The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has announced a €5 million funding call under the European Union’s Just Transition Fund (EU JTF) for local community organisations and small-to-medium sized enterprises in the Midlands region.

The EU JTF Community and Enterprise Grants scheme, administered by Pobal on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, aims to provide communities in the wider Midlands area, formerly dependent on peat production, with the capacity to develop employment opportunities in the green, circular and low-carbon economy.

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Funding of up to €300,000 is available for projects that build on the strengths of the local area, have an identified need, and create new job opportunities or increase the sustainability of existing jobs in the territory.

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Applications are being accepted until 22 February 2024.

Commenting on the launch of the new scheme, Minister Ryan said:

I am delighted to announce the launch of this scheme, which aims to allow small-to-medium enterprises and community organisations to expand and diversify their local economies and contribute to positive social change in the Midlands.

By creating opportunities for employment in the territory, these organisations can help to create an inclusive, attractive, healthy and sustainable place to live, work and visit right across the Midlands region.

This scheme will assist with addressing the longer-term economic transition of the region arising from the end of commercial peat and reinforces our commitment to provide a sustainable and inclusive future for the Midlands region.

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This scheme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union through the EU Just Transition Fund (EU JTF) programme.

This programme supports projects in the EU Just Transition Fund Territory, consisting of Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Roscommon Counties and the Municipal Districts of Ballinasloe (Co Galway), Athy, Clane-Maynooth, (Co Kildare) and Carrick-on-Suir and Thurles (Co Tipperary).

 

The scheme is open for community and voluntary organisations, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises, micro and small-to-medium sized organisations to apply.

The objective of the EU JTF Community and Enterprise Grants Scheme is to provide direct supports to bottom-up initiatives that enhance the local and regional fabric in the territory by:

  • enhancing the sustainability of small to medium sized enterprises, including social enterprises
  • building on the strengths of the local area by meeting an identified need or gap
  • providing the necessary skills for creating sustainable employment in the territory or meeting an existing skills gap in the territory, and
  • supporting the diversification and adaptation of existing businesses

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The call will support the following types of projects within the scope of support of the EU Just Transition Fund Regulation:

  • Technical and project management supports for energy and resource efficiency, building retrofits and renewable energy
  • Circular economy and bio-economy initiatives
  • Projects that support digitalisation and connectivity to open up new employment options in the area
  • Supports for new projects, processes and organisational innovation in the low-carbon sector
  • Projects that support education, skills training and social inclusion
  • Projects that contribute to nature restoration and regeneration
  • Heat network feasibility studies (district heating systems and communal heating systems) that utilise renewable energy and/or waste heat energy sources

The EU JTF Community Enterprise Grants Scheme is structured to promote complementarity with other sources of funding.

It is the second funding call that provides direct supports to the implementation of Local and Regional Economic Strategies, with the first call launched in Autumn 2023 targeting local authorities and larger initiatives.

This grant scheme also complements the EU JTF schemes that support the bio economy, regenerative tourism and electric vehicle charging.

This is in addition to other Exchequer and EU funding, including relevant funding available through Enterprise Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI).

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Cathaoirleach of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, Councillor Kate Feeney, said:

I am delighted that this grants scheme is being launched today.

With the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly’s (EMRA) role as Managing Authority of the EU Just Transition Fund programme, our assemblies stand behind our local community groups and SMEs.

The funding complements the other supports through the EUJTF programme and ensures that grassroots initiatives have the resources they need to make effective change in our communities.

With this support, the assembly is helping to foster a stronger, more resilient Midlands area.

 

Director of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, Clare Bannon said:

EMRA is pleased to be launching the EUJTF Community and Enterprise Grants Scheme alongside the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and Pobal.

This is a unique call that brings direct supports to bottom-up, democratically created local and regional development strategies for the wider Midlands area, and to the people and groups that will help make those strategies a success.

This grant funding scheme is a testament to the grassroots innovation that fuels the wider Midland region’s vitality.

This call ensures that community groups, micro, small and medium sized enterprises that are the heartbeat of local communities, can drive job creation and enhance the sustainability of the territory into the future.

 

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Pobal CEO, Anna Shakespeare said:

Pobal is delighted to continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly on the EU Just Transition Fund Community and Enterprise Grants Scheme – a very timely and important initiative to support micro, small-to-medium sized enterprises, community and voluntary organisation and social enterprises in the wider Midlands region.

This scheme will particularly support enterprises to create jobs and nurture skills of communities that may have been negatively affected by the transition from peat extraction to a low-carbon economy.

In Pobal, we recognise the value of this fund and are proud to support it.

We look forward to working with all stakeholder organisations in the region to making this scheme a success.

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Supported projects will align with local and regional economic strategies as well as the wider strategic goals of a green, smart and social territory that underpin this call.

  • A GREEN territory – supporting the development of the green economy, circular economy and low-carbon economy; and the creation of green and sustainable jobs by supporting innovation, skills, development and the greening of existing sectors and jobs
  • A SMART territory – supporting the development of digital skills, digitisation and connectivity to create new employment opportunities in the territory
  • A SOCIAL territory – supporting education, skills development and training and social infrastructure that promotes inclusion and enables people to return to work, transition to new roles and be able to remain in employment

Further information on the how to apply for funding and to register for support webinars can be found on the Pobal website.

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