Assess & validate title and two women at a computer screen

Export Journey: Step 2 – Assess & Validate

Assess & Validate title and business people

Before beginning your export journey you must clearly identify your target market.  You may have preferences based on previous experience, understanding of the language or culture or simply some connection with the market, though a good starting point it’s not enough of a reason to export to this market.

Market Research will form the backbone of your export strategy as you begin to validate your plans.

The key elements for consideration are:

  • What makes your product unique
  • Who are your competitors in your selected research market?
  • Who are the buyers in that market?
  • How does your product compare in terms of pricing?
  • How is the product sold in that market?
  • What are the local regulations, certification for selling your product and can you currently comply?
  • A clear understanding as to why you have selected this market as the potential first market.

What supports are available?

If your business is at an early development stage the Local Enterprise Office has the supports to help you plan, start and grow

If you are are already supported by Enterprise Ireland you can contact your Development Advisor here.

The Market Research Centre provides access to world class research databases to help client companies make better, more informed business decisions. Contact the Market Research Centre here

Enterprise Ireland hosts events to assist companies’ growth plans – See our events calendar for details.

Our Market pages and Going Global guides provide expert insights and contact details for our overseas offices.

Learn how our Exporter Development team can support your growth.

 

 

 

FAITH: Improving mental health care for cancer survivors

H2020 FAITH team image and case study heading

FAITH is potentially life-changing research. To achieve the ambitious goals of the project we needed to leverage our networks in Europe and build a consortium of experts.


Philip O’ Brien, Technical Co-ordinator, FAITH Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Walton, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is leading a project that aims to develop a model for mental health monitoring of cancer patients, to improve their quality of life.
  • The FAITH project has received €4.8m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • As well as co-ordinating FAITH, Walton is driving the development of artificial intelligence (AI) models and the deployment of a federated learning framework.

H2020 Case Study: FAITH

    Cancer remains the second leading cause of death globally and as many as one in five people living with cancer experiences depression and mood change post diagnosis. It’s a stark statistic and one that led researchers at Walton Institute, an ICT research and development centre within the Waterford Institute of Technology, to begin looking at the area of mental health in cancer patients to see if they could use their expertise to help. 

    “We believe the potential for ICT applications in health is massive. We had an initial idea about looking at markers of depression and when the Horizon 2020 call came out, which was specifically targeting improving the quality of life for cancer survivors, it was an opportunity to take the idea to the next level,” says Philip O’ Brien, technical co-ordinator of FAITH.

    The goal of FAITH (a Federated Artificial Intelligence solution for moniToring mental Health status after cancer treatment) is to provide an ‘AI Angel’ app that remotely analyses depression markers, such as changes in activity, outlook, sleep and appetite. When a negative trend is detected, an alert can be sent to the patient’s healthcare providers or other caregivers who can then offer support.

    The project uses the latest, secure AI and machine learning techniques within the interactive app located on patients’ phones. Key to the project is federated machine learning, which enables the patient’s personal data to stay within the AI model on each phone, guaranteeing privacy.

    “As the model collects data on a person’s phone it retrains itself to improve and personalize it for each individual.explains O’Brien

    “As the model collects data on a person’s phone it retrains itself to improve and personalize it for each individual. But we also want to learn from all that data to gain insights that are beneficial to the broader population, so when a model updates, that update, rather than the person’s data is sent back to the cloud. All the updates are processed and a new, improved model is sent back out to everyone and that cycle repeats,”

     

    Another important aspect of the project is a focus on explainable AI, which is about ensuring that healthcare professionals can understand why the machine has reached a particular decision about the person’s mental health.

    “Explainable AI is extremely important for building trust. As AI impacts more and more on our lives the implications of this are huge,” says O’Brien.

     

    Why Horizon 2020?

    “It was clear from the start that to achieve the ambitious goals of the FAITH project we would need to leverage our networks in Europe and build a consortium of clinicians and technical experts. By breaking the project concept into a number of key objectives we then built our consortium based on specific expertise to achieve each objective,” says O’Brien.

