To mark the 2020 Local Enterprise week; March 2nd to 6th, the National Rural Network (NRN) are delighted to highlight and commend the work of the LEADER Programme in supporting 554 rural enterprise projects that have received almost €25m worth of LEADER funding to date.

This marks an increase of over 200 additional enterprise projects supported in the last year and an increase of €12m in financial support to rural enterprises. An additional 66 projects under Enterprise Development are currently going through the LEADER process, and if successful, this would result in a further €6m in LEADER support for Enterprise Development in rural areas.

Some of the projects that received funding for Enterprise Development include Skellig Distillers, who were awarded funding of €185,000 to establish a Gin Distillery and Visitor Centre in the town of Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, while just over €18,000 was awarded to Premier Lakelands Food Hub Ltd to carry out a feasibility study for the development of a Food-Hub in Lanesboro, Co. Longford.  Individual case studies of enterprise development projects carried out by the NRN include, Coillte Sláintúil, which is a Cork based woodland conservations solution company who received €20,000 in LEADER funding. In promoting this project, the NRN commissioned a highly informative video, which can be viewed here.

Additional case studies disseminated by the NRN include Wexford Home Preserves and Billy’s Tearooms and Shop in Kilkenny, all of which can be viewed in the following LEADER Project Examples booklet. Dr Maura Farrell (NUI Galway and Principal Investigator with the NRN) suggests that, “LEADER funding can allow a community, individual or small company, to take that all important step in opening their own business or enhancing a community enterprise project.  It can be a catalyst which provides not only funding and finance, but also the confidence and encouragement for entrepreneurs to follow their dreams”.

The LEADER Programme has been in existence in Ireland since 1991 and aims to promote economic and social development of rural communities by providing financial aid to support community led local development. Co-funded by the EU and the Department of Rural and Community Development, through Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, the LEADER Programme targets funding to a number of key areas through themes and sub-themes. Economic Development, Enterprise development and Job creation is a key theme of the current LEADER Programme, amongst other related areas such as Broadband and Rural Towns. Enterprise development is particularly crucial for rural communities to maintain viability of communities, by maintaining services and population through job creation and spin off industries.

To date, recipients of LEADER funding for Enterprise Developments include Businesses, Community Groups, Sole Traders and Charity Organisations, who have focused their efforts in a range of industries including tourism, food and beverage, the creative industries and a number of social enterprises. In particular, Social Enterprises have featured strongly under this theme and while they operate like many other businesses by providing goods or services, any surpluses they generate are reinvested into achieving social or environmental impacts. To date, the LEADER Programme has approved 78 Social Enterprise projects for nearly €4m worth of funding under the theme of Enterprise Development.

LEADER funding is still available under the current programme.

See the NRN’s step-by-step guide on the different stages involved and the necessary requirements to make an application to LEADER here, or for more general information on LEADER see www.nationalruralnetwork.ie/LEADER.