NIVA – simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy claims process

Horizon 2020 is an ideal funding stream as it enables cross-border collaboration and ensures that technology developed will be fit for purpose on a pan European basis.

David Hearne, Walton Institute, NIVA Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Walton Institute (formerly TSSG), part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a project that aims to develop and implement a range of digital innovations to improve the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
  • The NIVA project has received €10.5m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • Walton Institute is focused on developing a geo-tagged photo app to help simplify the CAP claims process for farmers and paying agencies.

H2020 Case Study: NIVA

    The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supports farmers, safeguards agri-food supplies and encourages sustainable management of land resources. Administering and controlling payments to farmers under CAP is done through the integrated administration and control system (IACS), which is the subject of the Horizon 2020 project, NIVA (New IACS Vision in Action).

    The three-year project, led by The Netherlands’ Wageningen University & Research and involving 27 partners, aims to modernise IACS by delivering a suite of digital solutions, e-tools and good practices for e-governance. These will ultimately produce more transparent, simpler processes that will reduce the administrative burden on farmers, paying agencies and other stakeholders.

    In Ireland, a multi-disciplinary team made up of The Walton Institute (formerly TSSG) – a centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation – the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Teagasc – the Agriculture and Food Development Authority – and led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is tasked with developing a geo-tagged photo app.

    The app will be used to resolve claim queries by enabling farmers to send digital photos of their land parcels directly to the paying agency, which will reduce the need for inspections and accelerate claim processing.

    “Our app is one of nine innovations in this project with different countries working on each,” explains David Hearne of Walton Institute’s Creative Design Unit. “Other areas include decision support systems, machine data and a solution for simplifying payments, but in the end they will all come together in one ecosystem, which will be used by paying agencies across Europe.”

    Although it won’t be the first geo-tagged photo app on the market, Hearne explains that what sets this one apart is the user-centric, multi-actor design.

    “We take the approach that we don’t know what the users want; we can’t decide what’s best for a farmer in the west of Ireland who needs to send a photo to the Dept of Agriculture. So the project started by gathering data about the needs of all stakeholders, not just in Ireland but across Europe. It’s an iterative process, so when we’d developed the first version of the app, it was tested by users across Europe and their feedback informed the next iteration and so on.

    “The fact that farmers and other stakeholders have been involved from the beginning gives them a sense of ownership, and that should result in a higher adoption rate at the end,” adds Hearne.

     

    Horizon benefits  

    Horizon 2020 has provided €10.5m in funding for the project, but beyond the financial investment the programme offers multiple other benefits.

    Horizon 2020 is an ideal funding stream as it enables cross-border collaboration and ensures that technology developed will be fit for purpose on a pan European basis,” says Hearne

    “Currently, our app is being tested across nine EU countries with over 200 users, and other solutions being developed under NIVA will likewise be tested across different countries, so there’s a lot of interaction, integration and learning across the project.”

    Monthly work package meetings and bi-monthly project meetings, all virtual at the minute, keep the project on course and ensure that innovation is shared across the partners.

    On a personal and professional level, Hearne believes his involvement in Horizon 2020 projects has been highly advantageous.

    “It’s great to focus on these large projects with so many moving parts. You learn so much, for example, the various technologies used in different countries, how they are implemented and what the issues are.

    Hearne confirms “The opportunity to collaborate with researchers in other countries is also invaluable. You build up a huge contact base, which gives you the opportunity to collaborate on more projects.”

    To others who have not yet dipped their toe in the Horizon water, Hearne simply says “Do it”.

    “It’s a great opportunity to be involved in projects that can actually change people’s lives. With NIVA we’re reducing the burden on farmers, so we’re making a difference. My advice would be to focus on something that you’re really passionate about.”

    His other advice is to seek out the right partners at the start and use the supports that are available to help with putting the proposal together.

    “I was involved in writing sections of the NIVA proposal. It was a new experience for me because I come from a very technical background, but I had the support of people in WIT to guide me in how to approach it. And the more you do it the easier it gets.

    “We’re also in close contact with Enterprise Ireland, who have a real interest in the project, and we know that they’re there to help us if we need it.”

    For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

     

    AgROBOfood – stimulating the uptake of robotics in the agri-food sector

    “The Horizon 2020 & Horizon Europe funding streams give participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors and companies.”