    FAITH brings together partners from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Cyprus into a strong multi-disciplinary team. Trial sites in eminent cancer hospitals in Madrid, Waterford and Lisbon, involving both clinicians and patients, are assessing the concept and feedback is being used to refine the model.

    As with most Horizon projects there are multiple dependencies across the various work packages and co-ordinating the whole presents some challenges. At the helm of FAITH is Gary McManus, Research Project Manager at Walton.

    Different countries and organisations have different regulations and ways of operating so that’s one challenge. Also, from experience from previous projects, I knew it was important to remember that each partner, although working towards the global aim of the project, will have their own interests. Being cognisant of these sub-goals from the outset and, where possible, facilitating these in the overall planning process is essential,” says McManus.

    Different countries and organisations have different regulations and ways of operating so that’s one challenge. Also, from experience from previous projects, I knew it was important to remember that each partner, although working towards the global aim of the project, will have their own interests. Being cognisant of these sub-goals from the outset and, where possible, facilitating these in the overall planning process is essential,” says McManus.

    “But by having strong leaders for each work package, who are experts in their domain, we can be sure that delivery of each element will build towards the final offering.”

     

    Knowledge gain

    Having taken part in multiple Horizon 2020 projects, O’Brien believes that one of the great benefits is the extensive knowledge gain within a short period.

    “Being involved in a Horizon project is the opportunity to upskill rapidly and build on your underlying expertise. Through your links with other organisations across Europe you get an insight into different ways of working and you cross paths with people from many disciplines. For example, through FAITH we’ve been talking to a range of healthcare professionals and leveraging their experience.

    “The EU spends a lot of time and money with experts pinpointing the areas where we need to see technology improving to tackle specific challenges in the next five to ten years. By being involved in these projects you’re building on all of that knowledge rather than working in isolation. Then learning from the people you are working with across Europe pushes you up a level again.”

    Moreover, the end of a Horizon project is usually the beginning of something else.

    “One of our work packages is looking at what happens post project and how we take it to the next stage. We know bigger healthcare trials will be needed, for example. But from Walton’s point of view we’ve broken some new ground on explainable AI which has a lot of applications outside this project, so that’s an area we’d like to take forward. You need to be clear about how you build on the project, either in a well-defined follow-up project or by commercial exploitation of the output.”

     

    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.

     

    Positioning Strategy title and businessman

    Export Journey: Step 3 – Positioning Strategy

    Positioning Strategy title and businessman

    Your positioning strategy should set out what you will do to achieve a favourable perception in your new export market.

    Typically companies will try to achieve the same brand positioning regardless of the market. A coherent positioning strategy can be hugely advantageous, so it’s important when reviewing the export potential of your products/goods or services to consider the following:

    1. Customer profiles

    • What is your current USP and will this translate to your new foreign export markets ?
    • Do you understand your domestic customer profile? E.g. age profile, socio-economic grouping etc.
    • Are there other significant demographic patterns to your product or service’s usage?
    • Have you considered the need to modify your product/service to facilitate differences in language, culture and business environments?
    • How do you plan to deliver your services to foreign markets ? In person, via a local partner or using digital resources?

    2. Market Pricing and Value Propostion

    • Consideration whether any necessary changes to make your product/service more appealing to foreign markets and customers?
    • If you’re exporting services, what makes them unique within global markets?
    • Have you benchmarked your services in a global context? Would they be considered to be world-class and stand up to stronger scrutiny?
    • Have you considered the cost implications of servicing overseas markets? Including FX rates and fluctuations?
    • Does your product have a shelf life and will this be impacted by time in transit?
    • Will your packaging have the same impact in a foreign market or can it be easily modified to satisfy new demands?
    • Are there any climatic or geographic factors that could affect the uptake of your product or service in other markets?

    3. Route to Market

    • Do you need special export licensing or documentation to export? i.e. technical or regulatory requirements localised to the market?
    • Are there considerations for the safe transportation of your product to global markets ? i.e. specialized containers or packaging materials?
    • Would transportation costs make competitive pricing a problem?
    • How efficiently does your target market process incoming shipments?

