Nxnwtech X Technology Themed Community Conference Launch

Nxnwtech X is a one day, technology themed, not for profit, community conference to be hosted in LYIT Campus on Thursday 4th June. We caught up with one of the organisers Joe Dunleavy, VP, Head of Innovation at Pramerica to find out more.

Tell us how the conference came about and what it hopes to achieve?

A number of years ago a couple of colleagues came together, Ryan Bradley, John Brady and Paul Wallace to form a tech community meetup here in Donegal called North By North West Tech.  That group meets monthly, is open to the public through meetup.com and covers themes across areas such as AI, Cloud and IoT.  It rotates around a different theme each month and locations in Letterkenny and has also held joint meetups with groups in both Derry and Sligo. It is really well attended and supported by over 700 members.  Based on the success of that working group the founders discussed the idea of having a full day tech conference and floated the idea past the community.  The group loved the idea and a team of volunteers from large companies to start up joined together with Ryan, John and Paul to make the conference a reality.  The vision for it is to drive the technology agenda in the region and it is an event ran by and for the regional community with any money made being donated to local charities.  It would not be possible without the support of the community and partners like LYIT who have been very supportive in providing us with access to their very impressive campus for the event.

Letterkenny has become a hive of activity over the past number of years with FDI companies such as Optum, Pramerica, Sita and indigenous start-ups working together. Tell us a bit about the community?

Letterkenny’s tech scene is buzzing at the moment and is great to see.  There is many vibrant companies and start-ups in the region working on very interesting things.  The monthly tech meetup is well attended by folks from many of these companies and we finish every meetup with a My Startup Story slot where a funder gets some time to share their journey and details of their companies.  What is really nice about that is we have seen companies who started working together off the back of introductions made at the tech meetup.  We have examples of senior tech folks in some of the FDI companies act as mentors to startups and in some case also become customers of those start-up firms as they scale to product offerings.  Another success in the region has seen start up founders who have had a career with local FDI and IDA supported companies and then leave to pursue their own idea and build a company from it.  David Gildea the founder of CloudRanger, that was recently acquired by Druva  is a past employee of Pramerica.  So a real melting pot of talent in tech within the region.

You launched a call for proposals this week. What are you looking for and how can people apply?

Yes the team was delighted to get our site up and running recently with a big thanks to Darragh Coll who built it for us.  The site is critical to be able to provide information about the conference as well as have potential speakers to put their name forward with a proposal for a topic.  We welcome anyone interested in speaking to put a proposal in at this link.  The focus of the conference is tech and business but we know the success of the conference  will be based largely on the quality of the speakers and their topics..

If companies are interested in sponsoring the conference who can they reach out to? 

We are open to sponsorship and have been very excited with the initial commitments we have secured but for anyone interested please reach out to us  at sponsorship@nxnwtech.com

 

 

Open Call – Artists Studios Available At The Model 2020

The Model has announced an open call for applications for Artists’ Studios, available to rent at The Model. Studio rentals are available to professional artists for 1 or 2-year license agreements commencing in April 2020.

These purpose-built, light-filled and spacious studios have 24-hour access and measure 7×4 metres.  Monthly rental fees include utilities and broadband.

The Model is one of Ireland’s leading centres for the contemporary arts, and is based in the Northwest of Ireland, with a strong reputation for artistic excellence, cross-community and collaborative practice. The centre is a hub for the creative community in the region.

Closing date for receipt of applications: 12 noon Thursday 20 February. Application criteria and further detail on https://www.themodel.ie/open-call-artists-studios-at-the-model-2020/

 

 

United Nations AI for Good Conference Announced for Sligo

Trail blazers from the world of Artificial Intelligence alongside international and national policy makers will gather in Sligo for The ‘AIforGood Global Visions’ conference from 25th-27th March. The event which is fully supported and endorsed by the United Nations agency for Information and Communications (ITU), will be the first of this kind to be held outside Geneva.

