Mary Keaveney outlines FREED, a three-year project funded under Interegg’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme that supports existing and start-up SMEs to utilise and develop innovative energy technologies as viable business offerings
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The Western Development Commission (WDC) is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare. Working with local, regional, national and international bodies, the organisation implements innovative and strategic regional development initiatives in the Western Region.

The WDC has developed a unique and effective response to the development challenges of a predominantly rural region, it adds value to the work of national and international bodies and actively engages with regional interests through a combination of:

  • Implementation – initiation of regional programmes with partners that deliver real value ‘on the ground’ in a largely rural region;
  • Policy insight – development of a robust information base on regional issues which provides an acknowledged valuable input to national policy-making in areas such as energy infrastructure and broadband;
  • Promotion of the region – enabling and promotion of a globally recognised, regional identity – through the www.LookWest.ie platform. LookWest.ie provides information for individuals setting up a business or looking to relocate to the West. Check out our credentials – a flexible highly skilled workforce, financial supports, innovative R&D, strong business links to third-level institutions and with a wide array of supports and grants for business in the region;
  • Investment – operating the Western Investment Fund (WIF) as a unique source of risk capital for entrepreneurs in the Western Region.

Since 2009, the WDC has sourced finance and implemented practical enterprise support initiatives in critical regional growth sectors such as renewable bioenergy, the creative economy, cultural tourism and the general micro and SME sector.

FREED project


In 2016, the WDC are engaged in EU projects with a total value of €6 million and have recently been successful in a bid for funding under the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme. FREED (Funding Resources for Innovation in Energy Enterprise Development) is a three-year transnational project funded under Interegg’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme.

It will provide SMEs in the program area with the support network required to introduce and develop energy innovations that would otherwise be unavailable to them. It will also facilitate the transfer of technology innovations to SMEs across the programme area and provide a unique access to private investment, which is the key determinant of success in stimulating innovation.

FREED is also unique in being integrated with existing innovation programmes. The project is led by University of Oulu, Finland, with partners WDC and Limerick Institute of Technology; Ireland, South West College; Tyrone, Green Angel Syndicate; Scotland, Narvick Science Park; Norway and Europäisches Institut für Innovation; Germany.

Each project partner will facilitate the process of knowledge transfer in their region and integrate successfully adapted and/or developed regional technologies into new R&D cycles resulting in creation of new products and services. It may be comprised of transfer of technology, expertise, know-how or best practices. An effective regional technology transfer process will result in commercialisation of a new product or service, or it will enhance an existing product, service or process.

Review of energy sectors and technologies


The WDC is currently carrying out a review of the energy sectors and technologies needs to help identify the innovation challenges in this region. An innovation tender will be issued and SMEs/candidates will be invited to submit technology innovation proposals, which address identified challenges. Knowledge institutes will also be invited to submit tenders and organisations outside the programme region are also eligible.

Early in 2017 FREED will be working with the successful SMEs assisting them to develop the selected energy innovations. For further information on FREED, contact Mary Keaveney.

In the Regional Bio-economy, the WDC has now developed a capacity to fund and deliver change. As stated by the CEO, Ian Brannigan: “Since 2007, the WDC has worked with the Regional Bio-economy stakeholders to identify and deliver growth to the sector in the face of tough times.

“The WDC has now an unparalleled body of regional sector analysis and support programmes,” he continued, “which make it a real benefit for businesses in the region, both through direct loan/equity finance provision and EU funded programmes (totalling almost €5 million in recent years). We see ourselves as doing all we can to establish a thriving bio-economy sector in the West of Ireland.”

The WDC has since its formation adapted to the times and in the process made a significant and measurable difference to the region it works within. It has sought to establish a capability for future growth both for the region and its citizens and also for the state and all its citizens.

In the process, it has identified and championed new areas of regional strength previously under developed. It has also sought to deliver a capacity to the organs of state and community bodies within the region to design, fund and deliver on lasting programs of growth.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FREED-1024x683.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FREED-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanElecenergy,funding,local authorities
The Western Development Commission (WDC) is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare. Working with local, regional, national and international bodies, the organisation implements innovative and strategic regional development initiatives in the Western Region. The WDC has developed a unique...