    4. Capacity to support

    • In the event that your domestic/export demand increases beyond current projections, will you still be able to look after both markets?
    • Will you be able to serve both your existing domestic customers and any new foreign clients?

     

    5. Further considerations

    • Do you require a local presence or representation?
    • Will your products/service require local professional support or can this be done digitally?
    • Will after-sales service be required ? Can it be easily sourced locally or do you have to provide it? Does you have the resources to provide it?
    • Are there legal / IP implications to consider when entering global markets?

    Once your positioning strategy is in development, it’s time to consider how to develop your export strategy and access your target market.

     

    Take the next step in the Export Journey

     

    Export Strategy title and port image

    Export Journey: Step 4 – Developing your Export Strategy

    The next step is your export plan. You may have ideas but you need to clearly communicate them in writing so that your whole team is clear on their responsibilities. Having a plan laid out makes it easier to spot pitfalls, gaps and even additional opportunities!

    The export plan is also key in seeking supports in term of financing or grants.  Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it clear and simple.

    The key elements of a successful export plan include:

    1. The Vision

    • What you are going to do. How you are going to do it. What your expected outcome is.

    2. Human Resources

    • Have you the staff, external support and expertise? Have you skills within your team to manage language and cultural differences?

    3. Financial Resources

    • Budget, Sales targets and Pricing – Consider the additional costs involved in selling into the overseas market. Establish a target price for the end user, taking into consideration currency, payment terms, freight and carriage charges, import duties and taxes, commission to partners and competitors’ pricing.

    4. Target Market

    • Why you have selected this market; who your buyers are.

    5. Your Product

    • Your USP and how it translates internationally. Are there external factors which could impact production or sales?

    6. Market Entry

    • Sales channels; marketing plan; regulations, language and local laws.

    7. Monitoring and Developing the market

    • Are you meeting sales targets?

    8. What’s next?

    • How do you plan to grow and scale?

    Access the Market Entry Page

     

     

     

    Market Entry title and businesswoman image

    Export Journey: Step 5 – Market Entry

    Market Entry title and businesswoman image

    Your next priority is for the execution of your company’s vision within new export markets. Key to this will be preparing the company for this change and subsequent increased demand from and servicing of new export markets.

    Consideration for a successful market entry should include;

    1.Identify and allocate adequate resources such as:

      • Financial resources i.e. cash required to sufficiently support overseas exports
      • Additional equipment or fixed assets needed to increase volume or backup global sales
      • People, including staff, suppliers or other valuable relationships in Ireland or overseas

    2. Defining where your first sales will come from

    Will your customers be a distributor which imports in larger quantities, or an overseas agenct or representative acting on your behalf or will it be a separate trading company of your own business?

    3. Developing your lead generation strategy

    Supports will need to be assigned to generate business leads. Will they be predominantly offline, online or a hybrid?

    Offline: fairs, events, conferences, network meetings or

    Online: website, social media, blogs etc.

    You will need to qualify and validate the leads, managing them through a Customer Relationship Management (CMS) system such as Salesforce.

    4. Marketing and communications

    Implementing a successful marketing and communication plan is vital for sustained sales in export markets.

    When developing a plan, it is important not to do a ‘copy and paste’ of the same marketing strategy from your domestic market as these are likely completely disparate territories. While it is logical that you should retain your company values and purpose, you will need to adapt your marketing and communications strategy to your new export market

    5. Implementing a sales process

    By implementing a sales process, you are creating a set of logical, repeatable steps that your sales team goes through to bring a potential buyer from an early stage of awareness to closing the sale. There are various stages that need to be considered in developing an effective sales process, such as;

    a) How will your company cultivate your sales leads?

    b) What preparation will you commit to in order to be ready to capture an overseas sale?

    c) What will be your sales teams approach to a prospective buyer?

    d) How will you adequately present or pitch your sales in an overseas market?

    e) Is your team setup to deal with buyer objections or queries?

    f) Have you experience in closing a sale in an overseas market?

    g) What follow-up work will be done post buyer presentation?

