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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    SmartAgriHubs connecting European agricultural and IT innovation

    “The SmartAgriHubs project has been invaluable not just to Walton but to Ireland, as it’s allowed us to build a network of contacts and strong strategic relations with similar partners across Europe.”

    Hazel Peavoy, Walton Institute, SmartAgriHubs Horizon 2020 project

    Key Takeouts:

    • Walton Institute, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a major project that is driving the digitisation of the agricultural sector in Europe.
    • The SmartAgriHubs project has received €20m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
    • With 164 partners, the ambitious project aims to build a network of over 2000 Competence Centres supported by 250 Digital Innovation Hubs and deliver 80 new digital solutions to the market.

    H2020 Case Study: SmartAgriHubs

       

      Increasing the competitiveness, resilience and sustainability of Europe’s agri-food sector is a prime focus for the European Union as it looks ahead to the challenges of climate change and feeding a growing population. Central to the future success of the sector will be the widespread adoption of innovation and smart-farming techniques but this will rely heavily on interconnectivity and knowledge-sharing across a multitude of stakeholders.

      This is the focus of the ambitious €20m SmartAgriHubs Horizon 2020 project. Involving a consortium of 164 partners, including start-ups, SMEs, service providers, technology experts and end-users spread over nine Regional Clusters, the project aims to build a network of over 2000 Competence Centres supported by some 250 Digital Innovation Hubs and deliver 80 new digital solutions to the market.

      Walton Institute, a centre for information and communication systems science and part of the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), is leading the Ireland & UK Regional Cluster, with Hazel Peavoy at the helm.

      “Part of our role is to identify the Digital Innovation Hubs and Competency Centres across Ireland to build our local network. Digital Innovation Hubs are larger centres that bring together research, funding, business models and services, while the smaller Competency Centres tend to have a single technical service,” she explains.

      “The aim is to create a network that will work together on ground-breaking research and innovation. We want to be able to give farmers a clear view of the technologies that may be coming down the line and to ensure they get assistance to apply whatever technology they need to support their activities.”

      SmartAgriHubs is also funding a number of Flagship Innovation Experiments through which technology solutions are tested with a view to eventually bringing them to market. The experiments are conducted with the help of the Digital Innovation Hubs and Competence Centres.

      The Ireland & UK Regional Cluster is currently running two Flagship Innovation Experiments. The Farm Sustainability Audit is measuring a range of metrics in the dairy industry related to energy and water use, nutrient use efficiency, animal welfare and greenhouse gas emissions, while STREAM is applying digital technologies to simplify the production of farmland habitat reports.

      “These experiments are helping to bring innovation to the fore. Currently there are three more open calls under SmartAgriHubs that are offering funding for experiments that will drive digital innovation,” says Peavoy.

       

      Connecting the dots

      SmartAgriHubs’s full project title is ‘Connecting the dots to unleash the innovation potential for digital transformation of the European agri-food sector’, which highlights the importance of excellent communication and dissemination of information across project partners and stakeholders.

      “The project has been very successful with regards to communication. The Regional Cluster leads attend monthly meetings and then we disseminate the information down to other elements of the project. And there are also monthly meetings with the Flagship Innovation Experiments. So we can quite clearly see what’s happening across Europe with the other partners and with agriculture and we can learn from each other,” says Peavoy.

      “Having such a large number of partners meant, at an early stage, it took some time to mobilise the consortium but once that was achieved the network has become invaluable to all involved in this sector globally.”

       

      The value to Walton Institute and Ireland

      Peavoy believes that taking part in SmartAgriHubs has positioned Ireland and the UK as key drivers for the agri-tech sector across Europe.

      “This project has been invaluable not just to Walton but to Ireland, as it’s allowed us to build a network of contacts and strong strategic relations with similar partners across Europe.”

      “From a personal perspective, it’s very interesting to see how other countries approach particular problems and to get an insight into what research is required by the sector to meet its future needs,” says Peavoy.

      “Likewise, we can see that our partners in SmartAgriHubs are learning from us. For example, the Competency Centres we’ve identified through SmartAgriHubs are often start-ups and SMEs and through WIT’s Technology Gateway they’ve been able to benefit from Enterprise Ireland funding. Our partners in Germany were very interested in how our Technology Gateways function because they don’t have anything like that.

      “The SmartAgriHubs partners are also looking at how we’ve created a culture of multi-disciplinary collaboration in Ireland. What was once a landscape of competition has become a landscape of collaboration; A perfect example of that is the VistaMilk Research Centre which has brought together a number of RPO’s to develop new technologies for the dairy sector. I believe that in many ways Ireland is leading the charge in this space and is well-positioned to lead on future Horizon Europe projects linked to agriculture” says Peavoy.

      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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      NIVA – simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy claims process

      Horizon 2020 is an ideal funding stream as it enables cross-border collaboration and ensures that technology developed will be fit for purpose on a pan European basis.

      David Hearne, Walton Institute, NIVA Horizon 2020 project

      Key Takeouts:

      • Walton Institute (formerly TSSG), part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a project that aims to develop and implement a range of digital innovations to improve the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
      • The NIVA project has received €10.5m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
      • Walton Institute is focused on developing a geo-tagged photo app to help simplify the CAP claims process for farmers and paying agencies.

