Evolve UK Webinar – UK Water Sector – AMP 7 Update and Net Zero Outlook

Enterprise Ireland UK’s webinar: UK Water Sector – AMP 7 Update and Net Zero Outlook provided attendees with an update on the UK water sector and discussed the Net Zero 2030 Routemap.

Experts from across the industry gave their perspective on key issues, including the AMP 7 investment cycle, the sector’s plan to deliver upon a net zero strategy and the role that supply chain companies will play in achieving the sector’s carbon reduction targets.

Watch the webinar to hear expert insights from

–             Lee Horrocks, Director, LCH Executive

–             Lila Thompson, Chief Executive, British Water

–             Samuel Larsen, Programme Lead, Water UK

–             David Riley, Head of Carbon Neutrality, Anglian Water

 

It’s never too soon – and a business never too small – to plan for export success

 Mark Christal, Manager Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland outlines why developing export activity is of critical importance to Ireland.

That includes export activity for businesses of all sizes, including small and medium ones as well as micro businesses which employ fewer than 10 people. It includes businesses already in operation and start-ups too because, put simply, Ireland needs to export more.

An OECD report in 2019 found that just 6.3% of Irish businesses exported and suggested that it needs to be closer to 10% if Ireland is to have the resilience we require in our enterprise base. That was before Covid-19 which has greatly increased our exposure to risk.

 

Export Compass webinar series

Being a small business is no impediment to export success but preparation is key. Because developing exports is an important strategic objective of Enterprise Ireland, it has partnered with the Local Enterprise Office network to launch a new webinar series called Export Compass.

This online series is completely free and is open to all companies.  As well as expert advice it features small business owners willing to share the benefit of their experience in terms of tips for success and pitfalls to avoid.  

The webinars are tailored to suit micro and SME businesses who are either just starting out or who wish to grow an existing business through export sales.

There are five webinars in the series, with each covering practical advice on specific issues including assessing your reasons for exporting – or not, choosing the right market and identifying customers within it.  

Understanding business culture in your priority markets is vital too and the series includes representatives from some of Enterprise Ireland’s 40 overseas offices.

While the pandemic has created massive challenges, it has also accelerated the adoption of digital business practices. It is now the norm to seek and win new business overseas entirely online, a fact which presents Irish businesses with enormous opportunities. 

The Export Compass webinar series outlines tools and techniques to help win export customers in a digital world. It also provides information about the funding and finance options available as you prepare and execute your export plan.

Research is vital. Developing exports has never been less about jumping on a plane, but about developing a strategy and putting the necessary structures in place first, including management capacity.

Businesses are already mindful of how, as a result of Brexit, there are now additional costs involved in trading with the UK, the Irish exporter’s traditional first port of call.

Some 31% of export sales by Enterprise Ireland clients still go to the UK and it will remain an important trading partner, but the webinar series also looks at the opportunities that exist across the Eurozone. It is a market to which we still have unfettered access and which, at a population of almost 450m, is still huge.

Over the past 12 months we have all seen a dramatic digital shift in the way consumers and businesses buy. Despite the challenges, the pace at which the global digital economy is opening up is generating enormous opportunities.

Helping businesses to realise their export potential is the cornerstone of both Enterprise Ireland’s and the wider government’s strategy. Last month’s report of the SME Taskforce reiterated this, highlighting the need to support all potential exporters, including micro businesses.

That is because our resilience – and our growth – will come from an ability to achieve export success, both as companies and as a country.  Global exports hold the key to growing our economy and our employment levels.

We need to encourage as many companies as possible on the road to export success. The Export Compass webinars is a good place to start.

