John O Carroll Eblana Photonics

Eurostars support invaluable for SMEs developing new products

John O'Carroll

“Eurostars funding is invaluable to small businesses as it reduces the risk involved in developing new technologies.

Eblana Photonics, lead partner on TLPON Eurostars project

Key Takeouts:

  • Dublin company, Eblana Photonics, led a small consortium whose aim was to develop novel photonic integrated circuits (PIC) for optical communication applications.
  • The project was part funded by the European Union’s Eurostars research and innovation programme which is aimed at R&D-performing SMEs.
  • The TLPON project has opened new doors for Eblana to develop PIC-based laser products for telecom and spectroscopy.

Case Study: Eblana Photonics

Dublin-based Eblana Photonics, which specialises in the design and production of advanced lasers for communications, sensing and measurement, has long appreciated the value of collaborative projects. Over much of its 20 years in operation it has drawn on the support of European funding programmes to enable it to target new markets with innovative products and establish itself as a provider of world-class technology.

Recently the company completed a project, TLPON, funded under the European Union’s Eurostars programme. Eurostars is a large international funding programme for SMEs that want to collaborate on R&D projects to create innovative products, processes or services for commercialisation.

The main goal of TLPON was the development of novel photonic integrated circuits (PICs) for optical communication applications, with the new NG-PON2 application being the primary target. NG-PON2 is a telecommunications network standard mainly for higher speed fibre to the home networks.

“TLPON was about developing a multi-channel laser approach to increasing the speed and capacity of networks to meet future bandwidth demand, which is rising because of the use of Netflix and similar media and also the increasing resolution in 4k and 8k devices,” explains John O’Carroll

 

Building the European consortium

Eblana Photonics put together a strong consortium that included Dublin City University (DCU), Foton Institute and Orange Labs, the last two based in France.

“We were able to build on our close relationship with DCU. I talked to them about this project and they were interested as it’s an area they were researching as well. Through DCU’s links with one of the French partners, Foton, we were able to bring them on board and they and in turn brought Orange Labs in as the fourth partner.

“Once we had identified the consortium, we contacted Enterprise Ireland and got great advice on what to focus on in the proposal to qualify for the Eurostars programme,” says O’Carroll.

 

The benefits of collaboration

Eblana’s experience of device manufacturing married with the other partners’ research expertise and systems knowledge created a highly effective consortium. This was underpinned by the fact that the partners’ roles within the project complemented each other, and members of the consortium had successfully worked together in the past.

“Having access to the experience of DCU and the international partners was invaluable. For example, we got feedback from Orange Labs on the requirements of an end user and we benefitted from DCU’s characterisation and device packaging expertise and from Foton’s electronic circuit design and device characterisation capabilities.”

 

Commercial application

As the project progressed, however, the NG-PON2 standard was overtaken by other standards.

“When we started TLPON there was a lot of interest in the market for next generation optical networks, and it looked like it was going to be widely applied. But during the project, some other standards came into force and the market went in a different direction,” explains O’Carroll.

“However, the research wasn’t wasted as we were able to modify it and select elements of it to apply to our products roadmap. Before TPLON we didn’t have PICs in our product range, but afterwards we were able to use the research learning to integrate a laser with a modulator.  And if NG-PON2 gains traction within the next couple of years we can turn our attention back to that and develop products in that area.”

TLPON has been transformative in developing Eblana’s capabilities in the area of photonic integration and has presented new opportunities for the company to develop PIC-based laser products for telecom and spectroscopy.

Why Eurostars?

The technologies developed with the support of EU funding have been instrumental in helping Eblana Photonics target new markets with new and innovative products over the years.

“Most of our current product portfolio has been developed with the help of a European research project; the company has benefitted immensely. As with TLPON, what we developed in the projects didn’t necessarily always end up as the commercial product, but the learning led to new products for us because we were able to look for other applications for the research,” says O’Carroll.

“Particularly in the early days of the company when we didn’t have a big R&D budget, the opportunity to be involved in EU projects was invaluable. It would have been difficult for us to risk developing something ourselves that we might not get a return on. So EU programmes such as Eurostars are of great benefit to small businesses.” explains O’Carroll

“On a personal level it’s also very rewarding, particularly for people like myself who come from a research background, as it allows you to work on projects that are outside your day-to-day job and keep up to date with new research.”

Eurostars is primarily a programme for R&D-performing SMEs.  Although universities and research organisations can take part in a project, the main project partner must be an SME.

Companies that take part in Eurostars projects typically see an average of 15% annual turnover increase, while almost 70% of them enter new markets or gain market share.

For advice or further information about applying for Eurostars support please contact David Flood or consult the Eurostars website.

 

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Paul McCloskey, Tyndall Institute

LEDLUM, a shining light in LED efficiency  

LEDLUM

Horizon 2020 was about putting together the right consortium that could do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at Tyndall National Institute

Key Takeouts:

  • Tyndall Institute played a key role in a recently completed project that aimed to significantly reduce the size and weight of LED drivers while increasing their lifetime expectancy.
  • The ambitious 3.5-year project received €4.1m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The outcomes included near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

H2020 Case Study: LEDLUM

As the world faces the imminent impact of climate change, there has never been a greater focus on environmental issues nor a greater sense of urgency. While governments debate macro issues, some researchers are looking at small concerns that can have a big impact. One of these is LED drivers.

LED light bulbs are much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional bulbs. They can last up to 20 times longer than standard forms of lighting, so fewer bulbs need to be manufactured, they can be up to 80% more energy efficient than conventional bulbs and they contain no toxic elements that require specialist disposal.

