Private Healthcare webinar

Private Healthcare – UK webinar

Private Healthcare UK webinar

This webinar gives an in-depth analysis of the UK private healthcare market, providing Irish businesses with insights into the opportunities and challenges that exist for companies aspiring to target the market.

Topics discussed in this webinar include:

– Market size and scope.

– Private Healthcare landscape and sectors.

– Digital health usage across the private sector.

The webinar is hosted by Martin Bell, Independent Healthcare IT Consultant.

Martin is joined by James Maunder, Chief Information Officer at The London Clinic for an interactive question and answer session.

 

VRAI team

VRAI: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles to gain an edge in the technology sector

Pioneering Irish businesses are rapidly discovering the business benefits of seeking gender balance in leadership roles, especially in sectors that are traditionally dominated by men. This was a key aim identified by Enterprise Ireland in its 2020 Women in Business strategy, and already the leadership gender balance strategy is paying off for those businesses that have worked hard to increase the number of women in senior management and leadership positions.

Fast-growing tech firm VRAI, a leader in the field of data driven VR simulation training, specialising in training for “risky, remote and rare” activities such as working on off-shore wind turbines. Not surprisingly, this sector is overwhelmingly dominated by men, so achieving gender balance in any part of the business, much less in leadership roles, is quite a challenge.

“Our sector is technology and we would be hiring software developers, data engineers, 3D artists etc,” explains VRAI co-founder and managing director, Pat O’Connor. “If I was doing straightforward hiring, for instance through LinkedIn, it would be about 80% male. It’s even more challenging as you get to higher level roles. The question is, what do you do about it? We’re trying to change things, and for a number of reasons. There’s the ethical reason, that it doesn’t seem fair or right; it seems that systemically women are not getting the same opportunities in what is a very exciting industry.

“But there’s also a strategic reason – what we are trying to do is really complex, in an emerging market. One of the ways to mitigate that complexity is having diversity of mindset in the senior team. We’re already doing something that’s very hard, and it would be a lot harder trying to do it with a mono-mindset team. So we’re doing it for business reasons as well as ethical ones.”

 

Deeds not words

Pat agrees that more people are realising the importance of gender balance in business – the big question is though, are we doing enough on a practical level? “I think people are thinking about it, but what’s important are deeds, not just words, it’s about doing something to change the situation. Thanks to our own strategy, I feel that more people are engaging with us to learn about diversity on a business level, to see how they can do it in their own businesses.”

Pat and the VRAI team have created a practical strategy to promote gender balance in every part of their business. “As a business, we have adopted a triple bottom line. In real terms, this means that as a director of the company, you have a responsibility not just for profit but also for people and the planet. We are striving to create a more meaningful workplace, where we’re achieving something else, not just earning profit. As part of this, we are committed to a gender-balanced workforce.

“We set out to be a gender-balanced company and we set out a number of milestones. At VRAI 10 (when we had ten employees), we had gender parity.” says O’Connor.

“As we got bigger though – we now have 18 employees – that figure has altered somewhat, we’re now 66-33 toward men. That has predominantly been driven by hiring more senior people, and we’ve found that there are even fewer women applying for these roles. Our aim is to get back to gender parity by VRAI 30.

“Early on in the business, we put in a number of strategies at a junior level to achieve gender balance. We committed to a gender-balanced shortlist for every job, which means we take much longer to recruit but it’s the right thing to do. We also sponsored Ireland’s first-ever female-only tech apprenticeship – in fact our apprentice is coming to the end of her two years. In this scheme, our apprentice spends part of her work in college and part in the office with us.

“Now we need to address the issue at a senior level. Our first strategy is to look at non-traditional hires. For instance, if someone has been working at a high level in an adjacent industry, they very likely can bring a lot of experience to this industry too. For example, one of the members of our management team came from a film background, working in production, but because she’s an outstanding performer, she’s able to make a huge contribution to the business.

“Another way is by role modelling people, showing others that it’s possible to get into these roles, even if you’re not in technology now. And finally, it’s providing some sort of flexibility. It’s a big cost to introduce enhanced maternity benefits, for instance, but we felt it was the right thing to do both ethically and for the business.”

 

Highlighting the issue

At every opportunity, VRAI tries to highlight the issue, and is a great advocate of The Level Project, Enterprise Ireland’s campaign to highlight the benefits of gender balance in leadership and management teams.

“We’re trying to highlight the issue, be advocates for gender balance, so we try to talk about it in the media, and we try to make sure we are using the right language in our recruitment ads, etc.

“Part of The Level Project is the introduction of an online Action Planning Toolkit, which is brilliant because a lot of people want to do something but they mightn’t know where to start.” says O’Connor.

“When you’re a start-up, you tend to prioritise the urgent; but giving yourself time to look at these fundamental issues is hugely important, and this toolkit takes you away from the fudgy, talking-about-it stage to doing something really practical to help the situation.”

 

Register now for the launch of The Level Project action planning toolkit on 23 November 2021

Level Project - Register for our webinar

COGNIPLANT team

COGNIPLANT optimising production plants in the process industries

COGNIPLANT team

“Horizon 2020 helps us to look 10 years into the future and enables us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe.”

Eoin Keane, Energy Specialist, COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina, is taking part in a project to develop an innovative approach to the advanced digitization and intelligent management of production plants.
  • The COGNIPLANT project has received €8.5m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • AAL helped to define the requirements for the design of the COGNIPLANT solution and its County Limerick facility is currently testing and demonstrating the solutions identified by the COGNIPLANT consortium.