The 5-part series will look at:

  1. What is the basis of your export plan? Where in the world you might export?
  2. Who is your ideal customer? Culture and doing business in other countries
  3. How to prepare for export. Sales and marketing to win export customers in a digital world
  4. How to finance your export plan. Finance management through funding and pricing
  5. Bringing it all together. Q&A session

 

A version of this article was previously published in the Sunday Independent

 

Cutting costs and reducing food waste: Positive Carbon’s solution for the hotel industry

We are all becoming more and more aware of our impact on the world, yet when it comes to business, profit often takes precedence. But if you can form a business that makes profit and helps the environment – then you’re onto a winner.

This year, Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) is encouraging applications from eligible companies that address the challenges and opportunities relating to climate change. “It’s really exciting to see more environmentally focused businesses coming through,” says Aisling Kirwan, co-founder and Director of Operations at Positive Carbon, a recent recipient of funding through the CSF. “If you can bring together a business model while answering environmental concerns, it’s a win-win. And people are becoming more aware of the consequences of their actions and their impact on the world around them.”

Positive Carbon is a great example of a business looking to have a positive impact on the environment with a product that saves money for their customers. Aimed at the hotel market, Positive Carbon manufactures a solution to reduce food waste in as simple a way as possible.

“From research, we found that hotels were the biggest wasters of food by far,” Aisling explains. “From talking to chefs and getting feedback from general managers, we came up with a solution that we thought would work the best in a busy kitchen, with the aim of halving food waste. A hotel, on average, spends €200,000 a year on food that ends up in the bin; if we can halve this, we can help the hotel save money while reducing the environmental impact of the waste.

“Our solution is a fully automated food waste monitoring system. A weighing scales fits under any bin in any kitchen and sitting alongside that is a camera that looks directly into the bin. When waste is thrown into the bin, the scales weighs it while the camera takes a picture for identification. All of that information is collected and displayed for the client, so they can see exactly what is being thrown away. For instance, the information might reveal that 13 kilos of chicken was thrown away today – this clearly needs addressing. Avoidable food waste accounts for 66% of the waste in hotels, and with functions, that number shoots up to 87% – it’s an absolutely massive amount of waste, both food and money.

The United Nations has said that if we can reduce food waste, this is the single most effective thing we can do to reduce CO2 – and it’s such a quick and easy and achievable fix.says Kirwan.

 

CSF applications – a demanding, but rewarding process

With a background in the food waste industry working with innovative companies such as FoodCloud, Aisling and her co-founder Mark Kirwan first applied to Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme to see if their solution to reduce food waste could become a viable business; Positive Carbon then opened for business in May 2020.

“The CSF felt like the logical next step for us,” says Aisling. 

“We used the funds mostly for product development, to bring out a new version of the product, and then to upscale manufacturing as we are bringing onboard a number of new hotels over the next few months.

“I’m also taking part in the Innovate programme as part of that, the three-month accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs delivered by Dublin Business Innovation Centre in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, which has been really great. It’s good to be in an environment where you can talk about any issues or thrash out solutions.”

Like many other CSF recipients, Aisling says the application process was a rewarding exercise. “I definitely wouldn’t say it was easy! There are a lot of different stages to it, but it was also very enjoyable. It made us really think what we were trying to achieve in our business, get that down on paper and then be able to pitch our plan to a panel as well – and to be confident enough to answer questions. It’s definitely a demanding process but you get a lot out of it as well.”

 

Covid – time to prepare

Launching a new business during the Covid-19 pandemic certainly brings its challenges but for Positive Carbon it also gave them time to prepare. “With Covid-19 limiting hotel business, we’ve had the chance to sit down with general managers for a chat about our product,” says Aisling. “People are so generous with their time; it’s nerve-wracking to call up someone out of the blue but people are happy to talk to you and give you really valuable advice and feedback.”

Aisling says that the reaction from the industry has been positive – and no wonder, as this product has the potential to save businesses a massive amount of money, something that the beleaguered hotel industry will welcome. “After such a difficult year, hotels are excited to try new things. Food waste is such an unnecessary cost – and it’s not just the cost of the food itself, it’s the cost of the staff time in prepping, cooking and storing the food. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that when you take in all the factors involved in food waste, the true cost is €5,000 a ton.”

