The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership teams

The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles

 

Gender balance, diversity and inclusion is something we strive to promote as much as possible as a society, but in the world of business, having gender balance in a leadership team has been proved to have a very real and positive impact on a company.

As a result, gender balance in management is something that Enterprise Ireland is widely advocating and supporting through a major new initiative, The Level Project.

 

What is The Level Project?

Sheelagh Daly, Enterprise IrelandThe Level Project has its origins in Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business, which recognised that increasing the number of women in middle and senior management, as well as on boards, leads to more successful, sustainable and profitable businesses. “The Plan saw that there are considerable economic benefits that lie, untapped, in women in their roles both as customers and as talent,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “In essence, by achieving gender balance, a company is tapping into 100% of the talent pool and 100% of the market.”

The findings of the report is reflected in numerous studies that show that gender-balanced leadership teams can help businesses grow on a global scale. But despite all these studies and their clear conclusions, Irish companies are a long way from achieving gender balance in senior teams.

There are numerous reasons why, but in the interests of helping companies progress and work towards their own individual gender-balance goals, The Level Project is a practical initiative that includes an online Action Planning Toolkit. Free to all companies, this toolkit helps companies assess their current situation and put in place real actions to enhance gender balance in senior teams.

“Achieving gender balance is certainly harder in some industries than others, but simply taking some steps to enhance the gender balance of your leadership team can have tangible benefits for your business,” explains Sheelagh.

“For example, visibly championing gender balance can have a positive effect on attracting and retaining talent. Gender balance in leadership also leads to increased creativity and innovation, thanks to diversity in thought and mindset, as well as a greater understanding of your customer base.”

 

Striving for better

These advantages are already being experienced by four early champions of The Level Project.

VRAI is a fast-growing tech firm in the field of data-driven VR simulation training, and believes that a diversity of mindset is essential to help mitigate the complexity of what they are trying to achieve.

Similarly, Spearline, a leader in telecommunication technology, credits a better understanding of their diverse customer base to diversity within their senior teams.

For CLS, Ireland’s largest contract laboratory, having gender balance throughout the company, especially in leadership teams, creates harmony in the workplace, which can only lead to success.

Vivian Farrell, CEO Modular AutomationHowever, achieving gender balance is very much a long-term plan for a lot of companies, especially those in industries that are traditionally male dominated. For example, Shannon-based Modular Automation has recognised that gender balance is hard to reach if girls are not seeing engineering as a viable career choice in school – a key part of their strategy is therefore demonstrating the advantages of studying engineering to girls at Junior Cert stage and lower.

“All four of these companies have implemented very real strategies to enhance gender balance in senior leadership,” says Sheelagh. “While they recognise that this is a long-term project, the advantages of such strategies are already being experienced.”

 

Introducing the Toolkit

A key part of The Level Project is the Action Planning Toolkit, which is suitable for all companies, big and small, whether they are just starting out on their gender balance journey or want to improve and target their efforts even further. The Toolkit consists of six themes (Strategy, Attract, Retain, Develop, Engage, Measure), each of which is divided into two levels according to how advanced a company is. “We recommend that every company should start with the Strategy theme,” explains Sheelagh.

A series of questions is included within each theme; answering ‘No’ to a question presents the user with suggested actions to include in their plan. Each theme also includes links to helpful resources such as guides, templates and expert insights. Once finished, an editable Action Plan for the company can be downloaded, which includes all the actions chosen  as well as space for notes.

The online toolkit can be used free of charge by ALL companies.

Enterprise Ireland client companies can also apply for several supports to help develop and implement their gender balance plan. Details of these supports can be found here or by talking to your Development Advisor.

 

More information on The Level Project, including access to the Action Planning Toolkit and details of financial aids available, can be found here

Med in Ireland 2021

Med in Ireland: Showcasing Ireland’s strength in the global medtech industry

Med in Ireland 2021

Ireland has long been known as one of the epicentres of the medtech world. Not only has our country been chosen as a base for many of the biggest medtech companies in the world, thanks to our excellent talent base and reputation for timely research and development, but we have also been responsible for producing our own ground-breaking companies, some of which have made a real impact on a global scale.

In fact, Ireland is now one of the top five global medtech hubs and home to up to 350 companies in the sector, including 14 of the world’s top 15 medtech companies. We are also the largest medtech employer per capita in Europe, with 45,000 people employed in the sector. Our medtech industry exports over €13 billion to over 100 countries every year, positioning Ireland as the second-largest exporter of medtech products in Europe.

Over 200 of those medtech companies are Irish, and one in five of those working in the sector are employed directly by Irish-owned medtech companies. The impact of these companies on the economy is significant – in 2020, Enterprise Ireland life sciences clients achieved exports of €1.9 billion.