H2020 Case Study: COGNIPLANT

A global shortage of raw materials, increasing energy prices and environmental concerns have made the goal of improving the performance and energy efficiency of process industries a European imperative.

Among many initiatives tackling the issue is the COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project. Using the latest developments in advanced analytics and cognitive reasoning, coupled with the digital twin concept (a computer model that simulates the operation of the plant), it aims to design a monitoring and control solution that will significantly improve the performance of production plants and reduce CO2 emissions.

The COGNIPLANT consortium involves 14 partners from universities and businesses across Europe including four production sites that are testing and demonstrating the technology. One of these is County Limerick company Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina.

The best-in-class company has the reputation of being forward-thinking and innovative and has set itself ambitious carbon reduction targets. Taking part in the COGNIPLANT project was an opportunity to help develop the technology that will contribute to it achieving those targets.

“The COGNIPLANT solution is aligned with the decarbonisation goals of the company where advanced process control techniques are used to minimise energy usage,” explains Eoin Keane, AAL’s Energy Specialist

“Currently there are hundreds of sensors installed on the plant relaying information into a central data storage system. The operations teams and engineers review this information continuously to ensure the process is running smoothly. The goal of COGNIPLANT is to make this intelligence available 24/7 to the control room operator so that they can make informed decisions when the wider team is not available.”

The COGNIPLANT consortium includes expert modellers who are using the data and expertise gathered from the test sites to identify opportunities to optimise the plants. It’s an iterative process, which over the next 12 months should culminate in a packaged solution for process industries.

 

The Horizon advantage

Having been involved in Horizon 2020 projects before, AAL was aware of the benefits of pan- European collaboration.

“We’ve done Horizon 2020 projects in the past and benefitted immensely from them, including building up relationships with experts across many disciplines. When this opportunity arose, which is looking at energy-intensive industries, the co-ordinator of COGNIPLANT, Ibermática, asked us if we wanted to come on board and we were keen to get involved,” says Keane.

“Being part of COGNIPLANT gives us the opportunity to develop detailed and insightful models of the process beyond what is currently available to us. The modellers bring in expertise from many different areas that we would otherwise not be able to access.”

The sharing of knowledge between the partners in the consortium is a valuable aspect of the Horizon experience, even when it does not directly relate to the core project deliverables.

“We’ve been able to share our knowledge and experience of sensors with the lime plant in Italy which was installing a particle-size sensor and we’ve also shared our experience of data handling. We’re building connections with other industries too, for example, the group of researchers in Munich who are working in the field of chemicals in heavy industry. We’re thinking about building on that connection in the future around decarbonization and climate action goals. Horizon Europe will be the route we’ll go down to develop actions in this area,” says Keane.

On a personal level, Keane feels he has greatly benefitted from the opportunity to network with people from other disciplines and backgrounds, to get an insight into what other companies across Europe are working on and see the synergies around climate change.

 

Navigating the Horizon environment with Enterprise Ireland’s support

Identifying the best-fit Horizon project, negotiating the consortium build and keeping on top of pan-European developments can be challenging, but AAL has found Enterprise Ireland’s help to be invaluable.

“Enterprise Ireland helps to identify suitable matchmaking events for us to attend, which help in forming a consortium. They are also available to answer any questions or offer support when needed.” explains Keane

 At the moment they are helping us with the next round of calls for Horizon Europe, pinpointing future projects around climate change and the circular economy. These are areas where you need to think outside the box and that’s why Horizon is so important to us; it allows us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe, which is very exciting. Horizon really helps us to look 10 years into the future.”

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

Digital Transformation in Care in the UK

Digital Transformation in Care – UK webinar

Digital Transformation in Care - Webinar

For Irish companies with growth ambition, the UK remains of vital strategic importance. This panel discussion provided businesses with an update on the latest initiatives and trends regarding digital transformation in the UK social care sector.

Other topics included what Irish companies should consider to successfully enter and scale in the UK social care market, drawing from the expert insights and experience of our panel.

Our expert panel included:

Declan Kelly – CEO, Aspirico

Daniel Casson – Managing Director, Casson Consulting London Ltd

Ryan Williams – Director/Founding Shareholder, Connected Health Group Ltd

Nathan Downing – Head of Advisory Services, TSA

Nicola Haywood-Alexander – System CIO, NHS Lincolnshire

The webinar was chaired by Peter Wade, Market Executive – Digital Health, Enterprise Ireland and featured an opening key note address from Minister Robert Troy TD.

Delivery driver with customer signing VAT form

Key considerations for managing customs procedures

For a huge number of Irish companies, the UK’s departure from the EU meant a first encounter with customs procedures, or if not an entirely new experience, an unfamiliar one to say the least.

Two figures give some idea of the scale of the issue. Approx 1.6 million customs declarations are made to Revenue each year with this figure expected to rise to more than 20 million by 2023.

This massive increase is creating difficulties not just for importers and exporters but is also puting pressure on the logistics sector, customs agents, and the ports, which are already working at capacity. Faced with this situation, many Irish companies have little option but to attempt to deal with the customs processes themselves.

 

Handling customs procedures in-house

And this will entail a rather steep learning curve. “There is a general lack of knowledge of the customs process,” says Derek Dunne, director of customs formalities and compliance specialist at Manifests Ireland. “We have been spoiled since the establishment of the Single Market in 1992 when didn’t have to make customs declarations for trade with other EU countries. A whole new generation of firms grew up with the advantage of the Single Market.”