Looking to the future, the team at Positive Carbon is gearing up for a busy year. “We have our first product live in the Grand Hotel in Malahide; once everything is back open, that will be fully operational. We also have four independent hotels and a hotel group interested in starting in the next couple of weeks. So we’ll be busy!

“We’ve come a long way in the last few months, and that’s with the support of Enterprise Ireland and the CSF.” says Kirwan.

Apply for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – find the application form and eligibility criteria here.

 

LiveCosts: Revolutionising the construction software sector with the Competitive Start Fund

Innovation often comes from personal need – and for construction software company LiveCosts, this was certainly the case. A spell in Australia running their own small construction business gave brothers Ciaran and Niall Brennan an insight into one of the major issues for smaller construction companies today. “We really struggled to see where we won and lost money on our projects,” he explains. “We essentially decided to design our own system to overcome this issue; we built this quite well and ended up selling the construction business, with the intention of pursuing what we perceived as a bigger opportunity in the industry.”

With the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Ciaran and Niall developed their cost-tracking software into a real solution for small and medium-sized businesses in the sector. “Ninety per cent of the companies that we first meet are using Excel spreadsheets to track costs,” says Ciaran. “The top end of the industry uses very sophisticated technology to track costs; these systems are expensive but they can afford them. Coins is a great example of a construction software company that has been around for a very long time. The smaller end of the sector simply can’t afford these systems, and they end up using accounting systems and Excel. These require a lot of manual entry, which is open to error. There also tends to be some duplication of information. 

Our system streamlines that whole process and give the company a clear idea of where they stand at any given time on a project”. says Ciaran.

“In essence, we’ve made sophisticated technology available to small and medium-sized businesses. We offer an affordable alternative to costly solutions like Coins.”

 

Availing of help

When the brothers recognised that their system had the potential to disrupt the construction software industry in Ireland, their first port of call was Enterprise Ireland and their New Frontiers programme, which led into their application for the CSF. Interestingly, they were the first company to embark on Phase 1 of the New Frontiers programme remotely, as they were still in Australia when they began the programme.

“The New Frontiers scheme gave us our first taste of the Irish start-up scene,” says Ciaran. “It gave us six months to evaluate if we had something or not. The programme really challenged us to ask those questions and see if the idea could become a viable business. The business was then officially launched in January 2018.”

From then on, plans for the business accelerated. “We applied for the CSF in April 2018. We had actually applied for it twice before, but the feedback we got was to complete the New Frontiers programme first. 

Applying really makes you think about what milestones are important to you, and what you are likely to achieve with the resources available to you.

The questions asked help you focus on what you want to achieve over the next 12 months and further, and how you’re going to achieve this with or without CSF funding.”

The funding from the CSF, alongside another investment, allowed LiveCosts to develop their software, and turn their fledgling prototype into a real business. In essence, the CSF allowed LiveCosts to become an ambitious and viable company. LiveCosts now have clients in Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. “The funding also allowed Niall to come onboard to work alongside me, so we could develop the business side further too.”

 

Creating opportunities from challenges

Receiving the funding from the CSF came just before a challenging time for every industry – Covid-19 and Brexit. Being able to build their business just before these two issues allowed the company to overcome the obstacles and even see the opportunities that come from such huge challenges.

Thankfully for LiveCosts, the impact of Covid-19 was not as hard as for other companies. “Essential construction continued during lockdown so our customers were still operating,” says Ciaran. “Our role is to tell companies if they are making money or not. A lot of companies in the current climate are very worried about their projects given the current uncertainty; we help to give them clarity around this issue, so interest levels and new customers have stayed high during the pandemic.

Our system takes away the manual effort and creates savings – we’re selling efficiency, and this is what people want. We also work through cloud-based systems. A lot of people got caught when lockdown hit as they couldn’t access on-site systems, so our system is a solution for them.”

