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Financial Support Insights

This practical webinar will explore Financial packages which are available through both AIB and your Local Enterprise Office to enable businesses navigate through the uncertain times of Covid 19. Government aids for small to medium size businesses will be explored together with the qualifying criteria associated with these aids. The ultimate aim of this event is to raise awareness around financial aids for businesses in covid.

Speakers: Maeve Buckley, AIB Branch Manager, Skibbereen

Deirdre O’Mahony, Senior Business Development Officer, West Cork Local Enterprise Office.

You can register here 

Link to virtual event to follow

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PodCast with Irish Tech News

 Grainne O Keeffe recently spoke to Simon from Irish Tech News  to discuss her insights into the growing network of Irish digital hubs. They  also covered adapting your business model during a global pandemic, and how the future could be bright for rural and remote Irish digital hubs, both in West Cork and beyond.

PodCast with Irish Tech News 

 

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Rural schools get digital boost

Big thank you to the Southern Star for this piece on Ludgate’s and Kieran Collins work with schools 

 

There are exciting times ahead for West Cork’s primary schools thanks to a multi-million euro project designed to end the rural/urban digital divide and to create a level playing field for all children.

A multi-million euro project to revolutionise teaching and learning in West Cork is underway by Skibbereen’s Ludgate.

Their education programme is currently piloting Google for Education in seven local primary schools. The project is designed to address the growing problem of digital poverty in rural schools. This fault line has been laid bare by the global pandemic.

Google for Education has been an entity for over 10 years and provides a range of online tools to help support teaching (eg Gmail, drive, calendar, docs, sheets, slides, forms, google meet, classroom).

Most small primary schools, or even many medium-sized secondary schools, simply would not have the capacity to access such a valuable resource. However, Ludgate is both financing it, and managing it for the seven schools which are piloting the tools. The schools are: Union Hall, Dreeny, Rath, Leap, Abbeystrewry, Oileain Cleire and Gaelscoil Dr Uí Shúilleabháin.

The Ludgate education initiative is focused on leadership & policy, technology infrastructure, and the integration of 21st century teaching and learning in the primary and secondary schools. The development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills is to ensure we’ve a supply chain for the jobs of the future, whatever they may be, with companies already flagging a serious skills deficit in this area.  

Leading the cutting-edge project is Dr Kieran Collins from Castlehaven who joined Ludgate last year and comes with 20 years’ experience in the education sector.

He explained how Covid-19 accelerated their plans by about three years, as it highlighted the need to develop 21st century educational skills across the eco system of national and secondary schools.

‘Lots of secondary schools had Microsoft 365 but national schools really had nothing. What we were seeing were teachers who were under stress and strain, students who were struggling with a new learning environment, and parents caught in the middle trying to balance  work and education,’ he said.

They approached Google in May with their idea, and with support from Ronan Harris, VP for Ireland and the UK and Ludgate board member, they began to engage with schools. Now they’re at the training stage for both teachers and pupils.

‘In what’s a first for Ireland, we’re working on a district model as opposed to a school-based model which will make it easier to roll out to multiple schools. It means we manage the project, which really takes the pressure off them.’

Kieran’s enthusiasm for the project is infectious. ‘This will revolutionise teaching in terms of access to resources and sharing of these resources. It can be used in the event of a second lockdown, but it’s really most useful when it’s embedded in the classroom environment. It’s evidence-based and will really help schools move away from a regimented learning approach, to a discovery approach.’

Isobelle Nealon, principal Dreeny NS said: ‘Google Classroom is an efficient way to teach online both in-class and remotely. Work and assignments can be simply structured for use by students as sharing files is very easy and projects can be uploaded for everyone to view. As a basic tool tosupport learning, it’s great and more importantly-free!’ Kieran, who came to Ludgate from Tallaght IT, said that while youngsters are savvy in terms of social media, he has seen many students starting third level who lack fundamental digital literacy and fluency. And a lot of that comes back to the resources they’ve had access to while in school.

‘Dublin is at the upper end of the European digital scale, but rural locations, including parts of West Cork, bring Ireland down a much lower position on the scale.