     

    Christine O’Meara, Walton Institute, AgROBOfood, Horizon 2020 project

    Key Takeouts:

    • Walton Institute, formerly TSSG, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a major project to encourage and facilitate the uptake of robotics in the agri-food sector.
    • The AgROBOfood project is being funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
    • Acting as a Digital Innovation Hub, The Walton Institute, is a one-stop-shop, supporting those in the Agri-food sector in locating and accessing robotics services or expertise and is mapping out the robotics ecosystem in Ireland.

    Case Study: AgROBOfood

    By 2050, our planet will be home to almost 10 billion people and the pressure on food production will be immense. There is now an urgent need to find and develop smart ways to farm and process food, and this underlies the European Union’s huge investment in agri-food-related innovation projects.

    AgROBOfood is one such project. Focused on helping the Agri-food sector become more efficient through the use of robotics, the four-year, €16.3m Horizon 2020 project involves 39 partners and is led by Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands.

    The project team is broken into seven territorial clusters enabling more agile and effective group sizes. Ireland, represented by The Walton Institute (formerly TSSG) – an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation and part of the Waterford Institute of Technology is in the North West cluster. This cluster comprises the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, United Kingdom and Ireland.

    AgROBOfood has three aims: to build a network of digital innovation hubs and competency centres; to load this network with a catalogue of services; and to showcase what robotics can do for the sector.

    “Walton Institute is the Digital Innovation Hub for Ireland. We can signpost stakeholders to competency or research centres or other hubs in Ireland or across Europe that can provide the services or expertise they need. And as an R&D centre itself, Walton can also provide services directly,” explains Christine O’Meara, Walton Institute project lead.

    “There’s definitely an appetite for digitization and automation, and Ireland has strong national players in, for example, the dairy sector where smart technologies are well advanced.” says O’Meara

    “There are a lot of exciting start-ups in Ireland working in robotics in diverse areas from pasture management to sustainable poultry production. Across Europe, great progress has been made across agri-food with areas like robotic weeding and harvesting set to advance quickly.”

    A key driver in the growth of the robotics ecosystem will be the results of three funding open calls. Two of these (Open Calls for Innovation Experiments) will involve a technology provider and a technology user coming together to advance and demonstrate their solution. The third open call will be targeted at a range of specific industrial challenges, for example, asking if robots can improve working conditions in the food industry.

    “From a TSSG perspective, the opportunity to reach out to, and build relationships with, start-ups and SMEs in the agri-food space through these open calls is really important,” says O’Meara.

     

    The Horizon advantage

    One of the advantages of the Horizon 2020 approach, says O’Meara, is that it presents a means of looking at broader impacts, beyond the local and across disciplines.

    “The Horizon 2020 funding stream gives participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors, technology companies, agri-food start-ups and large enterprises,” says O’Meara.

    “Although in this project each cluster is working somewhat independently, we’re collaborating through a shared technology platform to ensure best practices are replicated and everyone has full visibility of progress and developments.”

    O’Meara is involved in several Horizon 2020-funded projects, including Demeter and NIVA, and is keen to encourage others to explore the opportunities such projects present.

    “As well as giving access to a breadth of expertise, Horizon projects provide a way of broadening your network and extending your skills,” confirms O’Meara

     

    Don’t be daunted

    For some, however, the Horizon process remains an intimidating prospect.

    “Don’t be daunted by the proposal process. It’s quite structured and it’s clear what the EU wants to see. But you need to give yourself plenty of time. As soon as a call comes out you need to start thinking about what topics you’re interested in, what partners you’ll need and get the right team on board. Remember that there’s a lot of support available,” O’Meara advises.

    Most research institutes have in-house support for Horizon 2020 applicants but another excellent source of support is Enterprise Ireland’s National Contact Points These provide information and guidance on all aspects of Horizon 2020 from signposting to webinars about areas of interest, to helping identify partners and reviewing proposals.

    “Begin by identifying what supports are available to you and speak to someone who’s been involved in the process before. If you or your organization need help in writing the proposal, Enterprise Ireland can also provide consultancy support,” adds O’Meara.

    “If you’re successful in getting Horizon 2020 funding, you will have a  very well defined plan of action set out in your implementation description and detailed work packages and you’ll have specific deliverables. So you’ll know exactly what to do from day one.”