    6. Relationship building

    Relationship building is a key factor in developing sustained sales in export markets. Any company considering to expand globally is undoubtedly looking for a return on their initial investment, and companies looking for better business returns are strongly encouraged to place an emphasis on relationship building.

    Companies can quite often focus on the transactional, revenue generation portion before they consider relationship building. However, as is the case in much of the world, relationships based on mutual respect and trust outplay singular transactions. Relationships need to be worked on and require different approaches for different markets.

    Take the next step in the Export Journey

    Scale title and background image of modern city

    Export Journey: Step 6 – Scale

    Scale title and background image of modern cityYou are now successfully exporting to your first market. Now begin to build on this success and grow your exports.

    You will now have built up a good relationship with the overseas market team and keeping up to date on buyer trends and external factors impacting these trends will enable you to stay competitive.

    Factors to consider in your plans to scale exports:

    1. Resources

    Do you have the necessary resources both in terms of staff and finance to meet the demand of a new market?

    2. Capacity

    Do you have the manufacturing, packaging, logistics, linguistic capacity?

    3. Environmental

    Have you considered your carbon footprint; requirements of buyers?

    4. Sustainable Growth

    How will this impact your current financial standing? Will it strengthen or dilute your position in the market?

    5. Adjacent Markets

    Is there potential in the adjacent markets where buying patterns, pricing and local regulations may be similar?

     

    How can Enterprise Ireland support your growth?

    If you are are already supported by Enterprise Ireland you can contact your Development Advisor here.

    The Market Research Centre provides access to world class research databases to help client companies make better, more informed business decisions. Contact the Market Research Centre here

    Enterprise Ireland hosts events to assist companies’ growth plans – See our events calendar for details.

    Our Market pages and Going Global guides provide expert insights and contact details for our overseas offices.

    Learn how our Exporter Development team can support your growth.

    graph with export data

    Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

    The saying that ‘knowledge is power’ is certainly true of successful exporting. Companies must understand their customers’ requirements, cultural considerations, market trends and what competitors in the market are doing, in order to succeed.

    Insights gained from high-quality market research are essential for good business decisions for companies with the ambition to grow, export and, indeed, survive. While successful products and services are built on sound market research, a continual process of keeping up-to-date with business intelligence is required, which can be time-consuming and costly.

     

    Market Research Centre

    That is one reason Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre is such a valuable resource. It is the largest repository of business intelligence in Ireland and contains thousands of world-class market research insights, available to Enterprise Ireland supported companies.

    Reports include company, sector, market and country information, which help businesses to explore opportunities and compete in international markets. We use databases from blue-chip information providers such as GartnerFrost & Sullivan, Mintel and others, which provide authoritative, verified information that is independent and reliable. Some of these reports cost tens of thousands of euro individually, so the value of accessing the service is immense.

     

    Using market intelligence to assess new markets

    The Market Research Centre is staffed by eight information specialists who help clients locate the most appropriate sources of knowledge for their requirements. The specialists can track down niche market intelligence that is not available through internet research and can also facilitate access to industry analysts to provide bespoke briefings that deep-dive into subject areas.

    While the UK and European markets remain vitally important for exporters, increasingly diversification into more distant markets is a strategic option. Critical to all such business decisions is access to authoritative market research.

     

    Using insights to make an impact

    An example of how the centre helps companies to explore opportunities in overseas markets is workforce travel company Roomex. Over the last two years, the company has targeted the UK and Germany and is now looking at the huge potential of the US market. Information specialists helped the company gain valuable insights by providing access to global company, country, market and sector data which helped the Roomex to analyse their target customer and competitor base.

    Enterprise Ireland’s research hub offers access to extensive predictive research on future trends, which is invaluable for companies interested in innovation. Knowledge of what might impact a market next provides an opportunity to develop new products or solutions. There are huge opportunities arising from disruptive technologies, such as driver-less cars, but also risks to companies which are not looking ahead

    Growing your business

    Companies which are serious about exporting, growing and future-proofing their business should put continuous research at the heart of their strategy. If your company is considering expanding into new markets the Market Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

    Contact the Market Research Centre today.

