Thursday, 11 September 2014

Rural Clare SMEs climb the IT ladder

Small and medium enterprises in County Clare are being invited to participate in an EU project aimed at improving the IT capabilities of rural businesses.

The Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly Mid-West Office (formerly MWRA) is one of six lead agencies in CREATE, which aims to deliver a full package of advice and support to SMEs to enable them to fully exploit the potential of an improved online presence, faster broadband, and hardware and software investments.

The project also aims to stimulate the virtual clustering of rural SMEs across partner regions of North West Europe, to help reduce expenses and the need for investment in expensive hardware technology for businesses through the shared use of hosted services.

An expert workgroup of IT and online marketing professionals from across the CREATE partner regions are presently conducting a review of the Irish and European rural-based businesses before presenting them with individual actions plans aimed at introducing efficiencies.

CREATE advisors this week travelled to Ennis, Co Clare, to discuss progress in relation to the project as well as launch a new CREATE app for participating businesses to monitor their progress.

Ms. Majella O’Brien, EU Projects Officer for the Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly (SERA) Mid-West Office explained that 10 Clare businesses are currently part of a pilot review which is hoped will lead to more than 650 SME's across rural parts of Ireland and the rest of Europe being engaged in the CREATE project.

Ms. O'Brien acknowledged that rural Irish business are presently behind their European counterparts in embracing IT advancements such as cloud clustering.

She continued: "The reviews of rural Clare SMEs show their competitiveness is undermined by a lack of investment in IT infrastructure and a poor online presence. Their participation in CREATE will include specialist support through business advisors, access to e-guides providing ideas on how to use broadband effectively, access to virtual cloud clusters enabling businesses to collaborate with others regardless of their location, and access to specialist experts to help businesses up-skill, network and collaborate to develop new products and markets."

"Over the coming months, we intend expanding activities by identifying additional suitable SMEs to be part of the CREATE cluster. Every SME that takes part in the CREATE review will be listed on a business directory, and we will use expert advice to “match-make” SMEs from different regions together," Ms. O'Brien added.

Gerard Dollard, Director of Services with Clare County Council, which is an associate CREATE partner, noted that access to proper ICT infrastructure is a "constant challenge" for rural areas.

He explained: "The development of rural enterprises, indeed the development of all small enterprises, is a challenging agenda. That challenge is made all the greater by the particular constraints and limitations that apply to rural areas. I am confident that the work of the CREATE project and the exchange of experiences that will occur through the project will provide a very positive input to addressing some of the challenges that exist."

The CREATE project, which has secured €1.5 M of INTERREG IVB North West Europe (NWE) funding, is being led by Herefordshire Council (UK) with partners from the European Regions Network for the Application of Communications Technology, VOKA the West Flanders Chamber of Commerce (Belgium), Nièvre Numérique (France), Scottish Enterprise and the Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly, Mid-West Office (Ireland).

The CREATE app can be downloaded for free from iTunes and Google Play. For more on the CREATE project visit The project can also be followed on Facebook (CreateNWE), Twitter (CreateNWE) and LinkedIn.