H2020 Gal Weiss

Horizon 2020: Supporting the development of privacy-preserving technologies

Gal Weiss

“In collaboration 1+1 is more than 2. When you work with other parties you will achieve much more than you planned to.”

Gal Weiss, IBM, Co-ordinator of the MUSKETEER Horizon 2020 project

Overview:

  • IBM Research Europe (Ireland) is leading an international consortium that is conducting research and development on how to use federated machine learning where the confidentiality of data is of primary importance.
  • The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • Progress on work package integration is significantly ahead of plan, using the cloud-based MUSKETEER platform, and the majority of the outcomes are open-source and already publicly available.

The massive increase in data collected and stored worldwide by business and organisations calls for new ways to preserve privacy while still allowing data sharing among multiple data owners. That’s the challenge the MUSKETEER project is addressing with its aim of providing secure, scalable and privacy-preserving analytics over decentralised datasets using federated machine learning techniques.

Led by IBM Research Europe (Ireland) in collaboration with 10 other partners from across Europe, the project has secured 4.3m in funding from the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Union’s research and innovation instrument. With an €80 billion funding pot over a seven-year period (2014–2020), Horizon 2020 aims to deliver research and innovation breakthroughs, discoveries and world firsts.

 

Horizon 2020’s crucial role

Gal Weiss, IBM’s EU Programs & Partnerships Manager in Ireland, is the project co-ordinator. Instrumental in establishing IBM’s research laboratory in Ireland, he has been involved in numerous Horizon projects over many years and understands how crucial Horizon 2020 support is to large, complex projects.

“Only Horizon 2020 could bring this type of project to life because you need so many stakeholders. Some big companies would find it challenging to collaborate with anyone else because of the need to protect their data, and even between universities and research organisations, just to get agreements in place never mind the funding, this programme removes barriers and makes it happen,” he says.

 

Steps to success

The MUSKETEER idea was forged in EU conferences and workshops where IBM and some other partners merged their initial ideas into one proposal.

“Collaboration proposals are now very much about quality. For that, you need to build your network, be well connected and choose the right partners. Taking part in EU events is essential when you want to join R&D collaboration in Europe,” says Weiss.

“Connecting people can also be done via social networks, however, when it comes to finding unique partners in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland’s National Contact Points are brilliant.”

The NCPs provide information and guidance on all aspects of Horizon 2020 from helping to identify partners to reviewing proposals.

“The application process is challenging and you really need to look at the quality of the writing and get into the details. Even deciding what the right theme is and what call to go after can be difficult,” says Weiss. “Some internal measurements, planning, monitoring and control of the proposal are all essential to be successful.

Enterprise Ireland helps a lot but it’s really important to start early. I believe there’s a need for organisations to be more connected within Ireland and externally so that they’re ready to collaborate when the opportunities arise.”

With his extensive experience of directing EU-funded projects and a great research team, Weiss has been able to steer MUSKETEER to the point where, at the midpoint of the project, progress on work package integration is significantly ahead of plan and the majority of the outcomes are already publicly available as open-source software.

“Co-ordinating an international project with 11 partners is challenging. It’s essential to choose the right partners in terms of their capabilities and reputation, set your expectations in advance, create a management plan, and be very clear about deadlines and how you want to work,” says Weiss.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the partners transitioned from traditional offices to  leverage virtual meetings via video conferences and digital technologies.

“When I asked the team if Covid-19 was having any effect on their collaboration on the project, everyone said no, all on track. So it’s about being connected with them all the time and being transparent, so they know what I need next and what’s going to happen.”

 

A win-win situation

Weiss believes that the benefits of programmes like Horizon 2020 are significant and wide ranging.

“Firstly, in collaboration 1+1 is more than 2. When you work with other parties you will achieve much more than you planned to. And this has happened to us many times,” he says.

“There are great benefits especially for smaller businesses and also academic and research institutions. 

“It’s an opportunity to meet bright people from other organisations across Europe but it’s also a great way to promote your business or institution across Ireland, across Europe and across the world.” says Weiss.

“For example, we gave an online webinar about MUSKETEER recently and there were over 100 people listening virtually, and many of the attendees were from outside Europe. That’s publicity for all the partners. So SMEs will potentially get more business by taking part in Horizon and doing a good job. Everyone in Ireland should be taking part in Horizon 2020 programmes because they will achieve more and they will be known for what they are doing.

“Quite simply, if everyone plays their part it’s a win-win situation.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizon2020.ie

Cheryl Baker

Horizon 2020 – Supporting the fight against cybercrime

H2020

“We felt we had to do this project because the problem and the solution are so important. We were just waiting for the opportunity and Horizon 2020 provided that.”

Cheryl Baker, Director, UCD Centre for Cybersecurity & Cybercrime Investigation

Overview:

  • University College Dublin is leading an international consortium that is developing a shared intelligent platform and a novel process for gathering and analysing data related to cybercrime.
  • The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The output will be made freely available to law enforcement agencies internationally.

“A problem that urgently needs to be solved,” is how Cheryl Baker, Director of UCD’s Centre for Cybersecurity & Cybercrime Investigation, describes the ambitious Horizon 2020-funded project that she is leading, comprising 18 participants from across Europe.

The Intelligence Network & Secure Platform for Evidence Correlation and Transfer (INSPECTr) project  aims to develop a shared intelligent platform and a novel process for gathering, analysing, prioritising and presenting key data to help in the prediction, detection and management of crime in support of multiple agencies at local, national and international level.

“The problem for law enforcement is that a huge amount of data is generated but joining the dots is difficult.” says Baker.

“There are numerous tools to help investigate cybercrime but they all have different outputs so creating links and seeing the commonality between different crimes and different investigations in different jurisdictions is really difficult. Our aim is to harmonise the output and enable the data to be better managed,” explains Baker.

 

The Horizon 2020 opportunity

Baker and her team have been working with law enforcement for over 10 years and have received support for various projects under the EU’s Internal Security Fund.

“When we came up with the idea for INSPECTR, we realised that to go to the next level we needed a different funding mechanism that offered more money, was more research oriented, required more partners and was more long term.”

The solution was Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation instrument, which has an €80 billion funding pot and is supporting consortia across Europe to transition great ideas from the laboratory to the market.

The three-year INSPECTr project received funding of €6.9 million and involves law enforcement agencies and commercial companies.

“Because we’ve worked with law enforcement for a number of years we were able to reach out to people that we knew already to bring them on board. When it came to commercial partners, Enterprise Ireland was really good at helping us link with a number of SMEs in Ireland,” says Baker.

Unusually for a project, the final developed platform will be freely available to all law enforcement agencies.

“The Centre for Cybersecurity & Cybercrime Investigation was set up support law enforcement in the fight against cybercrime, and everything we do we give back freely to the law enforcement community,” explains Baker.

