Every product we touch in our everyday lives owes its genesis to an innovative idea conceived by an individual or team but what was that product’s route to commercialisation?
This process of bringing an innovative product, process or idea to market was outlined in a recent webinar hosted by Shannon Chamber and organised in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Clare and the Enterprise Ireland Medical and Engineering (MET) Technology Gateway, based at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.
Contributors to the webinar included Padraic McElwee, Head of Enterprise, LEO Clare; Sharon White, manager of the Medical and Engineering Technology (MET) Gateway; Dr John Barry, manager of the Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID (IMaR) Gateway, which is based in Munster Technological University (MTU) Kerry; Dr Tim Yeomans, manager of the Shannon Applied Biotechnology (ABC) Gateway, which is based in both MTU Kerry and Limerick Institute of Technology and; Dr Gerard Insley, chief scientific officer (CSO), PBC Biomed, based in Shannon.
The purpose of the webinar was to raise awareness of the supports available to develop innovative concepts and ideas and the mechanism for accessing these supports.
Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes explains the background to the webinar: “A lot of companies don’t have the in-house expertise to develop innovative ideas and that’s why we wanted to showcase the role of collaboration. A good first step is to contact your Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland development advisor or one of the Enterprise Ireland 16 Technology Gateway’s throughout Ireland that have the expertise and capability to further develop a concept or product improvement.
“The reason we hosted an event of this nature was to give a flavour of the types of supports available from each of these organisations and to showcase the level of research capability that exists within the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network.”
LEO Clare’s head of enterprise Padraic McElwee expands further on the benefit of research for sustainability.
“Research collaboration offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the opportunity to solve problems, stay relevant in competitive markets, and grow through innovation.”
Giving context to the Technology Gateway Network, Sharon White, manager of MET Technology Gateway said that there is a network of 16 such gateways in Ireland supported by Enterprise Ireland, each with a different specialisation and each delivering innovative expertise and solutions for Irish industry be they start-ups, SMEs or multinational companies. These technology gateways give companies the opportunity to engage with academics and researchers on all aspects of product or process development or enhancement.
Within the Technology Gateway Network, there are also three sector-specific clusters: Applied IOT, Engineering Materials and Design (EMD) and Irish FoodTech. These clusters comprise of gateways working together across common technology themes to capitalise on expertise and deliver market-led innovative solutions to industry problems of all sizes.
Ms White also outlined the various supports available from Enterprise Ireland such as innovation Vouchers, which are good for kick-starting the innovation process; Innovation Partnerships, which facilitate larger industrial research or experimental development projects; and the Innovation Partnership Express, which is designed to help SMEs, that have not previously collaborated using support from the Innovation Partnership programme.
The Technology Gateways participating in the webinar gave a brief overview of the types of research and collaborations they undertake.
The Medical and Engineering Technologies (MET) Gateway’s team of 20 researchers, based at GMIT’s Galway campus, provides world-class solutions for the med tech and general manufacturing sectors with specialisations in areas such as medical imaging technologies, anatomical modelling and physiological replication, data analytics and visualisation, and medicinal nutrition and sport. Since its establishment in 2016, MET has completed over 160 projects in conjunction with its industry partners.
The Shannon Applied Biotechnology (ABC) gateway’s 25 researchers have already partnered with 110 companies on 180 projects worth €2.5million with projects ranging in value from €85 to €4.2million.
As Gateway manager Dr Tim Yeomans explained: “We work with Irish companies of all sizes to help them solve their technical challenges and help them to expand their horizons and commercialise their food products. We are part of the Irish Food Tech cluster of seven technology gateways operating within the broad food and beverage technology sector connecting industry with researchers in a wide selection of areas that include bioprocessing, food for health, process control and packaging, and much more.”
The Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID (IMaR) Gateway works with industry on the development and application of digital technologies, helping companies to reduce the cost of their processes and undertaking prototyping on areas as diverse as wearables, connected devices, track and trace systems, and digital services. In the past four years, IMaR’s team of 35 Researchers has provided near-to-market solutions for 180 Enterprise Ireland funded projects (€1.6 million) and four Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) supported projects representing a further investment of €4 million.
Dr Gerard Insley, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) with Shannon-based PBC Biomed, which specialises in medical innovations, outlined the benefits of having access to research funding and technology gateways of this calibre in Ireland.
“The bio-adhesive disruptive technology we are developing, which will enable surgeons to bind bones together at the point of surgery, has been enabled by a wide range of financial and research supports. As development costs increase, so too does the need for innovation support and that’s where collaborations and partnerships are essential. Collaboration is key to bringing a disruptive technology to market. It has enabled us to take our technology to a point where manufacturing companies want to take it to market.”
Commenting on the value of a webinar of this nature, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “It was invaluable in showcasing just a small sample of the amazing work being done in Enterprise Ireland’s Network of Technology Gateways. The takeaway has to be, don’t feel alone if you are an innovative entrepreneur or company. Pick up the phone and call your Local Enterprise Office or your local Technology Gateway. They will point you in the right direction.”
The MET Gateway in Galway is hosting two days of FREE one-to-one consultations on the Enterprise Ireland €5K Innovation Vouchers on July 7th & 8th. If you are an entrepreneur or a company with an innovative idea, product or process that requires assistance with making it market ready, these 1-to-1 consultations will greatly assist you in this process. Register here: https://www.technologygateway.ie/events/
For more information on the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network, log on to www.technologygateway.ie.