The fly in the ointment, however, is the LED AC/DC converter, known as a driver, which is not only much less reliable than the bulbs themselves but also bulky and difficult to integrate into the light fitting.

This driver was the focus of LEDLUM, a Horizon 2020-funded project involving seven European partners drawn from business and academia, and over €4 million in EU funding. LEDLUM’s objectives were to make major improvements to the volume, weight, lifetime and size of the driver to create a more environmentally friendly product.

Among the partners was Tyndall National Institute in County Cork, which brought its expertise in the area of magnetics on silicon to the table. Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at the Institute, led the ‘passive components’ work package. He explains how the consortium took a pragmatic approach to achieving the project’s aims.

“Horizon 2020 projects are a combination of research that pushes the boundaries and the development of something that companies can commercialise.” says McCloskey

Within LEDLUM there was initially a little built of tension between those two objectives as the companies in the consortium were more focused on the commercialisation of a product and the universities on pushing the science. So as a consortium we came up with the idea of having two tracks. The development track aimed to get close to something that businesses could use in the near future to create a product, while the research track had a lower level of technology readiness and an emphasis on demonstrating how the challenging goals set might ultimately be achieved. I believe the project delivered on both.”

LEDLUM’s outcomes included the development of near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

“Horizon 2020 is a way of getting involved with companies that will ultimately use the science in a real-world application.” says McCloskey

One of the outcomes of this project was the licensing of Tyndall’s magnetics on silicon technology. We’ve developed a capability and reputation in this area over many years. Through LEDLUM we further developed the technology and were able to transfer it to one of the biggest silicon foundries in the world with the production scale up at a facility in Europe. That’s a major achievement for us. That’s tying our research into a real-world product,” says McCloskey.

 

Competition and support

Running from 2021 to 2027, Horizon 2020’s successor, Horizon Europe, has a €95 billion funding pot and the triple aim of developing scientific excellence, tackling global and industrial challenges and supporting innovation and inclusivity across Europe. And like Horizon 2020, it is a highly competitive arena.

“There are a lot of organizations chasing this funding. But Ireland performs above average in terms of winning this type of EU funding and Tyndall is one of the most successful institutes. We’ve been involved in these kinds of projects for many years as our research depends on securing this type of funding,” says McCloskey

To help research institutes and businesses to secure Horizon Europe funding, Enterprise Ireland regularly gives talks highlighting what Horizon calls are coming up, how to go about getting involved and how to build a consortium. They also fund travel costs associated with building the consortium and offer support to write the proposal.

 

Advantages of collaboration

Horizon 2020, and now Horizon Europe, is about putting together the right consortium that can do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

“That opportunity for collaboration is hugely important. You get the chance to work with other universities and businesses throughout Europe. When you talk to companies you hear what the real-world problems are; understanding that is a terrific insight for a researcher. Overall, I found the LEDLUM project to be an enjoyable and instructive process,” says McCloskey.

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon Europe support, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

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COGNIPLANT team

COGNIPLANT optimising production plants in the process industries

COGNIPLANT team

“Horizon 2020 helps us to look 10 years into the future and enables us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe.”

Eoin Keane, Energy Specialist, COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina, is taking part in a project to develop an innovative approach to the advanced digitization and intelligent management of production plants.
  • The COGNIPLANT project has received €8.5m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • AAL helped to define the requirements for the design of the COGNIPLANT solution and its County Limerick facility is currently testing and demonstrating the solutions identified by the COGNIPLANT consortium.

H2020 Case Study: COGNIPLANT

A global shortage of raw materials, increasing energy prices and environmental concerns have made the goal of improving the performance and energy efficiency of process industries a European imperative.

Among many initiatives tackling the issue is the COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project. Using the latest developments in advanced analytics and cognitive reasoning, coupled with the digital twin concept (a computer model that simulates the operation of the plant), it aims to design a monitoring and control solution that will significantly improve the performance of production plants and reduce CO2 emissions.

The COGNIPLANT consortium involves 14 partners from universities and businesses across Europe including four production sites that are testing and demonstrating the technology. One of these is County Limerick company Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina.

The best-in-class company has the reputation of being forward-thinking and innovative and has set itself ambitious carbon reduction targets. Taking part in the COGNIPLANT project was an opportunity to help develop the technology that will contribute to it achieving those targets.

“The COGNIPLANT solution is aligned with the decarbonisation goals of the company where advanced process control techniques are used to minimise energy usage,” explains Eoin Keane, AAL’s Energy Specialist

“Currently there are hundreds of sensors installed on the plant relaying information into a central data storage system. The operations teams and engineers review this information continuously to ensure the process is running smoothly. The goal of COGNIPLANT is to make this intelligence available 24/7 to the control room operator so that they can make informed decisions when the wider team is not available.”

The COGNIPLANT consortium includes expert modellers who are using the data and expertise gathered from the test sites to identify opportunities to optimise the plants. It’s an iterative process, which over the next 12 months should culminate in a packaged solution for process industries.

 

The Horizon advantage

Having been involved in Horizon 2020 projects before, AAL was aware of the benefits of pan- European collaboration.

“We’ve done Horizon 2020 projects in the past and benefitted immensely from them, including building up relationships with experts across many disciplines. When this opportunity arose, which is looking at energy-intensive industries, the co-ordinator of COGNIPLANT, Ibermática, asked us if we wanted to come on board and we were keen to get involved,” says Keane.

“Being part of COGNIPLANT gives us the opportunity to develop detailed and insightful models of the process beyond what is currently available to us. The modellers bring in expertise from many different areas that we would otherwise not be able to access.”

The sharing of knowledge between the partners in the consortium is a valuable aspect of the Horizon experience, even when it does not directly relate to the core project deliverables.

