Bizmentors EU Project

In 2018 the WDC were successfully awarded EU funding to develop and pilot an SME support project with partners from Finland, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. 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, pro bono, 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.

The BizMentors model has been proven to support individuals and businesses in a small dispersed community setting in Galway since 2012. It relies on the local support of established business people (mentors) to provide free guidance to those seeking it (mentees) 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 agri-food businesses in the partner regions during the preparatory phase, 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 output from these pilots will inform future transferability to other business sectors and countries (not just in the NPA region). To support this, a transnational Best Practice Handbook (BPH) will be produced to inform decision makers seeking to implement effective, low cost and inclusive mentoring solutions in other regions. The online platform will be made freely available to other communities to enable the sharing of goodwill, knowledge, wisdom and experience


[1] For more details on the NPA, see




Interreg Europe EXTRA SME Project



“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) is an Interreg Europe project which brings together 9 participating partners from 7 EU countries. 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 will 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.

For more information on this project see

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FREED Project (2016-2018)

The Freed Service connects private and public funders across the NPA region with companies involved in the Energy Innovation/Technology Sector. Find out More about the FREED Service HERE

FREED (Funding Resources for Innovation in Energy Enterprise Development) was a three year project funded under Interreg’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme. The project, a collaborative partnership involving private investment firms, R&D institutions, colleges of education and public bodies from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Norway, The United Kingdom, Germany and Ireland was led by the University of Oulu in Finland.  See all Project Partners.Find out more about the project work HERE


GREBE Project

The WDC, are lead partner in the GREBE Project, a €1.77m, 3-year (2015-2018) transnational project to support the renewable energy sector. It is co-funded by the EU’s Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme. It is focussing on the challenges of peripheral and arctic regions as places for doing business, and help develop renewable energy business opportunities provided by extreme conditions.

GREBE is equipping SMEs and start-ups with the skills and confidence to overcome these challenges and use place based natural assets for RE to best sustainable effect. The renewable energy sector contributes to sustainable regional and rural development and has potential for future growth.

GREBE is enabling local entrepreneurs and SMEs to grow their business, to provide local jobs, and meet energy demands of local communities. A comprehensive approach that advocates a supportive and innovative policy framework and promotes awareness of funding schemes is required. GREBE will support diversification of the technological capacity of SMEs and start-ups so that they can exploit the natural conditions of their locations. RE tailored, expert guidance and mentoring will be provided to ensure SMEs and start-ups have the knowledge and expertise to grow and expand their businesses.

The project partnership includes the eight partners from six countries, Western Development Commission (ROI), Action Renewables (NI), Fermanagh & Omagh District Council (NI),  Environmental Research Institute (SCO), LUKE (FI), Karelia University of Applied Sciences (FI), Narvik Science Park (NOR) and Innovation Iceland (ICE).

Challenges including a lack of critical mass, dispersed settlements, poor accessibility and vulnerability to climate change effects are well recognised. GREBE will equip SMEs and start-ups with the skills and confidence to overcome these challenges and use place based natural assets for RE to best sustainable effect.

For more information please click here


Re-Direct Project

The WDC is a partner in the RE-DIRECT Project,the ‘Regional Development and Integration of unused biomass wastes as Resources for Circular products and economic Transformation’ (RE-DIRECT) Project is an EU co-funded (North West Europe Programme) project to promote the efficient use of natural resources and materials by converting residual biomass into carbon products and activated carbon at smart regional decentralised units. For more information please click here



‘Community based energy solutions for remote areas’ (LECo) Project is a new Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme co-funded project that will support the development of local energy communities and has a total budget of €1.95 million. It is being implemented by eight partner organisations based in Ireland, Finland, Norway and Germany and Sweden.

The LECo project shall respond on the needs of remote communes and settlements for a sustainable energy supply. The goal is to com­bine new innovative technologies with locally available natural resources (wind, hydro, solar and biomass, including waste from house­holds, agriculture and industries), based on the model of local cycle economy.

The project will bring together the combined experience, knowledge and expertise of the project partners and provide conditions for creation of energy self-sufficient Local Energy Communities (LECo). The central European “Energy Village” concept will be adapted for the Northern Periphery & Arctic project partner regions. Existing cases of Energy Villages inside and outside the NPA area will be analyzed in form of documented cases and shall deliver guidance about success factors and pitfalls for Energy Villages.

For more information please see click here



WDC was a project partner in the resulting €1.2m transnational project called ‘Creative Edge’, led by NUIG The WDC was the lead partner responsible for the work package related to export growth. Some of the activities the WDC implemented included:

  • MyCreativeEdge.euWDC led the development of An online platform for creative enterprises from the West of Ireland, Northern Finland, South East of Northern Ireland and Mid-Sweden to create free online profiles to showcase their work to international markets. By the end of the Creative Edge project in December 2013, there were 326 published profiles on the site and there had been 37,000 site visits, 1 in 3 from outside the partner regions. The WDC produced a final report on the process mycreativeedge-published/
  • Talent Voucher Scheme: WDC participated in this scheme which provided funding for members of MyCreativeEdge to collaborate on a specified project. In total five vouchers were allocated to creative enterprises in the Western Region of Ireland and each worked with another creative enterprise in the region. The WDC wrote the final report on the activity.
  • Creative Steps: four recent graduates from the West of Ireland worked with students from Finland, Sweden and Northern Ireland on a number of innovation challenges provided by businesses outside of the creative sector. The aim was to transfer creative skills to businesses outside of the sector. A report on the process is available here
  • Creative Edge Mapping Tool: Under the Creative Edge project, NUI Galway undertook a Mapping Exercise to estimate the size of the creative industries sector in each of the partner regions, including the Western Region of Ireland. This exercise differed from the approach taken in the Creative West report as it was based on published databases and only counted businesses of two or more persons and therefore excluded much of the Creative Expression (arts, music, crafts, photography etc) activities. This was published in 2013 and estimated there were 2,644 creative enterprises of two or more persons in the Western Region of Ireland.