    ASINA: enabling safe-and sustainable-by-design nanotechnologies

    Picture of male interviewee, Dt Ehtsham U.Haq

    “One of the advantages of being involved in Horizon projects is the breadth of experience one gets by sharing expertise and access to new networks in partner countries.”


    Dr Ehtsham U. Haq, University of Limerick, ASINA Horizon 2020 project

    Key Takeouts:

    • The University of Limerick is taking part in a major project that is developing scientifically sound safe-by-design nanotechnologies.
    • The 42-month ASINA project has received €5.99m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.
    • The ASINA project will support the fast industrial uptake of nanotechnology by providing safe-by-design solutions and supporting tools.

    H2020 Case Study: ASINA

      Nanotechnology impacts nearly every sector of the global economy from electronics to cosmetics, and from defence to the automotive sector and agriculture. It plays a part in everyday items such as antibacterial hand creams and coated textiles and it is anticipated that the market worth will exceed $120 billion by 2024.

      However, safety issues in relation to producing and disposing of nano-enabled products remain a concern.

      “Although previous EU-funded projects have defined tools and concepts to ensure the safety of nano-enabled products through design, the current state of the art indicates that industrial production is struggling to activate the safe-and sustainable-by-design (SSbD) approach and the fast industrial uptake of engineered nanomaterials (NMs) is missing or unsafely implemented,” explains Dr Ehtsham U Haq, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Limerick, one of the ASINA (Anticipating Safety Issues at the Design Stage of NAno Product Development) project partners.

      “The ASINA project aims to promote consistent, applicable and scientifically sound SSbD nanotechnologies by collecting information across all the design dimensions: functionality, production technologies, safety, environmental sustainability, cost effectiveness and regulatory requirements.”

      Led by the National Research Council of Italy, the Horizon 2020-funded ASINA project will use an approach modelled on six-sigma practices, that  focus on process improvement.

      One of the challenge that ASINA will address is how to distil existing methods into simple, robust, cost-effective methods for monitoring of physio-chemical properties and biological effect assessment of nanomaterials and address properties of concern like technical performance, hazard and exposure related issues in product-relevant matrices. ASINA will develop pilot facilities with a combination of digital technologies and artificial intelligence technologies (Digital Twins) under a SSbD framework,” adds Haq.

      In turn, this should help to accelerate the uptake of nanotechnology by industry and reassure end users of its safety, matching existing challenges summarised by the European Green Deal.” 

      Real-world applications

      One of 21 partners in the ASINA consortium, the six-strong University of Limerick team is tasked primarily with physical-chemical characterisation of the nanoparticles and developing information about their properties. Two spin-out companies from the university are also partners on the project.

      Focusing on two real-world product lines–antimicrobialcoatings for clean technology applications (textile and air filtration sector), and nanostructured capsules for applications in the cosmetic sector, ASINA has also had a part to play in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

      “The methodologies of physio-chemical characterization developed by us can be applied to other nano-enabled products as well. We are developing coatings for variously functionalized textiles for face masks, air filters for example in collaboration with other partners,” says Haq.

      “We’re enthusiastic about ASINA because what we’re doing will be used in real-life industrial applications,” explains Haq.

      “We’re using machine learning tools to generate response functions and obtain the full set of design solutions performance attributes. An expert system (ASINA- ES), easily adoptable by industries, will be developed for supporting the industrial product designers in identifying the suitable SSbD solutions better complying with the design constraints….There will be huge learning from this project.”

       

      The Horizon advantage

      Like all Horizon projects, ASINA is a multi-disciplinary, international project involving a range of players from large research institutes to small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is also collaborating with other Horizon 2020 funded projects focusing on safe-by design production of nano-enabled products. While ASINA is still very much in its infancy, having been held up by laboratory closures due to Covid-19, Haq has recently been involved in two other Horizon projects – OYSTER and M3DLOC.

