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Guest Article: Connected Hubs Overview

Contributed by Allan Mulrooney from the CCJ Online Newsletter, Issue 32 - Autumn 2021. The National Hub Network Working Group led by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) has identified and mapped over 400 remote working hubs across the country.

The National Hub Network Working Group led by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) has identified and mapped over 400 remote working hubs across the country. These hubs are being invited to join the platform to create a shared infrastructure that will deliver real benefits across the country. The Western Development Commission is project managing this initiative on behalf of DRCD.

These hubs have multiple uses. They act as community hubs, enterprise centres, innovations spaces, co-working & hot-desking locations, and are an important part of the support system for early-stage, rurally based companies, and entrepreneurs to grow and develop.

The project will help create an ecosystem from the existing hubs. It will promote, market, and showcase the profile of the hubs within the communities they are located in and beyond.

The WDC also sees the hub network playing a vital role in the growing trend towards remote working as a means of attracting workers back to rural locations. Blended working has the potential to increase occupancy rates and turnover of the hubs, contributing to their sustainability and thereby assisting in the revitalisation of communities and supporting the move to a low carbon society.

The Multiple Uses of Hubs:

  1. Community Hubs

  2. Enterprise Centres

  3. Innovation Spaces

  4. Co-working/Hot-Desking Locations

The platform offers a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the National Hub Network. This suite of back-office ICT infrastructure aims to ease the burden of hub management and facilitate the creation of the network and ongoing participation in it.

The network will facilitate the sharing of innovation, experience, and best practices across the Irish hub community. These supports will serve to maximize the benefit to member hubs, hub clients, employers, local communities, and the wider economy. The network will also help hub managers to support their clients, encourage participation at events and sharing of best practices in hub management. It will also provide clear routes to further supports and, in the longer term, build a pipeline of innovation in communities.

Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission, said:

The Connected Hubs Network is a critical element in enterprise and employment creation, economic restructuring, urban and rural regeneration, and attracting investment and talent to more rural locations. These hubs facilitate innovation and enterprise which can attract foreign direct investment and scaling indigenous businesses to local regions.

Continuing on Tomás said:

“More recently we have seen the pandemic rapidly accelerate the evolution of remote working. Research by the Western Development Commission and NUI Galway has shown the vast majority wish to continue to work remotely and enjoy the flexibility and autonomy it offers. The Connected Hubs platform offers the facilities and community of office life without the commute and will assist companies and their employees by allowing greater flexibility to blend home, office and hub working. This in turn, will increase staff well- being and retention, and help them maintain productivity in a suitable working environment. By having a platform to book these hubs, people now have the freedom and flexibility to transform their workday by reducing their commute to their employer’s workplace, while still reaping the benefits of working in an office setting. From Carndonagh to Bundoran in Donegal to Sneem in Kerry, members of the public now have the freedom to work in any hub of their choosing.”

Finally, Stephen Carolan, Enterprise Hubs Project Manager for the Western Development Commission said:

“We’d like to thank all the stakeholders and members of hub management that have worked with us over the last 18 months in the creation and development of the Connected Hubs Platform. We are honoured to have been able to collaborate with them on a network that will connect communities and maximise local employment opportunities. It is their voices that have been critical in shaping the network and the underpinning policy that will continue to shape it in the future.”

SERI would like to thank Alan Mulrooney and CCJ for allowing this article to be included on the SERI website.


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