    For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

     

    Québec Offers Potential for Irish Business, Exports

    Home to nearly a quarter of the Canadian population, the Quebec province includes one of North America’s largest, most vibrant, and perhaps overlooked markets. With world-class universities, a talented workforce, an abundance of natural resources and the lowest operations and energy costs in North America, Quebec attracts a diverse range of tech companies and start-ups to its historical, inviting cities.

    A common understanding is that “selling and exporting to Canada, overlooking the province of Quebec would be similar to promoting your products in the U.S. but disregarding California, New York, and Florida, which together constitute a similar percentage of the overall population.” Additionally, The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe means the timing is right to invest more in partnerships with Canada, as benefits for Ireland and Québec based companies include tariff free trade, easier access to procurement opportunities, and much more.

    With a populace of more than 4.2 million, Montréal, Québec’s main metropolis, attracts tourists, companies and investors from all around the world. This French-speaking province boasts a high standard of living and a highly-educated workforce that fully embraces cutting-edge technology. Quebec holds excellent potential for Irish business, especially in shared strength areas such as transportation, aerospace, AI, data centers, life sciences, digital media and agriculture.

     

    Artificial Intelligence

    In Montréal alone, there are eleven universities, sixty colleges, and the highest number of post-secondary students in Canada, so it’s no surprise that the city offers the world’s largest concentration of academic researchers in deep learning. Canada is home to several AI pioneers and their research has attracted a vibrant, international community of data scientists. Not only has this created a diverse talent pool, it has sparked significant investment in bridging the gap between research labs and industry.

     

    Data Centres

    Attracted by the lowest energy costs in all of North America, the Quebec province draws many large-power customers, including data centers and other tech-based enterprises. Affordable energy benefits most everyone in the province, with Natural Resources Canada noting that in Québec, the residential rates are nearly 1.5 times lower than Toronto and four times lower than New York.

     

    Aerospace

    Many are surprised to learn that the Canadian province of Quebec is home to the world’s third-largest hub for the aerospace industry. Many large players, including Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce Canada, CAE, Bell Helicopter, Safran, Lockheed Martin, and Thales, and a long list of suppliers and sub-contractors contribute to this critical and vibrant business sector.

     

    Transportation

    Canada has a booming smart transportation hub with over 1,000 companies in the industry. Drawn to the region by low energy and operations costs as well as the workforce talent, many hybrid vehicles and specialized electric vehicles are now manufactured in Québec, including city buses (Nova Bus); Class 7 trucks (Paccar Open); mining vehicles by (SCP 89’s Minautor); modular industrial vehicles by (Kargo), and small trains and transportation shuttles from (Wattman Trains & Trams), to name a few.

     

    Gaming & Entertainment

    Since the 1980s, Quebec has brought creativity and innovation to the gaming and entertainment industries. Today, Quebec is recognized as one of the world’s top five video game production cities after Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Austin. There were more than 11,000 people employed in Quebec’s video game industry in 2017. Additionally, Quebec is home to the largest Visual Effects (VFX) and animation hubs in Canada and is regarded as a world leader in VFX development.

     

    Life Sciences

    Québec’s pool of skilled research personnel positions the region among the world’s best for life science innovation. Built upon an environment of collaboration between companies and research centers, Quebec is the sixth-largest life sciences and health technologies hubs in North America. More than 130 companies in the biotechnology industry employ 4,700 people in the greater Montreal area.

    Agriculture & Fresh Water

    With an abundance of natural resources, including more than half a million lakes and 4,500 rivers supplying fresh water throughout the province, Quebec supports a robust and thriving agribusiness. With nearly 8,000 dairy farms, Quebec’s dairy industry is the largest in Canada. And the region’s farmers produce nearly 90% of the world’s maple syrup.

     

    Mining

    One-fifth of Canada’s mining output comes from Québec. The providence is the largest producer of zinc and the second-largest producer of gold and iron in Canada. More than 15 different metals and 13 minerals are mined and produced in Quebec, including lithium and apatite. Québec is one of the rare producers of niobium, titanium dioxide, cobalt and platinum in the world.

     

    Parlez-vous Français?