“The other problem is that where the knowledge does exist in the logistics industry and customs brokers, the capacity simply doesn’t exist to deal with the anticipated increase in the volume of declarations,” he adds. “All the customs brokers are exceptionally busy already and they are not really able to take a chance on bringing new people in and training them up. SMEs can’t depend on brokers and logistics partners. As good and efficient as they are, they just don’t have the capacity.”

Taking control of the process themselves could be the way to go for many SMEs, he advises. He explains that this may well be the best course of action even if the company can find an external partner to handle the work. “If a broker or logistics company is already looking after 27,000 different products for a lot of other clients, they may find it quite difficult to pay adequate attention to a few products for an SME. In these cases, the SME may be more comfortable handling it themselves.”

 

EORI number

The procedures are very clear for companies who wish to make declarations directly to Revenue. “They have to know who you are, what you are importing or exporting, and you have to be able to make the declarations electronically,” Dunne explains. “This means companies need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number. This is a European Union registration and identification number for businesses which undertake the import or export of goods in or out of the EU. You can register for a number through Revenue’s EORI online registration service.”

 

Online customs declarations

Making declarations online is known as Direct Trader Input (DTI) and requires importers, exporters or their agents to have dedicated software making electronic declarations to the Automated Entry Processing system (AEP). “You also need to register with Revenue and get a digital certificate from them to make declarations to the system,” says Dunne.

Fortunately, there is a range of software products on the market to handle electronic declarations. “There are around half a dozen providers out there and it’s a bit like mobile phone offers: they all have different features and benefits, so it is best to weigh them up to see which package best suits the needs of an individual firm. Many of them also have the ability to integrate and interact with existing software systems such as ERP and management information and financial systems. They can export and import data to them – that’s an important thing to check.”

The software will make the process quite straightforward for the majority of firms. “Most companies will be importing or exporting the same products time and again,” he says. “You need to spend time setting up the system and entering the information, such as commodity codes. The software will make life much easier for that. The packages allow you to create templates which can be replicated time and again. All you need then is the information on when and where and how it’s moving. You might need the assistance of a customs expert when setting it up, but most firms should be able to manage it quite well.”

 

Customs declarations – outsource or complete internally?

He believes the decision on whether to outsource customs procedures should be based on a solid business case. “It’s quite a simple calculation really”, he says. “While the software providers have different pricing schemes it usually works out that you shouldn’t pay more than €7 to €8 per declaration when using their packages. On the other hand, you’ll pay €50 to €60 when using a broker.”

This may sound like a compelling case for carrying it out internally but that isn’t necessarily so. Dunne explains that a company with very small volumes of declarations may find the expense of training staff and the additional administrative burden mean that outsourcing is the better option.

“If you just deal in one or two products quite often you will get to know the processes involved quite quickly and it will be better to do it in-house”, he adds. “But with small volumes less often it is probably better to try to retain a broker. Also, if you are dealing in unusual products it could be hard to track down their commodity codes so it might be best to have an expert do that. In the end, it’s a fairly straightforward business decision based on available resources and the volume of declarations involved.”

 

Working with a broker

For those who see outsourcing as a necessity he says finding a broker will be the issue. “Revenue estimates that there are about 330 brokers in Ireland,” he notes. “These range from large logistics companies to very small brokers. There is no centralised database. You need to talk to them, assess their capacity to take on your business, and their commitment to your company. That’s really the way to go if you want to outsource.”

 

Preparing to do customs processes in-house

For those companies which wish to handle the process internally or haven’t decided yet, Dunne says training is key. For companies interested in building the capability internally, there are many customs training courses available to give an overview of customs procedures and train staff how to fill in customs documentation.

 

 

Aeriel shot of a large boat with containers in a port

Incoterms – Defining the responsibilities between buyer and seller

 Now that the UK is a third country, there is an extra administration burden on those who trade between the EU and the UK. Import and export declarations now have to be completed for all shipments, and duties may have to be paid. But who is responsible for carrying this extra burden and cost? Is it the buyer or the seller? This is where Incoterms come in.

What are Incoterms?

International commercial terms, or ‘Incoterms’ as they are often called, define where the responsibility lies between the buyer and the seller. Incoterms set rules for the delivery of goods between trading partners and are recognised globally. These rules help to clarify; who is responsible for the costs involved in the delivery of goods, such costs include insurance, freight/shipping and duty and who is responsible for the import/ export declarations and the associated filing costs.

 

Negotiating Incoterms

Companies should try to negotiate the best terms, ensuring that they strike the right balance of keeping buyers satisfied while also ensuring that they are not taking on any extra expenses which they cannot afford or that would make their sales unprofitable. It is important to consider how you will process any declarations and if you can afford to take on the extra costs associated with any of the methods available.

When agreeing on Incoterms, it can often be the case that the buyer has the greatest say and may dictate the terms. Some companies may take on responsibility for the declarations and duties in order to avoid passing the burden on to their end customer especially where it could be easy to find an alternative supplier locally.

 

Incoterms in Practice

There are currently 11 categories of Incoterms but we will look at two to understand how they work in practice.

EX Works (EXW) typically involves the buyer taking on the majority of the risk and costs involved. The seller agrees to have the goods available for collection at an agreed location. The buyer collects the goods and is responsible for both export and import declarations, shipping costs and the payment of duties.

