Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys and Minister English launch Ireland’s first ever National Hub Summit
30 November 2023 By Carol Ho
Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys and Minister English launch Ireland’s first ever National Hub Summit
- Number of remote working hubs to pass 300 in major new milestone
- Almost 10,000 users now on Connected Hubs platform
- Rural Counties given financial firepower to lure workers from the cities
- Minister announces new national hub strategy and pilot scheme to match employers and employees to hubs across the country
- New ‘anchor tenants’ initiative and the use of Connected Hubs as ‘second workplaces’ for staff
- Hubs voucher initiative to run until the end of 2022
- Legislation giving legal rights to request remote working to be passed by end of year
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today made a series of announcements in support of Remote Working as she launched the first ever National Hub Summit.
The Summit in Athlone brought together businesses, hub managers and policy makers, less than 18 months after the launch of the Connected Hubs platform.
As part of a series of announcements made today, Minister Humphreys confirmed:
- The number of remote working facilities registered with Connectedhubs.ie will pass the 300 mark next week.
- More than 10,000 remote workers will have registered with the platform by the end of the year.
- Each local authority outside of Dublin has been given a special budget to promote their county in order to attract remote workers and mobile talent.
- A new pilot scheme that will match employers and employees to specific hubs will be launched in the New Year;
- The pilot scheme will introduce the concept of ‘anchor tenants’ and the use of Connected Hubs as a ‘second workplace’ for staff.
- More than 5,500 free hot-desk days have been provided in 2022 alone.
- This Voucher Scheme, which provides three free taster days to remote workers, has been extended until the end of the year.
Speaking at the opening of the Summit, Minister Humphreys said:
“It’s hard to believe that less than three years ago, Remote Working was nothing short of a concept in Ireland.
“It’s now an everyday reality for thousands of workers and businesses, across this State.
“We have made extraordinary strides in terms of remote working.
“My Department alone has invested over €100 million in developing state-of-the-art remote working facilities in every county in Ireland.
“The number of facilities on board ‘Connectedhubs.ie’ is now set to hit the 300 mark.
“Many of these are old courthouses, garda stations, schools and other vacant or derelict buildings that have been re-purposed and are now central to the remote working revolution.
The Minister added:
“Today’s summit is about bringing all the key stakeholders together - the hub users, remote workers themselves, policy makers, Government agencies and most importantly, businesses.
“Today’s gives us a chance to discuss what next? We’ve done a lot in just 18 months, but what more can we do in 2023 to ensure remote working continues to thrive and support people to live and work from their own community?
“My Department, along with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, are developing a new national hub strategy and pilot scheme which places businesses at the core.
“It will involve new concepts such as ‘anchor tenants’ ie… allowing corporations to form arrangements with the hub managers to make the remote working facility a ‘second workplace’.
“And our voucher scheme, which gives people a ‘three day taster’, has been a great success.
“On top of all these initiatives too, we have given funding of up to €50,000 to local authorities outside of Dublin so that they can market their towns and villages as destinations for people who want to move to Rural Ireland.
“So much is being done across Government to ensure remote working is central to the future development of our society and economy.
“But we can do more and can do things differently. And that’s why this National summit is so important.”
The Minister continued:
“I want to explore the idea too of encouraging companies to provide a stipend to remote workers to cover the costs associated with using the hub.
“And I have asked my officials to explore new options to incentivise remote workers to join ‘Connected Hubs’ and reap the benefits.”
The National Hub Strategy will be coordinated by officials at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment with support from across government.
Also speaking at the Summit, Minister Damien English said:
“The network of enterprise centres and hubs in Ireland are vital for regionally balanced economic and employment growth in Ireland. Enterprise centres funded through Enterprise Ireland concentrate on the provision of spaces for entrepreneurs, start-up companies, support for digitalisation and innovation as well as scaling.
“Coupled with other hubs whose primary focus is to facilitate co-working and hot desking, we have a superb offering of places for enterprise development and remote working right across the country.