“We’ve been able to share our knowledge and experience of sensors with the lime plant in Italy which was installing a particle-size sensor and we’ve also shared our experience of data handling. We’re building connections with other industries too, for example, the group of researchers in Munich who are working in the field of chemicals in heavy industry. We’re thinking about building on that connection in the future around decarbonization and climate action goals. Horizon Europe will be the route we’ll go down to develop actions in this area,” says Keane.

On a personal level, Keane feels he has greatly benefitted from the opportunity to network with people from other disciplines and backgrounds, to get an insight into what other companies across Europe are working on and see the synergies around climate change.

 

Navigating the Horizon environment with Enterprise Ireland’s support

Identifying the best-fit Horizon project, negotiating the consortium build and keeping on top of pan-European developments can be challenging, but AAL has found Enterprise Ireland’s help to be invaluable.

“Enterprise Ireland helps to identify suitable matchmaking events for us to attend, which help in forming a consortium. They are also available to answer any questions or offer support when needed.” explains Keane

 At the moment they are helping us with the next round of calls for Horizon Europe, pinpointing future projects around climate change and the circular economy. These are areas where you need to think outside the box and that’s why Horizon is so important to us; it allows us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe, which is very exciting. Horizon really helps us to look 10 years into the future.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon Europe support, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

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Dr Michael Maguire, CEO AVECTAS

AVECTAS leading the way in non-viral cell engineering technology

Dr Michael Maguire, CEO AVECTAS

“Horizon 2020 was all about scientific excellence; this project allowed AVECTAS to further develop our pioneering SOLUPORE® technology within a structured framework.”


Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Executive of AVECTAS

Key Takeouts:

  • AVECTAS, a spin-out company from Maynooth University, has developed a game-changing approach to engineering cells for use in immunotherapy.
  • AVECTAS received €2m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme via its SME Instrument.
  • This support along with that of investors was key to enabling AVECTAS to progress the commercialisation of its SOLUPORE® platform including completing successful preclinical studies.

H2020 Case Study: AVECTAS

Case Study

Cellular immunotherapy is an exciting new approach to treating cancer that offers hope to millions of people worldwide as it has the potential to cure the disease without the harsh side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy.  It involves editing genes outside the body, in effect arming them to attack and kill cancer cells when they are infused back into patients.

Generally, viruses are required to re-engineer cells but AVECTAS, a company headquartered in Dublin and with locations in Canada and the USA, has developed a novel, non-viral gene editing approach that has multiple benefits over alternatives.

“At AVECTAS we’re looking at the next generation of cancer therapy products, including complex gene editing that will address the treatment of solid mass tumours.” explains Dr Michael Maguire, CEO of AVECTAS

“We have developed a cell engineering platform, SOLUPORE®, which works by temporarily making the cell membrane permeable to allow cargo such as mRNA, RNPs and plasmids into the cell.”

The key difference between our platform and competing technology is the gentleness. Currently, cells that are being modified are typically from a patient who may be ill and the cells may be fragile. Our approach minimises stress to cells so they function extremely well when reintroduced to the patient.”

As well as delivering benefits to patients, the SOLUPORE® gene editing process is a shorter, simpler and much more cost-effective one than other processes currently available, offering the potential to deliver life-changing treatment at an affordable cost.

 

Support for commercialisation

Having developed the SOLUPORE® platform, the next step for AVECTAS was scaling the process and aligning it to regulatory compliance to enable commercialisation. To achieve this, the company applied for support under the SME Instrument of Horizon 2020 and received additive funding of 2m.

The SME Instrument supports innovators to commercialise ground-breaking concepts that could shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide.

“This support was absolutely fantastic for the company at the stage we were at and for our ambition. It was as much about validating what we were doing as about the grant, as AVECTAS has always been very well supported by our investors,” says Maguire.

Horizon 2020 is all about scientific excellence. The objectives and deliverables that were part of the project provided a structured framework and a discipline that was valuable to us. In addition, we felt trusted, supported and part of something bigger.”

As a result of the SME Instrument support, AVECTAS achieved a number of progressive strategic objectives. “The SME Instrument enabled us to accelerate our discussions with government agencies, academic institutes, regulatory bodies and other companies in the formation of a national strategy. There are very progressive efforts now across industry, academia and the funding community to join up the thinking around cell therapy and for Ireland to do the same in this field as we’ve done in biotechnology where we’re now a world player. It’s exciting to see what will come of that.”

 

Persistence pays

Maguire is keen to encourage other companies to take advantage of the support available through Horizon Europe (Horizon 2020’s successor) but stresses that it should be viewed as additive rather than core funding.

“I feel strongly that companies need to have solid investment and avoid being dependent on grants such as Horizon funding. That’s not the right way to run a business and it can take you down avenues that don’t align with your company strategy. Additive funding such as Horizon Europe can allow you to accelerate progress but shouldn’t be the only source of finance,” says Maguire.

There is also much to be learned from the application process itself which hones focus and delivers fresh perspective.

“We made a number of applications for this funding before being successful and we learnt from the feedback on each of them, including how the outside world views your business. I would encourage people to be persistent and don’t get dispirited if the first or second applications are unsuccessful.”

AVECTAS has benefitted from a range of Enterprise Ireland support since its set-up and also got assistance with preparing the Horizon 2020 application.

Recently it has secured further funding through the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It is partnering with Bluebridge Technologies and NIBRT to expand its Solupore® platform to manufacture next-generation allogeneic products that can be produced at scale for large numbers of patients. The allogeneic approach uses cells from donor tissues rather than the patient’s own cells.