    While you may have spent time in parts of Europe where most of the population is comfortable in English despite it not being their native language, this is not the case in Quebec. Only 43% of Quebecers are bilingual, and while younger generations and the business community tend to be more comfortable in English, you will encounter many Quebecers who speak little to no English. Fortunately, Quebecers are exceptionally good-natured and welcoming, and if your French is not strong, they will do their best to communicate.

    In all, Quebec is a dynamic, growing market that has adapted to the demands of the 21st century exceptionally well. Canada’s commitment to talent development, strong support for innovation, and low business costs make it a good match for all that Irish business has to offer. Taking the time to understand this market and build a business plan and market strategy which resonates Quebecers will be well rewarded.

     

    SpeakingNGI – Shaping the internet of the future

    “We are delighted and proud to have contributed to the successful building of the EU’s flagship Next Generation Internet – An Open Internet Initiative (NGI)”.

    TSSG’s Strategic EU Liaison Manager and coordinator of the SpeakNGI.eu project, James Clarke

    Key Takeouts:

    • TSSG (Telecommunications Software & Systems Group), an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation at the Waterford Institute of Technology, led the influential SpeakNGI.eu project, which was a Pathfinder Project for the European Commission’s large-scale, flagship Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative.
    • The project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation ICT work programme 2018-2020 (WP2018-20).
    • SpeakNGI.eu’s NGI Consultation Platform and Knowledge Base were among numerous contributing projects helping to shape the internet of the future into an Internet of humans that responds to people’s fundamental needs, including trust, security and inclusion, and reflects the values and the norms that we enjoy in Europe.

    Case Study: SpeakingNGI

    Evolving the internet from its current problem-strewn form into a human-centric, secure, inclusive space that supports people’s needs and addresses global sustainability challenges is a European Commission (EC) priority.  It’s an ambitious goal, now embodied in the EC’s flagship Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative.

    SpeakNGI.eu, a partnership between TSSG and Trust-IT Services Ltd, was one of three Horizon 2020-funded Pathfinder Projects that aimed to identify research topics, enable dynamic consultation, and shape the programme for the NGI initiative. For more information on the initiative, please consult the NGI Brochure.

    Begun in 2017 and running for just 18 months, SpeakNGI.eu addressed the dynamic consultation aspect of the pathfinder programme, by building a platform with mechanisms for engagement with the NGI stakeholder communities, creating a knowledge base and establishing a 16-strong European Champions Panel of thought-leaders.

    “These pathfinder projects were important cogs in a bigger wheel and a very important step towards the establishment of the EU’s flagship NGI initiative and directly contributing to the selection of priority NGI topics for the open calls being funded by the larger scaled NGI Research and Innovation Action projects,” explains James Clarke, SpeakNGI.eu project coordinator.

    “We were considering what the Internet will look like 10 years from now, dealing with mounting concerns about security and privacy, and anticipating radically new functionalities. Our platform enabled organisations and individuals to share their ideas and we collated the information and published it in a readable format, essentially building the topics that would eventually be funded through cascade funded open calls by the NGI RIAs.”

     

    From data gathering to experimentation

    Following the successful conclusion of the Pathfinder Projects, the EC launched Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) as the next step towards its vision of creating the ‘internet of humans’.

    In the first tranche of the NGI RIAs, they funded open-call NGI projects based on the topics the pathfinders identified, such as privacy and trust technologies, decentralized data governance, and better search and discovery technologies.

    On the back of SpeakNGI.eu’s success, Clarke led a five-partner team that secured an NGI RIA project covering EU – US cooperation. The project, NGIAtlantic.eu, which runs until June 2022, is funding EU-based researchers and innovators to carry out NGI-related experiments in collaboration with US research teams.

    “We have a 3.5 million budget, 80% of which is dedicated for open calls funding third-party projects. We select, fund and monitor the projects, which are building on research results and moving to the experimentation stage on EU and US experimental platforms,” says Clarke.

    “The vision of a new initiative, launched by the EC in 2016, is now at the stage of funding innovators through RIAs with an overall budget of €75 million over a three-year period. We are delighted and proud to have been part of this long-term strategic action and to have contributed to the successful building of the EU’s flagship NGI initiative.”

    Building on experience

    The two NGI projects are not Clarke’s first foray into the world of EU funding and he has a wealth of experience to call upon.