Take for example, a French car manufacturer selling cars to a UK car dealership, under the term ‘Ex Works Paris’. The car manufacturer (the seller) will have the goods available for collection at their factory in Paris. The UK dealership (the buyer) will collect these goods. They will bring them to the port, ensure that they have the correct export documentation submitted. They must pay for the shipping and insurance cost. When they reach the UK, they are responsible for having the correct import documentation completed and that duties are paid. Finally, the UK dealership must pay for the transport from the point of entry at the port to their premises.

Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) is another term that is used regularly. Many large supermarket chains, for example, have stipulated to their suppliers that they must continue to supply goods under DDP terms post- Brexit. This term requires that the seller accepts all responsibility and costs for delivering the goods to the named place of destination. The seller must pay for both the export and import declarations along with taxes, duties, insurance and transport costs.

Take for example, an Irish vegetable producer supplying a supermarket in the UK under the term ‘DDP Birmingham’. The Irish supplier will now have to submit an export declaration for the goods to leave the country. They will have to pay for transport costs and insurance to get the goods to the UK. In order for the goods to be allowed into the UK, the supplier must ensure that they have the correct import documentation and that all duties and taxes have been paid. Once the goods have been imported, the Irish supplier must deliver the goods to the premises of the supermarket (the buyer) in Birmingham.

It is important that all companies are aware of the potential impact and extra cost that an Incoterm may have on their business before agreeing terms with their supplier or buyer.

For companies that feel that their customers could easily find an alternative supplier, it is vital that they take the necessary steps to increase their competitive advantage. Through continued innovation and engagement with their UK customers, companies can ensure that they provide not only a superior product but also better quality service than that of their competitors, making customers less likely to switch.

Further information on incoterms can be found on the International Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Europe is our future

Eurozone: Why trading in the Eurozone equals more profits and less risk for SMEs

As an exporting nation, Ireland really couldn’t be in a better place. We have a strong and enduring relationship with both the US and the UK markets, but we also are a pivotal part of the Eurozone, a huge market that is incredibly open to ambitious Irish companies. 

Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland believes that the Eurozone represents a huge opportunity for Irish companies, particularly at this time of recovery.

 

“The market in the Eurozone is five times that of the UK, yet, Irish industry exports from Enterprise Ireland supported companies are just 80% of what they are to the UK. That highlights the opportunity in Europe – we have really only just scratched the surface. It’s a huge market and it’s an easy market in terms of the lack of infrastructure barriers.” says Lanigan

“In general, Europe is very open to working with Irish companies, not just because we’re Irish but also because we’re innovative, we’re very flexible and friendly to work with, and we are very good at customising our product to suit the customer – and that is very much valued in Europe. We’re pushing an open door in Europe. The challenge is in our own mindset.”

 

Fewer overheads, more profit

But the most attractive part of trading in the Eurozone is the fact that we are operating in the same currency. Investment and financial advisor John Power says that the positives of the single currency cannot be underestimated for SMEs. “When you bring it down to brass tacks, for SMEs, anything that requires intervention, eg if you have to manage currency, is an overhead. I think that some smaller companies often forget that managing a currency is an overhead, and removing an overhead is always going to have an immediate effect on your profits.”

Language is often cited as a barrier to Irish companies trading in Europe, but the positives of dealing in the single currency override any such barriers. “Language is a barrier but we think that habit might play a part too,” says Anne. “Irish companies know how to deal with currency as we have traded with the UK and with the US for years, but even if you have the capability to deal with currency, it is still an overhead. It’s a good thing that our companies are able to deal with currency issues, as the UK, the US and other countries are very important markets for us, but Europe does offer a market that removes this overhead, so your profitability is higher when you’re dealing in the same currency as your customers and your suppliers.”

There is a second reason why the single currency is invaluable for Irish SMEs – the volatility of exchange rates. “When Brexit was voted upon, we saw the volatility of sterling and the damage that it did to Irish companies,” explains John. “We saw massive margin erosion and margin uncertainty. We saw that margin uncertainty happened throughout the sales cycle, so the margin that a company thought they would get at the start of the sales cycle could be completely eroded by the end of it. It was then that we saw the real damage that currency volatility can do.

“When you’re an SME working in international markets, the more risk you can eliminate, the better. One of those risks is currency and as an asset class, it’s probably the most volatile. If you can eliminate that, it has to be a huge positive because you’re eliminating a huge overhead and a risk at the same time.” explains Power

 

Lack of barriers

But there are plenty of other advantages to trading within the Eurozone. For one thing, the lack of barriers in the European Single Market means that trading is quick and straightforward. “Mainland Europe operates much like the States in terms of there’s no real land borders to trade between member countries,” says John. “Our traditional trading relationship with the UK and the US may have resulted in us partly ignoring the opportunities in the Eurozone, yet it’s possibly the nearest and the easiest trading relationship we have.

“We are the only English-speaking nation in the EU, we have a great position on the edge of Europe and we share the single currency. This puts us at a unique trading advantage right now.”

And, financial transactions are fast and easier too, John explains. “We are also members of SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Area, which significantly reduces transaction costs and the time it takes to make a payment. Along with the single currency, this make it far easier for small companies to forecast revenue, and to receive and make payments.”

All these financial factors have the potential to transform profitability for Irish SMEs, at a time when revenues and profits are in danger of being squeezed. Luckily for us too, Europe welcomes products and solutions from Irish companies, and we have a great reputation in the most in-demand sectors right now.

