and implement targeted aquaculture policy actions to address the issues facing aquaculture SME’s.


Karen Sweeney Regional Development Executive, WDC, 087-1477750 or 094 986 1441


 Photo attached:

EXTRA SME Workshop on simplified procedures

Caption:   WDC & EU partners at workshop on simplified procedures in aquaculture (left to right, Karen Sweeney WDC, Marco Rolandi Liguria Region, Maregertia Marre’ Brunenghi Liguria Region, Christos Bouras University of Patras, Petri Muje University of Applied Sciences Lapland, Violetta Koutsogiannopoulou Region of Peleponnese, Konstantinos Tsekouras, University of Patras, Alessia Baldini and Chiara Lazzoni DLTM, Alexandru Lixandru and Andreea Brinzoi ADR-BI, Ian Brannigan WDC.


EXTRA SME EU project:

The project aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments addressed by the project partners, concerning the expansion of rural and coastal SMEs in wider markets for the promotion of their products, by promoting simpler and improved administrative processes and procedures, and innovative production solutions.

The project centres on the sharing of experiences, good practices and initiatives of SME competitiveness and extraversion with the objective of promoting innovative solutions. The project aims to enable the participating regions to reach their targets in terms of internationalisation and expansion in new markets by adopting simplified administrative and licensing practices, up-skilling public services’ staff and managing stakeholders’ conflicts of interest, so as to achieve a competitive and extravert outlook for the wider aquaculture sector. More information on the project can be found at

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

  • To inform policy-making on economic and social development in the Western Region through high quality analysis.
  • To promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  • To encourage the development of the rural economy based on the sustainable development of the Western Region’s strengths and resources.
  • To provide risk capital to micro, small and medium sized and social enterprises in their start-up and expansion phases through the WDC Investment Fund (WIF).

Five EU regions come together to create an international business mentoring solution for local West of Ireland SME’s


Minna Järvinen, Corporate Communications Officer at Finnish Business mentors, was in Galway to share the expertise of supporting over 1,400 clients in 2018, to access mentoring services in her native Finland with attendees from the West of Ireland and beyond.  Minna was speaking as part of the launch events for the Bizmentors EU funded initiative launched by the Western Development Commission (WDC) and SCCUL enterprises in the historic Aula Maxima in NUIG.

In 2018 the WDC and SCCUL were successfully awarded EU funding to develop and pilot an SME mentoring support project with partners from Finland, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. The project is a three-year (2018-2021), transnational project co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA)[1] with a total budget in the region of €1.3m. It is aimed at supporting SME growth in the NPA region through accessible, open access, tailored mentoring for businesses. “For the WDC it is intended that the EU Bizmentors project will result in a novel capability to provide Trans-national, bespoke, mentoring to allow our SMEs to both survive and indeed thrive”  said Ian Brannigan , Head of Regional Development at the WDC.

[1] For more details on the NPA, see


Annette Hassett, Bizmentors Programme Manager for SCCUL Enterprises CLG, stated:
This is an exciting step for Bizmentors from humble beginnings based on the East Side of Galway City with a focus on the Galway area to this collaboration across 5 EU regions providing trans-national business mentoring solutions”.

The development of such a transnational offering to local SME’s is the main deliverable. Such a model compliment’s existing national mentoring models and is intended to facilitate mentoring for even the most peripheral SME’s in the region

The BizMentors model, developed by SCCUL, has been proven to support individuals and businesses in a community setting in Galway since 2012. It relies on the local support of established business people to provide free guidance to those seeking it in a structured and low cost way. To test the new model, the partnership will focus on the Agri-Food sector. Having identified 587 existing businesses in the partner regions initially, the project will support end users to take advantage of the unique natural capital, innovation capacity and markets that remains untapped in the region. The mentoring model developed will be piloted in each region participating in the project

The project in the West of Ireland is implemented by the Western Development Commission and SCCUL enterprise CLG.


Ian Brannigan Head of Regional Development, WDC, 086 6048012 or 094 986 1441



Photo attached:

Bizmentors EU Project launch

    1. Caption: Irish Delegates at Bizmentors EU launch ( L to R; Tomás Ó’ SÍocháin WDC , Annette Hassett SCCUL,  Ian Brannigan WDC, Michael Smyth SCCUL)
      Photo Credit:  Andrew Downes


Bizmentors EU project:

The Bizmentors (BM) is a three-year (2018-2021), transnational project co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA)[1] with a total budget in the region of €1.3m. It is aimed at supporting SME growth in the NPA region through accessible, open access, tailored mentoring for businesses. The development of such a transnational model is the BM project main deliverable. Such a model is complimentary to existing national mentoring models and is intended to facilitate mentoring for even the most peripheral SME’s in the region…

