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Firefly puts best foot forward with Agile R&D funding

Martin McGeough, Firefly Orthoses, Founder and Medical Director


“Without the Agile Innovation Fund, we just wouldn’t have had the capital to get the ball rolling on our R&D project. The funding has been central to streamlining our in-house processes and developing the app.

Conor Lynch, Marketing and Sales Lead, Firefly Orthoses

Key Takeouts:

  • Firefly needed to streamline in-house processes and systems and invest in the development of new technology that would increase the speed and range of products they could supply.
  • Firefly recognised that support could help improve efficiencies and turnaround times by digitizing processes with the development of a bespoke solution.
  • Support from Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund is helping Firefly to reduce its reliance on third-party contract manufacturers, allowing the company to grow their margins while delivering faster turnaround times to customers.

Case Study: Firefly Orthoses

While success is what all companies strive for, it can also present challenges for a growing business. That was the case for Sligo company Firefly Orthoses, who, after 16 years had grown to employ over 20 people, designing, manufacturing and supplying custom-made foot orthoses. Its range of mostly UK customers included podiatrists, the NHS, sports clubs such as Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC, and British military Regional Rehabilitation Units.

Firefly was founded by podiatrist Martin McGeough in 2003. Martin has close to 30 years’ experience in clinical biomechanics and orthotic therapy. During his career, he has provided podiatric advice to a number of Premier League football teams, in addition to lecturing in podiatry at Trinity College Dublin and mentoring podiatrists internationally.

Firefly needed to invest time and resources to improve their internal ordering processes. The company also wanted to develop new technology that would increase the speed and range of products they could supply.


Agile innovation allowed Firefly Orthoses to leverage the potential of 3D printing technology

Conor Lynch, Marketing and Sales Lead at Firefly Orthoses, explains: “The company had grown since it was founded around 2007 and we were solving in-house problems as they came along. We had a lot of short-term fixes building on top of one another. Our in-house order processing system was becoming quite complicated and we were working off multiple spreadsheets to record and document all our order processes. As staff numbers increased, these systems became almost unmanageable, so we needed a software solution to streamline all our in-house processes and systems.

“We also wanted to harness the development of 3D printing technology for our customers, including creating an iPad app for our podiatrist customers to make it easier for them to scan and submit measurements and order products.

“Currently, our customers capture their patient’s data, the shape of the foot, by creating a plaster of Paris cast or using a foam box. The podiatrist would then send the cast of the patient’s foot or the foam box with the impression of the foot and we would manufacture the products from that model.

“Our products are already an exact match for the anatomy of each client, but there is tremendous scope for improving efficiencies and turnaround times by digitizing the whole process. We knew there were solutions out there and we also knew that we needed to research and develop a bespoke solution for our own needs.”


Support from Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund

Firefly looked at various grant schemes from different organisations before deciding to apply to Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund for support for their R&D programme in January 2018.

The Agile Innovation Fund offers up to 50% funding to a maximum of €150,000 in grant aid for projects with a total cost of up to €300,000. Firefly was approved for 45% funding shortly after applying in January 2018. However, the quick turnaround of their application wasn’t they only advantage of Agile.

Enterprise Ireland was able to tell us what was and wasn’t going to work in terms of the criteria for funding the project,” Conor explains. “We knew what we wanted to achieve, we knew what goals we wanted to arrive at, but we weren’t quite sure of the steps that we needed to take to get there, so having that support during the application process was really helpful.

“Agile gave us a huge amount of control over how we wanted to spend the grant. We were able to hire a software developer and a research and development manager to lead the project. It made the pathway towards achieving our goals much clearer.

Firefly is now beta testing their app and 3D printing prototypes. The final step will be bringing their products to full 3D printer manufacturing and the company is in discussions with large industrial 3D printing operations throughout Europe to find the most suitable partner.

Firefly’s customer base is 90% in the UK and 7% in Ireland, with the remainder being occasional orders from places like Sweden or Spain. However, many of Firefly’s products have an extended turnaround time because they come from third-party contract manufacturers in Canada and the US. Conor says that this will change by moving to 3D printing, with significant benefits for both Firefly and its customers.

He comments: “Agile funding is helping us achieve the goal of producing our own products and reducing our reliance on third-party contract manufacturers. This will allow us to grow our margins, while our customers will benefit from faster turnaround times. Before the end of the year we would hope to be printing products for customers

“Over time, we also intend to develop novel design features within our product range that are not currently achievable using traditional manufacturing processes.

“Without the Agile Innovation Fund, we just wouldn’t have had the capital to get the ball rolling on our R&D project. The funding has been central to streamlining our in-house processes and developing the app.”


Learn how the Agile Innovation Fund can support your R&D ambitions.

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