“We have companies excelling across a wide range of sectors,” says Anne. “The most important right now would be high-tech construction, ICT – which fits into every sector – agritech & agriculture engineering, automotive and life sciences. But broadly speaking, we have companies providing solutions for every sector in Europe.”

Put simply, the Eurozone is a huge market full of opportunity for Ireland – and a market that actively welcoming Irish companies. Time, then, to think European.

 

Enterprise Ireland and the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) presented at three part series; Europe is our future. Watch the final webinar from Sept 24th below:

 

 

Net Zero: Time for Irish companies in the UK to prioritise strategies to tackle climate change 

Net Zero

Irish companies operating in the UK have had quite a turbulent few years. Not only have they worked through the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected literally every part of the business world, but they have also come through the preparation and implementation of Brexit. But now there’s another issue that is becoming ever more urgent by the day – climate change – and it’s time now for Irish companies in the UK to start implementing strategies to make their business more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While climate change is an urgent issue in every country, an even closer light has been cast on the changing environmental and sustainability conditions of the UK market. The UK was the first industrialised nation to enshrine its climate targets in law, pledging to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 78% by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050. This has been supplemented by recent UK government announcements including its ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution (published in December 2020), a new hydrogen strategy and an offshore wind sector deal. COP26 is taking place in Glasgow this autumn, and to coincide with its launch, the UK government is planning to publish a comprehensive cross-sectoral net zero roadmap, which should provide greater clarity for all sectors.

By and large, net zero been welcomed by the market, as businesses can see the opportunities that come with such a move, but the details still need to be sorted out,” explains Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor, Industrial and Cleantech, at Enterprise Ireland. “The comprehensive roadmap to be published ahead of COP in November is expected to include all the important steps to take the UK to their net zero target, including the level of investment the government is willing to put into it.”

 

Already an urgent issue

With such ambitious targets, it’s clear that this will result in fundamental changes across the business community. Already, the UK net zero challenge is rapidly impacting government policy and legislation, influencing consumer preferences, impacting investor decision making and changing the way major corporates work with supply chain partners.

If you already have a presence in the UK, you must become conscious of the net zero ambitions of your customer base and the changing dynamics,” says Darragh. “For instance, already a lot of public procurement is building in environmental criteria into their tender assessments. That will be the same in the construction and agricultural sectors. So our message is that this is a critical issue for Irish businesses if they want to continue working in the UK because everything from procurement to the type of products and services will undergo fundamental change as we journey towards net zero.

“For us in the Enterprise Ireland London office, it’s the number one issue facing businesses today; we want to educate our clients on the issues facing them, find out what’s required by their customers and potential customers in the UK and relay that information to our client companies. For instance, we are seeing more and more UK corporates looking for their supply chain to have achieved environmental accreditation through certification such as ISO 50001 and ISO 14001. Our client companies need to be aware of the criteria they need to fulfil in order to continue doing business in the UK.”

To help, Enterprise Ireland has launched Net Zero UK: Ready for a Green Future, a proactive market intelligence and insights campaign that is designed to keep Irish business informed of the UK’s net zero plans and their impact on business. Through webinars, podcasts and reports, the campaign will highlight technologies and verticals that are likely to decline and those that will grow and emerge, along with the evolving expectations of major UK corporates. These insights can inform the strategic planning and R&D activities of Irish companies operating in the UK to both protect and to grow their business over the coming years.

Opportunities

Of course, with every change there’s opportunity, and working with Irish SMEs to identify new and relevant business opportunities is a key goal of Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign. “Net Zero will affect every sector, but some sectors would require different measures to others,” says Darragh. “For Irish companies, there are opportunities across all sectors related to net zero, not just in renewable energy – there are also opportunities in construction, engineering, manufacturing, local authorities, finance, business technology and more.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign is complemented by the €10 million Climate Enterprise Action Fund, which provides a suite of products to help Irish companies assess their current carbon footprint and develop a concrete decarbonisation strategy to help future-proof their business. These financial aids work alongside the focused sector insights provided by the Net Zero UK campaign.

Despite Brexit, the UK remains one of Ireland’s most important export partners, and it’s vital that Irish companies take action now to address the opportunities and risks brought about by the growth of UK’s green economy. Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign aims to support Irish exporters and help them to emerge stronger, more successful and more sustainable than ever.

Net Zero UK is part of Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK campaign. Find out more here.

Dr Michael Maguire, CEO AVECTAS

AVECTAS leading the way in non-viral cell engineering technology

Dr Michael Maguire, CEO AVECTAS

“Horizon 2020 was all about scientific excellence; this project allowed AVECTAS to further develop our pioneering SOLUPORE® technology within a structured framework.”


Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Executive of AVECTAS

Key Takeouts:

  • AVECTAS, a spin-out company from Maynooth University, has developed a game-changing approach to engineering cells for use in immunotherapy.
  • AVECTAS received €2m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme via its SME Instrument.
  • This support along with that of investors was key to enabling AVECTAS to progress the commercialisation of its SOLUPORE® platform including completing successful preclinical studies.

H2020 Case Study: AVECTAS

Case Study

Cellular immunotherapy is an exciting new approach to treating cancer that offers hope to millions of people worldwide as it has the potential to cure the disease without the harsh side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy.  It involves editing genes outside the body, in effect arming them to attack and kill cancer cells when they are infused back into patients.