‘There is a very real urban/rural divide. The absence of software/hardware in a teaching environment is limiting for smart kids. This project will help create a level playing field, will impact on a pupil’s development and create opportunities for them,’ he added.

As well as challenges, Covid has brought opportunities, he said. ‘At third level the plan is for 80% of learning to be online and if time and money is spent on creating these resources, it will  be hard to see things ever returning to being 100% class based at third level.

‘The same digital transformation that took place in third level 20 years ago will inevitably happen in primary and secondary schools to a degree, possibly, so it’s important to get the support systems in place,’ he said.  

This is at least a 20-year project and it’s funded by Ludgate, Enterprise Ireland and industry partners. Already announced in last week’s Southern Star, and just as innovative is the STEM (science, technology, education and maths) centre which Ludgate will open in the former Mercy Heights convent school next summer.

It’s the only one of its kind outside of Dublin and will create a dynamic teaching and learning space, Kieran says.

He added: ‘To say Google For Education is cutting edge is an understatement. It’s a reimagining of how we teach and learn – it’s a game-changer for schools.

‘It’s very difficult to move education forward but I’d say this is the biggest step forward in the sector since the advent of free education which was introduced in 1967.’

• Any primary school wishing to become involved should email kieran@ludgate.ie

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Cork Person of the Month: Business leaders who created Skibbereen digital hub honoured

Two business leaders who helped create Ireland’s first digital rural hub in a West Cork town have been named Cork Persons of the Month for July.

Sean O’Driscoll and John Field, founding board members of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, were recognised for their work developing and promoting the facility which uses high-speed internet connectivity to pioneer ‘smart’, flexible and remote working in a rural setting.

Mr Field, who won ‘The Outstanding West Cork Business Ambassador’ award at the West Cork Business and Tourism Awards last year, celebrates JJ Field’s 85th year in business this year. He offered the building for use as the digital hub.

Mr O’Driscoll, from Drimoleague, is a highly successful and well-known Irish business leader. He is a former chair and chief executive of the Glen Dimplex Group, a former partner in KPMG, a former director of Allied Irish Banks, and a former member of a number of other Government appointed Advisory Groups. He was elected chair of the Economic and Social Research Institute’s council in May.

The Ludgate Hub was developed in a former bakery building in Skibbereen town in 2015 and opened for business in 2016.

With 1 Gigabit broadband connectivity, it allowed regional Ireland to communicate and compete with urban hubs.

A number of businesses operate at Ludgate in the tech, bio-economy, aviation services, e-commerce and media production sectors.

A report last year revealed that the hub generates over €4.2m a year for the local economy and had created 54 new jobs directly and 38 indirectly.

The study, by economist Jim Power, said a similar digital hub in every county in Ireland could generate over 1,000 new businesses and 8,400 new jobs.

Ever before the pandemic forced tens of thousands of office workers to work from home, the Ludgate was described as the model for the future of rural Ireland.

Six years ago, Mr Field offered the use of the building to house the Ludgate Hub.

Mr O’Driscoll used his extensive network to create a strong board including a number of influential people in Irish business and academia, all of whom work on a pro-bono basis

The board members include Kevin Buckley of Spearline, Oliver Farrell of Vilicom Engineering, Dee Forbes of RTÉ, Ronan Harris of Google, Brian McCarthy of Fexco, John O’Doherty of AIB, Anne O’Leary of Vodafone Ireland, Rosaleen Blair of CBE, Professor John O’Halloran of UCC, Anne Philips, formerly of HSBC and Adam Walsh of JJ Field.

Lord David Puttnam has also been heavily involved in supporting and promoting the work at Ludgate.

“Digitisation of rural Ireland is akin to the electrification of Ireland in the past and John Field and Sean O’Driscoll want to make Skibbereen, a hotspot for technology start-ups and multinationals to locate and prosper at a global level,” Cork Person of the Year awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, said

The board members include Kevin Buckley of Spearline, Oliver Farrell of Vilicom Engineering, Dee Forbes of RTÉ, Ronan Harris of Google, Brian McCarthy of Fexco, John O’Doherty of AIB, Anne O’Leary of Vodafone Ireland, Rosaleen Blair of CBE, Professor John O’Halloran of UCC, Anne Philips, formerly of HSBC and Adam Walsh of JJ Field.