Bizmentors will be operated by six partner organisations across four European regions:

  1. Western Development Commission (WDC), Ireland
  2. SCCUL enterprise, Ireland
  3. Savonia University of Applied sciences, Finland
  4. Northeast Iceland Development Agency
  5. Arctic Iceland, IACN
  6. Fermanagh and Omagh district council Northern Ireland

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

  • To inform policy-making on economic and social development in the Western Region through high quality analysis.
  • To promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  • To encourage the development of the rural economy based on the sustainable development of the Western Region’s strengths and resources.
  • To provide risk capital to micro, small and medium sized and social enterprises in their start-up and expansion phases through the WDC Investment Fund (WIF).


[1] For more details on the NPA, see

Fishing Nets Caught in Recycling

  • Initiative focused on turning used fishing nets into commercial opportunities
  • 5 countries joining forces to tackle marine waste

05th April 2019: Turning discarded fishing nets and other marine plastic waste into household products, is one the aims of the NPAP Blue Circular Economy project (, which was launched this week by the Western Development Commission, who are one of the key BCE partners.

This follows the vote by the European Parliament to ban the use of single-use plastic items such as straws, forks, knives on Wednesday of this week.  This directive will require “proper waste management infrastructure and sufficient recycling facilities to achieve the objectives of this directive,” according to Euro Commerce Director-General Christian Verschueren.

Blue Circular Economy is funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme and aims to help Small and Medium-Sized enterprises (SMEs) offering products and services, within fishing gear recycling solutions, to attain a great market reach.

The three year programme, with partners in Ireland, UK, Denmark and Norway, will promote and support companies to create sustainable industries in the recovery and recycling of used fishing nets into commercial products.  It will achieve this through stimulating demand for FNRCs (Fishing Nets Ropes and Components) products and through the support & creation of sustainable business models for SMEs in the NPA-region.

Commenting on the programme Clodagh Barry, Regional Development, WDC said “Currently there is low level of recycling of used and discarded fishing nets and other marine plastics.  Through the Blue Circular Ocean project we will create the structures and awareness of the commercial opportunities to turn this waste hazard into products.  Through the lifetime of this project we will form clusters with business groups, sectoral and public authorities and are also calling on interest groups and the general public to become involved. In addition, the concept of Innovation lab will be road tested in Galway in Ireland and Alesund in Norway.

The Blue Circular Economy programme will include conferences and information sessions, research with universities and the development of an eco-brand to support the development of businesses in recycling of used fishing gear and those products from waste nets and components.  A series of webinars will take place over coming months to inform SMEs in the NPA Region of the commercial opportunities through the programme.  Interested parties should email: or follow Twitter  #bluecirculareconomy


About Blue Circular Economy

Established in 2018 the Blue Circular Economy is a partnership between Western Development Commission, Technical University of Denmark, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, The Centre for Sustainable Design® at UCA, and the Environmental Research Institute.  The three year programme is funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020 programme.  Full details on

About Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme

The Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020 ( forms a cooperation between 9 programme partner countries. The NPA 2014-2020 is part of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and ERDF equivalent funding from non EU partner countries

About Western Development Commission

The Western Development Commission is a statutory body under the aegis of the Department of Rural and Community Development that has the remit to promote both social and economic development in the western counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare.  The WDC also adds value and regional focus to the work of national bodies, and actively engages with regional interests to initiate projects that build on the region’s strengths.


45,700 people work in Industry in Western Region

  • Western Region home to 45.7% of Irish MedTech jobs
  • 53% of Western Region’s total Industry employment is in MedTech, Chemicals & Pharma and Agri-food
  • 55% of Industry jobs in foreign owned firms
  • Western Region home to both highest and lowest share working in Industry in Ireland – Ballyhaunis (41.9%) and Bundoran (3.5%)

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published a new report analysing employment data for Industry in the Western Region.  Industry includes mining, utilities and waste management but by far the largest element is manufacturing.

In 1996, Industry accounted for 21% of total employment in the Western Region.  As the population grew and the region’s economic structure changed, Industry’s relative position declined.  By 2016, 13.7% of all employment in the region was in Industry.

It is still however the region’s largest employment sector and is more important here than nationally (11.4%).   The actual numbers working in Industry declined from 47,319 in 1996 to 45,754 two decades later.

The MedTech sector is by far the largest industrial activity in the Western Region. It accounts for 27.7% of the region’s total industrial employment, more than double the national average of 12.1%.  In fact the Western Region is home to 45.7% of all MedTech jobs in Ireland.