The project will take AVECTAS further towards commercialising an advanced, large-scale, digitalised cell engineering platform optimised to manufacture ‘off-the-shelf’ cell-based therapies for cancer treatment.

For further information about applying for support from Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie.

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H2020 CityxChange team

+CityxChange helping to create the positive energy cities of the future

H2020 CityxChange team

Horizon 2020, and its successor Horizon Europe, are designed for innovation. It enables participants to take risks and therefore achieve more.”


Terry Connolly, Limerick City and County Council, +CityxChange project

Key Takeouts:

  • Limerick City and County Council is taking part in a five-year, €24m, pan-European project to create positive energy blocks within cities.
  • The project is funded by Horizon 2020 under its Smart Cities and Communities call.
  • Now midway through the project, +CityxChange is set to roll out its blueprint for carbon reduction across seven European cities.

H2020 Case Study: CityxChange

The European Union’s (EU) ambitious vision of creating positive energy cities – those that generate more energy than they use – is being advanced by a major pan-European project, +CityxChange, running over five years.

The aim of the project, which has received 24m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, is to create positive energy blocks within two ‘lighthouse’ cities and then roll out the learning and solutions across five other European cities. This will establish a blueprint for creating energy positive urban environments, essentially co-creating solutions to global-scale challenges at the local level.

Trondheim, Norway and Limerick, Ireland, are the lighthouse cities, but as Terry Connolly of Limerick City and County Council explains, the challenges in each are very different.

Trondheim’s positive energy block is a new build that was designed to be energy positive. In Limerick we’re trying to do the same thing with Georgian buildings, which is a massive challenge,” says Connolly.

Limerick City and County Council is working with a number of expert partners to develop solutions for buildings located in the Georgian Innovation District to help generate more energy than they consume and allow for any excess energy to be returned to the grid.

+CityxChange involves extensive data collection, engaging communities, upgrading building stock, accelerating the clean energy transition and balancing energy use. Despite the challenges, however, including the impact of Covid delaying the energy monitoring elements, the project is progressing well.

“We’ve completed the data collection and building modeling work and are well advanced with citizen engagement. The response from the public has been great.

We’ve recruited 20 energy champions in Limerick who are demonstrating how they are changing their energy use, and we have funded several small community innovative energy positive projects through open calls,” says Connolly.

+CityxChange’s extensive remit is being delivered by a consortium consisting of 32 partners across Europe including city municipalities, universities, and businesses and organisations in the fields of research, technology, community engagement, energy production/distribution and logistics.

“In essence we’re looking at how digital technologies can be exploited to improve quality of life, make cities more climate-friendly and productive, and facilitate business development,” says Connolly.

 

Horizon 2020 supporting innovation

Connolly has been involved in numerous European projects over many years, which have spanned a wide range of funding mechanisms. He believes Horizon 2020 and its successor Horizon Europe are perfectly designed to support innovation.

“Some funding mechanisms can generate a lot of paperwork for participants, in particular those that are based on having to spend money first and then claim it back.  I believe that can make people risk averse because they’re afraid they might not get their money back”.

“Horizon 2020 is high quality funding; it’s designed for innovation. Of course, you still have all the paperwork requirements but the fact that you get most of the money up front makes you better placed to take the risks needed to deliver real innovation”.

“Also, Horizon-funded projects are by their nature at the cutting edge of research and innovation and so are extremely interesting projects to be involved in,” says Connolly.

With his extensive experience of Horizon projects, Connolly is able to offer some advice to other organizations and businesses that might be considering responding to a Horizon call.

“The key thing for anyone thinking of getting involved in a Horizon project is to ensure that it’s aligned with what you want to do. You don’t want to start something and then realise it’s beyond your capability or out of step with your business focus.  A Horizon project is a contract that you have to finish.”

Enterprise Ireland’s support and expertise is an invaluable resource for applicants.

Enterprise Ireland has so much information about these projects and what’s happening across Europe and they can share that with you. They can advise on which projects you have a better chance of winning and can help with identifying partners or putting you in touch with someone who is looking for a partner”.

“We’re talking to them at the minute to prepare for Horizon Europe calls. They’re helping us pinpoint which clusters we will look at and focus on which applications might be of interest”.

“They’re also very honest, so they’ll tell you straight if they don’t think your project will work and that means you don’t waste time working on a proposal that’s going nowhere.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon Europe support, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

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FAITH: Improving mental health care for cancer survivors

H2020 FAITH team image and case study heading

FAITH is potentially life-changing research. To achieve the ambitious goals of the project we needed to leverage our networks in Europe and build a consortium of experts.


Philip O’ Brien, Technical Co-ordinator, FAITH Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Walton, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is leading a project that aims to develop a model for mental health monitoring of cancer patients, to improve their quality of life.
  • The FAITH project has received €4.8m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • As well as co-ordinating FAITH, Walton is driving the development of artificial intelligence (AI) models and the deployment of a federated learning framework.

H2020 Case Study: FAITH

    Cancer remains the second leading cause of death globally and as many as one in five people living with cancer experiences depression and mood change post diagnosis. It’s a stark statistic and one that led researchers at Walton Institute, an ICT research and development centre within the Waterford Institute of Technology, to begin looking at the area of mental health in cancer patients to see if they could use their expertise to help. 

    “We believe the potential for ICT applications in health is massive. We had an initial idea about looking at markers of depression and when the Horizon 2020 call came out, which was specifically targeting improving the quality of life for cancer survivors, it was an opportunity to take the idea to the next level,” says Philip O’ Brien, technical co-ordinator of FAITH.