      H2020 Case Study: NIVA

        The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supports farmers, safeguards agri-food supplies and encourages sustainable management of land resources. Administering and controlling payments to farmers under CAP is done through the integrated administration and control system (IACS), which is the subject of the Horizon 2020 project, NIVA (New IACS Vision in Action).

        The three-year project, led by The Netherlands’ Wageningen University & Research and involving 27 partners, aims to modernise IACS by delivering a suite of digital solutions, e-tools and good practices for e-governance. These will ultimately produce more transparent, simpler processes that will reduce the administrative burden on farmers, paying agencies and other stakeholders.

        In Ireland, a multi-disciplinary team made up of The Walton Institute (formerly TSSG) – a centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation – the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Teagasc – the Agriculture and Food Development Authority – and led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is tasked with developing a geo-tagged photo app.

        The app will be used to resolve claim queries by enabling farmers to send digital photos of their land parcels directly to the paying agency, which will reduce the need for inspections and accelerate claim processing.

        “Our app is one of nine innovations in this project with different countries working on each,” explains David Hearne of Walton Institute’s Creative Design Unit. “Other areas include decision support systems, machine data and a solution for simplifying payments, but in the end they will all come together in one ecosystem, which will be used by paying agencies across Europe.”

        Although it won’t be the first geo-tagged photo app on the market, Hearne explains that what sets this one apart is the user-centric, multi-actor design.

        “We take the approach that we don’t know what the users want; we can’t decide what’s best for a farmer in the west of Ireland who needs to send a photo to the Dept of Agriculture. So the project started by gathering data about the needs of all stakeholders, not just in Ireland but across Europe. It’s an iterative process, so when we’d developed the first version of the app, it was tested by users across Europe and their feedback informed the next iteration and so on.

        “The fact that farmers and other stakeholders have been involved from the beginning gives them a sense of ownership, and that should result in a higher adoption rate at the end,” adds Hearne.

         

        Horizon benefits  

        Horizon 2020 has provided €10.5m in funding for the project, but beyond the financial investment the programme offers multiple other benefits.

        Horizon 2020 is an ideal funding stream as it enables cross-border collaboration and ensures that technology developed will be fit for purpose on a pan European basis,” says Hearne

        “Currently, our app is being tested across nine EU countries with over 200 users, and other solutions being developed under NIVA will likewise be tested across different countries, so there’s a lot of interaction, integration and learning across the project.”

        Monthly work package meetings and bi-monthly project meetings, all virtual at the minute, keep the project on course and ensure that innovation is shared across the partners.

        On a personal and professional level, Hearne believes his involvement in Horizon 2020 projects has been highly advantageous.

        “It’s great to focus on these large projects with so many moving parts. You learn so much, for example, the various technologies used in different countries, how they are implemented and what the issues are.

        Hearne confirms “The opportunity to collaborate with researchers in other countries is also invaluable. You build up a huge contact base, which gives you the opportunity to collaborate on more projects.”

        To others who have not yet dipped their toe in the Horizon water, Hearne simply says “Do it”.

        “It’s a great opportunity to be involved in projects that can actually change people’s lives. With NIVA we’re reducing the burden on farmers, so we’re making a difference. My advice would be to focus on something that you’re really passionate about.”

        His other advice is to seek out the right partners at the start and use the supports that are available to help with putting the proposal together.

        “I was involved in writing sections of the NIVA proposal. It was a new experience for me because I come from a very technical background, but I had the support of people in WIT to guide me in how to approach it. And the more you do it the easier it gets.

        “We’re also in close contact with Enterprise Ireland, who have a real interest in the project, and we know that they’re there to help us if we need it.”

        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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        AgROBOfood – stimulating the uptake of robotics in the agri-food sector

        “The Horizon 2020 & Horizon Europe funding streams give participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors and companies.”

         

        Christine O’Meara, Walton Institute, AgROBOfood, Horizon 2020 project

        Key Takeouts:

        • Walton Institute, formerly TSSG, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a major project to encourage and facilitate the uptake of robotics in the agri-food sector.
        • The AgROBOfood project is being funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
        • Acting as a Digital Innovation Hub, The Walton Institute, is a one-stop-shop, supporting those in the Agri-food sector in locating and accessing robotics services or expertise and is mapping out the robotics ecosystem in Ireland.

        Case Study: AgROBOfood

        By 2050, our planet will be home to almost 10 billion people and the pressure on food production will be immense. There is now an urgent need to find and develop smart ways to farm and process food, and this underlies the European Union’s huge investment in agri-food-related innovation projects.

        AgROBOfood is one such project. Focused on helping the Agri-food sector become more efficient through the use of robotics, the four-year, €16.3m Horizon 2020 project involves 39 partners and is led by Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands.

        The project team is broken into seven territorial clusters enabling more agile and effective group sizes. Ireland, represented by The Walton Institute (formerly TSSG) – an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation and part of the Waterford Institute of Technology is in the North West cluster. This cluster comprises the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, United Kingdom and Ireland.

        AgROBOfood has three aims: to build a network of digital innovation hubs and competency centres; to load this network with a catalogue of services; and to showcase what robotics can do for the sector.

        “Walton Institute is the Digital Innovation Hub for Ireland. We can signpost stakeholders to competency or research centres or other hubs in Ireland or across Europe that can provide the services or expertise they need. And as an R&D centre itself, Walton can also provide services directly,” explains Christine O’Meara, Walton Institute project lead.