Brexit, however, was another story. “Brexit has created a problem around the supply of materials. There’s also issues around the fluctuation of prices for materials on projects that have already been awarded. In addition, there are delays in the supply of materials, particularly those coming from Asia. Any impact on construction projects is going to have an impact on us. If it slows down projects, it slows down decision times on getting us involved on projects. I see these as big challenges for the business and the sector in the future.”

But out of issues come new opportunities, and Ciaran sees a big future for the company. “We’ve seen a huge shift in procurement and how we buy materials in the construction industry. Covid-19 has accelerated this; we’ve been looking at ecommerce and how it can work in construction. Our biggest opportunity is to capitalise on the work we’ve done to date, and the head start we have in that particular area, to make this happen. We’ve started to connect some of the big brands to make buying materials a far more efficient process.

“Construction is quite a complicated industry, it relies heavily on credit, so something like Amazon would not work. Specifications would be another complexity. Someone will eventually come along and figure this out, and we believe that this will happen from someone within the industry who understands these complexities. We believe the answer is a digital procurement system, and this is what we are working to achieve.”

 

Apply for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – find the application form and eligibility criteria here.

 

UKCA/CE Marking & How It Will Impact Your Business

Enterprise Ireland UK will be hosting a webinar: UKCA/CE Marking & How It Will Impact Your Business on Thursday the 25th of February.  

This webinar will discuss the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessment) mark – the new UK product marking that will be required for certain products being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). It covers most products that previously required the CE mark and will be relevant to many of our clients that export products to the UK. 

The UKCA marking came into effect on 1 January 2021. However, to allow businesses time to adjust to the new requirements, you will still be able to use the CE marking until 1 January 2022.

This webinar will be helpful to anyone who wants to understand the complex requirements for UKCA marking and will focus on: 

  • Accreditation and Designation of Approved Bodies including UKAS’s role 

  • UKCA marking and the law: what you need to know

  • The marking and requirements for Northern Ireland

  • Trading with the UK: Product Regulatory Requirements and implications for the supply chain

 Register today

 

 

 

From idea to ambitious business: How the Competitive Start Fund helped Examfly take off  

 Turning a good idea into a viable business takes time, hard work and support – this is what Deirdre Lyons, founder and CEO, discovered on her two-year journey with online teaching tool start-up, Examfly. As one of the recent recipients of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Examfly has grown from a good idea into a promising business with big ambitions.

“Ideas on their own only have a limited value; you need the business apparatus to wrap around the idea, and that requires focus, time and help,” explains Deirdre.

Support through Enterprise Ireland’s CSF was a real turning point for the company as it allowed us to refine the product and gave us the time to research and develop the market.” 

Within six to eight months we had a major client signed up and will be launching our platform with a second client this month.

 

Small beginnings to big ambitions

The story of Examfly began, like many start-ups, when Deirdre spotted a gap in the market for a teaching resource to help students with professional tax and accountancy exams. A former lecturer and grinds teacher with the Tax Institute of Ireland, Deirdre could see how people were struggling with the material and how it was taught.

“The people who are studying these subjects are working full-time, generally as trainees of big firms, and they find it hard to fit in study and to test themselves on their knowledge. These are dense and technical areas; we’re also in a time of diminishing attention span, so it’s harder to settle down to this sort of material.

“Our solution is a set of interactive online tools that teach the material using animated videos which provides a punchy, fun and visual way to learn the material. Then we use game-based tools for testing your knowledge, building your confidence in the subject and understanding where you might be struggling.

“These subjects are not just about learning but they’re also about skill acquisition. In other words, unlike school exams where you’d just spit out knowledge that you have taken in, with these exams you have to apply the knowledge in context. Our tools recognise this: they are are quick, interactive, fun and backed by insights from education psychology and technology that furthers the student’s progress rather than diminishing their attention span even further.

