The Green Innovation and Future Technologies (GIFT) Interreg project held its second Annual Learning Showcase Event (LSE) and Study Tour in Co. Wexford, Ireland on the 2nd – 3rd October 2013. The two day event was attended by the GIFT project partners and over 80 green business stakeholders from the Interreg regions of Ireland and Wales. The occasion provided an opportunity for Irish and Welsh SME’s operating in the green economy to share best practice, exchange ideas and forge cross national relationships.
A dozen Welsh and Irish delegates enjoyed a ‘green business study tour’ which showcased sustainable business champions along the Wexford Heritage Trail. The tour kicked off in Kelly’s Resort Hotel and Spa, situated in Rosslare, renowned for its hospitality and environmental protection policy. Attesting to its pronounced efforts in the green sphere, Kelly’s has continually been recognised and awarded for its green economy accomplishments over the last decade, most recently receiving the 2013 Tourism and Accommodation Award - Wexford Chamber of Commerce and 2012 Overall Wexford Business of the Year Award - Wexford Chamber. In 2011, it was bestowed with the Georgina Campbell Award for three different categories, namely, ‘Hotel of the Year’, ‘Best Wine List’ and ‘Best Hotel Breakfast’. It received the 2007 "Best Outdoor Space" - Hospitality Ireland Magazine award. Bill Kelly provided a presentation and tour of Kelly’s woodchip boiler, composting machine and LED lighting system. One Welsh participant commented “Bill is a remarkable and modest man. He has already done great work to reduce the environmental impact of the hotel, but he is committed to reducing it further”.
Other stops along the tour included Archways Bed & Breakfast, a modern contemporary award winning accommodation provider located near Rosslare Harbour. Owners Chris and Eileen Hadlington, who share a passion for local produce, offered the group a sample of their warm hospitality. Having recently completed a renewable energy project where all hot water is solar heated and supplementary heating is provided from sustainable wood pellets, participants had the opportunity to take a closer look at the project, and discuss the benefits and performance of the systems installed.
A guided tour of the Irish National Heritage Park, comprising diverse trails and historical reconstructions spanning the early Norman period, the Celtic / early Christian age, the Bronze age and the Stone age; allowed participants to experience the historical development of early rural communities and rural business and to explore historical commonalities and nuances between Ireland and Wales.
A site visit to Biogreen Energy Products Ltd. in Adamstown followed. The company was formed by Anthony Browne in early 2002 to produce Bio-fuel and G.M. free rape cake from oilseed rape. Here, Anthony outlined how environmental influences, including Irish market size and demographics and a changing government subsidies model had impacted on their mission “to engage in the production and making of energy products from renewable sources and strike a sustainable means to produce 100% pure natural renewable fuel”.
A visit to the Stella Maris Community and Tourist Centre, located in the heritage fishing village of Kilmore Quay was enjoyed before the final stop at Rosslare Activity Centre. With a 12 meter purpose built activity tower (where participants can experience rock climbing, abseiling, a zip wire and a leap of faith), an army assault course, football golf, kayaking, archery and horse riding there is plenty to keep families, clubs and societies busy all year round. Owner Larry Byrne (whose main business is owner of St. Helen’s Bay Golf Club) discussed why he had diversified into a different market, and the benefits that accrued from that decision. There was just enough time for braver members of the group to attempt some of the challenges along the assault course!
The Learning Showcase Event (LSE) was hosted in the Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford where Johnathan Derham, of the EPA provided the opening address. Ten Irish and Welsh SMEs shared their green economy successes and challenges through presentations under three thematic areas: Accommodation/Adventure; Green Technologies and Green Communities. Irish presenters included Linda Tuohy (Oceanics Surf School & Marine Education Centre); Bernadette and Kevin O’Donnell (Kilmaneen Farmhouse Accommodation); Pat Stafford (M&T Plant Hire); Senan Cooke (Dunhill Eco Park) and Anne Sullivan (Dungarvan Food Festival). Welsh presenters included Mark Edwards (Bryn Bella); John Whitehead (Bryn Elltyd); Malcom Innes (Compodular); Wil Parry (Felin Uchaf) and Rosie Kressman (Fresh Bocs).
An interactive plenary session followed the networking lunch. Here, a number of business experts including Paul Davis (Lecturer and expert in Supply Chain Management and Procurement, Dublin City University); Mary Houlihan (Tourism Manager, Waterford County Council); Tom Bermingham (Wexford Local Development) and Stuart Bond (GIFT Wales) invited discussion points from those in attendance. Topics discussed included the ever-increasing importance of social media for business. As Mary Houlihan commented “Businesses today cannot ignore the relentless possibilities enabled by social media … the Waterford Festival of Food held in Dungarvan attracts hundreds of Irish immigrants home each year by means of utilising certain types of social media including Facebook and Twitter”. The GIFT team will host two further social media training workshops in late November 2013 and January 2014, see http://www.giftnetworkproject.eu for details.
Following an insightful debate on public sector procurement and supply chain management in the green economy, Paul Davis of DCU, remarked on the disconnect between current green economy policy frameworks and the very smallest of businesses that dominate sectors operating in that economy. Those in attendance agreed and called for strategies specifically relating to micro-firms that better reflect the business communities and markets wherein they operate.
Closing observations from Dr Eleanor Owens, GIFT Project Coordinator, centred on the need to adopt a long-term mind-set in achieving sustainable green economy goals and the importance of collaborative engagement between academic and support agency actors and the small business community. Dr Leana Reinl, Business Development Manager with GIFT said ‘we were keen to build on the collaborative ties and cross national learning achieved to date on the project. Feedback from today’s event highlights a number of avenues where we can provide further support and training to our network members, in both physical and virtual forums. Dr Denis Harrington, Head of Graduate Business at WIT remarked on the significance of the two day event in terms of exploring cross national opportunities to support the strategic green economy goals of Ireland and Wales.
The GIFT project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A).
For further information on the GIFT project, the learning showcase and future events, please contact the GIFT team at Waterford Institute of Technology.
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