      “One of the advantages of being involved in Horizon projects is the breadth of experience you get and the profile of your research in an international audience. The projects I’ve been involved with have all been very different. OYSTER  aims to develop standardized measurement protocol for surface free energy for quality control in nano-enabled and bioinspired products, while M3DLOC involved 3D printing for the fabrication of microfluidic MEMS for lab-on-a-chip and sensing applications.  ASINA is on the other hand is dealing with nanoparticles and nano-enabled products. That makes the work very interesting, challenging and in return it also extends your technical expertise,” says Haq.

      “Overall, the Horizon experience is beneficial for both your research and personal development. Because you are dealing with people from other professions who have a completely different perspective and experience, you become more multi-disciplinary and broaden your collaborations and skill level.” says Haq.

      For those considering getting involved in a Horizon proposal, perhaps for the first time, Haq highlights two issues.

      “In Horizon projects a great deal of time is spent on consortium building. You’re bringing together not only researchers but managers, Intellectual Property experts, SMEs and others, so that side of things is as important along the original idea, and it’s important to get it right.

      “Also, take advantage of any support that’s available if you are involved in producing the proposal. Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports and my experience of dealing with them has been very positive.”

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

      H2020 success stories banner link

      Webinar Series: Free Trade Agreements

      EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea enable Ireland to increase its trade, GDP and national income. The FTAs allow Irish exporters to explore new opportunities as market access increases and they benefit from competitive advantage in doing business in these countries.

      Join Enterprise Ireland as it hosts a webinar series on Free Trade Agreements and doing business in these four export markets: Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

      Each webinar will be opened by Robert Troy TD, Minister of State Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Trade Promotion. The webinars feature contributions from market experts and guest speakers from Irish companies who will share their experiences on doing business in specific markets.

      If you’re considering exporting to these markets, or scaling your existing export business, these webinars are for you.

      Click on the links below to register for upcoming webinars.

      Doing Business in Japan

      Thursday, 17 June 2021, 9am BST

      The EU Japan Economic Partnership Agreement provides a positive backdrop to Ireland Japan trading relations. This webinar will explore the experiences of key Irish business interests in Japan, and will outline the knowledge, networks and access supports available to capitalise on what is an increasingly important market for ambitious Irish exporters.

      For the full agenda and to register, click here.

       

      Doing Business in Mexico

      Tuesday, 22 June 2021, 3pm BST

      With duty-free trade on most goods and a simplification of the customs procedures, the latest 2018 EU-Mexico trade agreement has improved the already positive and prosperous relationship between Ireland and Mexico. This webinar features two market experts who will highlight opportunities and explain business culture and processes, as well as providing practical guidance for market entry.

      For the full agenda and to register, click here.

       

      Doing Business in South Korea

      Thursday, 24 June 2021, 9am BST

      The EU-South Korea FTA can provide enhanced business opportunities for Irish businesses. This webinar brings together experts on the topic to provide knowledge and insights on key elements of the FTA, and to enable Irish businesses to make use of the FTA to its fullest in doing business in South Korea.

      For the full agenda and to register, click here.

      Doing Business in Canada


      Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 3pm BST

      Attendees will learn more about the opportunities available in the Greater Montreal region, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe, and what incentives are available to Irish companies looking to expand in North America.

      Watch back on-demand, available here.

      SmartAgriHubs connecting European agricultural and IT innovation

      “The SmartAgriHubs project has been invaluable not just to Walton but to Ireland, as it’s allowed us to build a network of contacts and strong strategic relations with similar partners across Europe.”

      Hazel Peavoy, Walton Institute, SmartAgriHubs Horizon 2020 project

      Key Takeouts:

      • Walton Institute, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is involved in a major project that is driving the digitisation of the agricultural sector in Europe.
      • The SmartAgriHubs project has received €20m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
      • With 164 partners, the ambitious project aims to build a network of over 2000 Competence Centres supported by 250 Digital Innovation Hubs and deliver 80 new digital solutions to the market.