“Covid-19 accelerated the move to online learning, but it also revealed that not all online learning is created equally, so we’ve had a lot of engagement from big firms recently. The failure rate in these subjects is as much as 50%. The feedback on Examfly is that it’s more enjoyable, painless and effective to study using our tools than the traditional book and/or talking-head PowerPoint.”

Another advantage is the data that this software gathers. “We use the data we get on progress and potential pain points to give the firms insights about how the students are doing, where their strengths lie and what they might be struggling with. This allows us to adapt the learning journey for the student too, and on a collective basis it helps us improve the learning experience.”

And for Examfly, the sky really is the limit – this software has potential for many other subjects as well as updating skill sets and professional development.

 

The power of support

Deirdre began to develop her idea through research, looking at the psychology of education, and the difference between learning and skill acquisition. Then, to get the time and the support to see if her idea could turn into a viable business, she embarked on Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme in November 2018; this is an early start-up programme that gives innovators six months to explore their idea.

“By the time I finished New Frontiers, I had the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) ready, I received a lot of good feedback and I really felt that the idea had potential. I had left my job so I needed either a big customer or some sort of investment to continue with the idea, as well as the sort of supports offered in the Enterprise Ireland ecosystem.”

“I felt the CSF was a great fit for us, and winning it allowed us to develop the product and the business further. In essence, it gave us time.

While the money and support offered by the CSF was beneficial, Deirdre felt that the application process also helped advance her business. “The application process is very rigorous but it’s also a great exercise in working out your business model. It really interrogates both the idea and the business, and your plan for execution. It forces you to think very ambitiously. The pitching process is hard, because it comes down to being able to express everything you want for your business in a concise but exciting way. You also need to stand over it for the follow-up questions. It’s very good practice for speaking to angel investors, or any other investors further down the line.

“The CSF is a great way to take that next step; the value that you get from this is far more than just the money, it’ll change your confidence level, your ambition. Even if you don’t get it the first time around, your business and your idea will be a lot stronger for having gone through the process.”

Apply for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – find the application form and eligibility criteria here.

 

 

 

Supporting Regional Development Critical To Future Jobs Growth

 

Resilience is a word we became used to in 2020 and it is an apt term to describe how Irish business responded to the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period.

For thousands of businesses across Ireland, and their staff, it has been a tough, challenging year marked by disruption and uncertainty. But what has been remarkable is how Irish businesses have responded to the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

At Enterprise Ireland we work closely with the Irish manufacturing, export and internationally traded services sector.  We invest in established companies and start-ups, we assist companies to begin exporting or expand into new markets and we back research and development projects creating future jobs.

This week we launched our annual review for 2020.  The good news is that the companies we are proud to support employ more than 220,000 in Ireland.  Despite the challenges faced in last year, nearly 16,500 new jobs were created, closely mirroring the 2019 outturn.

However, job losses were significantly higher than in previous years, resulting in a net reduction of 872 jobs across the companies we support.

There is no sugar coating the fact that it was a tough year for business.  However, behind these statistics are individual stories of companies taking brave decisions to change their business model, reimagine their product offering and find new ways of doing business and connecting with customers to trade through the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland has worked with these companies throughout the year to ensure viable companies have the liquidity, supports and advice they need to trade, and importantly, to sustain jobs.

Enterprise Ireland supported companies have a key role in the Irish economy.  65% of employment is outside the Dublin region and these indigenous Irish companies, many of which are world leaders in their field, are critical to delivering balanced regional economic development.

Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for regional development.  It outlines specific plans for each region in the country, drawing on their existing enterprise base, their connections with third level institutions and their unique potential for growth.

The strategy is backed significant funding.  This time last year more than €40m was allocated, in a competitive call, to 26 projects fostering regional entrepreneurship and job creation.

These included the Future Mobility Campus Ireland, based in Clare, which explores the potential of autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, UCDNova’s Ag Tech innovation centre in Kildare and the Clermont Hub in Wicklow which focuses on content creation and draws on the region’s established film and audio/visual track record.  The 26 projects were supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which has seen €100m invested in similar projects since 2017.