“That did impose a bit of a challenge when it came to getting commercial partners on board, but we explained that they were going to get access to law enforcement agencies across Europe, which would give them the opportunity to develop and sell in products and services tailored to that community.”

 

The co-coordinator challenge

“This is our first time as co-ordinator on a Horizon 2020 project and there’s no getting round that it’s a challenge. Firstly the application process is time-consuming; close to the deadline we were working 24 hours a day,” says Baker.

“Enterprise Ireland’s help was great. Their expert knowledge and honest review of the proposal was invaluable. Their response was very positive, which gave me a lot of confidence.

“As the co-ordinator, the project fails or succeeds with you. You’re the interface with the Commission and the consortium.” explains Baker.

“For our law enforcement partners this is not their day job, so we have to provide a lot of hand-holding support to them. But we felt we understood the project better than anyone else so we wanted to lead it. If you feel strongly about your idea, it’s best to lead it.”

 

Horizon 2020 benefits

Baker believes that there are huge benefits for SMEs that get involved in Horizon 2020, either as a partner or a co-ordinator, but is aware that there’s a perception that the process is complicated.

“I think it’s key that SMEs partner with a co-ordinator that they know and trust, because they will show you the ropes and look after you. It’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re being asked to do and are clear about what’s expected of you. It’s a really good way to boost your revenue and to network and you can be involved in a small way and still reap lots of benefits,” she says.

“For co-ordinators, you need to ask yourself, have you really bought into your concept; do you feel that this is a problem that urgently needs to be solved? And it’s vital to understand that the administration is as important as the research so you need the supports in place for that.

“We felt we had to do this project because the problem and the solution are so important. We were just waiting for the opportunity and Horizon 2020 provided that.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizon2020.ie

How Competitive Start Fund approval helped Nasal Medical lead the way in drug-free allergy prevention and relief

How Competitive Start Fund approval helped Nasal Medical lead the way in drug-free allergy prevention and relief

Martin O’Connell, founder, Nasal Medical

“Getting the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) approval validated what we were trying to do and gave us the confidence to grow.

Martin O’Connell, founder, Nasal Medical.

Key Takeouts:

  • 25% of Europeans suffer from a nose, chest or sinus allergy, a figure set to rise to 50% within a decade.
  • With support from Enterprise Ireland, including a Competitive Start Fund (CSF) investment in 2016, Nasal Medical’s Allergy Filter has revolutionised the drug-free allergy-prevention market.
  • Nasal Medical has a presence in the UK and will launch in the US in October. The company is working on a contract with one of the largest pharma companies in India and is exploring other markets in Europe with help from Enterprise Ireland.

Case Study: Nasal Medical

According to Allergy Ireland, about 25% of Europeans suffer from some sort of nose, chest or sinus allergy, a figure that’s set to rise to 50% within the next decade. While medical products can offer some relief, finding a long-term drug-free way to alleviate symptoms is high on the wish list of sufferers. With the help of several supports from Enterprise Ireland, including a Competitive Start Fund (CSF) investment in 2016, Nasal Medical has revolutionised the drug-free allergy-prevention market with its discreet and effective Allergy Filter.

“The ‘light bulb moment’ came through an unfortunate event on my family’s farm in Kerry,” explains founder Martin O’Connell, “when our cattle contracted tuberculosis I knew that I had to come up with a solution to prevent a reoccurrence, and from this, the concept for Nasal Medical, and a filter for humans, was born.”

How Nasal Medical secured CSF support“Nasal Medical specialises in anatomically designed nasal products to aid comfortable and effective breathing. Covering five target markets including pollution, allergies, sleeping disorders (mild sleep apnea and snoring), congestion and performance endurance, we address a myriad of major global problems – alleviating sleep disorders, protecting against the inhalation of seasonal allergies and contaminated air and enhancing athletic performance.

“We have launched two products so far, the Discreet Snoring Aid and the Allergy Nasal Filter, while the Travel Nasal Filter, Sports Aid, Pollution Filter and Snore Watch App will be launched in early 2020.”

The products are currently sold online, as well as in pharmacies in Ireland. “Google and eBay have been really helpful; we’re also recently selling through Amazon,” Martin explains. “We have a presence in the UK and will be expanding this soon along with our launch in the US in October. We’re also working on a contract with one of the largest pharma companies in India. In addition, we’re exploring other markets in Europe, with the help of Enterprise Ireland.”

 

How Nasal Medical secured CSF support

Martin and the team first approached Enterprise Ireland after developing a product prototype. From there, he was introduced to a development advisor in the High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) unit, who helped the company to secure a feasibility grant and mentor in 2014, followed by a CSF investment in 2016.

“Aside from the funding, which has helped us in key areas of our business, the support and mentorship we have received as clients of Enterprise Ireland has been invaluable to us. They have opened doors for us, and connected us with people we could only dream of talking to.

The team in Enterprise Ireland has supported us every step of the way. We benefitted from advice and help from development advisors in the HPSU team and have also worked with the Eastpoint-based Market Research Centre, as well as overseas market advisors who took us to another level in export growth development.”

 

More than just funding

“The mentor Enterprise Ireland provided had huge experience in our sector, as well as great contacts. He was able to offer us first-hand advice and guidance and played an integral role in making sure that our patent protection and regulatory affairs were in order.

Following this, we were introduced to the team at SteriPack. Without them and without Enterprise Ireland, we probably wouldn’t be in existence today. The manufacturing side of the business was an obstacle for us, but the team at SteriPack were there to help us throughout the whole process. We have also received huge support from Eamonn Sayers in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Chanelle, Lady McCoy, Pat Mullen of MSD Accountants, Dr. Paul Carson and John O’Dea.”

Being awarded the CSF in 2016 was a big turning point for the company. “Getting the CSF investment validated what we were trying to do and gave us the confidence to grow. The CSF also helped to get our product ready-to-sell, in terms of packaging, literature and finance for our first order.

“There’s a bit of work involved in applying, but that work will stand to you in the future – it will help you to develop a robust business plan, a detailed presentation, and iron out any issues, such as applying for patent protection and getting your finances and projections together. It will also help you to create a clear vision of your company for the future.”

 

Advice for companies planning to apply for future CSF calls

  • Martin’s advice is to get your business plan in place: “Know exactly where the money will be assigned within the business and make sure key areas are prioritised.”
  • Next: “Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with the money, and where you want the company to be in five years’ time. If you don’t have much financial experience, you should speak with an accountant who will assist with the financial projections and P&Ls in the business plan.”
  • And: “Seek advice from someone who has been through the CSF process before.”

Enterprise Ireland is launching a new Competitive Start Fund – All Sectors call on Tuesday 7th July 2020. Aiming to support early stage start-ups, this CSF is open to early stage companies in manufacturing and internationally traded services.

