The EU Just Transition Fund aims to diversify the economy in the midlands, encompassing counties Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly, as well as parts of Galway, Kildare and Tipperary.
The driving force behind the fund lies in mitigating the impact of the cessation of peat harvesting by Bord na Móna, a move that led to job losses in the energy-generating and peat-harvesting sectors. Fáilte Ireland’s Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme is one part of the wider EU Just Transition Fund and its primary objective is clear: to replace some of the jobs lost by generating new opportunities in the tourism sector, creating new enterprises and breathing new life into the region once more.
Essentially, this is a fund of €68m with a proportion available to local authorities and other infrastructure projects that private businesses can leverage. A notable portion, €17m, is earmarked for the Investment Grant-Aid Scheme for private and community SMEs, offering a significant opportunity for private and community enterprises, including farmers and landowners, to access grants.
This SME scheme is designed to be inclusive, offering grants ranging from 100% for projects under €10,000 to 80% for those up to €2m. Grants for accommodation development will be limited to €200,000 or 80% of eligible costs, whichever is less. This attractive grant rate aims to encourage a wide array of projects, with eligibility determined by the nature of the project rather than the type of business.
Eligible projects encompass visitor experiences, accommodation developments, digitalisation of businesses, and enhancing accessibility for individuals with disabilities. This flexibility opens avenues for farmers and landowners to explore ventures such as farm tours, crafts and on-farm accommodation like glamping or the conversion of disused farm buildings.
Crucially, the fund aligns with the broader goal of transitioning to a lower carbon economy. By supporting initiatives that promote sustainable tourism and environmentally conscious practices, the EU Just Transition Fund contributes to the larger effort of building a greener future.
To assist applicants, the fund has introduced tourism activators – dedicated individuals who guide and support project ideas throughout the application process. With a total fund of €17m for the Investment Grant-Aid Scheme for Private & Community SMEs which will be distributed on a ‘first come first served’ basis following evaluation, the expression of interest deadline is set for June 30, 2024.
The final application deadline is the end of 2024, and projects must be completed by August 2026.
How to apply
Find more information on the Regenerative Tourism and Placemaking Scheme and how to apply by visiting www.failteireland.ie/justtransition. The application process begins with reading the guidelines and submitting an expression of interest form. Once deemed eligible, applicants will receive support to shape their ideas and navigate the application process, from tourism activators that have been appointed to each of the eight Local Authorities. New businesses can also access additional support, emphasising the commitment to fostering entrepreneurship.
For existing businesses seeking to enhance their digital presence, a deadline of January 31, 2024, is in place. This aspect of the fund provides an opportunity for businesses to modernise and adapt to the digital landscape.
In essence, the EU Just Transition Fund in Ireland’s midlands emerges as a beacon of hope, offering a pathway for economic rejuvenation through sustainable tourism initiatives.