“I was delighted to link up today with Minister Humphreys at the Summit which provided an important platform for us to engage with hub managers, Agencies, representative bodies and Government Departments ahead of developing the new National Hub Strategy.
“We have worked hard to strengthen on the right to request remote working and it is hoped that this will be passed by the end of the year.”
Minister Humphreys also met with a group of companies to discuss remote working practices and the potential for partnerships between employers and connectedhubs.ie:
“Today I met with representatives from eBay, NBI, Portershed and CloudAssist to discuss their experiences of remote working, which by all accounts have been very positive, and where connectedhubs.ie might fit into their plans in future. We have hubs across the state, in every county. These are pleasant, professional and fully insured work-spaces.
“My priority now for the Network is to ensure the long-term viability of the hubs. We will continue to meet with companies like these, encouraging them to become ‘anchor tenants’. We will be announcing a partnership project in the New Year, working with employers and remote workers, to tease out what hubs need to do to attract regular business from corporate clients.”
The pilot initiative is planned for 2023 and will focus on engaging with and supporting corporate clients interested in using connectedhubs.ie to accommodate their employees when working remotely.
Commenting on the future of connectedhubs.ie, Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission (WDC), said:
“One of the most powerful elements of the ConnectedHubs Network, is the community we now have right across the country. This Summit is a key milestone bringing hub managers together with policy makers, state agencies and senior Government officials to plan our next steps for the National Hub Network together. That collaboration will help to sustain the network in the long term and help to revitalise towns and villages across the country.”
Tara Collins, Chief Marketing Officer of National Broadband Ireland said:
“The Government’s initiatives to enable remote working are proving to be highly successful and at NBI we’ve been thrilled to support Connected Hubs. With our work delivering the Government’s National Broadband Plan, we’re also rolling out high-speed broadband to over 560,000 premises across Ireland, which will be a game-changer for remote working.
“We are proud to support the Government’s vision to provide every person in the country with access to high-speed connectivity, which in turn will open up opportunities for people to start and grow a business from home or have access to the best positions in the global job market.”
Following the meeting with the Minister, Siobhán Curtin, Site Leader of eBay Ireland said:
“We are delighted to be invited here today to share our experience of remote working with this group and what has worked well for eBay over the past 5 years. Given our learning mindset we’re looking forward to hearing more about connectedhubs.ie.”
Joanne Mangan, Grow Remote added:
“Co-working hubs have the potential to breathe new life into our towns and villages, while also providing remote workers with a space to connect with others in their community and helping businesses to overcome some of the common challenges of remote working.
“Grow Remote are very supportive of the pilot programme being announced by the Minister today, as we believe that capturing and responding to feedback from employers is critical to the success of the hubs network.”
Sean Brady, CEO of CloudAssist said:
“With the slide back into the office, it has never been more important for governments to continue their support for hybrid working as a right so citizens have choices when deciding where they work.”
The Connected Hubs initiative is just one of several measures the Government has introduced to incentivise remote working. Others include the Connected Hubs Voucher Scheme and the National Remote Working Strategy.
Led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the National Remote Work Strategy will ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace.
Notes to editor:
Our Rural Future
Our Rural Future is the whole-of-government policy for rural Ireland for the period 2021-2025. It represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development policy for Ireland and adopts a more strategic, ambitious and holistic approach to investing in and maximising opportunities for rural areas.
One of the commitments provided in the five-year Our Rural Future policy is to establish a comprehensive and integrated national network of 400 Remote Working Hubs over the lifetime of the policy (to include a central booking platform for Connected Hub user’s).
The online platform connectedhubs.ie was launched in May 2021 with 60 hubs on-boarded to the platform. This has grown substantially and is expected to exceed 300 hubs by end 2022.
National Hub Strategy
The National Hub Strategy will be developed using a whole of government approach. It will be overseen by an Interdepartmental working group chaired by Mary Hurley, Secretary General of DRCD, and include representation from key government departments and state agencies:
- Department of Rural and Community Development
- Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment
- Department of Environment, Climate & Communications
- Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media
- Enterprise Ireland
- Údaras na Gaeltachta
- Western Development Commission.