Learn more about the Competitive Start Fund.

MD of Wellola Sonia Neary

Wellola aims to revolutionise the healthcare communication industry in Ireland and the UK

“Female entrepreneurs are frequently juggling growing a business and rearing a family in parallel. They often require additional supports in order to realise their vision” 

Wellola co-founder and MD, Sonia Neary

Case Study: Wellola Patient Portal Software Solutions

At a time when healthcare is never far from the news headlines both in Ireland and the UK, the race is well and truly on to find solutions that save money, streamline services, and ultimately make healthcare more accessible and cost-effective for patients. Leading the way is an innovative Irish start-up company, Wellola, whose founders believe only the sickest of the sick should be hospitalised and that the future of healthcare is preventative, community-based and supported by digital tools.

Wellola’s co-founder is Sonia Neary, a physiotherapist who worked in clinical practice for 15 years, gaining unique insights into the needs of patients and practitioners in today’s digital age. Sonia received funding and support to realise her vision from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, which will open another call on March 24th 2020.

 

Wellola supports hospitals and clinics to communicate efficiently with patients

Winning the Irish Medical and Surgical Trade Association Integrated Care award in 2019, Wellola aims to revolutionise the way clinics and hospitals care for, and communicate with, their patients. Wellola currently serves clinics in the allied healthcare space (occupational therapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, and more), the majority of whom are mental healthcare professionals.

“Our patient portal system enables your patients to schedule to see you in person or online, depending on your settings”. explains Sonia. “GDPR-compliant messaging is a key feature of our software. This can be useful when sharing protected health information, saving on correspondence costs or as a therapy adjunct; for example, to support patients who mightn’t be able to put into words verbally what they want to say – both counsellors and speech and language therapists have mentioned this as a useful aid.”

“Put simply, we’re centralising patient communication in one platform, branded to our customers’ use…” 

“..different patients have different needs and, ultimately, it’s about giving clinics the tools to offer a more equitable, accessible and rounded care package. Accessing advice and care via smartphone can be invaluable in facilitating marginalised patients, including ethnic minorities, travelers and socially disadvantaged groups.”

Wellola benefitsNot only does the Wellola system allow for a more seamless experience for the patient, but it also has the potential to generate huge savings for  the healthcare industry by making it easier for patients to self-manage (make, reschedule and cancel) appointments. Nearly half a million outpatient appointments were missed in Ireland in 2017 – a significant figure in such an overstretched healthcare system and the financial implications of which are catastrophic.

“Much of this is to do with miscommunication – letters not reaching patients on time, patients not being able to get in contact with clinics via telephone to reschedule and so on,” says Sonia. “The current system is cumbersome, slow and costly – ultimately, our aim is to disrupt the way communication and scheduling is done in the healthcare industry and to make it more efficient and streamlined. Wellola could offer cost savings of €1 for every appointment letter, bill, receipt or other correspondence that doesn’t need to be posted. Almost €100 is saved for every appointment that is attended to as opposed to missed (as a direct result of the auto-reminder system) or re-filled via our real-time self-scheduling system.”

This ambition to modernise healthcare communication has translated into a slight shift in the company’s business model, as Sonia explains: “Wellola is currently being used by over 150 clinics on the ground level in the UK and Ireland and next month sees us launch our first large scale mental healthcare network and NHS trust in the UK. Our system can be deployed in both business to business (works from clinic website) and business to enterprise settings (works from professional body or hospital site).  So whereas before we were looking at the individual clinic level, the enterprise solution version of Wellola is much more scalable; with one contract we can reach a couple of hundred or even a thousand clinicians.

 

How support from Enterprise Ireland has helped

It’s a fast-moving industry, and certainly there’s a keen race to be innovative and ahead of the pack. “The move towards digitization in the healthcare industry in Europe is palpable– which is great and about time. Current care models are unsustainable; our resources are limited. So what remains for us to do? Digitize and automate our processes where we can, leverage digital tools to enable and support care-giving humans to do what they do best. The key is to use a software partner who not only offers a slick communications tool, but also has the necessary endorsements, compliance and safety standards in place. We’ve had huge support from the Enterprise Ireland network in terms of implementing many of these key elements. Getting the right advice and help is key to early traction and growth.”

Wellola MD Sonia NearySonia and co-founder Dr. Greg Martin have decades of experience in healthcare, which gives them a unique insight into the needs of the industry. But while they can see what the industry needs, they have not always had the business experience to realise that vision.

Enterprise Ireland has given us fabulous networking and learning opportunities, as well as vital start-up funding. We actually met our now CTO and co-founder, Criostoir O’Codlatain Lachtna, during Phase 2 of New Frontiers at the Synergy Centre two years ago. We’ve received invaluable help and advice from experienced mentors such as Alan Costello, Conor Carmody and Martin Murray who ran the INNOVATE programme I participated in at Dublin BIC (we enjoyed it so much, we now have our offices onsite at the Guinness Enterprise Centre!).

“I couldn’t underestimate the support and learnings gleaned from my peers and mentors on these accelerator programmes. Enterprise Ireland staff have always been of instrumental support; I was given access to the wonderful Anne Marie Carroll, my Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor as a Competitive Start Fund client, and now Damien McCarney as a High Potential Start-Up client. We also were able to avail of the Market Research Centre and their knowledgeable team, who gave us access to several detailed reports on our industry and its trends. Business acumen wouldn’t have been part of my original clinical training, so to have such a vast range of opportunities where I could hone my skills about the legals, marketing, sales, the pitfalls to avoid, lean business models, product/market fits, GDP, and more has been superb.”

“I’m an equalist, which is why I’m hugely in favor of Enterprise Ireland’s remit to balance the scales in favor of diversity and gender diversity. We know that, in business, greater diversity lends itself to greater innovation and commercial success for both the company and the economy as a whole.” 

I was invited to be part of a panel of women recently to discuss the issues that face women entrepreneurs. Many were saying they didn’t want to be singled out as a woman, but the truth is that we have different needs, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge that and support those needs. For instance, I had the idea for Wellola, but held onto a steady clinical job far longer than I intended, simply because I wanted a family and it was just too challenging from a maternity leave (there is minimal support for the self-employed) and childcare perspective. Female entrepreneurs are frequently juggling growing a business and rearing a family in parallel. They often require additional supports in order to realise their vision.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) for Female Entrepreneurs is open for applications on 7th July 2020. Under this CSF, up to €50,000 in equity funding is available to eligible early stage start-up companies. Learn more here.

Horizon 2020 – MiniStor – supporting the development of clean and efficient energy

“Taking part in a Horizon 2020 project is a good way to progress not only as a researcher but also personally in terms of management skills. I’ve found the whole experience to be very enriching.”