        “There’s definitely an appetite for digitization and automation, and Ireland has strong national players in, for example, the dairy sector where smart technologies are well advanced.” says O’Meara

        “There are a lot of exciting start-ups in Ireland working in robotics in diverse areas from pasture management to sustainable poultry production. Across Europe, great progress has been made across agri-food with areas like robotic weeding and harvesting set to advance quickly.”

        A key driver in the growth of the robotics ecosystem will be the results of three funding open calls. Two of these (Open Calls for Innovation Experiments) will involve a technology provider and a technology user coming together to advance and demonstrate their solution. The third open call will be targeted at a range of specific industrial challenges, for example, asking if robots can improve working conditions in the food industry.

        “From a TSSG perspective, the opportunity to reach out to, and build relationships with, start-ups and SMEs in the agri-food space through these open calls is really important,” says O’Meara.

         

        The Horizon advantage

        One of the advantages of the Horizon 2020 approach, says O’Meara, is that it presents a means of looking at broader impacts, beyond the local and across disciplines.

        “The Horizon 2020 funding stream gives participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors, technology companies, agri-food start-ups and large enterprises,” says O’Meara.

        “Although in this project each cluster is working somewhat independently, we’re collaborating through a shared technology platform to ensure best practices are replicated and everyone has full visibility of progress and developments.”

        O’Meara is involved in several Horizon 2020-funded projects, including Demeter and NIVA, and is keen to encourage others to explore the opportunities such projects present.

        “As well as giving access to a breadth of expertise, Horizon projects provide a way of broadening your network and extending your skills,” confirms O’Meara

         

        Don’t be daunted

        For some, however, the Horizon process remains an intimidating prospect.

        “Don’t be daunted by the proposal process. It’s quite structured and it’s clear what the EU wants to see. But you need to give yourself plenty of time. As soon as a call comes out you need to start thinking about what topics you’re interested in, what partners you’ll need and get the right team on board. Remember that there’s a lot of support available,” O’Meara advises.

        Most research institutes have in-house support for Horizon 2020 applicants but another excellent source of support is Enterprise Ireland’s National Contact Points These provide information and guidance on all aspects of Horizon 2020 from signposting to webinars about areas of interest, to helping identify partners and reviewing proposals.

        “Begin by identifying what supports are available to you and speak to someone who’s been involved in the process before. If you or your organization need help in writing the proposal, Enterprise Ireland can also provide consultancy support,” adds O’Meara.

        “If you’re successful in getting Horizon 2020 funding, you will have a  very well defined plan of action set out in your implementation description and detailed work packages and you’ll have specific deliverables. So you’ll know exactly what to do from day one.”

        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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        SpeakingNGI – Shaping the internet of the future

        “We are delighted and proud to have contributed to the successful building of the EU’s flagship Next Generation Internet – An Open Internet Initiative (NGI)”.

        TSSG’s Strategic EU Liaison Manager and coordinator of the SpeakNGI.eu project, James Clarke

        Key Takeouts:

        • TSSG (Telecommunications Software & Systems Group), an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation at the Waterford Institute of Technology, led the influential SpeakNGI.eu project, which was a Pathfinder Project for the European Commission’s large-scale, flagship Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative.
        • The project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation ICT work programme 2018-2020 (WP2018-20).
        • SpeakNGI.eu’s NGI Consultation Platform and Knowledge Base were among numerous contributing projects helping to shape the internet of the future into an Internet of humans that responds to people’s fundamental needs, including trust, security and inclusion, and reflects the values and the norms that we enjoy in Europe.

        Case Study: SpeakingNGI

        Evolving the internet from its current problem-strewn form into a human-centric, secure, inclusive space that supports people’s needs and addresses global sustainability challenges is a European Commission (EC) priority.  It’s an ambitious goal, now embodied in the EC’s flagship Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative.

        SpeakNGI.eu, a partnership between TSSG and Trust-IT Services Ltd, was one of three Horizon 2020-funded Pathfinder Projects that aimed to identify research topics, enable dynamic consultation, and shape the programme for the NGI initiative. For more information on the initiative, please consult the NGI Brochure.

        Begun in 2017 and running for just 18 months, SpeakNGI.eu addressed the dynamic consultation aspect of the pathfinder programme, by building a platform with mechanisms for engagement with the NGI stakeholder communities, creating a knowledge base and establishing a 16-strong European Champions Panel of thought-leaders.

        “These pathfinder projects were important cogs in a bigger wheel and a very important step towards the establishment of the EU’s flagship NGI initiative and directly contributing to the selection of priority NGI topics for the open calls being funded by the larger scaled NGI Research and Innovation Action projects,” explains James Clarke, SpeakNGI.eu project coordinator.

        “We were considering what the Internet will look like 10 years from now, dealing with mounting concerns about security and privacy, and anticipating radically new functionalities. Our platform enabled organisations and individuals to share their ideas and we collated the information and published it in a readable format, essentially building the topics that would eventually be funded through cascade funded open calls by the NGI RIAs.”

         

        From data gathering to experimentation

        Following the successful conclusion of the Pathfinder Projects, the EC launched Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) as the next step towards its vision of creating the ‘internet of humans’.

        In the first tranche of the NGI RIAs, they funded open-call NGI projects based on the topics the pathfinders identified, such as privacy and trust technologies, decentralized data governance, and better search and discovery technologies.