The region’s second largest industrial activity is Chemicals & Pharma at 14.1%.  Pharmaceuticals is the largest element which, together with MedTech, shows the region’s strength in Life Sciences.

While Agri-food is the third largest, its share in the region (11.2%) is considerably smaller than nationally (17.1%). This is partly due to the strong concentration of Agri-food in the other regions e.g. South East, as well as the nature of farming in the region.

 Author of the report, WDC Policy Analyst Pauline White says:

‘The relative importance of Industry differs across the region.  For Galway and Clare, it is the largest employment sector, while for Donegal it is only fourth.  The counties’ industrial profiles also differ. 

MedTech dominates in Galway City and County, which have the highest shares working in this sector in Ireland.  It is also the largest industrial employer for Leitrim.  For Sligo and Mayo, Chemicals & Pharma is largest with Sligo having the second highest share nationally.  Agri-food is the main industrial employer for Donegal and Roscommon, while in Clare it is Computer & Electronic equipment. Clare has the second highest share in this industrial activity in the country. ’ 

At 41.9% of total employment, Ballyhaunis has the highest share of residents working in Industry among Ireland’s 200 towns and cities (1,500+ population).  Shannon (31.9%) and Tuam (25%) are also in the top 10 nationally.  The Western Region however is also home to the Irish town with the lowest share working in Industry, Bundoran (3.5%).

Total Industry employment in the Western Region increased by 13.7% between 2011 and 2016, greater than nationally (+9.4%).  Transport Equipment (+52.7%), MedTech (+30.2%) and Computer & Electronic (+21.2%) grew most strongly.  Automotive supplier Valeo in Tuam, growth in many MedTech multinationals as well as electronics manufacturing around Shannon contributed to this pattern.

The Western Region’s industrial base is characterised by higher levels of foreign ownership.  In 2017, 55.1% of all jobs in industrial firms in the region (that received assistance from IDA, EI or Udarás) were in foreign owned companies.  This contrasted with 45.3% nationally.  Foreign owned companies’ share increased during the early years of the recession and the recovery further reinforced their position.

According to Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the WDC:

‘Industry plays a greater role in the Western Region’s labour market than nationally.  As policy increasingly focuses on services, it is vital that the importance of manufacturing continues to be recognised and the sector supported. High-tech manufacturing is very strong in the region however, automation poses a threat to some jobs in this, as well as in more traditional sectors.  Upskilling for the industrial workforce, to adapt to changing skill needs, and greater industrial diversification should be key priorities for the region.’ 

Download ‘Industry in the Western Region: Regional Sectoral Profile’ and summary documents from

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Pauline White, Policy Analyst, WDC on +353 86 832 8055

Notes to Editor:

  • The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a statutory body promoting social and economic development in the Western Region. It was established in 1998 to cover counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.
  • The WDC’s Policy Analysis Team analyses regional and rural issues, suggests solutions to regional difficulties and provides a regional perspective on national policy objectives. The Regional Sectoral Profile is part of a suite of WDC Insights publications which aim to provide accessible information for people in the Western Region, based on analysis of key socio-economic data and providing insights on important issues for the region and its counties. Other outputs of the WDC’s Policy Analysis Team include Policy Briefings, Reports, Submissions and the weekly WDC Insights Blog.
  • Data Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 and Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Annual Employment Survey 2017 (special run). Analysis of data was undertaken by the Western Development Commission.




The WDC will lead the project working in association with the local authorities in Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon and Donegal

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Community and Rural Development, Michael Ring, TD of funding of €644,734 for the Digiwest regional economic development project to develop digital working hubs in Stranorlar, Co. Donegal, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon and Swinford, Co. Mayo.

The funding is part of €62m in funding for Rural Regeneration and Development projects across the country, and aligns with the on-going work along the Atlantic Economic Corridor, as set out in the National Planning Framework. The Atlantic Economic Corridor seeks to develop the Atlantic Coast counties from Donegal to Kerry to ensure balanced regional development in Ireland to 2040.

WDC CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said, ‘the Digiwest project is an excellent example of regional collaboration as set out in our forthcoming strategic plan where four local authorities, working with the Western Development Commission will be enabling and supporting communities to work in the digital economy. The collaboration will offer facilities and services that will meet both community and business needs, to maintain and develop vibrant communities in the Western Region.’