Dr Carlos Ochoa, Co-ordinator of the MiniStor Horizon 2020 project

 

Overview:

  • Tyndall National Institute in Cork is leading an international consortium that is developing an advanced, compact, integrated solar-powered system that stores heat in a novel way.
  • The project is being significantly funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The project is on course to achieve its first milestone of completing a preliminary design by July 2020.

 

MiniStor case study

If two heads are better than one then it goes without saying that multiple research centres, universities and specialist companies working together can achieve more than one. That’s the philosophy that underpins the Horizon 2020 programme. The European Union’s research and innovation instrument has an €80 billion funding pot and is supporting consortia across Europe to transition great ideas from the laboratory to the market.

One of those great ideas is the MiniStor project, the brainchild of Dr Carlos Ochoa of the International Energy Research Centre, which is based at Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork in partnership with Cork City Council.

“In basic terms the MiniStor project is about storing heat from the sun to use later. The heat is captured via renewable energy sources such as solar panels and then stored in special salts, making it much more energy efficient than water-based systems,” explains Ochoa.

The project aims to significantly decrease energy consumption in residential buildings, reducing their overall environmental impact.

 

Building the team

“When I read the Horizon 2020 call for technologies enabling energy-efficient systems and energy-efficient buildings, I made a preliminary sketch of my idea and then we considered what the scope of the project would be and started looking for scientific partners who could help us make the idea a reality,” says Ochoa.

“We needed particular expertise so we began contacting people via websites and LinkedIn to get them interested in the idea. We got help from Enterprise Ireland and the Tyndall European Office to find and contact some key partners.  

“In the end we found 17 other institutions across eight countries who were interested in working with us. Then we were ready to respond to the competitive call.”

 

Applying for Horizon 2020 support

The process of applying for Horizon 2020 support is sometimes perceived as being complex and onerous but, as Dr Ochoa explains, there is plenty of help available.

“It’s true that preparing the application is very time intensive but there are support services available. Nationally, Enterprise Ireland leads the Horizon 2020 support network and their support was excellent in terms of reviewing the main idea to determine if it had some potential; that’s like a reality check. They were also able to give advice on what’s required in the application documentation,” says Ochoa. “I also had a lot of support from within the Tyndall National Institute.”

The application was a success and the project received funding of over 7.5 million, some 87% of its total budget.

“Without Horizon 2020 support this project could not have gone ahead. We may have been able to do something at a much smaller scale but we wouldn’t have had access to the same amount of expertise,” says Ochoa.

 

The experience so far

Ochoa has been a participant in Horizon 2020 projects before but this is his first time as co-ordinator.

“Being the co-ordinator for an international project that has so many participants can be challenging because everyone has their own working style and their particular corporate culture so you have to balance the needs of the partners with the needs of the project. So far it has been working well and we’ve been able to iron out any small issues that have arisen,” says Ochoa.

Now six months into the project the team are closing in on achieving their first milestone – the preliminary design for the MiniStor system.

“It’s not a trivial achievement because all these components have not been combined before.”

Unfortunately the advent of the Covid-19 crisis and ensuing lockdown has impacted on the project. “We have slight delays because we have some demonstration sites, which are actual homes in different countries around Europe. The restrictions are preventing us from entering the houses to do monitoring. So that’s pushing back the timeline for a few months,” says Ochoa.

 

Advice to others

Dr Ochoa is keen to encourage other researchers to apply to Horizon 2020 or its successor Horizon Europe (2021–2027), an ambitious funding programme that will be larger than Horizon 2020 and will begin to roll out next year.

“It’s a good way to progress not only as a researcher but also personally in terms of management skills, which are required if you are aiming for more senior positions. I’ve found the whole experience to be very enriching. Of course it takes a lot of time and effort but it pays off,” says Ochoa.

“My experience of interacting with Enterprise Ireland has been very positive. If you have a question about Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe they know very well what’s going on and can provide advice, and they are also very ready to give us talks explaining the scope and opportunities presented by EU programmes.”

 

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizon2020.ie

Portwest – targeting new markets with GradStart

GradStart

 

Bringing linguistic graduates onboard allowed us to bring in talent that could research Spanish and French speaking territories, and open opportunities for our sales teams, which contributed to our target of 20% growth.

Deirdre Clarke, HR Manager, Portwest

Overview:

  • Portwest is a market leader in the design and manufacture of stylish, comfortable, high-quality workwear that meets recognised international standards.
  • With customer support staff in over 120 countries, the company used Enterprise Ireland’s GradStart initiative to attract fresh graduate talent with French and Spanish language skills to research new markets and drive business activity.
  • The GradStart programme offers salary support of up to 70% for the employment of graduate talent to assist companies when expanding into new markets.

 

1. What attracted you to get involved in GradStart?

We are very fortunate to have a great Development Advisor (DA), who consistently keeps us informed of programs which may be of benefit to our specific business. As we had already taken part in the similar G4IG program, we felt that GradStart would be another fantastic initiative from Enterprise Ireland to help with the development and international growth of our business. At that time we were also in the process of developing a formal Portwest Graduate Program. The timing was ideal for us as GradStart gave us the additional option of introducing a linguistic element to this program.

 

2. What did GradStart allow you to do that you wouldn’t have done otherwise?

GradStart allowed us to provide opportunities to newly qualified graduates at our headquarters here in the West of Ireland, and to include a linguistic dimension to our commercial team which up to now was 100% English speaking. We now have two talented graduates with French and Spanish capabilities who are able to help us explore new market opportunities In particularly across South America and Mexico.

 

3. What challenges and/or opportunities did GradStart help you address?

We had struggled with the exploration of non-English speaking markets. Bringing linguistic graduates onboard allowed us to bring in talent that could research Spanish and French speaking territories, and open opportunities for our sales teams, which contributed to our target of 20% growth. In turn, this allowed us to provide further job opportunities in these regions as we were able to justify the recruitment of sales staff to follow through on the opportunities identified by our graduates.

 

4. Which areas of the business did the graduate contribute to?

Market research and explorative work in heretofore unexplored territories. This is ongoing and while GradStart partially funds the salaries for such graduates for a two year period, we would envisage the continuation of such due to the success of these roles and how the program helps contribute to Portwest’s growth.

 

5. Were there any learnings from your participation in GradStart that you have taken forward into your business.

We have learned that only hiring experienced staff with x years’ experience in x industry can be limiting. Hiring graduates with their fresh approach and up to date knowledge of their areas of expertise can truly contribute in a meaningful way to our corporate goals. Furthermore, the satisfaction of being able to bring these graduates straight from college to management roles within such a short space of time is highly rewarding for any employer. We currently have graduates in managerial positions in our sites in Australia, USA and HQ and will look to add Europe and the UK to this as part of our 2020 Graduate program.