        On the back of SpeakNGI.eu’s success, Clarke led a five-partner team that secured an NGI RIA project covering EU – US cooperation. The project, NGIAtlantic.eu, which runs until June 2022, is funding EU-based researchers and innovators to carry out NGI-related experiments in collaboration with US research teams.

        “We have a 3.5 million budget, 80% of which is dedicated for open calls funding third-party projects. We select, fund and monitor the projects, which are building on research results and moving to the experimentation stage on EU and US experimental platforms,” says Clarke.

        “The vision of a new initiative, launched by the EC in 2016, is now at the stage of funding innovators through RIAs with an overall budget of €75 million over a three-year period. We are delighted and proud to have been part of this long-term strategic action and to have contributed to the successful building of the EU’s flagship NGI initiative.”

        Building on experience

        The two NGI projects are not Clarke’s first foray into the world of EU funding and he has a wealth of experience to call upon.

        “I’ve been involved in EU-funded projects back to the early-nineties so this wasn’t a first for me. For the most part, the experience has been good and challenging. Where it hasn’t been so good, it can be down to teaming up with the wrong partners, perhaps with not enough foresight into the strategy and team building experiences when working in the proposal stages. With experience, I’ve learned how to pick the right partners every time, which is very important,” says Clarke.

        Clarke says “There is certainly a lot of work involved in putting a proposal together for projects. I found the Enterprise Ireland Coordinator Grant to be a huge support in helping prepare a successful Horizon proposal.”

        It has enabled me to bring in great mentors to help with not just the reviewing process, but also to generate content, where needed. And if I couldn’t find someone suitable, who was also available, in Ireland, I could go further into Europe to get the right person.

        “Before Covid-19, I would meet the mentor and spend a couple of days working with them on the proposal and I found that much more effective than relying on feedback from written drafts. Since I started taking that approach, I’ve been winning more projects.”

        Although he admits that being a coordinator on a Horizon 2020 project can be sometimes difficult, Clarke firmly believes the experience has many rewards.

        “Working with like-minded researchers and innovators from around Europe has been a big thrill for me. Coordinating a Horizon 2020 project also frequently offers the opportunity to be invited to participate in more projects, events and follow-up activities. The more you succeed, the more invites you get. Overall, it’s very fulfilling and enjoyable.”

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

        H2020 success stories banner link

        FlowPhotoChem helping to green the chemical industry

        “Innovation activities in the area of solar energy conversion technology, including solar chemicals, are key to achieving the decarbonisation targets set by the EU.”

        Dr Pau Farràs, coordinator of the FlowPhotoChem project

        Key Takeouts:

        • NUI Galway is leading a major project that is developing innovative, sustainable ways to manufacture ethylene using artificial photosynthesis.
        • The four-year project has received €6.99m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
        • The FlowPhotoChem project will pave the way for a range of other green chemicals to be produced solely from sunlight, water and CO2.

        Case Study: FlowPhotoChem

        If the European Union is to achieve its target of a climate neutral economy by 2050, which will involve reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80–95%, new and disruptive approaches and technologies is needed across all sectors. Reducing emissions is a challenge, in particular, for the chemical industry, one of Europe’s largest manufacturing sectors but also one of the most polluting, emitting over 145 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year.

        The Horizon 2020-funded FlowPhotoChem project is one of many innovative projects currently developing technology that will help to reduce the chemical sector’s CO2 emissions. The project aims to develop an integrated system of modular reactors that consumes CO2 and uses concentrated sunlight to form ethylene.

        Involving 14 partners from eight countries, €6.99 million in EU funding and led by Dr Pau Farràs from the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, FlowPhotoChem will produce ethylene as a proof-of-concept and will pave the way for a range of other green chemicals to be produced solely from sunlight, water and CO2.

        Innovation activities in the area of solar energy conversion technology, including solar chemicals, are key to achieving the decarbonisation targets set by the EU,” says Dr Farràs.

        Combining the expertise of research teams from Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Uganda and the UK, FlowPhotoChem’s technology is innovative and so too is the overall aim of the project. “Our new technologies will enable the production of chemicals using solar energy to be carried out in small-scale installations and not just in large-scale infrastructures as at present,” says Dr Farràs. For example, this technology can be used to create small devices that could produce hydrogen peroxide to purify water, responding to the needs of rural, isolated areas in sun-rich countries.”

         

        Unique platform for collaboration

        Alongside FlowPhotoChem, Dr Farràs is involved in a number of other EU-funded projects related to green energy and chemicals, including Solar2C­­­­­­hem, SeaFuel and HUGE, and recognises that funding mechanisms such as Horizon 2020 offer a unique platform.

        “A wide range of skills is needed on an ambitious project like this, beyond what an individual organisation would have, so collaboration with different partners is compulsory to achieving our goals,” says Dr Farràs

        As coordinator of the project, Dr Farràs is tasked not only with keeping on top of the development of the technology but also with managing the integration of academics and industry with different skills.

        “Our approach is to manage the individual work packages through monthly conference calls to keep everyone engaged and make sure we are on track with the work. This means that when we have larger meetings with all partners, we can talk about the bigger picture because the technical details have already been covered. This kind of management structure is working well. I feel it’s important to have face-to-face interactions; at the moment it’s all virtual meetings but we’re planning for physical workshops next year.”