Keynote speakers include Neil Sahota, Global Lead for IBM Watson, Digital Inclusion advocate Joanne O ‘Riordan, Alessandra Sala from Nokia Bell Labs and Ethical AI leading expert Dr. Kevin Danaher. The conference has been organised by US firm, Live Tiles who have their EMEA headquarters in Sligo and is supported by The Western Development Commission, The Atlantic Economic Corridor, IDA Ireland, IT Sligo, Sligo County Council and Tech Northwest.

CEO of The Western Development Commission Tomás Ó Síocháin welcomed the announcement and said “improvements in technology and developments in artificial intelligence [AI] will bring significant change to the way we live. Welcoming the AI for Good conference to Ireland’s west coast is timely and the conference will explore the ways in which new technologies can improve quality of life for millions around the globe.“

The conference aims to ensure trusted, safe and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to their benefits. Additionally, a priority goal of the Irish event will be to provide recommendations and actions that feed into and influence policy making at the Global Summit to be held in Geneva in May 2020. Attendees can also look forward to AI-inspired performances from the Yeats Society of Ireland and AI-related activities bringing together surfing and sea forecasting, oyster farming and Ocean health, hill walking and cultural heritage activities.

“AIforGood Global Visions will connect innovators in artificial intelligence with problem owners to solve national and global challenges” says Karl Redenbach, CEO of LiveTiles who are partnering with the UN’s ITU agency to launch the event in Ireland. “AI represents not just the biggest economic opportunity that the world has witnessed but an unequalled opportunity to leverage AI technologies for good and to put human-centric policies and design at the forefront of how we interact with technology.”

The 2020 summit is kindly supported by and is run in conjunction with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) the UN agency for information and communication technologies (ICT).

A Limited number of early bird tickets for this event are now on sale, alongside discounted accommodation prices from the trusted partner hotels. See www.aiforgoodsligo.ie for more details.

Book Tickets Here 

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact 

Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications

allanmulrooney@wdc.ie or +353 87 334 3713

 

Lead photo by Chris Hill of Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Sustainable Shopping

Tired of feeling guilty about wheelie bins full of wrapping paper and drawers of unwanted gifts, many people are ditching frenzied shopping for more sustainable celebrations. Here are some top tips that will help you go green this Christmas.

 

Try alternatives to physical presents. Instead, give people experiences, how about a Heritage Card which provides for free admission to all fee-paying State managed OPW Heritage Sites located throughout the country for one year from the date of first use.

With exciting sites all along the west coast, this is the perfect gift idea for someone new to the area.

Lead photo by Chris Hill of Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands

If you can, avoid shopping online, seek out ethical or sustainable shops and Christmas markets. Markets – large or small –  are a particularly good way to find local and handmade goods, meaning your money is going back into the local economy. Check out our post detailing Christmas Markets from Donegal to Clare.

It’s a Wrap

Think about gifts that will make people’s everyday lives more sustainable. Perhaps a relatively inexpensive beeswax wrap, which can make a big difference in the long-term. Check out Galway based It’s a Wrap who sell beeswax wraps which are handcrafted in the West of Ireland and are a perfect sustainable gift. They are reusable, contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be composted. What’s not to love?

 

Mrs Quinn's Charity Shop

Why not head to your local second-hand shop or charity store to find some pre-loved gifts? You can find absolute treasures in vintage shops at great prices. Be kind to the environment and support a local charity, now that’s the festive cheer we love.

Life after the big move

Life after the big move

So you’ve landed your dream job and relocated to the stunning west of Ireland. Now it’s time to start building the life you’ve dreamt of. It can be daunting finding new friends and gaining access to your new community, but don’t worry here’s a few pointers that will send you in the right direction.

 

Without a doubt we will all build relationships in our new workplace, but it’s also important to build a support network outside of the office. For people with kids, leveraging off your kids relationships is always an option and is often the case. But for those without children or those wanting to try a different route, we have gathered a few helpful ideas to help you open up your possibilities.

Be social

Be social

Social media has changed everything and the world is a far smaller place than it has ever been. You’ll obviously stay in contact with your existing friends via social media.