 

6. Would you recommend GradStart to your business peers? If so, why?

This is a fantastic way to introduce a graduate program to your company if you do not already have one. We had previously brought in graduates on an ad hoc basis, but between G4IG and now GradStart, this meant that we were able to formalise a program and become confident in our offering. This is a fantastic opportunity for any graduate looking to kick-start their career and with Enterprise Ireland funding, it is wonderful that businesses can get involved in such a great initiative.

 

7. Which languages were the graduates skilled in?

French and Spanish.

 

8. Have you stayed in touch with the graduate?

Yes – our graduates are still with us as they joined us in September 2019 for a two year period. One graduate will remain on site here at Portwest HQ while the other, following an initial training period at Portwest headquarters, has now relocated to our Kentucky office where they will continue to work with our Sales, Commercial and Marketing teams on exploring new markets. We see this as an ongoing project now, and a model which we would hope to continue after our current GradStart program is complete.

Learn more about GradStart and how it can support your business growth.

How Payslip filled a gap in the multinational payroll market

“Enterprise Ireland provided great support through its fintech network. They enabled us to leverage international channels and acquire clients.”


Payslip Founder & CEO Fidelma McGuirk

Overview:

  • Founded in 2015, Payslip empowers multinational companies to standardise global payroll processes and manage international data, resources and vendors on a single platform.
  • Began its seed funding process and applied for High Potential Start-Up support in February 2018.
  • Since then, Payslip has acquired 23 clients across Europe and the US, including LogMeIn, GetYourGuide and Airbus, and the company has plans to increase sales by 400% in 2020.

 

Case Study: Payslip

As CEO and Director of Operations for an international tax company, Fidelma McGuirk was in charge of company growth and management across 21 countries. At the time, her company was using a variety of payroll service vendors. Frustratingly, she found no existing technology that could automate, integrate, and streamline their global payroll operations. So, she decided to create a platform to deliver this.

Payslip provides automation and integration technology to multi-national employers to standardise their global payroll management. Payslip technology integrates with human capital management and accounting/ERP systems, automating payroll processes and standardising global payroll data and reporting. With Payslip, multinational clients can centrally manage their global payroll operations with visibility, control and governance as they expand operations across borders.

Pre-launch, McGuirk and her team conducted robust market testing. They spoke to over 470 multinational employers, payroll providers, and international payroll associations, including the Global Payroll Management Institute in the US and the Global Payroll Association in the UK. McGuirk’s instincts were correct: there was a strong need for a new global payroll model with a focus on automation and standardisation.

In February 2018, Payslip began its seed funding process and applied for HPSU support. The start-up found solid support in its Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor (DA), who helped to guide Payslip through the application process. Once HPSU status was gained, the goal was to seek a strong investor partnership that would help grow the business and open international channels to multinational companies.

“HPSU offered us established, structured support,” says McGuirk. “As an organisation, they have international market experience—they’ve been through this journey before. They were able to arrange the specific introductions needed in foreign markets.”

Over the past two years, Payslip has acquired 23 clients headquartered across Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, and the US. Clients like Airbus, Teamwork, AMCS Group, Argon Medical Devices, LogMeIn, Phorest and others use the Payslip platform to manage and control global payroll for employees in over 60 countries. Sales increased 500% after the first year and McGuirk says the company has plans to increase by another 400% in 2020.

 

Educating the marketplace on the need for payroll innovation

Initially, the greatest challenge was helping potential investors and clients to understand how Payslip technology could disrupt and transform the market.

“What we were doing was different than what was done before, Payslip is a technology solution for global payroll, not a service for payroll calculations,” McGuirk says. “We had to educate the market and help people understand that we don’t compete with payroll service providers—we collaborate with them.”

Payslip brought something entirely new to the table: a technology solution to automate and standardise the global payroll process in a way that delivers central governance, while accommodating local country payroll nuances . Previously, the established industry players were traditional global payroll service offerings like ADP, Ceridian, and CloudPay. These service firms focus on delivering in-country payroll calculation and compliance expertise. According to McGuirk, there is no other platform that provides a single, end-to-end global payroll management solution like Payslip.

Payslip began acquiring early-adopter clients and interest was high among high-growth, technology-based companies. McGuirk says the first client was naturally the hardest to land. After that, things took off quickly. Thanks to the growing number of multinational companies who are going digital to achieve central governance, Payslip is now the leader in the new Gartner industry category of digital payroll services.

 

More markets, more clients

Payslip closed its Series A fundraising in February 2020 and, so far, all its initial investors have followed their investment in Payslip. McGuirk says that being a HPSU company will help it achieve its goal of continued international growth pointing out that Enterprise Ireland has resources in the right foreign markets. Their international teams have a good understanding of what is happening locally, which is crucial for market penetration.

“We intend to extend our reach into more markets and acquire more clients,” McGuirk says. “Our single focus is to continue growing our client base internationally from our headquarters in Westport, Co. Mayo. Enterprise Ireland is very supportive of this objective.

Part of Payslip’s growth plan includes the expansion of its sales and engineering teams here in Ireland to support those global aspirations. Working together with Enterprise Ireland and the HPSU team, McGuirk is confident that her company can optimise its commercial capabilities to capitalise on growth opportunities and gain market share.

Click here to learn more about becoming a HPSU or contact our Start-Up Enquiries Team to find out more.

How the HPSU team helped catapult Revive Active into the international marketplace

“It can feel like you’re on your own when you’re running a start-up. HPSU provides you with a mentor who is experienced and has seen it all.”

Daithi O’Connor, Managing Director, Revive Active

Overview:

  • Founded in 2011, Revive Active is a leading health supplement company whose stockists include over 1,000 health food stores and pharmacies in Ireland as well as prestigious London stores including Selfridges, Whole Foods, and John Bell & Croyden.
  • In 2013, it was fast-tracked through the application process for High Potential Start-Ups, which armed the company with the financial strength it needed to expand.
  • Today, Revive Action’s offering includes 10 products and its revenue has averaged an increase of 35% per annum.

Case Study: Revive Active

Every year in the world of health and wellness, alternatives to traditional medicine and big pharma are gaining popularity. Instead of relying on medication to treat health conditions, many are preempting illness with healthy diets, exercise and nutritional supplements. Tuning into the growing popularity of nutritional products in Ireland, a collection of health professionals and scientists in Galway teamed up to meet consumer demand.

Originally, the group hoped to source products from outside of Ireland. Daithi O’Connor, a finance, management and marketing specialist, was hired for his business acumen. After 12 months of product and market research, he told his colleagues that if they wanted to sell a groundbreaking product in a competitive global market, they would have to create a new brand. In 2011, newly appointed Managing Director O’Connor and his team of specialists set out to create an original, high-quality, easy-to-take supplement with multiple health benefits. The result: Ireland’s leading “super supplement,” Revive Active.