    The goal of FAITH (a Federated Artificial Intelligence solution for moniToring mental Health status after cancer treatment) is to provide an ‘AI Angel’ app that remotely analyses depression markers, such as changes in activity, outlook, sleep and appetite. When a negative trend is detected, an alert can be sent to the patient’s healthcare providers or other caregivers who can then offer support.

    The project uses the latest, secure AI and machine learning techniques within the interactive app located on patients’ phones. Key to the project is federated machine learning, which enables the patient’s personal data to stay within the AI model on each phone, guaranteeing privacy.

    “As the model collects data on a person’s phone it retrains itself to improve and personalize it for each individual.explains O’Brien

    “As the model collects data on a person’s phone it retrains itself to improve and personalize it for each individual. But we also want to learn from all that data to gain insights that are beneficial to the broader population, so when a model updates, that update, rather than the person’s data is sent back to the cloud. All the updates are processed and a new, improved model is sent back out to everyone and that cycle repeats,”

     

    Another important aspect of the project is a focus on explainable AI, which is about ensuring that healthcare professionals can understand why the machine has reached a particular decision about the person’s mental health.

    “Explainable AI is extremely important for building trust. As AI impacts more and more on our lives the implications of this are huge,” says O’Brien.

     

    Why Horizon 2020?

    “It was clear from the start that to achieve the ambitious goals of the FAITH project we would need to leverage our networks in Europe and build a consortium of clinicians and technical experts. By breaking the project concept into a number of key objectives we then built our consortium based on specific expertise to achieve each objective,” says O’Brien.

    FAITH brings together partners from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Cyprus into a strong multi-disciplinary team. Trial sites in eminent cancer hospitals in Madrid, Waterford and Lisbon, involving both clinicians and patients, are assessing the concept and feedback is being used to refine the model.

    As with most Horizon projects there are multiple dependencies across the various work packages and co-ordinating the whole presents some challenges. At the helm of FAITH is Gary McManus, Research Project Manager at Walton.

    Different countries and organisations have different regulations and ways of operating so that’s one challenge. Also, from experience from previous projects, I knew it was important to remember that each partner, although working towards the global aim of the project, will have their own interests. Being cognisant of these sub-goals from the outset and, where possible, facilitating these in the overall planning process is essential,” says McManus.

    Different countries and organisations have different regulations and ways of operating so that’s one challenge. Also, from experience from previous projects, I knew it was important to remember that each partner, although working towards the global aim of the project, will have their own interests. Being cognisant of these sub-goals from the outset and, where possible, facilitating these in the overall planning process is essential,” says McManus.

    “But by having strong leaders for each work package, who are experts in their domain, we can be sure that delivery of each element will build towards the final offering.”

     

    Knowledge gain

    Having taken part in multiple Horizon 2020 projects, O’Brien believes that one of the great benefits is the extensive knowledge gain within a short period.

    “Being involved in a Horizon project is the opportunity to upskill rapidly and build on your underlying expertise. Through your links with other organisations across Europe you get an insight into different ways of working and you cross paths with people from many disciplines. For example, through FAITH we’ve been talking to a range of healthcare professionals and leveraging their experience.

    “The EU spends a lot of time and money with experts pinpointing the areas where we need to see technology improving to tackle specific challenges in the next five to ten years. By being involved in these projects you’re building on all of that knowledge rather than working in isolation. Then learning from the people you are working with across Europe pushes you up a level again.”

    Moreover, the end of a Horizon project is usually the beginning of something else.

    “One of our work packages is looking at what happens post project and how we take it to the next stage. We know bigger healthcare trials will be needed, for example. But from Walton’s point of view we’ve broken some new ground on explainable AI which has a lot of applications outside this project, so that’s an area we’d like to take forward. You need to be clear about how you build on the project, either in a well-defined follow-up project or by commercial exploitation of the output.”

     

    For further information about applying for support from Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie.

     

    Grian Water – Innovating to Target the Environmental Impact of Food Waste

    “There is no downside to our technology. It makes so much more sense to treat food waste at source. We wouldn’t have been able to go live and launch our product without the Innovation Voucher Programme from Enterprise Ireland” – Kieran Coffey, CTO, Grian Water Ltd.

    Globally more than a third of all food is wasted – affecting people, planet and profit and leveraging emerging technology is one of the most vital ways to innovate to target food waste and fight climate change.

    For Clonakilty based Kieran Coffey, this issue has been front of mind for many years. A mechanical engineer, he has always been interested in sustainability and the environment and established Grian Water to innovate around the potential of anaerobic digestion as a technology to generate renewable energy, lessen GHG emissions and recover nutrients as well as playing a role in meeting the climate change targets under the Paris agreement. His company developed MyGug, a micro-scale anaerobic digester for the treatment of food waste that turns organic matter into renewable fuel that can be used in homes and small businesses.

    In Ireland, households now produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste annually which equates to a cost of €700 worth of food being thrown out per house every year. Food waste now contributes to 8% of the world’s GHG emissions and the estimated global cost of this is €1.2 trillion of profit lost every year. This is against a backdrop of about 870 million people in the world going hungry every day.

    “Having worked for many years in waste water, anaerobic digestion was always on my mind. I wanted to find a complete food waste treatment system solution and the idea was to design something on a micro-scale that would integrate into domestic and small business settings and that would operate in all weather and climate conditions,” explains Kieran.

    With the support of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme, Grian Water approached Wisar Lab, based at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. The Lab is a wireless and embedded systems group that provides electrical and electronic solutions for established companies and technology start-ups. The company wanted to develop a low-cost micro-controller solution using wireless connectivity and cloud storage to monitor the digester’s performance over time. They developed a cost-efficient printed circuit board collaboratively and have already installed it in domestic and small business settings for longer term testing and to gather overall performance data. “There has been a great reaction, particularly from food businesses that are interested in sustainability and want to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Kieran.