Generally, viruses are required to re-engineer cells but AVECTAS, a company headquartered in Dublin and with locations in Canada and the USA, has developed a novel, non-viral gene editing approach that has multiple benefits over alternatives.

“At AVECTAS we’re looking at the next generation of cancer therapy products, including complex gene editing that will address the treatment of solid mass tumours.” explains Dr Michael Maguire, CEO of AVECTAS

“We have developed a cell engineering platform, SOLUPORE®, which works by temporarily making the cell membrane permeable to allow cargo such as mRNA, RNPs and plasmids into the cell.”

The key difference between our platform and competing technology is the gentleness. Currently, cells that are being modified are typically from a patient who may be ill and the cells may be fragile. Our approach minimises stress to cells so they function extremely well when reintroduced to the patient.”

As well as delivering benefits to patients, the SOLUPORE® gene editing process is a shorter, simpler and much more cost-effective one than other processes currently available, offering the potential to deliver life-changing treatment at an affordable cost.

 

Support for commercialisation

Having developed the SOLUPORE® platform, the next step for AVECTAS was scaling the process and aligning it to regulatory compliance to enable commercialisation. To achieve this, the company applied for support under the SME Instrument of Horizon 2020 and received additive funding of 2m.

The SME Instrument supports innovators to commercialise ground-breaking concepts that could shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide.

“This support was absolutely fantastic for the company at the stage we were at and for our ambition. It was as much about validating what we were doing as about the grant, as AVECTAS has always been very well supported by our investors,” says Maguire.

Horizon 2020 is all about scientific excellence. The objectives and deliverables that were part of the project provided a structured framework and a discipline that was valuable to us. In addition, we felt trusted, supported and part of something bigger.”

As a result of the SME Instrument support, AVECTAS achieved a number of progressive strategic objectives. “The SME Instrument enabled us to accelerate our discussions with government agencies, academic institutes, regulatory bodies and other companies in the formation of a national strategy. There are very progressive efforts now across industry, academia and the funding community to join up the thinking around cell therapy and for Ireland to do the same in this field as we’ve done in biotechnology where we’re now a world player. It’s exciting to see what will come of that.”

 

Persistence pays

Maguire is keen to encourage other companies to take advantage of the support available through Horizon Europe (Horizon 2020’s successor) but stresses that it should be viewed as additive rather than core funding.

“I feel strongly that companies need to have solid investment and avoid being dependent on grants such as Horizon funding. That’s not the right way to run a business and it can take you down avenues that don’t align with your company strategy. Additive funding such as Horizon Europe can allow you to accelerate progress but shouldn’t be the only source of finance,” says Maguire.

There is also much to be learned from the application process itself which hones focus and delivers fresh perspective.

“We made a number of applications for this funding before being successful and we learnt from the feedback on each of them, including how the outside world views your business. I would encourage people to be persistent and don’t get dispirited if the first or second applications are unsuccessful.”

AVECTAS has benefitted from a range of Enterprise Ireland support since its set-up and also got assistance with preparing the Horizon 2020 application.

Recently it has secured further funding through the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It is partnering with Bluebridge Technologies and NIBRT to expand its Solupore® platform to manufacture next-generation allogeneic products that can be produced at scale for large numbers of patients. The allogeneic approach uses cells from donor tissues rather than the patient’s own cells.

The project will take AVECTAS further towards commercialising an advanced, large-scale, digitalised cell engineering platform optimised to manufacture ‘off-the-shelf’ cell-based therapies for cancer treatment.

For further information about applying for support from Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie.

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H2020 CityxChange team

+CityxChange helping to create the positive energy cities of the future

H2020 CityxChange team

Horizon 2020, and its successor Horizon Europe, are designed for innovation. It enables participants to take risks and therefore achieve more.”


Terry Connolly, Limerick City and County Council, +CityxChange project

Key Takeouts:

  • Limerick City and County Council is taking part in a five-year, €24m, pan-European project to create positive energy blocks within cities.
  • The project is funded by Horizon 2020 under its Smart Cities and Communities call.
  • Now midway through the project, +CityxChange is set to roll out its blueprint for carbon reduction across seven European cities.

H2020 Case Study: CityxChange

The European Union’s (EU) ambitious vision of creating positive energy cities – those that generate more energy than they use – is being advanced by a major pan-European project, +CityxChange, running over five years.

The aim of the project, which has received 24m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, is to create positive energy blocks within two ‘lighthouse’ cities and then roll out the learning and solutions across five other European cities. This will establish a blueprint for creating energy positive urban environments, essentially co-creating solutions to global-scale challenges at the local level.

Trondheim, Norway and Limerick, Ireland, are the lighthouse cities, but as Terry Connolly of Limerick City and County Council explains, the challenges in each are very different.

Trondheim’s positive energy block is a new build that was designed to be energy positive. In Limerick we’re trying to do the same thing with Georgian buildings, which is a massive challenge,” says Connolly.

Limerick City and County Council is working with a number of expert partners to develop solutions for buildings located in the Georgian Innovation District to help generate more energy than they consume and allow for any excess energy to be returned to the grid.

+CityxChange involves extensive data collection, engaging communities, upgrading building stock, accelerating the clean energy transition and balancing energy use. Despite the challenges, however, including the impact of Covid delaying the energy monitoring elements, the project is progressing well.

“We’ve completed the data collection and building modeling work and are well advanced with citizen engagement. The response from the public has been great.