         

        Advice for Horizon 2020 applicants

        Horizon 2020 had a budget of over €80 billion over seven years and its successor, Horizon Europe, will have a significantly bigger budget offering immense opportunities for individuals and consortia to secure funding for cutting-edge research.

        However, some potential applicants are wary of the paperwork involved in securing funding.

        “It’s true that there is a lot of work involved in putting together projects like this,” admits Dr Farràs. “But my advice would be to use the help that’s available. The support from Enterprise Ireland is fantastic. For both the FlowPhotoChem and the Solar2Chem projects, I applied for and received the Enterprise Ireland Coordinator Grant.

        “I needed someone not only to review the proposals but also to help write them. Thanks to the Coordinator Grant I was able to work with a consultant who had a lot of experience in this area, and who also helped with the administrative side of things,” says Dr Farràs

        “It was also good that FlowPhotoChem was a two-stage call so the shorter document that we had written for the first stage helped with the longer second stage proposal.”

         

        Personal and professional benefits

        Helping to create world-changing technologies brings its own rewards but beyond that the Horizon experience offers personal and professional benefits.

        “First of all, when you undertake research with other groups the impact of your research is improved. We’re also seeing that the Horizon proposals increasingly ask for information on the social aspects of the project as well as technical content, so it’s a great way to meet people from both your own discipline and from others,” says Dr Farràs.

        “No matter what stage you are at in your career there are benefits to being involved in these projects. For example, there are eight PhD students involved in the FlowPhotoChem research. It’s a great opportunity for them as they will see their individual tasks converge at the end into the final system contributing to a specific and significant application.”

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

        H2020 success stories banner link

         

        PIXAPP – Shedding light on PIC packaging

        “PIXAPP is more than just a project; like all Horizon support I look at it as seed funding to grow your activity.”

        Professor Peter O’Brien, Director of PIXAPP Photonics Packaging Pilot Line Horizon 2020 open call project

        Overview:

        • Tyndall National Institute in Cork is leading an international consortium that is establishing ‘best in class’ photonic integrated circuit (PIC) packaging technologies
        • The PIXAPP project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
        • The European Commission has recognised PIXAPP as a flagship pilot manufacturing capability in Europe.

        Photonics is the future. In devices ranging from hand-held cardiovascular monitors to self-drive cars, photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are revolutionising technology, enabling significantly higher capacity and speed of data transmission.

        Its huge potential to address socio-economic challenges in areas such as communications, healthcare and security, has led the European Commission to invest heavily in programmes to advance PIC technologies. But with most developments focusing on the PIC chips, the challenge now relates to packaging, that is, connecting the chips to the real world though optical fibres, micro-optics and electronic control devices.

        To address the challenge, a €15.5m project, involving 18 partners and led by the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, has established the world’s first open access PIC assembly and packaging manufacturing line, PIXAPP.

        “The assembly and packaging challenges are considerable and it’s hugely expensive for manufacturers. PIXAPP provides a single point of contact, the Gateway, at Tyndall, through which businesses can access expertise in industrial and research organisations across Europe to translate their requirements into the best packaging solution. It’s a major step forward to enable the conversion of R&D results into innovative products,” explains Professor Peter O’Brien, co-ordinator of the Horizon 2020-funded PIXAPP pilot line.

        The importance of sustainability 

        When PIXAPP started in 2016, the ability to package PICs was dispersed across several European companies and institutions, each of which could only do a few steps in the process.

        “Our aim was to make a diversified, distributed pilot line, which meant coming up with a common language of design, materials and equipment standards that could seamlessly move across different countries.” says O’Brien.

        With PIXAPP due to end in October 2021, the issue of sustainability is key to ensuring progress in the area of PIC packaging continues.

        “One of the key things we had to show in our Horizon 2020 proposal was a sustainability plan. We can’t just walk away after four years. We’re now engaged with over 120 companies around the world and many of them are gearing up to do the whole packaging process themselves, working with the technology standards we’ve developed.

        “Ultimately, that’s what success looks like for us, where we can step back and industry takes on the high volume packaging work. There are still risks involved for companies but we can help reduce those by sharing or advising on equipment and we can train their engineers, which is an important part of what we’re doing.”

        O’Brien’s team has also secured funding from the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund, which will help with regional sustainability.

        “When we got the DTIF funding the Commission was delighted because that’s the kind of regional investment they want to see,” says O’Brien.

        Insights for Horizon 2020 success 

        Applying for Horizon 2020 support can be daunting but O’Brien has extensive experience and offers some insights.

        The key to a successful proposal is addressing the call requirements, in terms of scientific excellence, impact from project results including dissemination and structure of the workplan. It is also important to ensure the proposal reads as one document, rather than a large number of small documents complied by partners into a single proposal. Ideally, the coordinator should write the full proposal, taking input from all partners. This will ensure the proposal has one voice, making it easy for reviewers to read, understand and enjoy.

         “Enterprise Ireland gave us support to write the proposal and it’s important to use their expertise as well,” says O’Brien.

        The right partners are also central to success.

        “You need to have partners that you trust and who trust you, so you have a shared vision, and you need to work with them well in advance; don’t form consortia based on a call. Our funding success is is high, and we like to work with the familiar partners but it’s also exciting to work with new partners who can bring new technologies and insights. Spending time out of the lab meeting partners, including new partners is important. Visits to Brussels to are also important to stay ahead of upcoming calls and as a central location or HQ to meet partners and future collaborators.”