    “People are not aware of the potential energy that they are throwing out with plastics and other types of wastes. Once food waste is mixed you’ve diminished its value. It’s harder to handle. It makes so much more sense to treat it at source whether you are a household or business user.” Grian Water is now working with Wiser Labs on a new Innovation voucher from Enterprise Ireland. They aim to work towards complete sustainability in processes and systems and a complete packaged unit.

    Advising other companies to avail of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme, Kieran says that “the key thing for me was talking to a key figure in Enterprise Ireland. Find out what you want to improve or achieve with your own product or process. Be clear on your own vision of where you want to go.”

    To take your next step towards Innovation visit Innovation Vouchers.

    Keogh’s Crisps – Keep Going, Keep Growing – Innovation and Insights

    “We were able to draw on the insights from the professionals which gave us a fantastic understanding of consumer preferences and thoughts. The knowledge we gained using the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme enabled us to make tweaks and improvements and our sales have grown on the back of it”

    Ian Maher, Head of Operations, Keogh’s Crisps.

    The Irish success story of Keogh’s crisps is now a worldwide one and their range of premium hand cooked small batch crisps and popcorn continues to expand. Their share bag sales increased by a third during the pandemic and the family-owned company has innovation at its core and continues to scale up.

    The family has been farming for over 200 years at Oldtown, North County Dublin and their crisps now account for nearly 10% of the total Irish crisp market. They also currently export to 20 countries worldwide including the USA. Known as the only firm in the world to have actually taken a potato brand and turned it into a crisp brand, their use of Irish ingredients and flavours like chorizo and cherry tomato, Irish Atlantic sea salt, shamrock sour cream and roast turkey and secret stuffing sets them apart from other brands.

    Keogh’s took part in the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme and worked with Teagasc to research and test consumer reaction to some upcoming product innovations. “We found it very useful testing and trialling and tasting products to give us an idea of what consumers might think, so that we could go forward and down the right track. After feedback we changed some of the seasoning applications and made improvements” explains Ian Maher, Head of Operations.

    Working with experts from Teagasc, Keogh’s Crisps was able to use the Innovation Voucher Scheme to set up bespoke research models to draw insights from professional panels. They could then realign their thoughts and make changes where they needed to. “We got a good steer in the right direction with the research and we were able to ascertain what aspects of the products that we needed to revisit. We got a good understanding of how we should go about testing something. We learned that it is not about just asking questions, it is about asking the right questions. It was like a light switch for us.” explained Ian.

    “The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme helped us to get to where we wanted to faster and with less of a pinch than we would have because we had the support and professional help in the background. It’s not just the process – it’s all about the potential of where it leads you to.”

    Looking to the future, Keogh’s Crisps are always looking at how they are going to expand their range and do even healthier versions with great flavour and taste. They’re also prioritising sustainability and having less impact on the environment. Recommending the Innovation Voucher Scheme to other companies Ian Maher advises: “You cannot do everything at once. Plan out what you need to do over a period of time and think about what you want to achieve with the innovation vouchers. In our business for example, it’s all about timing and there are certain windows during the year for new products.”

    To take your next step towards Innovation visit Innovation Vouchers.

    Lidan Designs – Innovating for Sustainability

    “Lidan was started to create sustainable skilled jobs in the West of Ireland through the design and manufacture of sustainable buildings in an innovative way” – Dan O’Brien, Director, Lidan Designs.

    The interest in contemporary wooden buildings is soaring worldwide and Lidan Designs is leading the charge in creating innovative, energy-efficient modern structures in a move towards a more sustainable society.

    Winners of the ‘Future Focus’ award at this year’s National Enterprise Awards, the Roscommon-based company has a clear vision having recognised the potential of wood as the ideal construction material for the future and specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of premium wood products and structures. Maximising the use of this sustainable and natural material, Lidan is leveraging cutting-edge design to create these structures with craftsmanship at the core and each of their products is handcrafted individually by a team of experienced carpenters and joiners. They are currently in the process of building a bespoke factory to meet the increased demand for their product.

    Former Accenture Corporate Strategy Consultant Dan O’Brien co-founded the company with Liam Casey to offer timber home offices with NZEB standards, a BER A-rating and that can deliver passive house levels of airtightness. The company has availed of the Innovation voucher scheme from Enterprise Ireland to further innovate and grow.

    In demand for more and more projects in the public sector, their clients now include the OPW, Department of Education and many others. One of their showcase achievements is a highly-sustainable ecological Nearly Zero Energy rapid build dwelling for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which apart from being one of the first dwellings fully finished off-site in Ireland, it is also possibly the lowest embodied carbon dwelling in Ireland. The two bedroomed house at Fernhill near Stepaside, Dublin was fully designed, built and finished by Lidan off-site and took just a few weeks to complete from design to handover. A fully fitted kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, plumbing, electrics and energy systems were all done off-site. This work allowed the company to showcase the potential of sustainable house building in Ireland.

    As lifestyles and global work patterns have changed, there has been a huge demand from private sector clients for additional space whether it’s for home offices, gyms or studios. The buildings created by Lidan have been growing in both size and complexity and public sector clients are also now recognising the potential of the use of wood from a design, efficiency and construction point of view – from larger offices to schools and community centres. The affordable and social housing crisis has also spurred on the need for well-regulated rapid build and modular housing systems.

    “There is a huge demand now from housing to schools to bigger public amenity buildings. We aim for growth but sustainable growth at a sustainable pace in expanding, hiring people and increasing our product set”, explains Dan O’Brien.