Given the potential impact of Brexit, particularly in the Border region, 11 similar projects designed to cluster expertise and innovation were supported with €17m in support under the Border Enterprise Development Fund in 2020.

These were strategic initiatives, closely linked to government regional policy, with a medium to long-term focus on supporting regional enterprise.

However, due to Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland moved last year to provide more agile interventions to regional businesses assist them to reset and recover.

Ensuring that viable companies had the access to finance was an important necessity.  Through the government-backed ‘Sustaining Enterprise Scheme’ Enterprise Ireland allocated €124m last year to support more than 400 companies employing more than 10,000 people.  The majority of this funding went to regionally based companies.

Similarly, €8.2m in funding for 95 enterprise centres, which are critical to the start-up ecosystem and future job growth regionally, was made available in September.

Retail business across Ireland also benefitted from the Online Retail Scheme which saw 330 retailers allocated €11.8m in funding to enhance their online offering, reach new customers and increase sales.

Through a mix of strategic funding aimed at long-term enterprise development and more agile funding supports Enterprise Ireland has helped to sustain jobs throughout Ireland in 2020.  We’ve also supported those sectors, such as cleantech, construction and life sciences which continued to grow and create jobs last year.

The pandemic will have lasting effects including how we work and where we work.  Many of these long-term changes can complement strong local and regional economies.  A key element of the Powering The Regions strategy was the potential of remote working and co-working hubs that Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing with our partners.  That potential has been accelerated by the changing work patterns evidenced in the past year. Now, more than ever, having a strategic approach to enterprise development is vital, and Enterprise Ireland looks forward to the role it can play as we recover and build for the future.

By Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.

New African Dawn: Launch of the Continental Free Trade Agreement

A new year usually brings with it hope, optimism and new resolutions. The first two weeks of 2021 have however been fraught with the on-going pandemic, Britain’s exit from the EU and increased protectionism and populism around the globe. In marked contrast with this tone, one continent is pushing forward with hope, optimism and new resolutions.

The first of January 2021 saw the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This milestone agreement strives for greater trade cooperation on the continent. The aim is to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4-trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. This agreement comes into force, with support from 54 of the 55 countries recognised by the African Union (Eritrea being the sole exception) is a hugely positive move.

The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 and of the 54 Member States of the African Union that have signed, 30 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single market for goods and services, facilitate the movement of persons, promote industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth, and resolve the issue of multiple memberships, in accordance with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The agreement lays a solid foundation for the establishment of a Continental Common Market.

AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity to boost intra-regional trade as well as increase Africa’s negotiating position on the international stage. Intra-African trade has always been relatively low. In 2019, only 15% of Africa’s $560-billion worth of imports came from the continent – compare this with a figure of 68% in the European Union (UNCTAD).

In addition, many African nations have struggled to develop better-enabling environments for attracting investment and it should follow that this agreement will help to make the continent an increasingly attractive location for foreign companies seeking to penetrate its huge market potential.

This landmark agreement is off the starting block but there is much to be negotiated to reach the desired goal of #OneAfricanMarket.

Under AfCFTA trading, with an aim to eliminate export tariffs on 97% of goods traded on the continent, tariffs on various commodities where rules of origin have been agreed will be drastically reduced and businesses of all sizes will have access to a much bigger market than they used to before. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade will also be addressed and a mechanism for reporting of NTBs has been put in place (www.tradebarriers.africa).

In parallel to the AfCFTA, the African Union has also introduced the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.

Though it will be years before the AfCFTA is fully implemented, the significant steps that have been taken to get the agreement to this point should not be underestimated, particularly in the current difficult global environment. Increasing prosperity on the African continent will ensure that it continues to be a continent of great interest to Irish exporters.