Most of our friend groups are created by meeting friends-of-friends. This process can feel disrupted when you move to a new place, but you’re not really that far away, and even if you were, you can always rely on your existing friends for support. One of the great ways to meet people in your new life is to source friends from people you already know. Ireland is such a small place and we love this kind of conversation. Tell friends and colleagues when you’re planning a move and then ask them if they know anyone in the area and if they can make an introduction. Getting connected with people who are already connected to your social circle is a great way to plug into the social fabric of a new place, and normally, friends of friends aren’t that far removed from your type of personality.

There are many online communities as well that are a great source for activities such as Meetup. These communities are great for meeting people with similar interests. The Galway site offers a range of activities from fitness, to cultural evenings, to day trips. Check it out for some great ideas.

Do something way out of your comfort zone

Do something way out of your comfort zone

Give yourself the gift of doing something ultra-thrilling and try something totally new to you. Try surfing; The west coast has the best surfing in Europe, or kayaking; either sea, river or lake there is a plentiful selection, or why not diving? According to world famous diver, Jacques Cousteau, “some of the best diving in the world is off Ireland’s west coast”, or if not any of these, try anything else that highlights the advantages of moving to the west coast. For the less adventurous, it doesn’t have to be all about the adrenaline rush! Why not try out the local Am Dram group or make your way to any one of the many trad festivals in the west, the choice is only limited by you.

If it is the adrenaline buzz you’re after, check out one of Ireland’s leading surf schools, Strandhill Surf School, They cater for all level of surfer, from beginner to advanced, young to old. This is a great place to advance your skills, get outdoors and make acquaintances.

Accept the invite

Accept the invite

Always try to accept and extend social invitations. This can be challenging particularly as an adult, we all expect kids to just hop in there, make friends and get on with it. But as adults we really have to push ourselves to overcome our inhibitions. Trust yourself, take the step and just do it.

Who doesn’t love food? In Mayo there are two of winners of the 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards, Cian’s on Bridge Street for Best Restaurant and House of Plates  who won Best Chef with Barry Ralph. Why not extend an invite to a couple of people to join you in checking out these great eateries? This is a great way for people to chat and get to know each other.

Exercising is social

Exercising is social

In all the hustle and bustle of your move, your new job and new social life, you may forget that exercise is often also about community and friendships. The towns and villages in the west all have whole social circles built around exercise and sport. Whether it is the liberation of open water swimming, rigorous Boxercise or stretching it out with pilates, you already have your fitness in common which can make initiating a conversation so much easier. Think about what else you could have in common. The next time you’re at a workout class, ask someone if they’re often at that class or what other classes they would recommend as you’re new in town.

If you’re in Roscommon, why not head to the stunning Lough Key Forest Part every Saturday morning at 9:30am where you can run, walk, skip, chat and laugh your way around the park with their park run. Park Runs, are of course, all over the country so just have a look at their site and you can find out where your local run is.

Get out there

Get out there

When all is said and done, getting out and actually trying new things is the key to building your new social circle. Say yes to opportunity, volunteer, explore and show up. New friendships won’t happen if you don’t go to new places and put yourself forward. So when the opportunity arises to do something new, DO IT. You’ve already taken a huge plunge; you know you’ve made the right move, now take advantage of all the west of Ireland has to offer you for your future.

Most counties in Ireland have a website that co-ordinates volunteering opportunities. These possibilities range from sports organisations, community development groups, community centre committees, youth groups, active age groups and Tidy Towns committees. Have a look a Volunteer In Leitrim to give you an idea of what’s on offer there. All you have to do is register your details and you will be matched with an organisation that needs your help.

Learn a new skill

Learn a new skill

Why not become a budding photographer? Photos are everything now, it’s so easy to do and a great way of getting out there. Maybe join a photography group, Donegal, for instance, has two great clubs, one in Buncrana, and another in Letterkenny. These are great for learning new skills and meeting people.