      H2020 Case Study: SmartAgriHubs

         

        Increasing the competitiveness, resilience and sustainability of Europe’s agri-food sector is a prime focus for the European Union as it looks ahead to the challenges of climate change and feeding a growing population. Central to the future success of the sector will be the widespread adoption of innovation and smart-farming techniques but this will rely heavily on interconnectivity and knowledge-sharing across a multitude of stakeholders.

        This is the focus of the ambitious €20m SmartAgriHubs Horizon 2020 project. Involving a consortium of 164 partners, including start-ups, SMEs, service providers, technology experts and end-users spread over nine Regional Clusters, the project aims to build a network of over 2000 Competence Centres supported by some 250 Digital Innovation Hubs and deliver 80 new digital solutions to the market.

        Walton Institute, a centre for information and communication systems science and part of the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), is leading the Ireland & UK Regional Cluster, with Hazel Peavoy at the helm.

        “Part of our role is to identify the Digital Innovation Hubs and Competency Centres across Ireland to build our local network. Digital Innovation Hubs are larger centres that bring together research, funding, business models and services, while the smaller Competency Centres tend to have a single technical service,” she explains.

        “The aim is to create a network that will work together on ground-breaking research and innovation. We want to be able to give farmers a clear view of the technologies that may be coming down the line and to ensure they get assistance to apply whatever technology they need to support their activities.”

        SmartAgriHubs is also funding a number of Flagship Innovation Experiments through which technology solutions are tested with a view to eventually bringing them to market. The experiments are conducted with the help of the Digital Innovation Hubs and Competence Centres.

        The Ireland & UK Regional Cluster is currently running two Flagship Innovation Experiments. The Farm Sustainability Audit is measuring a range of metrics in the dairy industry related to energy and water use, nutrient use efficiency, animal welfare and greenhouse gas emissions, while STREAM is applying digital technologies to simplify the production of farmland habitat reports.

        “These experiments are helping to bring innovation to the fore. Currently there are three more open calls under SmartAgriHubs that are offering funding for experiments that will drive digital innovation,” says Peavoy.

         

        Connecting the dots

        SmartAgriHubs’s full project title is ‘Connecting the dots to unleash the innovation potential for digital transformation of the European agri-food sector’, which highlights the importance of excellent communication and dissemination of information across project partners and stakeholders.

        “The project has been very successful with regards to communication. The Regional Cluster leads attend monthly meetings and then we disseminate the information down to other elements of the project. And there are also monthly meetings with the Flagship Innovation Experiments. So we can quite clearly see what’s happening across Europe with the other partners and with agriculture and we can learn from each other,” says Peavoy.

        “Having such a large number of partners meant, at an early stage, it took some time to mobilise the consortium but once that was achieved the network has become invaluable to all involved in this sector globally.”

         

        The value to Walton Institute and Ireland

        Peavoy believes that taking part in SmartAgriHubs has positioned Ireland and the UK as key drivers for the agri-tech sector across Europe.

        “This project has been invaluable not just to Walton but to Ireland, as it’s allowed us to build a network of contacts and strong strategic relations with similar partners across Europe.”

        “From a personal perspective, it’s very interesting to see how other countries approach particular problems and to get an insight into what research is required by the sector to meet its future needs,” says Peavoy.

        “Likewise, we can see that our partners in SmartAgriHubs are learning from us. For example, the Competency Centres we’ve identified through SmartAgriHubs are often start-ups and SMEs and through WIT’s Technology Gateway they’ve been able to benefit from Enterprise Ireland funding. Our partners in Germany were very interested in how our Technology Gateways function because they don’t have anything like that.

        “The SmartAgriHubs partners are also looking at how we’ve created a culture of multi-disciplinary collaboration in Ireland. What was once a landscape of competition has become a landscape of collaboration; A perfect example of that is the VistaMilk Research Centre which has brought together a number of RPO’s to develop new technologies for the dairy sector. I believe that in many ways Ireland is leading the charge in this space and is well-positioned to lead on future Horizon Europe projects linked to agriculture” says Peavoy.

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

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        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

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          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

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