We set out to make the best-quality super supplement on the market. That was first and foremost, and then we asked, ‘How are we going to pay for this?” said O’Connor.

O’Connor says the company always had huge plans for growth, but its first priority was survival. Funding was needed in order to grow production, get people on the road and supply retailers as they grew. So, in 2013, O’Connor contacted his local Enterprise Ireland advisor. He says Enterprise Ireland immediately recognised that the product had global potential and Revive Active was fast-tracked through the application process for High Potential Start-Ups. At the start of its involvement with the programme, HPSU pledged to match all the company’s fundraising efforts, which armed the company with the financial strength it needed to expand.

 

Local support enabling international growth

Once it had HPSU funding and support, Revive Active began to grow in earnest. Over the last eight years, the company has expanded its offering to include 10 tailored products, including personalised nutrition, beauty regimens, memory boosters, age-specific supplements and more. It’s gone from six employees to more than 40 and can be found on the shelves of pharmacies and retailers throughout Ireland and the UK, including Selfridges, Whole Foods and John Bell & Croyden. It also ships worldwide via its website. Revive Active’s revenue has averaged an increase of 35% per annum.

Next year, the team plans to set its sights on the ultimate health and wellness marketplace: The United States. An impressive 77% of American adults take nutritional supplements, which makes it the perfect place to introduce a new, revolutionary “super” product. O’Connor says Revive Active will take its time, conduct extensive research and expand into the U.S. market when the time is right. It already has a growing consumer following in the US as it exports directly from its Galway warehouse.

 

A valuable partnership

The collaboration between Revive Active and Enterprise Ireland was a success. Revive contributed a high-quality product and loads of ambition, while HPSU added everything else needed to catapult the business from small-time to international best-seller: funding, mentorship and market access.

O’Connor admits things would be very different if Revive Active had never connected with HPSU. The funding enabled the supplement company to increase employment, which in turn gave it the ability to develop in other areas. In addition, he says the research and data that Enterprise Ireland made available to its team was instrumental in decision-making as it expanded its operation. He would recommend that any start-up business take advantage of the mentorship and professional knowledge on offer through Enterprise Ireland.

It can feel like you’re on your own when you’re running a start-up, HPSU provides you with a mentor who is experienced and has seen it all. It means you have someone you can talk to who is knowledgeable in the sector you’ve chosen. This type of support is invaluable for a start-up.

O’Connor says.

Since exiting the programme, Revive Active has opened its own production plant in Mullingar, which was a direct result of advice given by HPSU and is hugely positive for the business, especially in light of Brexit. O’Connor also points to international sales as one of the undeniable benefits of its time in the HPSU programme. Enterprise Ireland’s advisors on foreign soil were instrumental in assisting with industry introductions. They also offered particular knowledge of the international marketplace, which was crucial to the Revive Active team as it reached out to retailers in the UK.

HPSU funding and mentorship were essential to us. Without Enterprise Ireland, we wouldn’t have progressed to where we are today,” O’Connor says. “We wouldn’t have had the confidence or money that we needed to grow.”

From tech enthusiast to industry innovator – How Immersive VR is revolutionising education

“It’s not just the money that HPSU provides. It’s the information, contacts, and the advice they give you.”
David Whelan, Founder, Immersive VR Education

Overview:

  • Immersive VR Education was founded in 2014 based on the belief that virtual reality has the power to transform how training and educational content is delivered and consumed globally.
  • The business was ushered into the New Frontiers Entrepreneurial Development programme before qualifying for High Potential Start-Up support, which was used for product development, talent acquisition, conference attendance and more.
  • Today, Immersive VR Education has a staff of 40 people and sales of its applications and education licenses are growing at an average of 50% each year.

 

Case Study: Immersive VR

David Whelan is a self-taught web developer and all-round tech enthusiast. When he came across the first model of the Oculus virtual reality headset on the fundraising website Kickstarter, he was intrigued. The recession had hit Ireland and money was tight, but Whelan still spent his last €300 to purchase the cutting-edge product.

Inspired by the new technology, Whelan built one of the very first review websites for virtual reality. He realised that, despite the potential power of this tech to impact learning, most existing VR content consisted of video games and entertainment. It’s true that NASA and several medical research facilities were using virtual reality for training, but access to these experiences was extremely expensive. He had identified a glaring gap in the VR market: educational material for the average consumer. That’s when Whelan decided to start his own virtual reality business: Immersive VR Education.

Whelan was convinced that his idea held merit for educators worldwide, but in order to make it happen, he needed funding. He paid a visit to his local Enterprise Ireland office in Waterford, bringing along the VR headset.

“When pitching my idea, the first thing I had to do was explain VR,” says Whelan. “Then I would let them try it. People were always blown away by the experience. They definitely thought I was crazy, but they could see I was committed. It’s hard to deny the power of VR once you’ve tried it.

Enterprise Ireland agreed that the start-up had huge global potential. Immersive VR Education was ushered into the New Frontiers Entrepreneurial Development programme with the goal of eventually qualifying for High Potential Start-Up support. Its partnership with Enterprise Ireland generated funding used for product development and enabled Whelan to bring his wife and co-founder, Sandra, on staff. The start-up’s HPSU development advisor, who came from a similar business and technical background, suggested applying for grant funding, so it participated in the HPSU Feasibility Study, which contributed toward costs to attend conferences in relevant industries.

 

Enterprise Ireland introduced Immersive VR Education to their overseas offices in places like New York, Tokyo, and London. Whelan says these international teams were extremely helpful and happy to advise whether the new VR products would be well received within their respective markets.

Whelan says, “I couldn’t have started a business anywhere but here. Enterprise Ireland vetted us and vouched for us, which gave investors confidence in our business idea. This opened important doors to funding and helped us to no end.”

 

Shoot for the moon

Most of the early fundraising went toward building Immersive VR Education’s first application: the Apollo 11 virtual reality experience. Whelan describes the 1969 moon landing as “a shining beacon in history.” He and his team of developers worked hard to build a virtual reality experience that would transport viewers directly to the surface of the moon with the Apollo 11 crew. He believed that this type of immersive learning would mean much more to students than simply reading about the event in a textbook.

When the demo for Apollo 11 VR was launched, Facebook used it in conjunction with the release of its new Oculus headset. The partnership gave Immersive VR Education the remaining funds needed to complete the application. When all was said and done, Apollo 11 VR cost about $100,000 to build and went out as a top title on the Oculus Rift VR headset. Since then, the application has generated over $2 million.

 

Education for everyone

Following the roaring success of Immersive VR Education’s first application, it began to build out its business and hire more staff. Whelan took the education angle to a whole new level, creating a virtual university where educators can teach anyone in the world via its virtual classrooms.