Get out more

Get out more

As tempting as it may be to hideout in your new home, you need to minimise the unpacking and maximise the exploration of your new surrounds. Walking is best for this, as you slowly move around, you’ll get to see all the nuances of your new world, it’s calming and it will give ample opportunity to meet people. In the west there is so much to encourage you to get out that this won’t be a problem. Notice boards in the local shops, coffee shops etc. are still a great way of finding out about local groups that may be of interest or even lead you down paths you’d never thought of. Stores like The Grainey in Scarriff, Co. Clare are a wealth of information for details on  variety of local and county wide events and classes. Where ever you are in the west there are always local stories bursting with knowledge of what’s on around the vicinity.

Galway Christmas Market

Galway starts Christmas!

The Christmas Season has well and truly begun in the City of Tribes with the opening of the annual Galway Christmas Market.

 

Now in its 10th year, the Galway Christmas Market runs right through to December 22nd and once again features over 50 seasonal market stalls, the highly popular 32m ferris wheel, Santa’s Express Train and a traditional carousel. There’s a range of entertainment with carol singing and live music throughout the festive period.

Over 30,000 visitors flocked to Eyre Square in perfect weather conditions to watch the lights go on and enjoy the Christmas light gardens, Santa’s sleigh and postbox, the seasonal funfair games, helter skelter and chairoplanes and to try the range of delicious German Bratwursts, Traditional Crepes, Irish handmade fudge, Hungarian goulash and Czech Chimney cakes.

This year’s market features more lighting and decoration than ever before, and you’re bound to pick up some perfect Christmas gifts from the 30+ artisan producers and 10 local charities showcasing their work through the market.

The market is open on:

Monday – Wednesday 12pm to 8pm

Thursday – Saturday 10am to 10pm

Sunday – 10am to 8pm

Hidden gems in the west of Ireland

Hidden gems in the west of Ireland

Mom and Pop stores, as they’re known in the US, are all over the villages, towns and cities of our west coast keeping alive the old traditions and customer service that many of us remember with fondness.

 

Ainsworth's Butchers Killybegs DonegalRemember those stores? You could run in, get a key cut, buy some milk and a mouse trap, purchase

a television and rent a film for the night amongst a million other things! They still exist throughout the west, and are loved by all in the community.

Many of these stores have great old-fashioned hand painted signage and window dressing that just invites you in.

Anyone who uses them on a regular basis knows well – if you haven’t the right change, you’ll get them tomorrow. If you need advice on what you want, you’ll get an actual expert who’ll either get you what you need, order it in or send you off in the right direction. Sometimes, if it’s something you need for just a one-off occasion, they’ll tell you to drop it back when you’re finished!

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with one or more of these shops, then you know it’s the unique personal touch that makes them work so well.

Ernest Speers Outfitters, Letterkenny, DonegalGraphic Designer, Trevor Finnegan, started a project a number of years ago where he set off on a mission to highlight the beauty of traditional Irish shopfronts, a project he called ‘Our Type’.  Trevor still takes trips around the country in search of new shops to add to the project.  Bring a smile to your face by scrolling through some of the classic shops around Ireland on his Instagram page @our.type.

Christmas Markets in Ireland

Christmas Markets in Ireland

It’s that time of year again – artisans, craft makers and all types of cottage industries are feeling the excitement in the run up to the most important business time of the year. This time of year brings the biggest opportunity to welcome both old and new customers. There’s something magical about Christmas Markets so we’ve come up with a guide to help you support these creative cottage industries across their many varied fields.

 

 

Top Tips For Christmas Market Visitors

  • Make sure you have cash, credit cards machines are few and far between
  • Bring your own bags for purchases, recycle, recycle, recycle
  • A pram for small children is advised
  • It’s getting chilly so wrap up warm.
  • If the market has a website or social media page, check it before you go so that you can plan what to look forward to.
  • There’ll most likely be food stalls so make them a highlight of your visit.