Enterprise Ireland has been assisting Irish companies to navigate the Sub-Saharan African market through our office in Johannesburg, along with an established and growing network of industry specialists across the continent. Contact us to learn more about the opportunities for your business in this growing export destination.

Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor, Middle East, Africa & India

Irish tech and expertise to help drive global offshore wind growth

The global energy system is undergoing rapid changes, with renewable energy comprising an ever-increasing share of the electricity grid.

One of the key technologies leading the charge is offshore wind, with the UK leading the global market in 2021. The UK’s ambitious 2030 offshore wind generation targets mark it out as an international leader, with many countries, including Ireland, now following their lead with their own progressive 2030 targets.

Globally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported a 19% annual growth rate in offshore wind, faster than any other industry.

In response, Enterprise Ireland established an offshore wind cluster to identify and work with the key Irish companies with the capability to support the industry’s growth.  Launched in early 2019, the cluster now numbers over 50 companies. Its members have made substantial progress securing contracts with the UK offshore wind industry, tackling the sector’s most urgent technology challenges and identifying collaboration and innovation opportunities with fellow cluster members.

Cluster Launch and Irish Capability

The cluster was formally launched during the inaugural Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in March 2019, which brought together over 120 Irish and UK industry delegates. The forum followed the completion of supply chain mapping exercises undertaken by Enterprise Ireland’s cluster leaders, Darragh Cotter and Liam Curran, in which over 80 Irish companies with the potential to supply the offshore wind industry were identified. Key Irish strengths stand out in the areas of IoT, big data, robotics and wireless communications with Ireland’s strong track record in engineering consultancy—particularly marine, geotechnical and electrical engineering—also identified as a key supply chain offering. The scoping exercises also unearthed Irish companies with the ability to pivot into offshore wind from areas such as onshore wind and vessel services.

“Irish companies offer highly skilled and specialised services to the offshore wind industry,” says Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor in EI’s London office.

“We have to lean into our strengths and box clever. We have a clear understanding of where Irish companies add value. By focusing on existing national skills, we can make strong inroads into the offshore wind industry.”.

While the industry cluster promotes Irish capability to the global industry, the cluster also facilitates collaboration amongst Irish companies. “Companies get to know each other and their respective strengths, they identify areas where they can work together and supplement each other’s offers. Fostering collaboration is vital to the ongoing success of the cluster,” according to Liam Curran, Senior Technologist with Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland hopes to hold its next in-person Offshore Wind Forum at the end of 2021 to showcase Irish SME capability to a range of international and domestic stakeholders.

Cluster initiatives

Key to the success of the cluster is a collective understanding of how the industry operates, its procurement practices, key technological trends, and cost reduction drivers. Enterprise Ireland has enacted several initiatives to increase awareness amongst Irish SMEs. Activities have included;

 

  • Offshore wind insights programme: This mentorship programme, run from Enterprise Ireland’s London office, links Irish companies with UK industry experts. The mentors work one-to-one with companies to provide strategic direction.

 

  • Market study visits:Visits to key UK offshore wind hubs to increase member’s industry knowledge and to build important supply chain connections.

 

  • Industry Exhibitions:In October 2020, Enterprise Ireland and eight Irish companies virtually exhibited at Global Offshore Wind, which gathered over 400 speakers and exhibitors from across the industry.

 

Offshore wind cluster companies support over 4,000 jobs in Ireland. Export opportunities, combined with the development of Irish offshore wind, creates a strong regional employment opportunity. “We have seen coastal communities internationally pivot their local marine experience to the Operations and Maintenance phase of a project and Irish coastal communities can do likewise. SSE, for example, have designated Arklow as their O&M base for their Arklow Bank project and anticipate employing 70 people locally” commented Liam Curran.

For now, the immediate focus for the cluster are the established export opportunities in markets like the UK. “Irish companies are increasingly successful internationally. This experience will be crucial to the success of Irish offshore wind and increasing Irish jobs in the sector over the coming decade” noted Darragh Cotter.