    The Innovation voucher scheme from Enterprise Ireland allowed the company to become agile. They partnered with Sligo Institute of Technology to use the scheme to examine the energy profile for their current range of modular buildings, assessed renewable energy and water and waste sustainability options. The voucher also helped them to increase their 3D modelling capabilities – enabling them to create renders of finished products for clients.

    “I’d strongly recommend that companies look at the Enterprise Ireland Innovation voucher scheme for their innovation projects. We’re now looking at further expansion and examining the export market. It has been very helpful to us in terms of solving problems and allowed us to bring in outsourced expertise as needed and it was a great way of starting connections with the talent available at third level.” says Dan O’Brien.

    To take your next step towards Innovation visit Innovation Vouchers.

    Geowox - innovation vouchers

    Geowox – Innovating Home Buying Through Technology

    “We speed up the home buying process by providing a home valuation that can be done in one hour. Our business is designed to solve a problem. With the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme our goal was to do more research and development on satellite and aerial imaging to further develop our platform and we achieved this” – Stefano Francavilla CEO and Founder, Geowox.

    Property tech start-up Geowox has completely revolutionised the process of home buying. Traditionally valuations are completed by surveyors manually which can be slow and sometimes not fully accurate and when dealing with large asset books not very feasible. Geowox has changed all this, creating scaled, fast and accurate valuations using open data, automation and machine learning.

    The company is very much on the radar as one of the first tech companies in Europe to receive direct investment from the EU – €1.6million in 2021. They’re on a trajectory to success and as part of their continuing growth availed of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme to work on refining and improving some of their imaging methods and this proved to be really successful for them.

    “We set up the company to digitize the mortgage process and enable a fast track valuation through automated property valuation solutions”, explains Stefano Francavilla who founded the company in late 2017 with Paul van Bommel and Marco Giardina. With the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation vouchers Geowox worked with Trinity College Dublin to look at applied satellite and aerial imagery and discovered how accurate object recognition is to increase their automated valuation model coverage.

    Geowox leverages three components – open, licensed and proprietary data which includes data extracted from aerial images and this was the core of the work that they used the innovation vouchers for. The information they gleaned through their research and development with TCD and the workflow they have built now enables them to further refine and adjust and they aim to expand into new markets.

    So how did Geowox become aware of the Innovation voucher scheme? “Enterprise Ireland has done a great job in supporting business start ups. I was being kept informed of all of their supports and then saw the innovation supports and felt that it was a big fit for us at this stage in our growth”, says Stefano.

    The innovation voucher allowed the company to look at what was available in aerial imaging and satellite images when it came to detecting lot size of properties. “We went to the Adapt Centre at TCD with this broad idea. We gave them the initial idea and then asked them to expand on it and they brought in their expertise and we got a lot of promising results. The end result was a presentation and baseline and we ended up setting up a team and now have a roadmap.”

    Stefano and his team found the process straightforward and they now have a resource within the company working specifically on this topic and solutions for recognising lot size with a higher degree of accuracy for properties in Ireland. They have achieved what they wanted to with this baseline. He advises companies to engage as early as possible with the innovation voucher process. “Start building the relationship with Enterprise Ireland and get early feedback and have your goal in mind. They have the knowledge and industry experience. Have your clear questions ready and go to them with a goal in mind so that they can help you at an early stage.”

    To take your next step towards Innovation visit Innovation Vouchers.

    TriviumVet – Innovating with an Eye on Global Pet Healthcare

    “The research and validation work we embarked on with the Innovation Voucher Scheme from Enterprise Ireland gave us a very data-driven solid foundation as a platform to be able to make sound strategic decisions and move to the next stages of our ambitions” – Dr Liam Byrne, Head of Technical and Business Development, TriviumVet

    The global companion animal health sector market has been growing like never before, along with the rising numbers in the adoption and purchase of pets. This has created a need for more sophisticated and efficient therapies for animals and the mission of TriviumVet is to deliver ground-breaking innovative healthcare solutions to bridge the treatment gaps in veterinary healthcare for these companion animals.

    Founded by a seasoned group of entrepreneurial experts, the Waterford-based company now has many breakthrough veterinary therapeutics in the pipeline and has been named in Ireland’s top 100 start-ups for the second year running. Dr Liam Byrne, Head of Technical and Business Development at TriviumVet, who has a background in chemistry, joined the company two years ago and from his time in Waterford company EirGen Pharma was familiar with the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme.

    The company is on a fast-moving trajectory around product development and needed to push research and development around formulation, good manufacturing process, scale-up plans and more. This stage was crucial before moving to the clinical aspects and proof of concept, safety studies and field studies before approval to ensure all safety and standards are being met along with regulatory and licensing requirements for the European and US markets.

    Working with three academic institutions – TU Tallaght, Waterford IT and Liam’s alma mater Dublin City University, TriviumVet used the Enterprise Ireland Innovation scheme vouchers to embark on proof of concept research for a number of their products. As part of this product development, TriviumVet used an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher and worked with the PMBRC Gateway in WIT to carry out research allowing them to proceed with clinical studies of their treatment – an exciting project which is currently underway.

    “The work we did through the voucher scheme went from an idea that we were examining, to us being able to validate that theory with lots of data and reports that we could use to then create a portable point of care test. We were in a position to avail of specialist skills that we did not have in-house,” explained Liam. “We were able to research and investigate and without this process it wouldn’t have been possible to know if this would work. It went from a concept we were talking about to reality”.

