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Data is the road to digital health

Drive on any major road in Ireland and sooner or later you will pass a sign bearing the mark of the EU flag. Such signs mark Europe’s commitment to helping Ireland build a world-class road infrastructure.

As the turn of the millennium saw the fulfilment of road projects deliver people and goods around the country, a new strategic infrastructure is now underway to deliver what is arguably the single most market-disrupting change to how we work, live and do business – the movement of data.

Data, once housed in paper files or offline digital silos contained within organisations, now has the power to connect as never before and, with the advent of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), there is a protocol that enables for the first time the free, and safe, movement of data throughout Europe.

For businesses, the implications are too important to ignore. The figures are truly astonishing and show the transformative nature of the growth of big data. It is estimated by the Dutch Datacenter Association that 90% of the world’s data was created in just the last two years alone. The total addressable market for the digital economy could be worth in the region of €415 billion a year, according to European Commission forecasts.

 

Data is central to digital health

It is no less than utterly transformative, and one of the biggest areas to see massive change is healthcare and patient data. Connected devices, wearables and the Internet of Things, together with cloud computing and pooled data is putting patients at the centre of their healthcare journey.

“Ten years ago, digital health in those days was an option,” says Brian O’Connor, chair of the Irish-based European Connected Health Alliance (ECHA). “Today digital health is a must. The world has moved on tremendously in the past five years and we need to embrace this revolution.”

This revolution, says O’Connor, is redefining how states interact with citizens and their personal data, not least in health. Consumers regularly hand over personal and financial details and there appears to be a growing acceptance for doing so with confidential medical data, he says.

 

Countries leading by example

He cites Estonia, which fully embraced digital citizenship and eHealth after 95% of the populace said they approved of digitised medical information. “The only thing you cannot do online in Estonia is get married or divorced,” says O’Connor. “Getting your blood results, booking a GP appointment or seeing which consultant at which hospital is available can all be done by citizens online. It’s as simple as booking a cinema ticket.”

But the power of joined-up connected data sharing becomes apparent when O’Connor explains that it works across national borders, most notably with Finland. Many Finns commute to Estonia and their digital records move with them, allowing them to see their GP in their home country but pick up the prescription at work in Estonia.

Similar cross-border data-sharing is already underway on the island of Ireland. Ambulance crews on both sides of the border are able to pick-up a patient and check out bed space and resources in hospitals either side of the border before transfer, with benefits for both patient and healthcare provider.

 

Ireland’s journey to a digital health system

Just over two years ago, Ireland unveiled the first national electronic patient chart for maternity anywhere in the world with the birth of daughter Emily to Ellen Shine and Aidan Cotter at Cork University Hospital. The scheme is now being rolled out nationally.

It is in an early stage but Health Minister Simon Harris called it the first step in a ‘national journey’ towards a digital health system. The Government has committed to implementing its vision of a digital health system, as outlined in its 2017 Slaintecare strategy and, much like the road infrastructure, Ireland has availed of a €225 million loan from the European Investment Bank to aid some of the implementation, while the State itself has earmarked some €85 million for 2019 for eHealth, €100 million for 2020 rising to €120 million by 2021.

“The EU funded bridges, roads and tunnels in the last century. Now it is funding infrastructure for the free movement of data,” adds O’Connor.

One of the key planks for this medical data sharing is the approval within the last six months of a European Patient Summary Record, a digital record that stores standard information

“Ireland is in the lead in my opinion in this area. The ECHA has linked that digital maternity programme with other countries such as Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Estonia, France and Denmark. There is huge interest in our system.”

Now there exists a real opportunity for the private sector to introduce its innovation into the HSE and beyond, says O’Connor.

 

Sourcing innovative solutions

Enterprise Ireland has also been supporting the ecosystem at its grass roots.

“We have to acknowledge the role of Enterprise Ireland here,” adds O’Connor. “It is working directly with the HSE to find out their needs in relation to Slaintecare. Then they work closely to introduce indigenous Irish companies who might have a solution.”

This builds on work by ECHA, which also reaches out to healthcare providers across its 78 member countries to link innovative eHealth products and solutions to clinical teams that need a solution.

Introducing innovation and enterprise into the supply chain is exactly where we want to be, added O’Connor.

The knock-on effect, he says, is that the healthcare procurement process is vastly improved as it builds in previously unknown innovation, innovation which may never have crossed the desk in any other event.

It remains to be seen if a GP waiting room or a hospital cloud server will carry the ubiquitous EU flag sign but one thing is certain, data infrastructure is as important for this century as roads were to the last.

 

Learn more about the innovation supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

Trevor Bishop UK Water

Senior water industry executive Trevor Bishop outlines opportunities as UK enters five-year plan

Following a keynote speech at the Enterprise Ireland and Wet Networks (an Arup and WRC initiative) Water Innovation Seminar in February, Trevor Bishop spoke to Enterprise Ireland to discuss key issues explored at the event. Bishop is Organisational Development Director with Water Resources South East in the UK.

 

Water companies in England and Wales face demanding requirements for Asset Management Planning Period 7 (AMP7), with the next five-year plan for the sector covering the period 2020-2025. The economic water regulator Ofwat has said that issues to be addressed include population growth, climate change and water scarcity. Companies must also deliver on a need for fairer pricing, water supply resilience, and environmental protection.

 

Bishop stresses that requirements present a major opportunity for innovators to connect with water companies. One of the biggest problems faced is leakage, with many companies committing to reducing leaks by around 15% during AMP7. Bishop said, “It’s a very significant challenge. The boards [of water companies] have shown high levels of ambition following challenges set down by regulators. However, these ambitions will require companies to go beyond what they know they can do and will rely on real innovation to deliver.”

“It isn’t always easy for an SME to work directly with a big water company. We need to make sure we can find the right partnerships, so that innovation can be used where it’s appropriate and we can share and learn better between us”.

 

Bishop outlines what lies beneath

Much of a water company’s asset base is below ground, the network of pipes. A significant challenge is that knowledge about these assets is often limited: “It’s very difficult to understand their condition. We all too often tend to only know that there is a problem when something starts to go wrong,” Bishop explained.

One area in which innovators can assist water companies include the need for technology to monitor performance, condition, bursts and damage: “We’re starting to see some breakthrough technologies that could actually be quite disruptive, with regard to these aspects, particularly the shift from performance to condition monitoring.”

Bishop mentioned the potential to adapt ideas from other sectors. As we know, modern cars now use an electric current that flows through the windscreen, allowing it to detect water drops, so that wipers activate when it starts to rain. We are starting to see people thinking about similar application in the pipe network to alert companies to condition and leaks.

As its name suggests, Water Resources South East is an alliance between six water companies from the south east of England. It faces some major challenges arising with AMP7 and will need to increase capacity by roughly one third through to 2050 while needing to reduce its traditional reliance on mainly rivers and groundwater.

Bishop commented, “Most catchments are effectively fully licensed in terms of abstraction, so we need to look for innovations, new and different ways to use water more effectively by conservation, demand management and leakage, but also by moving water from areas of service to areas of deficit, looking at desalination, looking at more reservoirs, looking at effluent reuse and recycling of water within basins, etc.”

 

AMPing up the pressure

Irish innovators should be alert to the opportunities arising from challenges created by AMP7. Bishop noted that, “Ofwat is going to be putting some pretty serious efficiency challenges on base operation expenditure for water companies and that’s going to drive a strong need for really good innovations. A lot of companies were very interested in what they were seeing and hearing from some of the innovators [at the Water Innovation Seminar]”.

He added that he was not just impressed by the Irish companies alone: “I was really impressed with the system in Ireland to nurture those innovations and to help drive them through to commercial organisations.”

 

Adaptive planning

Trevor believes that resilience is about thinking about things in combination: “You can’t plan for every single extreme that might happen but what you can do is take a much broader overview of what those risks look like and what best value interventions you can make to actually help mitigate a range of threats.”

One issue of concern for Bishop is the ability to source appropriately skilled people, as multiple large infrastructural projects are underway in the UK: “Some companies are starting their own skills academies. We’ve got an organisation called Energy Utility Skills, which includes water, looking at future trends in skills and capacity”.

Water companies have traditionally been seen as risk averse. Is now the time for a change in attitude? Bishop concluded, “If you’re thinking about drinking water quality, absolutely not. They need to be risk averse. The legislation is set that way and so they should be. With regard to some of the other challenges we face, you’re looking at genuine opportunities for innovation. You’re looking at taking risks, and companies are starting to show they can do that by making their commitment on leakage above what they probably know how to deliver.”

 

Insights from the UK water sector

Steve Quarmby, United Utilities:

United Utilities, in common with all water companies, has got to save something in the order of 8-10% of our capital spend. And that is expected to be delivered by innovative ways of working – the pathway to do that isn’t quite clear. The areas where we need to explore are defined but the means and the mechanisms are actually quite vague. Now, that’s quite inspiring and gives room for creativity but it’s also slightly scary because we don’t know what the answer is. However, I am optimistic because we do have a proven track record of having risen to all the previous challenges.”

 

Jon Brigg, Yorkshire Water:

“We’ve got a real challenge with phosphorus removal in the next five years under the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP) challenge for 2020-2025. OxyMem technology [an Irish company who presented at the Water Innovation Seminar] doesn’t recover phosphorus but what it does is it creates capacity within a standing activator solution plan, which allows us to adapt half of the channel to phosphorus removal and a more concise footprint for nitrogen removal, the ammonia removal. It’s thinking about things slightly differently and with the NVP technology [another Irish company that presented at the seminar], again we’re looking differently at how we deal with small sewerage treatment works, and remote sewerage treatment works.”

 

Darragh Cotter, Cleantech Market Advisor based in Enterprise Ireland’s London office, commented, “It’s so important to have key UK water industry figures such as Trevor, Steve and Jon to Ireland to discuss the innovation challenges facing the sector.

“It gives Enterprise Ireland water and wastewater cluster members a clearer picture of the challenges and requirements facing UK water utilities. It’s also an important opportunity for Irish companies to showcase how they can collaborate with UK industry to help meet the stringent objectives set by Ofwat, the regulator. Exchanges like this are crucial for utility and supply chain engagement and are necessary to ensure that excellent Irish technology and innovation is at the forefront of sustainable water provision and management in the UK.”

East Africa

Silicon Savannah beckons for exporters keen to capitalise on East Africa growth

Lisa Kallback, a trade representative for Kenya at Enterprise Ireland, describes exciting opportunities heating up for Irish exporters in East Africa.

The Rift Valley in East Africa is generally thought to be the area in which modern humans first appeared. Fast forward 200,000 years and this Cradle of Humankind has been reborn economically.

Three of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world in 2017 were located in East Africa. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has forecast growth of 5.9% in the region this year and 6.1% in 2019, with Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda all reporting GDP growth in excess of 5%.

Why East Africa is on the radar of Irish exporters

Trade between Ireland and Africa is also on the rise, forecast to reach €24 billion by 2020. In 2018, as in every year since 2012, East Africa will be the continent’s fastest-growing region.

It is little wonder then that the region’s burgeoning middle class, estimated to comprise about 10-15% of its 430 million-strong population, is on the radar for exporters.

While agriculture is an area in which many Irish companies have enjoyed success, opportunities also abound in other high-value sectors, such as healthcare, fintech, and ICT.

Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is at the heart of East Africa’s transformation. Indeed, its reputation as an ICT hub has earned Kenya the moniker Silicon Savanah.

 

Opportunities in the Silicon Savanah

Mobile money technology was pioneered in Kenya. The electronic wallet service – which allows users to store, send, and receive money using their mobile phone – has transformed how many Africans receive their pay and spend funds. The service is actively used by an estimated 66% of all adults in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Dublin-based provider Oxygen 8 offers mobile payment solutions through their Tola subsidiaries in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, as well as Ghana in West Africa. Group CTO Shay Hamilton explains, “The economies in East Africa are growing quickly. Of course, some will be coming from a low base but the emerging middle class means there are more opportunities to come and sell, particularly in the digital space, due to the prevalence of tolled mobile infrastructure, coupled with the mobile payments services.”

Key advice for Small and Medium Enterprises looking to break into East African markets is to ensure you have a strong local partner.

Ruth Barnes is Director of Commercial Operations at Vitro Software, which provides medical records software to the fast-growing private health sector. She says, “We have a partner in Kenya and work very closely with them. But even when you have a partner, it’s hugely important to make the trips and be on the ground there. They are an extremely warm and affectionate people. The relationship is all important and you need to invest time in building those relationships first of all.

Pricing is another issue that Vitro has focused on. “African people are very tech savvy. They’re open to innovation but price has to be achievable because, while growth in East Africa is strong, they are still developing countries. If you’re willing to be a bit flexible in terms of your model and pricing, there are opportunities.

Peter McEntee, of telecoms software provider Nasc Technologies, draws parallels between opportunities in East Africa today and those in Ireland in the 1990s. “A lot of the telecoms software we started out doing was suited to helping telecoms companies in developing countries, and specifically, to Africa. We’ve since developed a range of software for fibre deployments as well, and there is a lot of fibre deployment happening in East Africa, similar to Ireland in the 1990s when the market opened up and new players came in.”

The modern reality of East Africa is much changed from the West’s image of the region in the late twentieth century.

Enterprise Ireland can help exporters with an eye on the savvy Silicon Savannah to identify sectors and opportunities, make introductions to potential partners and buyers, and advise on important procedures, market entry barriers and license requirements. For more information contact Lisa.Kallback@enterprise-ireland.com.

 

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Czech Republic

Central Europe: Old town, new export opportunities

Ladislav Müller, manager for central and southeast Europe at Enterprise Ireland, describes new opportunities that are proving attractive to Irish exporters.

From Dublin, it only takes two hours on a packed plane to land in Prague. The city is a popular tourist destination and capital of the Czech Republic, one of the fastest growing economies in Central Europe. As thousands of tourists rushed to the cobbled streets of its old town, Czech Gross Domestic Product increased by 4.5% in the first quarter of 2018. Neighbouring Slovakia has shown 3.6% growth, with Hungary at 4.7%, and Romania at 4.2%.

According to EY’S Attractiveness Survey 2017, Central Europe attracted nearly half of Europe’s industrial investment projects in the period. Its strengths are its geographical links, good infrastructure, the quality of its human capital, and its productivity. The provision of EU funds is another key driver, particularly for Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The Financial Times projected an improved economic picture for the region, based on stronger-than-expected global demand, tighter labour markets, government stimulus measures, and easy financing conditions.

Irish exports to the region have also grown for the last ten years, even during the recession.

 

Irish exporting success in Central Europe

Many Irish exporters are growing sales by supplying large multinational corporations with a base in the region. Ventac, vehicle and industrial noise control specialists from county Wicklow, set up a regional sales office in the Czech Republic, while Waterford’s PPI Adhesive Products, a leading manufacturer of technical adhesive tapes, run their regional sales operations from Slovakia. Portwest, the Mayo-based designer and manufacturer of high-quality workwear, have a CEE sales headquarters in Hungary.

But Irish companies are not only targeting large multinational companies. Central European agriculture has experienced remarkable growth over the past number of years, supported by an expanding food industry, domestic investments, and EU farm subsidies. Between 2014 and 2020, CAP and EARDF subsidies will reach €26 billion in Romania, €8.3 billion in Hungary, and €7 billion in the Czech Republic. Spending is driven by pressures on efficiency and food safety, environmental and animal welfare regulations, and requirements for farm machinery upgrade or replacement.

In 2017 MooCall, producers of unique calving sensors, were awarded a Gold Medal for innovation at AnimalTech trade fair in the Czech Republic, followed by Dairymaster, who won the Grand Prix at Czech TechAgro 2018 for smart technology for their MooMonitor health and fertility monitoring system.

Enterprise Ireland runs a long-term programme called Opportunities in Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe that helps Irish farming machinery and technology producers to enter local markets.

Many Irish companies perceive Central Europe as a source of competitive advantage on the continent. Kingspan, producer of insulation panels, celebrated twenty years for its plant in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic in May 2018. PM Group, international providers of services in engineering, architecture, project management and construction management opened offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2010. Grafton Recruitment and CPL Jobs are market leaders in human resources management across the region, while many Irish technology companies set up in Romania to service customers.

 

A hub for business process outsourcing

Central Europe is also one of the fastest growing locations for business process outsourcing (BPO) centres and service companies in Europe. According to Outsourcing Advisors, a third of major outsourcing companies now come from Central and Eastern Europe. Ireland has a very strong offer for BPO operators, who are in turn always seeking solutions that drive efficiencies or offer cost savings.

 

Untapped opportunities in Central Europe

As Brexit uncertainties continue, Central Europe offers significant export market potential, thanks to its closeness to Ireland, strong Irish presence, and concentration of multinationals and local buyers.

To support further growth, Minister of State Pat Breen led an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Warsaw and Prague last June, targeting opportunities across the engineering, electronics, enterprise software, and medical devices sectors. Irish companies signed contracts in excess of €7.5 million during the mission.

Enterprise Ireland’s office in the Czech Republic is ready to facilitate market research visits, introductions to buyers, and searches for distributors, to help companies we support to win new opportunities in an exciting region.

Learn more on how Enterprise Ireland supports businesses to diversify at Markets & Opportunities.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Digital Health

A bright future for Ireland’s digital health ecosystem

The future of healthcare is a connected one. Digital technology and cloud computing have made technological strides that mean integrated individually tailored healthcare is now a reality.

Apps can feed back data to primary caregivers in real time, digital medical records provide accurate and timely information, while machine learning crunches big data and blockchain technology protects it.

But to get to this point requires intervention and a road map that fosters innovation and investment. Strategic investment in the knowledge economy and sowing the seeds of a digital healthcare evolution requires the creation of policy and frameworks within which the research and start-up sector can grow.

Ireland’s world-leading position in the medtech sector has been carefully nurtured through a combination of state planning and partnership with multinationals, that now positions the healthcare and life sciences sector as one of Ireland’s strongest and most important business industries. It employs some 38,000 people in around 350 companies. That makes Ireland the largest employer of medtech professionals in Europe per capita. Ireland is also the second largest exporter of medtech products in Europe, with annual exports of €12.6 billion to over 100 countries globally.

 

Government policy supports Ireland’s digital health ecosystem

Ongoing digital transformation is supported at the highest level, according to Barry Lowry, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

“Of course, when investors are looking at where to go, one of the key things they’re looking at is, well what is the digital ecosystem like in that country that we’re going to? Because that suggests there’s a market there, it suggests there’s a workforce there.

“We obviously want that European digital capability to be dominated disproportionately by Ireland and we’ve got a lot of the skill sets to make a really good contribution in that area. The key thing is national government policies are aligned with this.”

In its 2017 Sláintecare strategy, the Irish government outlined its healthcare vision for the next 10 years, including the implementation of connected digital health, stating: “Digital health solutions can support more efficient processes, empowering patients in managing their care and accessing their own medical records, as well as facilitating the provision of services in more appropriate care settings closer to the patient’s home.

“In the future, a coherent suite of eHealth solutions will underpin and support our overall vision for integrated, patient-centred care, population health planning and more effective and safe delivery of health services. Patients and health professionals will have ready access to clinical records and administrative information, which will enable better decisions to be made.”

It may seem to be easier said than done, when according to the Health and Information Quality Authority (HIQA) information is spread over 120 datasets across Irish healthcare.

But the government has set out a clear funding pathway for eHealth, Muiris O’Connor, the Department of Health’s assistant secretary at R&D and Health Analytics Division told a recent Enterprise Ireland-hosted conference on the eHealth Ireland EcoSystem.

Some €85 million is earmarked for 2019, €100 million for 2020 rising to €120 million by 2021, delegates were told.

 

Enterprise Ireland support for digital health

Enterprise Ireland has been supporting the ecosystem at its grass roots.

Procurement of innovation by State bodies has been boosted by Enterprise Ireland’s Small Business Innovation Research programme (SBIR), which aims to meet unmet needs across the public sector, including areas such as health and community engagement, by funding up-to-date trialling of new concepts and tech at an earlier point in the supply chain.

This allows innovation to be baked into the supply chain at a much earlier point in a product development cycle. In its five-year lifespan, it has funded 20 projects including the development of smart sensors by Danalto, Carra and mSemicon that are being deployed in gullies across Dublin City to measure and monitor flood levels.

Perhaps crucially for SBIR, IP is retained by the business, meaning a successful solution can be scaled and rolled out quickly.

Enterprise Ireland provides further sector-specific supports, such as Health Innovation Hubs Ireland (HIHI) scheme, Technology Transfer Offices (TTO), and the Technology Gateway Programme.

HIHI facilitates and accelerates the commercialisation of innovative healthcare solutions by offering companies the opportunity for pilot and clinical validation studies and the health service access to innovative products, services and devices that they may not otherwise be exposed to.

TTOs, which are embedded in university and college research institutes throughout Ireland, provide an invaluable resource in relation to research, development and innovation.

And the Technology Gateway Programme fosters greater cooperation between business and Institutes of Technology by offering funding rounds for capital expenditure for R&D.

But the ecosystem would be nothing without the skill sets to grow it, which is why this emerging sector is a national priority. The Irish Medtech Association, a key industry stakeholder in the Irish ecosystem, has reinvented its offering. It has a Connected Health Skillnet that offers learning, development and networking opportunities and is run in partnership with Biopharmachem Ireland and Technology Ireland.

The sector is also supported by a strong networking and collaborative culture, with Ireland being home to the European Connected Health Alliance, which actively promotes and supports the connected health agenda through its presence in more than 40 countries. ECH Alliance events are the perfect forum for investors, partners and start-ups to engage with leading experts from government, education, multinationals and the indigenous sectors.

 

Read more on the Irish companies succeeding in the Healthcare and MedTech sectors.

Consumer in Asia

Commitment is vital to maximising business opportunities in Asia

Breaking into a new market can seem daunting. Exploring new territories may present challenges but is worth it to maximise new business opportunities.

Researching market opportunities and how to capitalise on them; identifying potential customers and partners; understanding local regulations, legal and geopolitical issues, as well as the unique business culture of the country or countries you are targeting, are the main challenges businesses face. But with challenge comes opportunity of a scale that Irish businesses can’t afford to ignore.

Irish companies have often looked west when in search of markets beyond the Eurozone. Expanding to the United States can seem relatively easy. They speak the same language and our traditional ties to the Irish diaspora creates a ready-made network for business opportunities. Asian markets have been perceived as more difficult, with greater language and cultural barriers to overcome.

 

Irish companies increasingly secure business opportunities in Asia

That perception has been blown away in recent years, as increasing numbers of Irish companies discover the incredible opportunities that exist in the world’s most populous and diverse continent. Exports to Asia by companies backed by Enterprise Ireland were valued at €1.97 billion last year, a 9% increase on 2016 results. We are dedicated to helping Irish exporters across all sectors overcome challenges to maximise business opportunities in Asia.

Speaking at an event focused on the market last year, Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland said: “Probably the biggest common issue or challenge that people face getting into any of the Asian markets is the time it takes. Typically it takes quite a while for people to go and build the trust, to develop a position, to commit to the market. 

Many companies think that they can go in maybe a couple of visits, get a massive order and come back out again. It doesn’t work like that. Being a big, established company doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work in China or India or Japan, or elsewhere in Asia. It is vital that there is commitment from the senior team of a company to work things out when they don’t go to plan, which is not unusual in Asian markets that you haven’t been in before.”

 

Asian business partners value innovation

Robert Schoellhammer, chief Europe representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), says that an innovative approach to applying technology is a key quality Asian companies look for in business partners.

He says: “Applying innovation and technology might be second nature in Ireland, but it doesn’t mean it is elsewhere. Innovation can be country specific, so what might be innovative in Mongolia is very commonplace in Germany. Technology and innovation is really critical, and above all it is what our own clients across Asia Pacific are saying that they want to have.

In South-East Asia, the 10 countries which form ASEAN have started to follow the EU model of multilateralism and breaking down economic barriers. David Daly, the European External Action Service’s head of division for South East Asia, says this will create long-term business opportunities for Irish companies.

“The EU has very close engagement with ASEAN at the very highest level,” he said. “We have experience – we have done things which have worked well and we’ve done things which have worked less well. We offer that experience freely to our ASEAN partners and I think they appreciate it.

“Working with ASEAN is a commitment to the long term – it’s not an issue of jumping in and out for a quick fix, we have established structures that enable us to have an engagement over the very long term.” 

More immediately, many young and innovative companies are already building Ireland’s reputation in these fast-growing markets.

“You don’t necessarily need to be a big, long-established company,” Sinnamon said. “One of the most exciting company meetings I was at recently in China involved a young tech start-up called Coroflo, which has created a monitor that measures the amount of breast milk a baby is getting.

“We visited the largest maternity hospital in Shanghai, where 100 babies are born every day. They were absolutely bowled over with this technology to make sure that a baby is being fed enough – they couldn’t believe the medtech technology available in Ireland.

“Another time, we were in the most iconic new building in Singapore and the owner brought us into what he called the brain of the building, where all the control happens, and he said, ‘Of course, the brain of the building is Irish’. He was talking about Cylon Controls from Dublin.

Taoglas, a telecommunications equipment supplier, recently opened an office in Shenzhen, and the Chinese distributor who has worked with them said they have only one supplier globally with zero defects and it was Taoglas.

“It’s fantastic when you have companies on the other side of the world providing this sort of endorsement.”

There is more support and advice available than ever before to help Irish companies overcome challenges and build partnerships in Asia. Contact Enterprise Ireland for more information.

 

German life sciences market

Unlock the German market for your business

Unlocking the German market requires a focus on demonstrating that your company adheres to the values the country is famous for – reliability and trustworthiness – almost as much as a keen price point. To expand in this key Eurozone market, you should also be able to challenge established supply chains.

The attractiveness of the German market to Irish business is evident in the numbers. It is the world’s fourth-largest economy and bilateral trade between the countries is worth around €39 billion annually. Germany is our third-largest tourist sector, and thanks to links in life sciences, medtech and biopharmaceuticals, Germany is our second-largest source of Foreign Direct Investment.

With a GDP growth rate of 1.6% in 2018, Germany has experienced nine years of continuous expansion of its economy and remains a stable option for companies planning to diversify markets.

Irish companies have a strong reputation in the German market

With historic trade and cultural links, breaking into the German market should not be seen as daunting, according to Deike Potzel, the German Ambassador to Ireland.

“Germany is very open to business to our friends in the European Union,” Her Excellency Ms. Potzel told delegates at Enterprise Ireland’s Ambition Germany conference. “Ireland has a really good reputation in Germany and the German market and I think Irish companies are in a very good position to take advantage of doing business in Germany.”

 

What should be your first steps, and how can you prepare for market entry?

Reliable market research is key, and Enterprise Ireland’s Market Discovery Fund has up to €150,000 available for companies to defray internal and external costs incurred when researching new markets for new or existing products and services.

As a mature market with well-established domestic and international suppliers, you will need to research it thoroughly to identify a niche. You will also need to assess competitors, both local and international.

If the German market is right for you, establishing the best route to market and understanding German business culture will help to avoid wasted sales efforts.

Working with a German distributor will get your product on the ground. But because the market is mature, your product may be competing with several similar offerings, and the largest distributors may have competing priorities for promotion.

While the price point of your product or service is important, in the German business landscape Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis – value for money – includes demanding expectations for quality, certification and after-sales support.

“Once you have a German partner they are very loyal,” says Robert Byrne, director of Burnside Eurocyl, the Carlow-based hydraulic cylinder manufacturer, which has been supplying Germany for decades.

“But they expect you to deliver and to do what you say. Do that and you will have a customer for life.”

 

Calculate the cost of setting up in Germany

Personal contact is valued highly. While it is possible to sell online or have a virtual office, establishing an independent branch office, permanent establishment or fully fleshed-out GmbH (or limited company) will build the trust required by German partners. You can expect set-up costs to range between €1,000 to €4,000.

Germany is the world’s number one location for trade shows, and attending fairs for your sector demonstrates that you are serious about entering the market. Remaining highly visible at these events for 12-18 months is advisable.

Enterprise Ireland has supported companies to attend the world’s largest medical trade fair, Medica, last hosted in Düsseldorf and attracting 120,000 visitors, and EuroTier in Hannover, at which the theme for 2018 was digital animal farming, attracting 160,000 visitors.

“You may be surprised by how well thought of we are,” says Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland, and a seasoned veteran of the German boardroom. “Germans admire our ability to get things done, our ability to recover and to pull together. This goes a long way with them.”

The German focus on attention to detail and delivery on promise can be serviced by thinking outside the box. As Byrne noted: “We don’t sell by sending a sales rep to a German customer. We sell by sending an engineer or a designer.”

Do this and you could find that, for your business, ‘Alles’ will be ‘in Ordnung.’

 

Learn more on doing business in Germany with our Going Global Germany guide.

Electric vehicle

China’s fast-growing electric vehicle market is one to watch

The carmaker of the future wants to partner with suppliers who can provide technology solutions for automated, connected, electric and shared cars.

How to forge those partnerships was the recurring theme at Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) and Mobility, an event organised by Enterprise Ireland and facilitated by Carol Gibbons, the agency’s director of ICT Commercialisation.

High level panellists included Amer Akhtar, Founder of Foothill Ventures and advisor to Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO; Rahul Vijay, Head of Technology Deal Making at Uber; Anand Ramesh, Vice President of Cluster Computing at Renovo Auto, and Hariveer Dhingra, who heads up Global Digital Transformation, Corporate Venture Capital and New Ventures at Shell.

Participating in China’s fast-growing electric vehicle (EV) market makes sense but takes preparation, delegates heard.

Not alone does the country have the world’s largest EV market but huge government incentives are in place to ensure it stays at the forefront of innovation, and increasingly AI. “There’s a heavy component of government support in China, heavier than in any other country, and when China wants to do something, they make it happen,” said Akhtar.

 

Chinese OEMs are looking for technology partners

Increasingly, Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are seeking out technology partners, to get things done, he said. This is transforming traditional supply chain models built around Tier 1 suppliers and in-house R&D.

“The market now is very different because much of the car platform is really software, so right now 40% of the automotive R&D value is provided by partners, and that is moving in the next six or seven years to 55%,” he said.

Traditional OEMs don’t have the level of in-house resources or expertise to develop some of the mobility solutions companies such as Uber or Waymo has. That presents an enormous opportunity for partnerships with start-ups, and even large companies in tangential industries, he said.

Though people define Uber as a technology company, it defines itself as “a technology company that is into all kinds of businesses, doesn’t matter if it is food or health supply or freight or people, we like to move it,” said Rahul Vijay. “We need expertise in all these different vertical industries.”

 

Partners must be global and local

More than that, it wants partners who can be both “global and local”. That is, if Uber is launching an electric bike, it doesn’t want to put multiple modems on each bike, but one that will work with any carrier in the world, he said.

“It means that hardware vendor has to work with multiple different carriers to certify their hardware, but it has to be local too, because at the end of the day, some of these market specifications are very local.”

It isn’t just established players in China that present an opportunity for Irish suppliers. “A lot of Chinese start-ups are looking for partners that can help them expand internationally, to help them get out of the Chinese ecosystem,” said Shell’s Dhingra.

OEMs are looking to invent, partner with and buy in technology, and are doing all three at speed, delegates heard.

“Nio was founded in 2014 and has already launched and delivered two models, which is unheard of if you are a traditional automotive company. You can’t do that by inventing everything,” said Akhtar, who recommended that Irish suppliers move quickly to capture the opportunity.

“Get to market fast. Right now it’s a land grab in the EV space. There are about 200 start-ups that have filed licences for EVs in China alone, and many more around the world.”

 

Electric vehicle companies focus on UX

In the case of NIO, these companies are mostly focused on user experience and not so much on what a traditional OEM delivers – that is, getting people from Point A to Point B.

Focusing on UX means the car itself can be treated as a commodity.

“You can partner, you can buy, or you can build the user experience. It depends on the mission of the company. Ideally, you would do all three but you have a short runway and a limited amount of capital, so you have to put that to the best use,” he said.

The future is all about connectivity and autonomy, with the end result of saving lives on roads, but getting there presents different challenges, said Uber’s Vijay. “We can’t do it all by ourselves, so we need help to put these technologies on the road.”

That includes everything from mapping to leasing to trade finance partnerships, as well as connectivity solutions, such as the tablets it gives restaurants in Uber Eats, or the use of bikes to solve last mile delivery problems.

“We are looking at all modalities of transportation, and a partnership ecosystem that goes all the way from component level to hardware, software and beyond, making transportation as seamless as possible.”

EV makers such as NIO are driven by a World Economic Forum prediction that the digital transformation of the automotive industry will yield US $60 or $70 billion in value for the automotive industry, “but that’s dwarfed by the US $3 trillion societal benefit,” said Akhtar. “As companies think about innovation, it’s about how to get a piece of that multi-trillion market.”

 

Challenges and opportunities in China

Akhtar cautioned Irish suppliers looking to grow their car components market, not to make the mistake of ignoring China.

“In terms of scale it’s just massive, bigger than the US and Europe combined, so it’s a no brainer. Having said that, entry into China is not a no brainer. It’s a very challenging market to go into.”

Those trying should realise that very many Chinese OEMs have set up R&D shops in California, as have a lot of the new energy start-ups in this space, making it a good first port of call to build networks.

China is all about relationships, delegates heard. The right technology without the right contacts won’t work, said Akhtar.

“One approach I see and recommend, especially for start-ups looking to get on the radar of Chinese companies and OEMs, or even big Tier 1s, is to become a Chinese company. China is not one of those markets you dip your toe in the water for. You are either all in or stay out. The Chinese market, whether enterprise, automotive or consumer, does not take kindly to a company operating across the ocean that wants to sell into China. It’s almost a sign of disrespect, that you don’t understand the Chinese market,” he said.

“Equally, if you’ve already got funding in the US or Europe, as part of the deal, it makes it easier to sell into China if you also get Chinese funding, whether from a small corporate investment, or Chinese VC, or a Chinese government agency. When you’ve got that Chinese stamp of approval, it’s much easier to do business. It means you are now a recognised entity, and investors think you must be good. Go in blind and it’s hard for people to trust you.”

Learn more on doing business in the Chinese market with our Going Global Guide to Asia.

ProDig agri machinery

ProDig invests in the future as it continues to do the heavy lifting

As the use of digital technology to improve farming efficiency increases, it can sometimes be forgotten that advances in more traditional areas of agriculture remain as important as ever.

Machinery is the original agritech. Innovations that reduce the physical workload for farmers are as old as agriculture itself and are vital to the sector’s profitability in every market.

ProDig Attachments prides itself on doing the heavy lifting. From its base in County Carlow, the company introduced its expertise in manufacturing machine attachments for the construction sector into agriculture 10 years ago and quickly built a reputation for the quality and versatility of its machinery.

Donny Nolan, co-founder and director of ProDig, explains: “ProDig has a strong focus on multi-purpose machinery. We produce attachments that will do the job of three traditional attachments, so the farmer only has to buy one. These attachments also make the feeding process easier, faster and more economical.”

ProDig’s product range includes shear grabs, shear buckets, bale handling attachments, folding grass forks, hi-tip buckets, and bag fillers – all of which are designed and manufactured at the company’s purpose-built factory.

ProDig agri attachment

Donny says: “Our products are pitched generally at the top end of the market. We don’t make cheap equipment. We manufacture on a quality basis and on the basis of a long lifespan for an implement, so we look at the mid to top range of the market. There are a lot of manufacturers in Eastern Europe, China and cheaper economies that we don’t really try to compete with. We look to create implements of top-end quality, innovative products.

“We distribute through importerships. We try to have one single point of importership in a region, whether that be a state in the USA or an entire country. For example, in Germany, we have one importer for the whole country and they in turn the distribute to the dealer network.

 

Strong export strategy

“We’ve got nine or 10 export markets and we also have some markets that we export to on a one-off sale. For some of our unique attachments, the likes of bag-filling units, we export to markets where we have one-off sales going direct to end-user customers. This would be to countries including India, Thailand and South Africa.”

It is a model that has served ProDig well. Consistently growing sales of its broad range of products in various export markets is testament to the quality and effectiveness of the machinery ProDig makes. Indeed, the company has big plans for further growth, spearheaded by a major investment to expand its manufacturing facilities at its Bagenalstown base in County Carlow.

Donny says: “We started an expansion plan in mid-2018 and that’s really kicking into place now. We’re expanding our existing production areas. We’re installing new capital items – new fabrication bays, new welding bays, some new machinery, some new robotic systems.

“It is quite a substantial investment. Over a three-year period, we’re looking at an investment of €1.5 million in the business.”

As with the machinery it makes, ProDig has put considerable energy into planning and preparing its expansion plans and the company is confident that the demand for their machinery is there.

Donny explains: “All our existing markets are expanding all the time, as we are. Our German market is expanding, our New Zealand market is expanding. We have several markets that we’re looking to move into over 2019-2020. We’re currently looking at increasing our presence in the USA, and we’re planning to do feasibility studies on the French and Australian markets.

“This investment will give us an increased manufacturing capacity of 40% and this will help us reach these markets.”

 

Focus on R&D drives innovation at ProDig

For ProDig’s customers, the investment and increased capacity also means enhanced innovation to improve and create new machine attachments.

“As part of our three-year investment, starting from the middle of this year, we’re running a new R&D programme to look at several new products,” Donny says.

The focus of the R&D programme will be the same for ProDig as it has been for the past 10 years: to help farmers do the basics better.

Donny explains: To innovate within those basic tools and come up with new ideas and faster solutions for the basics – the attachments, bailers and other tools – is vital. If you make the basics better, you make the overall better.”

Doing the basics better is very much in the company DNA at ProDig, while the company’s continuing growth and expansion plans demonstrate the importance of innovating and constantly-improving machinery for farming.

 

Learn more about Enterprise Ireland’s innovation supports. enabling companies to develop new market opportunities and maximise their business performance. 

Diversity in Blockchain

Diversity key to blockchain success

Some of the most senior figures in Irish blockchain are succeeding, not despite moving from a tech background but because of it, delegates at the Blockchain for Finance Conference heard.

Co-author of the recent Government discussion paper on the subject of blockchain, Mai Santamaria spoke at a ‘lunch and learn’ panel discussion about her background as a native of Barcelona who studied and qualified as an accountant. She worked for a number of banks and insurance companies before joining the Department of Finance over 18 months ago as a senior financial advisor.

Canadian Coral Movasseli is managing director of Girls in Tech Dublin, a global not-for-profit that runs a number of programmes designed to encourage more women to enter the tech sector. She previously worked for the Canadian government’s foreign office, as well as in telecoms and banking before coming to Ireland to work as a professional services consultant.

Laura Clifford, industry partnership manger at the ADAPT Centre based at Trinity College Dublin, told the audience how she had studied biology at university and how this led to work in the medtech and subsequently the tech sectors. She now drives fintech collaboration at ADAPT, acting as the broker bringing industry and academia together to commercialise academic research.

 

Great opportunities in blockchain today

“One of the reasons I’m focused on blockchain is because of the opportunity it represents for bigger things and further collaboration,” said Clifford, who, along with others on the panel, co-created Blockchain Women Ireland, an initiative designed to encourage women to participate in this still nascent but fast-growing sector.

Fellow panellist Emma Walker, who is managing director of Wachsman, a dedicated professional services firm for the blockchain sector, spoke of her background as a Spanish and sociology graduate. The opportunity she was given, at age 25, to set up the European office of what at the time, three years ago, was a two-person operation based in New York, gives some indication of the opportunities that exist in blockchain, she said. Today the company employs 120 people globally.

Speaker Luana Cavalcanti is a UX/UI designer at TradeIX, a blockchain technology company who started out in the hospitality sector working on cruise ships. She changed careers three years ago by retraining first in localisation and has progressed rapidly, thanks in part, she said, to mentoring she received by other women in tech.

 

Careers for professionals of all backgrounds in blockchain

People from all backgrounds are required in the fast-growing blockchain sector, and not just as technologists, but as people who can best communicate the use cases to a wide audience, delegates heard. 

“Blockchain is fragmented and, as it is emerging, questions are arising in relation to regulation, to interoperability with legacy systems, to transitions and how to manage them,” said Clifford.

It requires people with change management experience, who have transitioned initiatives before, as much as it does financial experts and tech experts, she said. “That’s why I got involved in Women in Blockchain,” she told delegates. “As you can see from the panel, not one of us has taken a linear path into the blockchain realm. It’s a very enjoyable space and I wanted to be part of that journey.”

The ‘penny drop’ moment came for her in relation to blockchain while attending an earlier conference, where a speaker called blockchain the ‘TCPIP’ of our day.

Realising that cryptocurrencies are simply to blockchain what email is to internet, “I thought, here’s an opportunity for me to be part of something and not feel like an imposter. It’s emerging. The barriers to entry aren’t there and I don’t have to try and retrofit myself into it,” she said.

Blockchain represents a paradigm change, said Movasseli, and as such it requires a diverse set of skills to drive it forward commercially.

To succeed, it requires diversity around more than gender, said Santamaria. “If you’re the kind of person that is driven by learning something new every day, you can’t go wrong with blockchain because you don’t stop learning,” she said.

It also offers a clear sense of purpose. “It really does feel there is a wider purpose to the blockchain project because it is all about collaborating to actually improve things.”

 

Enjoyed this article? Read more fintech insights here.

Irish fintech sector poised for growth

Fintech brings together two areas in which Ireland has traditional strengths – technology and financial services, Minister Michael D’Arcy told delegates at Towards 2025: Trends in Financial Services and Fintech.

Introducing the panel discussion, part of Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week in October, Minister Darcy said fintech is a natural evolution for Ireland, thanks to these strengths, as well as a deep talent pool, and unfettered access to European markets.

The strengths give Ireland a platform to build on, enabling it to be at the forefront of fintech development globally.

 

Driving Ireland’s thriving fintech sector

Several recent developments support the position, he said, including the establishment in April of the Central Bank of Ireland’s Innovation Hub and industry engagement programme, designed to ensure evolving fintech and the regulatory landscape keep apace.

In June, Enterprise Ireland launched a €750,000 Competitive Start Fund for fintech and deep tech. Earlier this year Enterprise Ireland, an active investor in fintech, began a fintech census to accurately map Ireland’s fintech sector.

In May 2019, Ireland will host a meeting of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), at which global standards pertaining to blockchain technology will be determined.

The Department of Finance has a working group dedicated to blockchain and virtual currencies and is commencing work on a successor to IFS 2020 – the national Strategy for Ireland’s International Financial Services sector.

Panel members at the event included Mo Harvey, fintech and financial services lead with Enterprise Ireland for Asia Pacific, based in Hong Kong, and Mai Santamaria, member of the Department of Finance working group on blockchain and digital currencies.

Joining them in the discussion, facilitated by Eoin Fitzgerald, Enterprise Ireland Senior Development Advisor for fintech, was Denise Delaney of the Central Bank of Ireland, and Laura Clifford, industry partner manager at the Adapt Centre – the Science Foundation Ireland-funded centre for digital content technology at Trinity College Dublin.

 

Growing interest in blockchain

Growing interest in blockchain was a key theme. When Laura Clifford began talking to businesses just 18 months ago about the potential of their blockchain technology, initially none of the 13 she canvassed were initially interested in doing collaborative research. That rose to three, with two more now wanting to be involved. “Appetite is increasing for blockchain,” she said.

Mo Harvey’s experience in Asia backs this up. “When we’re in the market and we talk to major corporates, banks and insurers, invariably when we are bringing in our companies (blockchain) is one of the first questions asked about – the second is AI. When a company doesn’t answer in the positive, it’s a case of ‘Why not?’”

The Central Bank’s interest is in the application of technology, rather than the technology itself, said Denise Delaney.

“We are talking regularly to all the various kinds of firms that we regulate, so we know how the business models are changing and so we know what they are doing. For us, the difficulty is firms outside of the regulatory perimeter, because we’re not accessing them.”

It’s one of the reasons it has created its Innovation Hub, to provide a direct point of contact with the sector’s leading edge.

As well as being able to answer regulatory questions, the Hub allows the Central Bank to gain intelligence on where the market is going. “That’s really useful for us and for ourselves internally. We have to build up our own expertise. We have to be able to use that data, analyse it, to be able to assess authorisations, particularly when they start coming in different technologies,” she said.

 

Moving from fintech to techfin in Asia

The move from fintech to techfin is gathering pace, delegates heard. The activities of Chinese companies such as Alibaba, WeChat and TenCent is driving this, and in the process forcing regulators to play catch up.

With a recent survey showing two thirds of Amazon Prime customers would bank with Amazon, how do regulators view the fact that businesses that are not typically regulated, and which don’t even present themselves as financial services companies, are encroaching into the area? asked Eoin Fitzgerald.

“Once they come into that space, they will come into the regulatory space and then they will be like any other regulated entity and will go through the same processes,” said Denise Delaney of the Central Bank.

“The same principles of consumer protection and sustainable business models and resilience will apply to any firm that begins to fall into that, whether they are big tech or otherwise.”

While everybody is aware of the scale of companies such as AliPay and WeChat, some of Asia’s predominance is down to the fact that the market is bigger, “it’s easier to do the 1 billion transactions”, said Mai Santamaria.

Neither do such companies have to contend with legacy systems. “Sometimes that’s the elephant in the room,” she said.

Moreover, with China, “we’re not really talking about private sector banks. We’re probably talking about publically owned banks,” she said. That makes direct comparisons difficult.

The other side of that coin is that Irish companies benefit by not having to go out and compete with a giant like WeChat or AliPay, she pointed out.

In Asia, ecommerce giants are applying for virtual banking licences, “so they are bringing themselves under the regulatory area, very much so, in partnerships,” said Mo Harvey.

This presents significant opportunities for Irish companies in areas such as digital onboarding and risk monitoring, she said.

The fact that Ireland is a small country is to our advantage, said Santamaria. “What I have seen in the blockchain work in the last six months is that when we get our heads around it, and sit around a table, we get to do things and we do them fast enough. That is where there is opportunity for us.”

This is particularly so because of the increasingly rapid pace of technological change. However, the challenge for fintech is that it is hard for the decision makers, those with the purse strings, “to understand what you are selling,” she cautioned.

“You can’t ask someone to look at potentially what it could do for them, if they don’t understand it. We take for granted that the tech is moving fast and getting complex, so the challenge is simple: as a seller of fintech or regtech, you need to be better at making sense of that message.”

For the future, the opportunity is clear, said Mo Harvey. “We are known as a tech hub, we are also known as a financial services hub. The opportunity is there to build on that. The foundations have been laid, the blocks have been built. Let’s see where we can go with that. Let’s be ambitious from an Irish perspective, as to where we sit on a global stage. That’s the opportunity.”

 

Read more about the Irish companies growing exports in the fintech space.

XOCEAN marine vessel gathering data

XOCEAN fills ocean data deficit with unmanned robot fleet

In his previous life, James Ives was a customer of ocean data – but not a particularly satisfied one. As head of a marine energy company for more than 10 years, Ives relied on high-quality, accurate ocean data but found the process of getting that information both time-consuming and expensive.

“There is huge growth in the marine sector and the foundation of that growth is data. As a customer,” he says, “I thought there had to be a better way.”

Ives, who comes from an engineering background, decided his hunch was worth following. Last year, with the help of Enterprise Ireland, he set up his own ocean data services company: XOCEAN.

Based in Carlingford, Co. Louth, the company offers a range of turnkey data collection services for industrial, environmental and other commercial interests including data harvesting, fish stock monitoring, hydrographic surveys, environmental analysis and met ocean data.

“The big difference between XOCEAN and most other ocean data service providers is that we use marine robots known as Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs),” says Ives. “This approach offers three major advantages. First, it’s safer, as no humans have to go offshore. Second, it’s more efficient as our USVs can operate and collect data non-stop, 24/7. And thirdly, it’s around one-third the cost of conventional methods.”

The company’s XO-450 model looks like a miniature catamaran. It’s about the same size as an average car (but around half the weight) with a solar hybrid power system that provides a range of around 1,500 nautical miles, operating continuously for up to 18 days at a time. The system includes a wave-piercing hull design to ensure stability for a payload of up to 100kg of sensors and other equipment necessary for commercial ocean data capture.

 

XOCEAN’s journey to commercialisation

XOCEAN began with a planning and innovation stage, followed by building and testing the prototypes. According to founder Ives, the company is now transitioning into phase three, which is commercialisation of the product.

“At the moment we’re focused on industrial users including companies in the oil and gas sector and government agencies responsible for monitoring fisheries and the environment,” he says. “Our sweet spot is the continental shelf region where most ocean-based economic activity takes place, for example offshore wind farm developments.”

“We’re in discussion with some very large companies and there is a lot of excitement in the market, so things look bright,” he says. “Clients have told us that we’re just what the market needs, which is great to hear.”

The XOCEAN story took off when the company was taken into the High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) portfolio at Enterprise Ireland.

 

How XOCEAN was supported by Enterprise Ireland

“The funding is the obvious one but where Enterprise Ireland really adds value is in the expertise and experience they offer,” says James Ives. “When you go to them first with your idea, they really ask questions and challenge your business plan – it’s such an important and valuable way of knowing if the plan is viable. After that, if the potential is there, you have access to their support and that can make a difference for start-ups.

“Our decision to base the company in Ireland was a conscious one, and it was facilitated in no small way by Enterprise Ireland’s support,” he adds. “They are also great at opening doors and providing introductions, which has been a massive help in gaining traction in markets like Canada and the UK.”

XOCEAN’s successful start, he adds, is down to his “fantastically talented” team – and an urgent need for more and better-quality ocean data.

“According to the OECD, the ocean economy has the potential to double in value to $3 trillion by 2030,” says Ives. “So, the potential is vast but it’s all underpinned by a need for sensible development and that is dependent on a supply of high-quality, accurate information. More data leads to better decisions and that is crucial to the development of the marine environment.”

As an example of how the company works, in summer 2018, XOCEAN partnered with Ireland’s Marine Institute to collect data as part of the management of Irish fish stock resources. “The USV travelled 100 nautical miles out into the Celtic Sea and performed an acoustic survey that generated 110 gigabytes of high-quality data,” says Ives. “That information is now being used to provide a better understanding of our fish stock levels.”

In October and November last year, XOCEAN successfully completed demonstrations of their USVs over the horizon bathymetric survey capability. Surveys were performed in Carlingford Lough and the Irish Sea, controlled over a satellite internet connection by a team of USV Pilots in XOCEAN’s Operations Centre. XOCEAN’s XO-450 was demonstrated to be a robust platform for multibeam echo sounder surveys.

With the company also exploring international markets, it’s interesting to note that all missions are managed from XOCEAN’s base in Carlingford. While the USVs are designed to be transported by road, they can also be packaged up with a bespoke trailer and shipped anywhere in the world.

“We’ve been well received everywhere we’ve gone,” Ives says. “I think the international market recognises that Ireland is a hub for technology and innovation. Irish companies have a great reputation for innovative thinking, for hard work, for being easy to work with.”

 

For more information, visit xocean.com.