We’ve recruited 20 energy champions in Limerick who are demonstrating how they are changing their energy use, and we have funded several small community innovative energy positive projects through open calls,” says Connolly.

+CityxChange’s extensive remit is being delivered by a consortium consisting of 32 partners across Europe including city municipalities, universities, and businesses and organisations in the fields of research, technology, community engagement, energy production/distribution and logistics.

“In essence we’re looking at how digital technologies can be exploited to improve quality of life, make cities more climate-friendly and productive, and facilitate business development,” says Connolly.

 

Horizon 2020 supporting innovation

Connolly has been involved in numerous European projects over many years, which have spanned a wide range of funding mechanisms. He believes Horizon 2020 and its successor Horizon Europe are perfectly designed to support innovation.

“Some funding mechanisms can generate a lot of paperwork for participants, in particular those that are based on having to spend money first and then claim it back.  I believe that can make people risk averse because they’re afraid they might not get their money back”.

“Horizon 2020 is high quality funding; it’s designed for innovation. Of course, you still have all the paperwork requirements but the fact that you get most of the money up front makes you better placed to take the risks needed to deliver real innovation”.

“Also, Horizon-funded projects are by their nature at the cutting edge of research and innovation and so are extremely interesting projects to be involved in,” says Connolly.

With his extensive experience of Horizon projects, Connolly is able to offer some advice to other organizations and businesses that might be considering responding to a Horizon call.

“The key thing for anyone thinking of getting involved in a Horizon project is to ensure that it’s aligned with what you want to do. You don’t want to start something and then realise it’s beyond your capability or out of step with your business focus.  A Horizon project is a contract that you have to finish.”

Enterprise Ireland’s support and expertise is an invaluable resource for applicants.

Enterprise Ireland has so much information about these projects and what’s happening across Europe and they can share that with you. They can advise on which projects you have a better chance of winning and can help with identifying partners or putting you in touch with someone who is looking for a partner”.

“We’re talking to them at the minute to prepare for Horizon Europe calls. They’re helping us pinpoint which clusters we will look at and focus on which applications might be of interest”.

“They’re also very honest, so they’ll tell you straight if they don’t think your project will work and that means you don’t waste time working on a proposal that’s going nowhere.”

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

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Salaso CEO Aoife ni Mhuiri

Salaso: Using market research to hone your growth strategy

Salaso CEO Aoife ni Mhuiri

Market research is important at every stage of building a business, not just when you’re exploring new markets and verticals. For Aoife Ní Mhuirí and Salaso, market research was vital when their precision exercise digital platform was inundated with requests from new customers over the last 12 months – and this is where Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre proved so useful.

“The last year has been an absolute gamechanger in terms of digital health, we experienced a large increase in inbound customer queries because we had the digital platform to deliver to patients under COVID restrictions.” explains Salaso CEO Aoife Ní Mhuirí

“As a small company, we had to focus on the right opportunities and we found the Market Research Centre particularly useful in understanding these customers. More strategically it is has helped us hone our market expansion strategy in the US.”

 

The growth of digital health

In business for 10 years, Salaso is a well-established digital platform designed for health professionals to make precision exercise prescriptions easily accessible for patients. The idea was born out of Aoife’s experience as a working chartered physiotherapist and her interest in e-learning and digital technology.

“I did the Endeavour Programme back in 2011 at the Institute of Technology in Tralee (now Munster Technological University), and that was essentially the start of Salaso. The company’s aim was to use technology and multimedia to make exercise a core part of healthcare and this led to the development of the Salaso platform . Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, primary care therapists, nurses, physicians and so on can use the infrastructure to engage their patients in exercise and physical activity programmes in order to  improve outcomes both for the patient and the clinic, hospital or practice.”

The platform can be used in countless scenarios, as Aoife explains. “It’s really for every patient; one of our clients in the US said that our infrastructure will benefit every person coming through their doors – and that’s true. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s always an exercise programme that can benefit your health and wellbeing – whether you have breast cancer, you’re recovering from a stroke, you have a pain in your back, you want to play sport and need to recover from a hamstring strain, there’s always an exercise programme for you.”

“We like to think of ourselves as pioneers in precision exercise, delivering the smart infrastructure that allows practitioners select and guide the patient in choosing the right exercise, at the right time and in the amount of time the patient has to engage in exercise.”

 

US growth ambitions

Headquartered in Kerry with offices in the UK and the US, Salaso is going from strength to strength. “There are huge opportunities for our platform in the US due to the direction that healthcare is taking over there – it’s very much about keeping people out of hospitals and surgeries, and that’s what our platform feeds into. We have an office on the East Coast and also in Nevada, working to target the value-based care market on the West Coast.”

That opportunity has grown even more due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as Aoife explains. “The pandemic changed the delivery and the consumption of healthcare forever, which is a good thing for many people, as there’s easier access to the care that they need – because the technology is  available and the infrastructure is there in the hospitals. The behaviour has changed too, now that digital healthcare is accessible. Think of someone who’s had a stroke or suffers from Parkinson’s disease who needs to access care or follow-up physiotherapy – before they would have been reliant on someone driving them there, maybe a son or daughter who has to take time off work, now they can access the care they need from the comfort of their own home.”

This, coupled with the fact that patients are becoming more educated about the many different forms of healthcare, has resulted in Salaso becoming a much sought-after platform.