 

Here is a list of just some of the many markets in the west

 

Clare

 

Galway

 

Leitrim

 

Mayo

 

Roscommon

 

Sligo

Strandhill People’s Christmas Market

Sligo Christmas Market

 

Donegal

Letterkenny Christmas Craft & Food Fair

 

The Carbon Neutral Life on the West Coast

The Carbon Neutral Life on the West Coast

 

Under the Paris agreement, the EU has committed to carbon neutrality by the second half of the 21st century. A remarkable hotel in County Clare should be an inspiration to all small business to help achieve this goal.

 

Hotel Doolin in Co Clare became Ireland’s first and only carbon neutral hotel.
Recently, the hotel changed its electricity from brown to green meaning their electricity consumption is carbon neutral. They also changed from oil heating to an air to water heating system in July 2018 and are already see the positive effects this had their carbon footprint.

The hotel has committed to planting 10 trees per wedding. As it hosts approximately 90 weddings a year; that’s a total of 900 trees per annum. For them it is so important to protect the wonderful environment that they truly value living and working in.

Speaking with Áine Martin, Hotel Doolin’s Green Team Leader to us “We aim to purchase 70% of food produce from a 50km radius of the hotel”.

In order to offset their carbon footprint even further, the hotel work with the charity Hometree. Hometree are founded on a pretty basic idea, plant more trees. Based on the Atlantic coast, they first started a community garden, in an unused plot of ground about 100m elevation and about 600m from the coast. When they planted the first apple trees they were told they were mad, trees would find it difficult to grow here, but that wasn’t the case, they grew tall and strong and produced delicious apples. This was their reconnection to trees, seeing the birds come back and the soil in the garden improve, biodiversity, more life on the hill and the seeds of change blew in all directions. They are a group of people inspired by the lack of trees in County Clare and hope that they can do their part in regenerating and reforesting this beautiful and mythical part of Ireland.
They welcome all to come and enjoy the trees that they’ve planted and to enjoy the forest as it grows and more life returns to it.

Hometree are engaging the wider community and ethical businesses. On their 67 acres they plan to plant over 60,000 trees. The long term plans are to build a nursery within the grounds, collect all of the seed and plant them close to where the seeds fell, so completing the loop closer to how nature would do it.

Another organisation working with Hometree are Vanderlust. Vanderlust are the closest physical business to the land where the trees are planted, enjoying the outdoors and nature is their main priority, so caring for it is paramount.

They pledge to donate 1 tree for every 100kms covered by their rental vans every year. To date they’ve over 500 trees planted.

Green is the new Black

Before you buy anything this Black Friday remember that Green is the New Black

 

A national campaign encouraging consumers to buy Irish goods on one of the busiest shopping days of the year – the last Friday in November – has been launched. The call to buy Irish, gift green and support Irish-made goods and services this Christmas is intended to keep money in circulation in the local economy, protecting jobs and public services.

 

As a nation we have enthusiastically embraced the American concepts of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. An estimated €250m is forecast to be spent by Irish shoppers on Black Friday, split almost equally between online and high street retailers. But if the nation chooses Green over Black this year, it will be the small independent shops and manufacturers which will benefit instead of the large corporations.

The  #greenfriday initiative is backed by many trade associations including the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, Retail Excellence and Chambers Ireland.

On November 29th, the Green Friday campaign will ask people to input to the local economy, support jobs and help nurture the country’s creative community, manufacturers and service providers by buying Irish.

If you’re heading into town or shopping online, why not try to support the work and livelihoods of small independent shops, craftspeople and designer-makers from across the west of Ireland.

The Small Firms Association Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, says that Christmas can add a major economic boost when shoppers back small businesses and help maintain jobs.

He said: “If each adult spent just €20 extra in small local businesses this Christmas, this would amount to an injection of over €73m for small firms and would have a huge, positive impact on local jobs and the vibrancy of town and village centres.”

The DNA of many small towns and villages in the west of Ireland has been affected by online retail which often switches the focus away from local shops and retailers. It’s time to give small producers a big chance and, in the process, help rebuild our towns and villages.

This year, why not make it your Christmas wish that all your gifts are locally sourced?