Lord David Puttnam has also been heavily involved in supporting and promoting the work at Ludgate.

“Digitisation of rural Ireland is akin to the electrification of Ireland in the past and John Field and Sean O’Driscoll want to make Skibbereen, a hotspot for technology start-ups and multinationals to locate and prosper at a global level,” Cork Person of the Year awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, said

“It is great to see two local successful businessmen working hard, on a voluntary basis, for their home place of West Cork.” 

Mr O’Driscoll said the Ludgate has worked because it has the full support and involvement of the local community.

“Now high-speed connectivity is consigning geography to history. This is the model for rural Ireland’s future,” he said.

Their names now go forward for possible selection as the Cork Person of the Year at a gala awards lunch in the Rochestown Park Hotel on January 15 next.

The awards scheme is sponsored by the Irish Examiner, The Echo, RTÉ, Southern, Lexus Cork, AM O’Sullivan PR, Cork Crystal, Tony O’Connell Photography, CAVS, Musgrave MarketPlace.

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Ludgate appoints New CEO Grainne O'Keeffe

Skibbereen’s Award Winning Ludgate announces appointment of CEO 

July 23 The Ludgate Hub Skibbereen is delighted to announce the appointment of Grainne O’Keeffe as their CEO. Grainne, a Skibbereen native, took up the role in July 2020. Grainne brings over 20 years of international financial and innovation experience to the position. She has previously worked in the financial services sector across London, Tokyo and New York and more recently as Head of Innovation at Skibbereen based Spearline.

In 2017, Ludgate became Ireland’s first Gigabit Hub, powered by Vodafone /SIRO gigabit broadband connectivity. It currently supports 21 businesses and approx 130 direct and indirect roles from a myriad of industries including tech, bio-economy, aviation services, and media production. Ludgate has been recognised as an ‘exemplar project’ by the European Commission and is on course to create 500 jobs over the next five years in West Cork. Skibbereen has enjoyed an economic revival  over the past decade resulting from initiatives like the Ludgate and the growth and expansion of the Fresh Fish Deli, the West Cork Distillery, Spearline, O’Donnell Furniture.

Chairman of Ludgate Mr John Field has said, ‘’The Ludgate community extends a warm welcome to Grainne as CEO of the Ludgate Hub. Grainne symbolizes what Ludgate set out to achieve – the return to her home town in rural Ireland which can now offer career opportunities and resources on a par with anywhere else in the country. Ludgate is a vital resource to the local community, facilitating job and business creation and development in the Skibbereen and greater West Cork area.

Businessman and Director of Ludgate Sean O Driscoll said: “We are delighted that Grainne is taking on the leadership of Ludgate at this pivotal and exciting time in its continued development. The Covid 19 pandemic, has accelerated the move to rural and remote working, by a decade. Ludgate will also accelerate its national leadership in the development of this new working experience in an area of Ireland which offers an outstanding quality of life”

Director General of RTE and Director of Ludgate Dee Forbes The Ludgate Board is delighted to announce that Skibbereen native Grainne O’Keeffe has taken up the role of CEO of Ludgate in July. Grainne has a wealth of experience at home and abroad and has a very clear vision for the next stage of Ludgate’s growth and development.  As many workers and companies rethink how and where they work from, the Ludgate Hub with its 1GB connectivity is strongly positioned to provide a solution and to continue to drive jobs and employment for the West Cork area.’’

Speaking about her appointment, Grainne O’Keeffe said: Ludgate has become an important pillar of the West Cork economy creating exciting and challenging work opportunities in a rural setting. Ludgate is an international success story in terms of modelling how remote working, with high speed broadband connectivity, can support the creation and migration of high-value businesses and jobs to any location. This in turn acts as a stimulus for regional towns and villages while relieving pressure on urban areas. 

Remote working also supports global challenges such as the environment, cost of living, health, lifestyle and diversity. These opportunities will ensure we create a sustainable future for our children and future generations and I am thrilled to be part of that journey.”

May News letter we are talking to Seamus White....

This month we hear from Co Founder and Director at Granite Digital Seamus White

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