    “I’ve been involved in EU-funded projects back to the early-nineties so this wasn’t a first for me. For the most part, the experience has been good and challenging. Where it hasn’t been so good, it can be down to teaming up with the wrong partners, perhaps with not enough foresight into the strategy and team building experiences when working in the proposal stages. With experience, I’ve learned how to pick the right partners every time, which is very important,” says Clarke.

    Clarke says “There is certainly a lot of work involved in putting a proposal together for projects. I found the Enterprise Ireland Coordinator Grant to be a huge support in helping prepare a successful Horizon proposal.”

    It has enabled me to bring in great mentors to help with not just the reviewing process, but also to generate content, where needed. And if I couldn’t find someone suitable, who was also available, in Ireland, I could go further into Europe to get the right person.

    “Before Covid-19, I would meet the mentor and spend a couple of days working with them on the proposal and I found that much more effective than relying on feedback from written drafts. Since I started taking that approach, I’ve been winning more projects.”

    Although he admits that being a coordinator on a Horizon 2020 project can be sometimes difficult, Clarke firmly believes the experience has many rewards.

    “Working with like-minded researchers and innovators from around Europe has been a big thrill for me. Coordinating a Horizon 2020 project also frequently offers the opportunity to be invited to participate in more projects, events and follow-up activities. The more you succeed, the more invites you get. Overall, it’s very fulfilling and enjoyable.”

    For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

    Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

    St Patrick’s Day offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase Irish business innovation to a US audience.

    The traditional meeting between the Taoiseach and US President is taking place virtually this year, leveraging our important ties and connectivity with our trans-Atlantic neighbour more than ever.  

    The USA remains the world’s largest consumer market, a $22 trillion dollar economy. It grew by 4% in Q4 last year and early projections for 2021 indicate further growth of 3.2%, a strong performance for a developed economy.

    Increasingly Irish companies succeed here by recognising that the USA is no more one market than Europe is, and that to penetrate it they must go in state by state. California’s economy is, after all, approximately the same size as that of the UK. New York’s is approximately the same size as South Korea.

     

    The Pandemic Pivot

    The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with unemployment currently at 6.9%, up from 3.5% prior to Covid, which was a 50-year low. Lockdowns vary by state but as a whole the US is a market where the pivot happened fast, and the return will too.

    One of the biggest trends we see is how major US multinationals, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are embracing the lessons learned. They have ‘leaned in’ to the opportunities that remote working, accelerated technology adoption and virtual collaboration have presented.

    Interestingly, this has also led to a level of economic migration and mobility not seen in generations as more and more people also take advantage of operating remotely and move to less dense population centres.

    The crossing of the digital Rubicon has also led to accelerated growth in sectors that were once described as emerging, these include ecommerce, cybersecurity, and digital health. There has also been a marked increase in the demand for content driven by the rapid growth in usage and choice across stream platforms. These relatively sudden supply and demand shifts always result in direct and tangential opportunities, and threats.

    As people live more online, those providing back end solutions, such as data management (provision and support products and services) and security, are seeing potential for robust growth.

     

    Building Back Better

    Further bolstering the optimism for strong 2021 GDP growth is the economic stimulus plan put forth by President Biden, further supplemented by significant planned investment in infrastructure and the green economy. At time of writing the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan has moved back to the US House of Representatives for final ratification, this is expected to provide significant economic stimulus across the US.

    Other sectors are of course challenged. International student numbers from the US to Ireland have fallen for obvious reasons. Consumer retail, for those that have not embraced ecommerce, is struggling, and other sectors that have historically relied on a tactile or physical element to the sales process, e.g. machinery, will naturally struggle more in a virtual environment.

    A big question affecting businesses, and unknown in terms of our ‘new normal’, is what airline travel will look like. Capacity is certainly not what it was pre-Covid and there are complex variables that impact this supply and demand dynamic, not least of which are staff and equipment availability. Thankfully we continue to be relatively well served on the trans-Atlantic route.

    Over the past 12 months Enterprise Ireland has also leaned in to supporting our clients to stabilise, reset and recover. Supports such as the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, Online Retail Scheme, Virtual Selling programme, Competitive Start, our many management training programmes and others have enabled companies not just to cope with the challenges of selling into the US and globally, but to compete for and capture the opportunities that now exist in our new normal.