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 h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizon2020.ie

Conor O’Donovan: Brexit disruption can be offset by Look for Local campaign

Thousands of Irish companies have been availing of the opportunity to promote their business through the Look for Local campaign, which was launched in November by the Local Enterprise Offices

Backed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the local authorities, the Look for Local campaign aims to highlight small Irish businesses in every sector, asking individuals to support businesses in their locality when looking for goods or services.

“The campaign is tapping into the deep well of goodwill towards local businesses that exists in communities throughout Ireland,” says Conor O’Donovan, head of global marketing and corporate communications at Enterprise Ireland. “Local companies across a range of sectors are featured on the Local Enterprise LookforLocal website.

“It is supported by national and local advertising and marketing,” he adds.

“We want to try and encourage more consumers and businesses to look local if they require goods or services in the period ahead.”

He advises any small business which wants to be featured on the LookforLocal website to contact their local LEO to make arrangements.

“More than 4,200 businesses are benefiting from the campaign which has generated excellent traction online after just a few weeks.”

The campaign is of particular relevance to companies which have pivoted and changed their business models during the year in response to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since January, the LEOs have approved over 11,000 Trading Online Vouchers for small Irish businesses, helping them to establish an online trading presence, or adapt it, under the National Digital Strategy.

In addition, 330 retailers have been approved for €11.8m in funding as part of the government’s Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme, which is administered by Enterprise Ireland. The scheme is targeted at retailers which are looking to enhance their current online presence.

An online presence is also increasingly important for exporters. “A trend we’ve been seeing is that international buyers will search online before making contact with a potential supplier. It’s essential that Irish exporters have strong online visibility.”

Many small local exporting companies will now have to contend with the additional disruption caused by Brexit.

A key Brexit mitigation strategy for exporting firms is market diversification and the Enterprise Ireland Irish Advantage website offers them a shop window to buyers across the world to aid them in its execution.

Exporters and potential exporters interested in being promoted on the Irish Advantage website should contact Enterprise Ireland or their Local Enterprise Office,” he said.

O’Donovan also advises businesses to visit Enterprise Ireland’s Prepare for Brexit website.

“The site is full of resources and information to help businesses get ready for Brexit.

“On January 1 the UK will become a third country as far as trade with the EU is concerned. The Brexit Readiness Checker will take you through all the essential steps to take, including customs,” he says.

“Revenue has estimated that customs declarations will increase from 1.2 million a year at present to 20 million a year. There has been a massive uptick in visits to the site in recent months. The message is getting through that being better-informed means being better prepared and that makes for better outcomes.”

Irish companies are, by and large, retaining their existing overseas contracts, but new contracts are down this year as a result of Covid-19.

“Exporters can’t jump on planes or trains or go to trade shows, so we are facilitating them to connect with new buyers online and encouraging them to avail of funding, advisory and innovation supports available from both Enterprise Ireland and LEOs”, he said.

And there is a high degree of awareness of those supports. “That was one of the very encouraging findings of some recent Department of Finance research,” says O’Donovan.

“Almost 90pc of SMEs are aware of Enterprise Ireland supports and initiatives while over 80pc are aware of what’s available from the LEOs. That awareness will be of critical importance as we strive to help Irish companies become more innovative, competitive and diversified in order to succeed and take advantage of the opportunities that will arise in the coming year and beyond.”

Evolve UK report- Medtech manufacturing in the UK

A number of factors are driving demand for medtech – most notably our increasingly older global population, as well as an increasing prevalence of chronic conditions.

In parallel, new technologies can now facilitate continued innovation and improvement in design and manufacture of devices. However there are challenges to these advances becoming available, as public expenditure on healthcare is generally unable to increase at a pace to match the development of medtech advances.

This report examines the market from a variety of perspectives: discussing global trends in human health and technology which are impacting the industry, as well as the local UK market, in terms of manufacturing, supply, regulation and local characteristics.

Read the report here.