“We want a future where education is accessible to everyone,” says Whelan. “I fully believe there is another young Einstein out there, missing his chance to change the world because he doesn’t have access to quality education. We’re here to change that.”

Immersive VR Education hopes that in the future, we will see virtual universities around the world. Whelan dreams of providing the opportunity for students to attend a physics class at MIT in the morning and literature at Oxford in the afternoon. He also sees potential for exposing home-schooled students to the social benefits of the classroom experience, helping to alleviate isolation for children who are not involved in traditional schooling. The possibilities, he says, are endless.

 

Exceptional growth with Enterprise Ireland

Today, Immersive VR Education has a staff of 40 people. Sales of its applications and education licenses are growing at an average of 50% each year. The company sells products online globally, with its highest numbers coming from the US, UK, and Korea.

Although Immersive VR Education flew through the official HPSU programme in just under three years, Whelan says that Enterprise Ireland is still very much part of their daily operations. They regularly send advisors to Waterford, provide advice and industry connections, and enable access to further support and grants.

The company’s latest goal is to expand and hire more staff. Recently, it availed of the Enterprise Ireland GradStart programme, which Whelan says is invaluable when it comes to sourcing new recruits. Immersive VR Education expects to see exponential growth over the next three to five years as the company continues its work of revolutionising education around the globe.

Is your business ready to take the next step towards becoming a HPSU? Contact our Start-Up Enquiries Team to find out more.

Click here to learn more about becoming a HPSU or contact our Start-Up Enquiries Team to find out more.

Is your business ready to take the next step to becoming a HPSU? Click here to learn more or contact our Start-Up Enquiries Team

How Manna Drone Delivery is changing the global delivery industry

“Indigenous tech is at a huge disadvantage compared to FDI companies. Enterprise Ireland gives us policy support and the advantage we need in order to scale.”

Bobby Healy, Founder, Manna Drone Delivery

Overview:

  • Serial entrepreneur Bobby Healy of CarTrawler fame founded Manna Drone Delivery in 2017 to revolutionise food delivery.
  • The High Potential Start-Up team provided invaluable logistical support, training, and market access.
  • Healy plans to begin scaling the company globally in the next 18-24 months.

Case Study: Manna Drone Delivery

Bobby Healy is an experienced entrepreneur, but his latest idea is probably his most revolutionary yet. For the last three years, he’s been building Manna Drone Delivery, a service with which he plans to revolutionise the world of online food delivery. Healy says he noticed that major food platforms don’t deliver to suburban Ireland. The reason? It is nearly impossible to drive or deliver food profitably. The practice is cost-prohibitive but still needed in many areas. He saw an opportunity to use new technology as a solution to the problem: drones. Healy founded Manna and began hiring experts who could turn his idea into reality.

A computer programmer by trade, Healy began his career writing video games for Nintendo. Since then, he has founded and led two successful businesses, including CarTrawler, the world’s largest mobility marketplace for airlines. Healy’s programming expertise was also the foundation for his drone delivery idea. Over the last two years, the Manna team has built and tested custom software, hardware, and batteries. They are also working with aviation regulators in multiple markets about airspace law. The end goal is to “make a 3-minute, low-cost food delivery service as pervasive as running water in Europe and the USA.”

Anywhere there’s an economy where food delivery is growing, we should be there. By 2021, we’ll begin to scale and then enter markets everywhere.” says Healy.

The entrepreneur’s last two businesses were supported by Enterprise Ireland, so it was only natural that Healy went to them with his newest idea. He says that onboarding with the High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) team was a straightforward process.

“The HPSU team were always available to meet and help us understand what they needed for us to qualify. It’s not a rigid organisation. They do everything they can to take care of formalities in the background as you get going on the work,” Healy says.

 

HPSU making headway on foreign soil

Currently, there are 23 people working for Manna. Healy says that with Enterprise Ireland’s guidance, he plans to begin commercially scaling the company in the next 18 to 24 months. He predicts HPSU will be invaluable when it comes to logistical support, training, and market access. He plans to lean on HPSU as he pushes Manna’s service into the global marketplace.

One of the biggest challenges to launching international drone operations is airspace regulation. Flight rules vary from country to country and Healy’s team will need to negotiate with lawmakers in each region where they hope to fly. The partnership with Enterprise Ireland will be crucial for gaining permission to operate in foreign airspace. The key to success is access to the people who control those regulations.

“Enterprise Ireland is there to help with introductions to regulators in foreign countries,” Healy says. “They offer an industrial international presence.”

Healy admits that his company is facing some inordinately large challenges, saying it is probably the most complex business you could build. Manna must find solutions for custom cloud services, market integration, new hardware, regulations, certification, and licensing. On top of everything else, there is the matter of finance. Healy says the first hurdle in fundraising was educating and convincing investors that his idea was viable. The scale and audacity of the plan can be hard to fathom for some.

Healy says, “Most businesses are predictable and believable. Ours is beyond cutting edge. We’re doing something totally new, but we’ve overcome disbelief and begun to successfully raise significant levels of capital.”

The international business community has shown faith in the fledgling company’s new ideas. In addition to regulatory access across borders, Enterprise Ireland has been working to assist Manna throughout the fundraising process.

“The team in San Francisco have been instrumental in opening doors for us as we raise funds,” says Healy. “They give us respectability and prominence in the industry.”

 

Sights set on more than just food

Manna is launching as a food delivery service, but Healy says the start-up won’t stop there. He decided to hone in on the food industry because the volume of potential deliveries is so high. Healy says this will allow the new business to be capital efficient. Once the infrastructure is in place, however, it plans to also roll out services for pharmacies, hardware stores, butcher shops, bookstores, and anything else that fuels a local economy.

In order to reach these goals, Healy says talent acquisition will be important. As drone technology continues to develop, Manna will need more high-quality technicians, designers, and programmers on board to keep up. He predicts that the company’s ongoing relationship with HPSU and Enterprise Ireland will once again be valuable as it scales.

“A small start-up company needs an endorsement that says, ‘These guys are a team to work with’. We’re competing with the big guys for talent, so HPSU helps address that imbalance.” says Healy.

 

Dmac Media Director of Sales

Dmac Media – attracting new talent with GradStart

Tech graduates are highly desirable and form a key part of our growth plans.  We had issues competing for that talent and GradStart allowed us to offer a much more attractive package to graduates.”

Dave McEvoy, Sales Director, Dmac Media

Overview:

  • Dmac Media is a web design agency offering a full suite of web solutions including web design, eCommerce platforms, content management and digital marketing.
  • With offices in Dublin, Sligo and Cork the company used Enterprise Ireland’s GradStart initiative to attract fresh graduate talent and drive business activity.
  • The GradStart programme offers salary support of up to 70% for the employment of graduate talent to assist companies when expanding into new markets.