    Liam Byrne points out that the innovations have helped TriviumVet to build up the foundations of their business and they hope in the future to be able to develop a suite of diagnostic tools and have not just one test but a range of them. “The innovation vouchers allowed us to find our feet in a relatively risk free way. We now benefit with a clear path forward and are in a position to move to the next steps of development of these biosensors and their commercial development”.

    “I would highly recommend companies to get involved in the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher process,” says Liam. “The process is very user friendly and they are happy to guide you. It is also very beneficial to partner with an academic institution. If you’re trying to answer a technical problem or trouble shoot an issue or if you are trying to test whether a concept is valid, the innovation voucher can be invaluable”.

    To take your next step towards Innovation visit Innovation Vouchers.

    ASINA: enabling safe-and sustainable-by-design nanotechnologies

    Picture of male interviewee, Dt Ehtsham U.Haq

    “One of the advantages of being involved in Horizon projects is the breadth of experience one gets by sharing expertise and access to new networks in partner countries.”


    Dr Ehtsham U. Haq, University of Limerick, ASINA Horizon 2020 project

    Key Takeouts:

    • The University of Limerick is taking part in a major project that is developing scientifically sound safe-by-design nanotechnologies.
    • The 42-month ASINA project has received €5.99m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.
    • The ASINA project will support the fast industrial uptake of nanotechnology by providing safe-by-design solutions and supporting tools.

    H2020 Case Study: ASINA

      Nanotechnology impacts nearly every sector of the global economy from electronics to cosmetics, and from defence to the automotive sector and agriculture. It plays a part in everyday items such as antibacterial hand creams and coated textiles and it is anticipated that the market worth will exceed $120 billion by 2024.

      However, safety issues in relation to producing and disposing of nano-enabled products remain a concern.

      “Although previous EU-funded projects have defined tools and concepts to ensure the safety of nano-enabled products through design, the current state of the art indicates that industrial production is struggling to activate the safe-and sustainable-by-design (SSbD) approach and the fast industrial uptake of engineered nanomaterials (NMs) is missing or unsafely implemented,” explains Dr Ehtsham U Haq, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Limerick, one of the ASINA (Anticipating Safety Issues at the Design Stage of NAno Product Development) project partners.

      “The ASINA project aims to promote consistent, applicable and scientifically sound SSbD nanotechnologies by collecting information across all the design dimensions: functionality, production technologies, safety, environmental sustainability, cost effectiveness and regulatory requirements.”

      Led by the National Research Council of Italy, the Horizon 2020-funded ASINA project will use an approach modelled on six-sigma practices, that  focus on process improvement.

      One of the challenge that ASINA will address is how to distil existing methods into simple, robust, cost-effective methods for monitoring of physio-chemical properties and biological effect assessment of nanomaterials and address properties of concern like technical performance, hazard and exposure related issues in product-relevant matrices. ASINA will develop pilot facilities with a combination of digital technologies and artificial intelligence technologies (Digital Twins) under a SSbD framework,” adds Haq.

      In turn, this should help to accelerate the uptake of nanotechnology by industry and reassure end users of its safety, matching existing challenges summarised by the European Green Deal.” 

      Real-world applications

      One of 21 partners in the ASINA consortium, the six-strong University of Limerick team is tasked primarily with physical-chemical characterisation of the nanoparticles and developing information about their properties. Two spin-out companies from the university are also partners on the project.

      Focusing on two real-world product lines–antimicrobialcoatings for clean technology applications (textile and air filtration sector), and nanostructured capsules for applications in the cosmetic sector, ASINA has also had a part to play in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

      “The methodologies of physio-chemical characterization developed by us can be applied to other nano-enabled products as well. We are developing coatings for variously functionalized textiles for face masks, air filters for example in collaboration with other partners,” says Haq.

      “We’re enthusiastic about ASINA because what we’re doing will be used in real-life industrial applications,” explains Haq.

      “We’re using machine learning tools to generate response functions and obtain the full set of design solutions performance attributes. An expert system (ASINA- ES), easily adoptable by industries, will be developed for supporting the industrial product designers in identifying the suitable SSbD solutions better complying with the design constraints….There will be huge learning from this project.”

       

      The Horizon advantage

      Like all Horizon projects, ASINA is a multi-disciplinary, international project involving a range of players from large research institutes to small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is also collaborating with other Horizon 2020 funded projects focusing on safe-by design production of nano-enabled products. While ASINA is still very much in its infancy, having been held up by laboratory closures due to Covid-19, Haq has recently been involved in two other Horizon projects – OYSTER and M3DLOC.

      “One of the advantages of being involved in Horizon projects is the breadth of experience you get and the profile of your research in an international audience. The projects I’ve been involved with have all been very different. OYSTER  aims to develop standardized measurement protocol for surface free energy for quality control in nano-enabled and bioinspired products, while M3DLOC involved 3D printing for the fabrication of microfluidic MEMS for lab-on-a-chip and sensing applications.  ASINA is on the other hand is dealing with nanoparticles and nano-enabled products. That makes the work very interesting, challenging and in return it also extends your technical expertise,” says Haq.

      “Overall, the Horizon experience is beneficial for both your research and personal development. Because you are dealing with people from other professions who have a completely different perspective and experience, you become more multi-disciplinary and broaden your collaborations and skill level.” says Haq.

      For those considering getting involved in a Horizon proposal, perhaps for the first time, Haq highlights two issues.

      “In Horizon projects a great deal of time is spent on consortium building. You’re bringing together not only researchers but managers, Intellectual Property experts, SMEs and others, so that side of things is as important along the original idea, and it’s important to get it right.

      “Also, take advantage of any support that’s available if you are involved in producing the proposal. Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports and my experience of dealing with them has been very positive.”

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

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