Clare County Council is inviting companies to tender to develop a solution to address rural transport shortages and rural isolation in County Clare.
Pat Breen, T.D., Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, today joined the Local Authority in announcing details of CarShareIT, which is being 50% funded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Ireland through Enterprise Ireland, during a launch event in Kilrush.
The non-commercial, community-based initiative aims to match those in need of transport with private drivers who have available transport capacity and is among the actions identified in the Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026 and the Clare Digital Strategy.
Meanwhile, Clare County Council has welcomed the interest shown by Jaguar Land Rover in engaging with the initiative through its role in the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Ireland initiative. The company’s new facility in Shannon is developing technologies and systems for electric and self-driving vehicles which have the potential to augment and communicate with the IT solutions being developed to address Clare’s rural transport challenge.
Minister of State Breen said, “A total of 3,399 kilometres of Clare’s 4,268 kilometre road network is made up of local or rural roads, that is significant, and has a huge impact on travel and rural isolation. I would like therefore to commend the CarShareIT initiative as a potential solution for rural transport and isolation.
The Minister continued, “I am pleased to say that Enterprise Ireland is providing 50% of the funding for the development of this idea through SBIR Ireland, and I would like to congratulate Clare County Council for bringing the initiative to the next stage.”
Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tom McNamara, commented, “I am delighted that Clare County Council, backed by part-funding of €25,000 from Enterprise Ireland, is now in a position to explore the feasibility of delivering a solution to addressing rural transport issues in Clare. Innovative solutions are required in response to the growing issue of rural isolation and transport-related challenges all over the county.”
Commenting on the background to CarShareIT, Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, said the initiative is among the actions identified in the Clare Rural Development Strategy 2026 and Clare Digital Strategy, which target the creation of 4,000 jobs through the development of community-led social enterprises supported by Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office Clare, the Office of the Action Plan for Jobs (APJ), the LEADER Programme and the rural and community support unit of Clare County Council.
“Ireland has the highest length of road network per capita in the EU and the most dispersed pattern of rural dwelling. Rural isolation is a consequence,” he explained. “This project aims to address these challenges by way of leveraging community-based goodwill and supporting it with appropriate IT applications, both software and hardware, that links those with private transport to those in need of transport.”
Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland, added: “The Enterprise Ireland SBIR initiative is all about channelling pioneering ideas while also cultivating collaborations between innovative SMEs and the public sector. The CarShareIT challenge is asking companies to come up with ideas on how to tackle issues that affect rural communities, not just in our own country, but in similar rural regions all over the world. In fostering these partnerships, SBIR Ireland offers a platform for harnessing innovative concepts with the view to transforming these into real-life, workable solutions to global societal challenges.”
Clare County Council says it is inviting companies to tender to develop CarShareIT. Should the Feasibility Phase prove successful Clare County Council will apply to Enterprise Ireland for additional funding to help complete the development of a Prototype in Phase 2 (late Summer 2018).