Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today launched a new five million euro fund to support the development of Ireland’s first national network of remote working hubs.
The Connected Hubs Fund will expand existing hub facilities, providing additional hot desks, office spaces and meeting rooms for remote working.
The funding will be used to install electric car charging points, upgrade disability access and improve IT facilities located within hubs or Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). And it will also assist in making existing hubs more compliant with social distancing guidelines. The Connected Hubs Fund will support the key objectives of Our Rural Future – the Government’s ambitious new five year policy for rural Ireland.
Our Rural Future recognises hubs and BCPs as ideal locations for people to work remotely, as well as acting as key economic assets for towns and villages. This fund is a central part of the Government’s strategy to create a nationwide network of hubs that will be accessible via an online app.
We now have an opportunity to expand our thinking on how these facilities can come together as a community, as an industry and as key infrastructure that can drive regional development.Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin
Announcing the call for proposals for funding, Minister Humphreys said, “Over the past 12 months, so many of us have experienced the benefits of remote working – reduced commutes, more time spent with your family, increased footfall in towns, a lower carbon footprint.
“As we emerge from this Pandemic, the Government is determined to make remote working a permanent reality for thousands of people.
“That’s why Our Rural Future contains a series of commitments ranging from incentives for workers to the redevelopment of old buildings as digital hubs.
“Today’s announcement of a €5 million fund will greatly assist in developing Ireland’s first ever National Hub Network.”
Speaking in support of the launch, Tomás Ó’Síocháin CEO of the Western Deveopment Commisison said, ‘The WDC welcomes this funding opportunity as we continue preparations to support the rollout of the National Hubs Network, building on the success of the AEC Hubs network. The transition to remote work supported by the hubs network will be a significant driver of economic activity in rural and regional areas and the hubs platform offers huge scope to improve the spread and impact of public services both in the west and nationally.
He continued, “Our research shows that people have already, and continue to move closer to where they want to live, and through westernjobs.ie and other supports they can both improve their quality of life, play a greater role in the community and continue to build a career.”
Minister Humphreys added, “The Connected Hubs Fund will make our existing hubs bigger and more accessible and will result in a better quality experience for business people, workers and students.
“Crucially, this fund is another clear example of how this Government is embracing remote working as we exit this Pandemic.
“As Minister, I am determined that we do not let the opportunities posed by remote working to slip from our grasp.
“Hubs provide the perfect opportunity for people to embrace ‘blended working’.
“And by encouraging people to avail of a hot-desk or office space in their nearby hub, the local economy also benefits.
“Government is investing significantly in the development of new hubs through schemes like the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
“It’s equally important however that we invest in our many existing hubs, public and private, and ensure they are attractive, fully equipped, modern office spaces for people to work from into the future.”
The National Hub Network Working Group led by the Department of Rural and Community Development has identified over 400 remote working hubs across the country. Work is currently underway to map and survey the services offered by these hubs. This data will support the development of online services to support hub managers, including a publicly facing booking engine.
The Connected Hubs Call aims to add additional capacity to our current remote working infrastructure. Funding will be available for both expansion and upgrade of existing facilities through works such as the installation of privacy booths, access control and security systems, the conversion of existing open plan space to modular offices, and provision of enhanced audio visual, network and conferencing facilities. The call will also fund innovative measures to assist hubs to deal with COVID-related challenges.
The Connected Hubs Call is open to applications from all existing hubs and BCPs throughout the Country. This Fund represents a real opportunity to leverage remote working infrastructure to transform how the people of Ireland work and live.
The Minister concluded, “The projects funded under this call are a first step in supporting the development of a National Network of high-quality remote working hubs. The supports delivered through this network will help build on the fantastic asset Ireland has in its connected working ecosystem.
She continued, “We now have an opportunity to expand our thinking on how these facilities can come together as a community, as an industry and as key infrastructure that can drive regional development. I would urge all existing hubs and BCPs to apply and look forward to making further announcements in relation to remote working later in the year.”
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