Further information contact: Caroline Coffey, WDC 094 9861441 |

Note for editors:

The Western Development Commission, established by statute in 1998, advises the Government on policy for the western region, plays a key role in regional development, supports small and medium business through the Western Investment Fund and raises the social, cultural and economic profile of the west through and other initiatives;

  • Investment in the region
    • €51m invested in growth since 1999
    • 5,000 jobs supported in 155 projects since 1999
    • Policy analysis
    • Output in 2018; 10 reports | 9 submissions | 7 insights
    • EU project work
    • €13.5m in ongoing EU project funding

Read more about the work of the Western Development Commission at or what living and working in the west offers on

‘Angel Investing in High Potential Enterprises, is it for you?’

You are warmly invited to our training seminar entitled ‘Angel Investing in High Potential Enterprises, is it for you?’.
It takes place in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co. Mayo on 6th March, 2019 at 5.30pm. This training seminar and networking event is aimed at increasing the number of private / angel investors regionally, particularly female investors, and provides an introduction to angel / private investing and crowdfunding.  At the event, speakers and experts will talk about their experiences of angel investing, both as investors and investees, leveraging their networks and the experience of private investment and syndicate investment groups.

This is an ESIL (Empowering Early Stage Investors Launchpad) event run in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Offices in Mayo, Galway and Roscommon and supported by WestBIC, HBAN, WDC and the Empower Programme.



  • Networking and Refreshments
  • Introductions – John Magee, Mayo LEO / Ultan Faherty, ESIL/HBAN
  • Keynote speaker – Victoria Hernandez of the Early Stage Investing Launchpad (ESIL) on ‘Angel Investing in High Potential Enterprises, is it for you?’
  • Fidelma McGuirk of Payslip – Investee’s perspective on the investment process
  • Company Pitches
  • Conclusion
  • Close and Networking

    Victoria Hernandez Profile

If you wish to attend then please register at:

BioExel Programme 2019 Introduces New Cohort of MedTech Companies

A new wave of MedTech companies supported by NUI Galway’s BioExel programme, Ireland’s first MedTech accelerator continues following the success of 2018 cohort.

Following on from the success of the inaugural 2018 NUI Galway BioExel programme, a second successful recruitment campaign was completed last December. A high calibre of applications were reviewed from across the globe and the final eight companies are now immersed in the 2019 BioExel accelerator programme.

BioExel offers €95,000 in seed funding to successful applicants along with six-months of intensive training, mentoring, lab space and supported interactions with potential investors. The programme allows participants to build and commercially validate their technologies by working with existing entrepreneurial networks, mentors and management team.

BioExel is managed by MedTech Director, Dr Sandra Ganly, also a co-founder of BioInnovate Ireland and Senior Research Fellow in NUI Galway, and Fiona Neary, Commercial Director and co-founder of BioExel, and Innovation Operations Manager at NUI Galway.

Fiona Neary at NUI Galway, said: “BioExel’s mission is to act as an honest broker between Medtech start-ups and the investment community bridging the gap between technology de-risking and raising investment. BioExel has positioned itself as an internationally recognised Medtech accelerator with the reputation of significantly enhancing indigenous Medtech start-ups by providing attractive seed investment funding and a pipeline of next generation Medtech start-up’s for Ireland.”

Joined by the funding partners last month at NUI Galway, the programme officially launched the new cohort of BioExel 2019 and enabled a great working session where partners and participants came together to share experiences and business opportunities.

BioExel 2019 Companies:

  • Áine Behan and Fred Herrera, CortechsConnect Ltd, an Irish based company developing a non-pharmacological Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) intervention. Visit:
  • Declan Trumble, Kudos Health, an Irish based company developing a Health and Wellness engagement platform. Visit:
  • Idicula Mathew, Hera Health Solutions, a US based company developing a Biodegradable Female Contraceptive Implant. Visit:
  • Chris Duke and Michael Newell, Lifestyle Medical, an Irish based company developing Knee kinematics performance and rehabilitation technology
  • Liam McMorrow, Adelie Health, a UK technology and new Irish start-up, developing an innovative Smart Insulin Pen. Visit:
  • Blaine Doyle, Glow Dx, an Irish company with an export market in place developing an Infectious Disease Diagnostic Platform. Visit:
  • Rory Clerkin and Morris Black, Holywood Medical, an Irish based company developing Migraine prediction assay (predicts the onset of migraine) for preventative medicine in this space. Visit:
  • Damien Kilgannon, Sula Health, an Irish based company developing a solution in the area of Circadian Rhythm (Sleep) Disorder Treatment. Visit:

This new cohort of companies will take part in the BioExel accelerator programme until June 2019, preparing them to be investor ready or to have investment in place.

BioExel is a partnership programme funded by Enterprise Ireland, Western Development Commission, Galway University Foundation, Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund, and hosted by NUI Galway.

For additional information please contact the BioExel team at or phone 087 6226240 or visit:


Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway