“The Commercialisation Specialist has been excellent in terms of advice and pushing the commercial agenda.”
Dr Liam Morris, Senior Principal Investigator, GMIT
Case Study: Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
Dr. Liam Morris is a lecturer and co-principal investigator in the Medical & Engineering Technology Gateway in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). He’s currently undertaking research and development on a device for the treatment of heart failure and has received support from Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund to investigate its commercial potential.
“The idea for the device came about when we were approached by industry people who were looking for a solution relating to treating heart failure in a specific way. We had developed a solution related to aneurysms so we decided to take that and evolve it so that it could be repurposed and applied to another heart failure indication.
“As an Institute of Technology we are more on the applied science side of things so there is a good fit with the idea of commercialisation,” says Morris.
Having been involved with Commercialisation Fund projects before, including working on the first product to be licensed in the GMIT, Morris knew that Enterprise Ireland should be his first port of call. With advice and input from colleagues and from an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Specialist, he applied for and secured Commercialisation Fund support.
Building the team
Recognising that having the right technical and commercial skill sets in place is vital for project delivery and success, Morris then turned to the crucial task of building the team to take forward the project.
“It’s all about getting the right individuals around you,” says Morris. “You need to know what that team should look like. The Commercialisation Specialist’s advice was invaluable to me in terms of detailing the skill sets that we needed.
“You also need to look realistically at the salaries you’re offering because you want to attract the right people and you’ll be competing with industry for them.”
Through the Commercialisation Fund, Enterprise Ireland ensured that Morris could offer salaries that would attract the skill sets and experience needed for the project.
Sharon White joined the team in 2017 as the senior engineer. With industry and regulatory experience in a multinational company she was exactly what Morris was looking for.
After 13 years in industry, White was looking for a change and became aware of the project through industry contacts.
“This project was a chance to be involved in something from the start, which is not an opportunity you get in industry,” says White.
Also you have the scope to build the device in the way you want to rather than doing what layers of management above you are telling you. It really appealed to me. I could bring my own knowledge into it but I’d learn a huge amount as well.”
Neither Morris nor White had any real business experience, which they knew was critical to the project. That role has now been filled by Jonathan Bouchier-Hayes who works as the project’s commercial executive.
“Jonathan has really made a difference to the project. Whereas Liam and I look at things purely from a technology perspective, Jonathan will ask – who is going to buy it? Is it viable commercially? Are we VC ready? He looks at things in a different way. We’ve learnt that it may take a side-step from where you are to get where you need to be,” says White.
“In terms of the next challenges Jonathan has given us a very good understanding of what we need to do,” adds Morris. “We’re applying for a patent and he has brought a fresh pair of eyes to that and a commercial head. He also has lots of contacts so we’ve been able to talk to people who are in a similar position.”
Planning the next steps
“The Commercialisation Specialist has been excellent in terms of pushing the commercial agenda. They advised us on all aspects of funding and introduced us to people who can give us insights into the funding process. They also put us in contact with an expert on clinical research who is advising us on the pre-clinical testing needed for the device,” says Morris.
This clinical perspective has been essential for advancing the prototype development and potential clinical value of the technology.
Further support on the business side has come through Enterprise Ireland’s Mentor Programme.
“The mentor acts as a sounding board. Our mentor has a multinational perspective so that brings another dimension to the business side of things,” says Morris.
Morris and White have also benefited from attending some Enterprise Ireland medtech events.
“It’s useful to hear venture capitalists explain what they’re looking for and it helps to see what other people are doing and what the standard is from the spin-out perspective,” says Morris.
White adds: “The Big Ideas event was very beneficial. It was a great networking opportunity and opened doors to venture capitalists.”
For more information about applying for Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund, contact your Technology Transfer Office.