     

    Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

    Enterprise Ireland is walking this walk too in our traditional St Patricks Day events, having taken the traditional week-long programme of events for St Patrick’s Day and working with our Team Ireland colleagues migrating it online. Where Team Ireland would normally have the Taoiseach, Ministers, and a programme of economic, political, social and cultural events from coast to coast and border to border, we have pivoted entirely and will instead be hosting a multi-faceted programme including a series of in-depth sectoral webinars.

    We are running high profile mainstream media and social campaigns this week too, to maximise the impact of St Patrick’s Day, raising the profile of Irish companies and of the Irish Advantage.

    None of us knows what the new normal will look like. We do know that it will not be a simple snapping back into the old ways. Over the past 12 months we have crossed the digital Rubicon. It is now up to all of us to embrace the digital opportunities on the other side. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right”. We can.

     

    Join Enterprise Ireland USA for the ‘Ireland and the US: On Track to Getting Back’ virtual event on 16th March where senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss learnings from 2020, and powering growth in 2021. Register here.

     

    Navigating the US Healthcare Landscape – webinar

    The healthcare regulation and reimbursement landscape in the US is fraught with complexities. Lengthy processes and nuanced pathways mean companies seeking to enter the US face significant hurdles to bring their technology to market.

    The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to these challenges. Companies seeking to enter this industry must not only understand the challenges relating to market entry, but also how to navigate this landscape and develop a strategy for long-term success.

    In this webinar we will:

    • Gain a better understanding of the US regulatory and reimbursement challenges within the healthcare industry

    • Outline and discuss issues regarding access to the US market

    • Identify and discuss the nuances between FDA regulatory processes and EUA authorization pathways

    • Recognize the regulatory requirements for digital-health/tele-health products in the US

    • Discuss the process regarding evidence generation for FDA submissions, payment, and purchasing decisions

    • Develop effective strategies for a pre-submission meeting with the FDA

    •  Consider all major aspects of healthcare coding, billing, and reimbursement

    The Future of Digital Transformation in US Dairy – webinar

    The COVID-19 pandemic, price volatility, and the drive towards sustainability in dairy farming means that farmers, processers, and haulers now have different needs and challenges. In a time when digital solutions are in increasing demand in the US dairy sector, innovative Irish companies have proven that they have the answers.

    Building on our strong reputation in dairy, Irish companies have developed products that are trusted by a wide range of end users in the US, from individual farms and haulers to large multinationals like Danone North America and Agrimark. Digital innovation has played a central role, as the US dairy industry seeks to modernise and automate, smoothing out processing inefficiencies and safety concerns. In leveraging digital, Irish companies can win in the space, by delivering scalable solutions that offer improvements across the entire value chain.

    One example is Piper Systems, which recently won FDA approval for their Dynastream product – the only system approved by the NCWM authority as a legal for-payment device across the USA. Piper’s ability to deliver accurate weights and temperatures, fully representative samples, and real time product data and traceability results in a streamlined milk collection process, making it safer, easier, and more efficient.

    Click below for a discussion on the US Dairy sector and its increased need for digital solutions with insights from:

    • Robert Troy TD, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation
    • Director of Milk Quality for Danone North America, Jennifer Walker DVM, Ph.D.
    • Leigh Hamilton, CEO of Piper Systems

    Our webinar reflects on:

    • Opportunities and priorities for Irish companies entering the US agri/dairy sector
    • Trends and macro issues affecting US dairy
    • Importance of traceability in supply chains
    • US Demand for increased technology solutions in food safety and the impact of this along the entire value chain

    For key discussion points see the below timings:

     

    1:05 : Introduction from Minister Troy

    13:40: How has the US Dairy sector has changed in recent years?

    16:55: Dr. Walker on how digitisation has transformed ‘troubleshooting’ on-farm issues

    19:25: What makes the milk collection process a great fit for digitisation?

    23:30: What is more important to US customers – improving milk quality or process efficiency?

    27:10: Digitising the dairy value chain and the importance of traceability to build consumer trust

    34:00: The rise of automation and future data applications in Dairytech

    37:50: How better data will change dairy forecasting and logistics

    40:45: The importance of sustainability in dairy – how to ‘make sure consumers feel good about choosing dairy’

    43:50: How industry will act as a catalyst for positive change in dairy

    46:30: Q&A – How should Irish companies approach US dairy companies?

    49:00: Q&A – What is holding back the adoption of technology in US dairy?

    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 HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.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.”