        Tyndall’ photonics packaging group is currently involved in 15 European projects and has recently participated in €19m project for a new Photonics Innovation Hub called Photon Hub Europe.

        O’Brien also feels strongly that projects should not be seen in isolation.

        “All our projects are strategically aligned so we’re leveraging capabilities from one project to another. A focus on your core technical capabilities is important. And it’s a continuous thing. You have to keep working on proposals, stay up to speed, don’t dip in and out.

        “The big benefit of being involved in Horizon projects is the contacts networks and the relationships that you make. You should think of the funding as seed funding to grow your activity. I don’t like the word project, because that suggests it’s done when it’s done. I think the Commission likes to think that every project is seeding something else much bigger.”

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

         

        How the Sustaining Enterprise Fund helped Oishii Foods reimagine their business

        “Enterprise Ireland offers advice to businesses, as well as hard data. They help build roadmaps that allow you to plan ahead. They are a very valuable partner to have.”


        Ciara Troy, Founder, Oishii Foods

         

        Key Takeouts

          • Oishii Foods is an Irish producer of healthy and convenient Asian-inspired cuisine. Their retail business was hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
          • As a result of interrupted business, Oishii began to reimagine their business strategy. During this time, they were informed of Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund.
          • Oishii Foods, with the help of their finance mentor and business advisor, were able to qualify for SEF, giving them the ability not only to survive this crisis, but to plan for an even bigger future.

          Case Study: Oishii Foods

          Ciara Troy is the founder of Oishii Foods, a Dublin-based producer of Japanese and Asian-inspired cuisine. Until 2020, they specialised selling large quantities of sushi directly to retail outlets. In March, when COVID-19 reached Ireland, everything changed.

          “Suddenly, stores were closed and the demand for fresh sushi just wasn’t there anymore,” says Troy. “Consumer needs were changing, so we had to shift our focus.”

          When the country first went into lockdown, food production at Oishii Foods was reduced to one main nationwide account which was the only constant during this challenging time. The company applied all the Covid guidelines & remained operating from their approved food premises in Smithfield. With lockdown restrictions and new social distancing measures in place, the business was forced to reevaluate operations. Instead of gathering all of their employees in the factory together, the staff began to work in shifts, through the night as well as during the day. The Oishii team also looked for new ways to distribute their product. Since consumers were not visiting food shops for sushi, they decided to bring the sushi directly to consumers. Using Deliveroo, Oishii kept their brand on consumers’ radar. However, Troy says the team always knew this would not be their long term solution.

          Change of Plans

          Once it became apparent that the global pandemic would transform business as they knew it—for much longer than just the initial lockdown—Troy says her team began to brainstorm more permanent solutions to their immediate problems.

          “We knew it would be important to pivot the business in a meaningful way—a way that would see us into the future.” Troy said.

          Unlike some businesses, transferring the business to an online retailer wasn’t an option for Oishii. Their Japanese food products are fresh and perishable, which means they need to go from production to consumer in rapid succession. Door-to-door sales was not a viable strategy for growth, either, especially because of the extra waste it incurs. Oishii is working toward Origin Green membership, which centres on environmental sustainability and green practices. This commitment to reduced waste is at the heart of the business and was, of course, taken into consideration as the team looked to future plans. The most pressing question: How would the business survive this transition with sales suffering as they were?

           

          Outside Help

          Troy says that, thanks to an ongoing relationship with Enterprise Ireland, Oishii Foods was appointed a Business Advisor, who was a strong support for the company.

          “Our advisor explained the various support mechanisms that were available to us,” says Troy. “This person-to-person contact was crucial.” Troy said.

          Enterprise Ireland assigned Oishii Foods a strategic & finance mentor. Working closely with the Oishii team, reports and forecasting were executed and advice was given on everything from operations to marketing. The goal was to ensure stability. During this time, the finance mentor and business advisor passed along details about the Sustaining Enterprise Fund. They recommended that Troy consider the benefits of such a generous grant and how it might enable Oishii Foods to bridge the gap as they worked to reposition the business.

          “Troy recalled, “We went over the details of the SEF and, although it did involve some work on our part, it was very much worth it. This grant will be a game changer for our business.”

           

          The Future of Oishii Foods

          Oishii Foods was approved as an SEF recipient. Troy says they plan to use the funding to strengthen the backbone of the business. She hopes to evaluate and improve processes, fill gaps in their management team, and, most importantly, expand the business by securing high-spec premises that will allow major growth over the next five years. She expects most of the grant money will go towards fit-out and capital expenditure for their new location.

          “This is really exciting,” says Troy. “This business was my first baby! We have been inching our way forward. COVID forced us to stop and consider what our strategy would be and where we would go next.”

          “This is really exciting,” says Troy. “This business was my first baby! We have been inching our way forward. COVID forced us to stop and consider what our strategy would be and where we would go next.”

          As a result of the global crisis, the Oishii team was able to pause and solidify their vision. They also began to identify and reach out to new customers, discovering possibilities for new retail accounts. In the past, Oishii has been strong in the “food-to-go” space. Troy says they hope to extend the brand into the wider chilled convenience category. If they can achieve fresh, longer-life options suitable for central distribution, she believes they will have opportunities for export, too. Most importantly, Troy wants Oishii Foods to stay true to its roots as a local business focussed on making fresh, quality products for consumers to enjoy.