“More patients are also now more involved and informed about their options; if there’s an exercise programme that might help postpone a surgery or improve recovery, then they want to know about it.”

“All of the evidence shows that if you engage with prehabilitation before surgery, the outcomes post-surgery are better. Even if you look at an area like cancer, exercise not only improves quality of life but it can also have a positive effect on survivorship.”

As Salaso grew, so did its need for market research; as Enterprise Ireland clients, the company was able to avail of the Market Research Centre to help them recognise opportunities and understand new markets. “We used the Market Research Centre for accessing a lot of the reports for the overseas markets, the US in particular,” Aoife explains.

“The centre was very useful for segmenting the industry, as well as identifying the possible leads that we could go after. It also helped us in understanding the market in the US, how reimbursement worked, and what has changed in the last 12 months. ” says Aoife

“The centre was very useful for segmenting the industry, as well as identifying the possible leads that we could go after. It also helped us in understanding the market in the US, how reimbursement worked, and what has changed in the last 12 months. For instance, a year ago, tele-health wasn’t reimbursed, but during the pandemic, reimbursement for tele health was brought in temporarily, and now it appears to be here for the long-haul. Getting information on topics like this is so useful when navigating a complicated market like the US healthcare market.”

The pandemic has accelerated Salaso’s growth as a company but expanding too fast can have its pitfalls too – and again, the data provided by the Market Research Centre can be invaluable. “There’s great opportunity for us to expand right now but we’re still an SME with limited resources, so knowing the best use of those resources is critical for the future of the company. And that’s where market research really comes in for a company like us.”

Learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre can support your company’s export ambitions.

Paula Carroll

New Frontiers: The first step for ambitious entrepreneurs

IPaula Carroll - New Frontiers National Programme Manager

Ireland has a fine reputation around the world for being a country of innovators – indeed, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have an idea for a new product or service, or a vision to make an existing solution even better. But translating that idea into a viable business is a massive jump – which is where the New Frontiers programme comes in.

Delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland in 18 Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities across Ireland, New Frontiers is Ireland’s national entrepreneurial development programme, as Paula Carroll, New Frontiers National Programme Manager, explains:

“It’s a programme designed to support early-stage entrepreneurs, from when they have that business idea in their head right through to when they bring that product to market. It offers a structured and supportive environment and runs across three stages.” 

Delivered in three phases, the New Frontiers programme is designed to be as user-friendly as possible, allowing you to explore and develop your idea over a number of phases

“In Phase 1, someone may come in with a sketchy idea and want to explore and validate it,” explains Paula. “Within six to eight weeks, they work on the idea and find out if it can become a valid business that’s worth progressing. It’s part-time so requires no commitment; the participant can complete the phase in the evenings or at the weekend without it affecting their job. It consists mostly of interactive workshops.

“After Phase 1, participants can apply for Phase 2, which is an intensive six-month immersive programme.

“In Phase 2, participants work on their business idea full-time; the programme includes interactive workshops, five one-to-one mentoring sessions and a €15,000 stipend.” 

They also get a lot of support within the colleges or universities in which the programme is being run, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. During this phase they get milestone reviews, to ensure they stay on track as six months can pass very quickly indeed.

“At the end of the six months, sometimes participants can look for additional support either from the Local Enterprise Office or from the High Potential Start Up team in Enterprise Ireland. They could also stay on for Phase 3, which is another three months of support.”

 

Creating success stories

Enterprise Ireland has been managing the programme since 2012, and since then, approximately 4,900 individuals have participated in New Frontiers, with 1,500 going on to the immersive Phase 2 of the programme.

“We also did an evaluation at the end of 2019,” says Paula, “and out of the people we surveyed who had completed the programme, over 83% were still in business. Plus the turnover of those people surveyed was over €300 million.”

Some of those still in business are genuine Irish success stories. For instance, a 2019 participant is Uccello Designs, a design and manufacturing company providing stylish assisted-living devices such as an innovative no-pour kettle; Uccello Designs now employs 11 people in Ireland, Australia and the UK. Another success story is 2017 participant Kianda Technologies, which has developed a no-code business process automation platform that allows business users address core business process management needs without the need for outside help. Now supported by Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up unit, Kianda recently experienced a 40% increase in their customer base and is aiming to triple the size of their team by the end of the year. And, Immersive VR Education in Waterford, one of the 2016 participants, raised €6.75 million following a successful IPO in 2018.

 

Supporting every corner of the country

The regional aspect of the programme plays an important role in Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to developing sustainable businesses all over Ireland. “It’s offered in 18 institutions throughout Ireland,” says Paula. “With Covid, obviously, it all went online but post-Covid, Phase 1 will remain online – which makes it accessible to everyone, regardless of where you live – but Phase 2 will have face-to-face meetings, interaction and networking, as well as some online.

“Having that interaction is so important when building a business as other people can challenge an idea within a safe environment, and give participants the opportunity to practise their pitch in front of mentors and peers. 

“New Frontiers encourages people to pitch from day one; we get them to deliver an elevated pitch at the very start, and by the end of even Stage 1, that pitch has been refined and developed through practice.”

The New Frontiers programme is open to early-stage entrepreneurs based in Ireland over the age of 18 with an idea that has employment and export potential. Start dates vary according to your chosen location, but the application process is quick and easy. Simply fill in the online form available on www.newfrontiers.ie and a programme manager will get in touch to discuss your project and send you an application form

Visit www.newfrontiers.ie for details on how to apply.