1. What attracted you to get involved in GradStart?

Tech graduates are highly desirable and form a key part of our growth plans.  We had issues competing for that talent and Enterprise Ireland‘s GradStart allowed us to offer a much more attractive package to graduates.

 

2. What did GradStart allow you to do that you wouldn’t have done otherwise?

Bringing in fresh talent to our business allowed us to focus more heavily on business development as a daily activity rather than a paper based plan.

 

3. What challenges and/or opportunities did GradStart help you address?

With qualified personnel we had lower training and induction costs this allowed us to keep up in a fast paced sector in a sustainable way.  The challenge (as always) was finding the right graduates.

 

4. Which areas of the business did the graduate contribute to?

Our graduates have broadened both our technical skillset as well as our graphic design and process management skills.  The impact was noticeable from day one.

 

5. How did participating in GradStart impact your business positively?

GradStart gave us a headstart on developing new products which in turn has brought our entry into new markets considerably closer.

 

6. Were there any learnings from your participation in GradStart that you have taken forward into your business?

We have evolved from a company with very standard and fixed methodologies to one that is now willing to experiment and develop better strategies.

 

7. Would you recommend GradStart to your business peers? If so, why?

Yes, it gives you time to focus on the business rather than just working in the business.

Learn more about GradStart and how it can support your business growth.

Loci Orthopaedics

How the Innovation Partnership Programme is helping Loci Orthopaedics de-risk product development

“NUIG has the expertise and the equipment to develop this technology much faster and more efficiently that we would be able to do in-house.”

Dr. Brendan Boland, Co-founder, Loci Orthodopaedics

Overview:

  • Galway company Loci Orthopaedics is developing innovative implants to address unmet need in the orthopaedic extremities space.
  • Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Partnership Programme enabled the company to work with experts in the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) to optimise technology to improve implant fixation.
  • The company will be undertaking its first clinical trials in Europe later this year.

Case study: Loci Orthopaedics

‘Thumbs, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes’ is (almost) what the song says, and it more or less sums up the orthopaedic space within which NUIG spin-out company Loci Orthopaedics is operating. Co-founded in 2017 by Dr. Brendan Boland (CEO) and Gerry Clarke (CTO), the multi-award-winning company is targeting the fastest growing area in orthopaedic medicine – orthopaedic extremities.

“In 2013, I became a fellow in the BioInnovate programme, where I met Gerry. We identified the unmet clinical need of treating upper limb arthritic conditions. That led to the establishment of Loci Orthopaedics and the development of our primary product, the InDx implant, which can mimic the complex motions of the thumb base joint,” explains Boland.

The company then began work on a second product, a shoulder implant. Recognising that achieving good primary fixation is problematic for patients with poor bone stock, it licensed OsteoAnchor – technology that had been developed by Dr. Noel Harrison of the School of Engineering at NUIG, who is a leader in the field of additive manufacturing (3D printing).

“The OsteoAnchor technology allows implants to better adhere to the bone by providing a roughened surface that the person’s own bone can grow into….” 

We felt that this technology fitted our focus but we needed to optimise its effectiveness and de-risk it to give us the confidence to invest in developing new products using it. Having benefitted in the past from excellent support from Enterprise Ireland, we turned to its Innovation Partnership Programme for help,” says Boland.” 

 

The power of partnership

The Innovation Partnership Programme enables companies to access expertise within universities and research institutes and covers up to 80% of the cost of a research project. With NUIG’s recently opened Advanced Manufacturing Lab (developed by Dr. Harrison) located just metres from Loci Orthopaedics, it made sense to ask Harrison’s team to lead the Innovation Partnership Programme project.

“They have the expertise and the equipment to develop the OsteoAnchor technology much faster and more efficiently than we would be able to do in-house,” says Boland.

Dr. Eimear O’Hara is the technical lead and project manager. “It’s an ambitious six-month project,” she says. “We’re taking a concept implant and doing the design, prototyping and mechanical testing here in the lab, where we have extensive 3D printing capability. The deliverable will be a metal 3D printed shoulder implant.”

The Innovation Partnership Programme will deliver benefits to both the company and the university.

“As well as de-risking the technology, the Innovation Partnership Programme validates it to external parties because the project goes through commercial assessment,” says Boland.  “And there’s the potential for the Innovation Partnership Programme collaboration to lead to further innovation.” 

From NUIG’s perspective it’s the chance to engage with industry to get insights into real world applications of 3D printing and to demonstrate the capability of its 3D metal printer.

“This kind of collaboration also informs the content of my lectures, helping to keep Mechanical Engineering students up to date about additive manufacturing processes, materials and product design,” says Harrison.

“It’s the first time we’ve used the 3D metal printer for an industry-based project. We’re hoping that many more companies will be interested in working with us on using our suite of 3D printers, not just in the medtech space but across all manufacturing,” he adds.

 

The journey to market

With the combined value of the markets for its shoulder and thumb base implants currently sitting at around US $2 billion, the outcome of the Innovation Partnership Programme project will be an important milestone for Loci Orthopaedics, enabling it to take the next steps on its journey to market.

“Our primary market is the US and this year we’ll be making a regulatory submission relating to our InDx product in advance of commercialisation in the US in 2021. We’re aiming to do our first clinical trial of InDx in Europe in June and are anticipating commercialisation in the EU in 2022,” says Boland.

The same process will apply to the shoulder implant, following about two years behind.

“Meanwhile we’ll have an active in-house innovation and R&D programme. We’ve already secured patents, have four more filed and 16 more in development. Over the next five years we’re hoping to roll out a whole suite of products.says Boland. 

Until the products hit the market the company will run lean, maintaining just three staff and using manufacturing and processing partners. Financing currently comes from €6 million secured from seed funding, grants and prizes.

 

The Innovation Partnership Programme experience

Loci Orthopaedics received a grant of €85,000 from the Innovation Partnership Programme and contributed €16,000 to the project.

“For a modest sum of money, we are getting a great deal of work done, a good bang for your buck, as they say. Moreover, applying for the Innovation Partnership Programme grant is relatively straightforward and Enterprise Ireland ensures that the IPP agreement clearly sets out what is expected from each party and what each will get out of it, for example, in the area of intellectual property or how new innovations resulting from the project will be handled. This project is enabling us to add to our R&D pipeline and increase our product portfolio,” says Boland.

Dr. Harrison encourages companies to think big when considering the Innovation Partnership Programme: “A company may have a technical problem that they need help on but they’re thinking about it in terms of their bandwidth. Through the Innovation Partnership Programme, they can get access to a university’s massive suite of equipment, expert personnel and state-of-the-art facilities.”