           

          The Benefits of Support

          Looking back, Troy says this year was full of challenges, but she has found so much support in her industry, the wider business community, and from Enterprise Ireland.

          “I have an entrepreneurial spirit and am very resilient, but I was relieved when we were approved for funding from Enterprise Ireland,” she says. “They believed in our business, which gave us new confidence in ourselves.”

          Troy says she and her team have felt reinvigorated by Enterprise Ireland’s support, pointing out that running a small business can often feel like being out at sea. She and the whole Oishii team found comfort in having a larger enterprise to rely on for advice, support, and funding. As a result, she says they are ready to bring their business to the next level.

          Click here to learn more about applying for the SEF. Contact your Development Advisor or our Business Response Unit to find out more.

          Gannon Eco: If not for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits

          Circular economy pioneer Gannon Eco availed of the Sustaining Enterprise Fund to rebuild working capital and work its way through the worst of the Covid-19 slowdown. The company has invested heavily in R&D and increased capacity, but the pandemic-induced downturn put a brake on the return from that outlay.

          “We spend an awful lot on R&D,” says company founder and managing director Niall Gannon. “We had new products ready for market and others in development when Covid-19 hit. We had also built a new plant here in Kilbeggan and we had the people in place to run it. The drop in demand was very substantial. If not for the support from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits. It gave us the backing to continue to seek new markets and helped keep people in jobs. The funding received was quite significant and very helpful.”

          The company traces its history back to the last downturn when the near-collapse of the construction industry in 2007 led John Gannon Concrete to seek an alternative line of business. “We had a family business supplying concrete blocks, readymix concrete, gravel and aggregates to the building industry,” Gannon recalls. “When the recession impacted that market died, and we had to diversify. We inadvertently stumbled on a problem with end-of-life car windscreens. They were being landfilled or exported and there was no sustainable solution for their end-of-use  disposal.”

          That led to the creation of an entirely new business. “After quite a lot of research, we set up under the new trading name of Gannon Eco,” he adds. “We started taking in car windscreens, cleaning them off, grinding them down and repurposing them to sell on for uses such as filtration media for wastewater treatment plants and sandblasting materials. We were reducing the need for virgin material for these purposes and diverting waste from landfill, generating two environmental gains.”

          Today, Gannon Eco is an award-winning company and one of Ireland’s leading environmental solution providers offering total reuse for industrial waste stream products.

          “We moved on from windscreens to other glass types – window glass, pharma glass, light bulbs, TVs and so on,” Gannon continues. “After several years, companies started coming to us asking us to look at other waste streams and we developed into specialist repurposers over time. We now take a variety of waste from many industries which include, surgical implants, microchips, construction, pharma and a variety of other sources. We use construction and other waste to make low-carbon concrete and we take waste from the semiconductor manufacturing process to produce an additive for the steel smelting process which enables the process to run at lower temperatures, thereby reducing emissions.”

          At its most basic, the company takes in waste from one set of customers, reprocesses it and sells it on as end products to another set of customers. “The whole business is based on the circular economy,” Gannon explains. “We won’t take anything that can’t be reused. Everything that comes in must be sold back out as a product. We will not send anything to landfill or incineration.”

          “The drop in demand was very substantial. If not for the support from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits”

          The concrete products side of the business hasn’t completely disappeared. “We manufacture a small number of concrete blocks and precast concrete products. We are able to produce some of those products using 85% recycled materials.”

          Innovation is at the heart of the business. “It’s not that simple,” he notes. “There was no plant for the process that we could buy off the shelf back in 2007, so we had to develop all our processes in-house. The process starts with a customer who wants to stop waste from going to landfill. We will do intensive testing in our lab and figure out what we can do with it. We design processes to produce an end product. After that, we must find a customer who will buy it from us. It takes a minimum of two years to test, build a process for the waste and market for the new product. Our longest project took seven years. Once you send out a product you are not finished. You must be 100 per cent sure it’s not harmful and won’t damage the environment in any way. There is an unbelievable amount of R&D and testing involved. We have about five projects in the works at any one time.”

          The company was gaining a foothold in export markets when Covid-19 hit. “We had started exporting to Germany and the Netherlands and we are looking at the US, France and Spain now. We had been looking at the UK, but the uncertainty caused by Brexit made us look at other markets. We are looking at the possibility of setting up operations in the US at the moment. It’s a balancing act. You can’t import waste materials if the carbon emissions of the transport would be greater than the gain you are making. We are looking at establishing facilities in Europe as well.”

          The impact of Covid-19 was severe.

          “March was our worst month in nine years but it’s slowly picking up again. We have an agreement with a distributor for Germany, the Netherlands and northern France. The first shipment to them was due to go out in August but that was delayed, and we are now expecting shipments to commence in the first week in January.”

          That’s where the Sustaining Enterprise Fund support came into play. “It helped us deal with that interruption to our business,” says Gannon.

          Looking ahead, he says the biggest barrier to growth for the company now is delays to the End of Waste certification process. The company needs a certificate for each new process before it can sell the product to an end-user. “The EPA doesn’t have sufficient resources to deal with the demand for certification. It can take anything up to five years to get it at the moment.” And to quote the EPA

          “There is no statutory timeframe for the assessment of end-of-waste applications and decisions to be made. The time taken to process an end-of-waste application to reach an end-of-waste decision is variable. It depends on the quality of the application, the availability of inspector resources, the complexity of the application, the efficiency of response to requests for further information and the workload of the inspector assigned”

          That said, new product and process development will continue at the company. “Westmeath County Council and Enterprise Ireland have been unbelievably supportive of what we do,” he notes. “Enterprise Ireland has supported us with our R&D projects over the years. We will be the first company in the world to reuse the material we are working on in our latest project. The way things are looking, next year should be relatively positive. We are going to keep doing what we are doing.”

          Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive suite of supports available for companies at all stages of development, under Sustaining Enterprise Fund and Innovative Start-Up funding, as well as other funding offers.

          Find out more about the SEF supports here

          How the Sustaining Enterprise Fund enabled Wisetek to innovate for future success

          “Enterprise Ireland offers advice to businesses, as well as hard data. They help build roadmaps that allow you to plan ahead. They are a very valuable partner to have.”

           

          Tom Delahunty, Global Operations Director, Wisetek

          Key Takeouts

            • Wisetek, a global leader in IT asset disposition, reuse, and manufacturing services was deemed an essential business during the global pandemic of 2020. In some ways, this was positive, but it also made it hard to cut costs in a time of financial insecurity. Like many businesses, they were facing new challenges.
            • As long-term Enterprise Ireland partners, Wisetek reached out to express interest in the Sustaining Enterprise Fund. They worked together with Enterprise Ireland to organise documentation and successfully applied for funding.
            • Wisetek was able to use this additional capital to maintain important R&D programmes, enabling them to innovate for future success. Rather than falling behind or simply treading water, Wisetek is adapting and evolving.

            Case Study: Wisetek

            Tom Delahunty is the Global Operations Director for Wisetek, a global leader in IT asset disposition, reuse, and manufacturing services. They offer a circular economy approach to IT by managing the supply, distribution, destruction, and recycling of data and equipment. With customers and facilities dotted around the globe, Delahunty says news of business disruptions due to Covid-19 started to reach their team in February.

            “Every day, you would make a plan for what was next,” says Delahunty. “And then the next day, everything would change.

            He says the team scrambled in those early weeks of the pandemic to figure out where they stood and plan for an uncertain future. Wisetek was deemed an essential business. Delahunty says this was both a blessing and a curse. To keep things running, the business maintained some physical presence in all of their facilities, which meant it was hard to keep costs down. Much of their focus shifted from business operations to keeping customers and staff safe. Following health guidelines of local governments also meant a large portion of their staff began to work from home.

            “As an IT company, our culture suited the shift,” Delahunty says. “The transfer was seamless from a technological perspective, but we had to overcome the same communication challenges as every other business.

             

            Looking for Solutions

            Once Wisetek reconfigured operations to suit lockdowns and Covid safety guidelines, management began to work on a financial review. At the beginning of the crisis, the company’s new business pipeline was essentially put on hold. They did not lose many existing customers, but projects were delayed. Still, some customers remained active and Delahunty says the team felt fortunate to have even a reduced level of business coming in. Despite Wisetek’s “glass half full” perspective, it became clear that revenue was down and, in order to future-proof their operation, they would need to start looking for alternative sources of capital.

            “Initially,” says Delahunty, “asking for help wasn’t our first port of call. Before anything else, we had to stabilize our business and make tough decisions about reducing costs.

            Around this time, Enterprise Ireland announced the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, which Delahunty says drew attention immediately. Wisetek has a longstanding relationship with Enterprise Ireland, starting with their days as a High-Potential Start-Up. The two entities have maintained open lines of communication and Wisetek did not hesitate to reach out to their DA for information and advice during a difficult time. They began to work closely with Enterprise Ireland to make the SEF application. They had their cash projections ready to go, so Delahunty says it was merely a case of collating existing information into the correct format.

            “Delahunty says, “I’ll admit, there’s a bit of work in the process, but we couldn’t have spent our time more productively. SEF has awarded us significant and important funding.”

             

            A Positive Relationship Pays Off

            Being granted the SEF gave Wisetek the working capital to not only maintain operations, but also to invest in the company’s future. Delahunty says that without this assistance from Enterprise Ireland, the business might have faced further reductions, including the halt of internal development programmes. Thanks to this funding, they were able to keep their Research & Development arm up and running.

            “Enterprise Ireland gave us confidence in our existing balances to support the business and, as a result, we have continued to develop and grow,” says Delahunty.

            The  funding from Enterprise Ireland enabled Wisetek to launch new programmes that would otherwise have been considered discretionary. Now, these initiatives are paying dividends. Delahunty says that, over the years, the relationship between Wisetek and Enterprise Ireland has afforded their company not just capital, but also education, confidence, and networking capabilities.

            “Enterprise Ireland offers advice to businesses, as well as hard data,” says Delahunty. “They help build roadmaps that allow you to plan ahead. They are a very valuable partner to have.

             

            Focusing on the Future

            Delahunty says he believes the events of 2020 will ultimately afford Wisetek with new business. His team has learned a lot about the importance of adaptability. He says the most important take-aways have been to keep strategies agile, reach out for help when you need it, and do your best to find opportunity amidst crisis. In business, he says, it’s important to innovate and provide solutions, even in a challenging climate.

            “What happened in 2020 is unfortunate, but Ireland has weathered worse storms. We will make the best of it and keep evolving. If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards.

            Click here to learn more about applying for the SEF. Contact your Development Advisor or our Business Response Unit to find out more.