The European Commission and the Irish Government today completed the formal signing of the €320 million BMW Regional Operational Programme 2014‑2020, with includes €160 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The Northern & Western Regional Assembly will manage the Operational Programme.
Mr. Brendan Howlin TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform welcomed the signing of the programme, stating that “Cohesion Policy has been – and continues to be – a key instrument in addressing the economic and social disparities among the twenty eight Member States and their 274 regions. It is the Union’s principal investment tool for delivering the Europe 2020 goals of creating growth and jobs, tackling climate change and energy dependence, and reducing poverty and social exclusion. The Irish experience of Cohesion Policy has been overwhelming positive”, he stated.
Also at the signing European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu said “SMEs are the backbone of the European economy and this trend is reflected in Border, Midland and Western Region in Ireland. We need to equip citizens with the skills and knowledge they need to set up small companies; we need to facilitate the access of these businesses to financial support, and most importantly, we need to enable them to create jobs. Today’s investment programme sets the BMW Region on this path.” The Commissioner also complimented the Regional Assemblies on their management of the Regional and Interregional Operational Programmes since 2000 and acknowledged the expertise built up at Assembly level during this time.
The new investment programme represents a strategic focus on industry engagement in funded research projects and a shift from research infrastructure to applied research in supported research institutions and company R&D expenditure. The programme will also co-fund the delivery of universal high-speed broadband in the region, building on the delivery of universal basic broadband achieved under the 2007-2013 programmes.
The programme will continue support for enterprise start-ups and expansion through the recently formed Local Enterprise Offices and will also co-fund Enterprise Ireland schemes in support of indigenous enterprises in order to boost job creation and productivity.
The energy efficiency programme in social housing will also be co-funded, along with the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme for low income households, thus reducing the costs of heating these homes. There will also be ERDF support for urban development projects in the designated gateway towns in the region including Galway city, Athlone, Tullamore, Mullingar, Sligo, Dundalk and Letterkenny.
The programme is expected to support some 16,000 SMEs across the region with direct financial assistance or other support measures such as mentoring, management training and advisory services, creating 3,600 jobs in directly-supported enterprises. This will increase the number of researchers in research institutions in the region by over 200 and a further 200 high-growth Companies will benefit directly from R&D and Innovation supports.
It will reinforce the Irish Government’s plan to extend high-speed broadband to all unserved settlements in the region, with an estimated 144,000 households set to benefit. This will also enable a step change in the utilisation of e-commerce and other on-line opportunities for the region’s business community.
More than 10,000 households will benefit from the retrofitting of energy efficient insulation and other energy-saving improvements, leading to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU co-funded regional investments will be broken down as follows:
• Research, technological development & innovation: €104 million
• Access to, and quality of information and communication technologies: €90 million
• SME competitiveness: €58 million
• Shift to a low-carbon economy: €36 million
• Urban Development €28 million
Technical assistance for programme management €4 million