“Ireland is still a rural country with 72 per cent of our population living predominantly in rural regions as compared to the EU average of 22 per cent or seven per cent for Switzerland.  If we are to create a sustainable economy and a stable society for Ireland then we need to provide ‘on-the-ground’ supports for people in rural communities to create ideas, spot opportunities and to develop enterprises which will support local employment and wealth creation.”

This is according to Prof Suzi Jarvis, founding director of the Innovation Academy at University College Dublin (UCD). Prof Jarvis was speaking at the launch of the Innovation Academy’s Rural Entrepreneurship Programme, which is being delivered in Galway and Clonmel in 2013 and in Mullingar and Letterkenny in 2014.

“The OECD says that Ireland spends a significant amount of money on labour market policies, by international standards, but points out that most of this money goes on passive policies – such as income support – rather than active policies that try to get people into or back into the labour market.  We are addressing this challenge by facilitating those in rural areas to take a fresh look at their resources and examine how they can best harness them.

“If we look at the UK, 31 per cent of farm enterprises have diversified into other areas while in Ireland it is only two per cent. There are significant untapped resources in rural communities that have the potential to deliver jobs but until we successfully integrate entrepreneurial education into these communities and understand the challenges facing potential and aspiring entrepreneurs we will fail them and the wider population.  This is why the Innovation Academy UCD is taking the Rural Entrepreneurship Programme into the local communities who will benefit most from it,” she said.

The Rural Entrepreneurship Programme will be delivered over 18 weeks and will be run, among others, by Roscommon entrepreneur Brendan Allen of Castlemine Farm and Galway’s Ronan Byrne of The Friendly Farmer who have worked to transform their own experiences of starting a rural enterprise into the design of an action-based learning programme.  They will also mentor course participants.

The programme is open to springboard applicants and participants who complete the course will be presented with a University Certificate in Rural Entrepreneurship from UCD. There are no exams and participants ‘learn by doing’, working in teams to develop key entrepreneurial skills.

The Innovation Academy UCD’s first Rural Entrepreneurship Programme started in Galway in September. Clonmel will commence on the 5 November and an information day will be held in the Park Hotel, Clonmel on the 29 October from 9-5pm.  The Mullingar and Letterkenny Programme will commence in January 2014.

For more information please visit: www.innovators.ie.

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