“Ireland has long been a leader in the medtech world,” says Deirdre Glenn, Director, Life Sciences Sector at Enterprise Ireland.

“Our success is down to a combination of track record and forward thinking and a deep pool of experience and highly trained talent. This is boosted by a fertile ecosystem that integrates industry, research and the clinical community to promote high-quality innovation.”

Never has our strength in medtech been so needed than over the last 18 months, when the world found itself in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic. Numerous Irish companies reacted quickly to the crisis, pivoting their offerings to create valuable solutions to aspects of the pandemic or ramping up production to supply essential devices to hospitals around the world. In fact, Ireland is currently ranked fifth in the world for Covid-19 related goods, with companies such as, Aerogen, patientMPower and PMD Solutions leading the way in medtech innovation.

 

Med in Ireland

Now, however, we are moving into a post-pandemic world, a world where healthcare needs have changed significantly and medtech innovations are needed more than ever before. And once again, Irish innovators are responding quickly with some great innovations.

“Irish medtech companies proved how agile and flexible they were during the pandemic,” says Deirdre. “Our focus has now turned to the post-Covid world, and how the pandemic has changed healthcare, both in terms of how we access it and in terms of how it is delivered. A lot of eyes are on Irish innovators, some of whom have already come up with exciting solutions.”

Many of these were showcased in Med in Ireland, which took place virtually on 3-4 November 2021. A biennial event, Med in Ireland is a high-profile national showcase for the entire spectrum of the Irish medtech sector, encompassing medical devices, medical sub-supply,  diagnostics, digital health, healthcare providers, clinicians and research professionals. This year, 81 Irish manufacturing and healthcare solution providers took part in the event, meeting with international healthcare buyers in a series of virtual one-to-one meetings arranged by Enterprise Ireland. Ireland’s collaborative supports that drive company innovation were also a key focus of the event, while the Innovation Zone showcased some truly exciting start-ups of the future.

“The focus at this year’s Med in Ireland is very much on the themes shaping the post-pandemic healthcare world,” says Deirdre. “These include industry changes such as the move to preventative care, the role of digitalisation in the shift to healthcare outside of hospital settings, the emergence of technologies that reduce environmental impact and improve competitiveness, and the development of new distribution and inventory management models to supply chain weaknesses.”

These themes were at the forefront of the event from the very start, with a special conference featuring a keynote speech from Lorna Ross, Chief Innovation Officer at VHI Health & Wellbeing, and a panel discussion on the future of global healthcare.

Participants could then enjoy example after example of how Irish innovators are responding the needs of healthcare in the post-Covid world. “We have a number of really impressive client companies producing solutions that are required on a global scale,” says Deirdre. “These include LetsGetChecked, a virtual care company that offers over 30 different at-home tests that act as an alternative to traditional in-person medical visits; Swiftqueue, a company offering a self-service portal that allows patients to manage medical appointments across multiple clinic settings; and Vitalograph, a global leader in respiratory diagnostics and clinical trials that offers remote monitoring of lung function and disorders.”

Once again, Med in Ireland attracted leading healthcare providers from all over the world, all of whom look to Ireland for solutions, with the hope of co-developing and commercialising new medical technologies with Irish innovation at its core. Ireland has clearly played a huge role in shaping global healthcare – and that role looks to be growing even further as we move through this period of recovery.

Visit www.medinireland.ie or watch the conference below.

Creating innovative solutions to new and emerging threats

Cybersecurity solutions that address new and emerging threats

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rapid shift for many to virtual ways of doing work – and the recognition – finally – that remote and hybrid working is a very viable possibility in many industries. And, that offering flexible ways of working can actually give companies an edge when it comes to attracting talent. Unfortunately, however, with more flexibility comes a very real problem – the increased risk of cybercrime and cyberattacks. And the need for effective cybersecurity solutions is becoming more urgent by the day.

According to a study by McKinsey & Co, only 16% of executives felt that their organisations are well prepared to deal with cyber risk. Plus, the United Nations has warned that cybercrime increased by nearly 600% during the pandemic.

“Globally, there has never been a more challenging time for organisations in relation to cybersecurity,” says Pat O’Grady, Senior Business Advisor and Global Lead for Cybersecurity at Enterprise Ireland. “A higher level of cyber threats and attacks, security challenges linked to remote working, and increasingly sophisticated attacks on personal accounts have all put systems under immense pressure.”

 

Irish cybersecurity solutions

Ireland has long been a leader in technology innovation, with our advances in medtech, agritech, fintech and more in high demand across the globe. So it comes as no surprise that an increasing number of ambitious Irish companies is coming up with some very clever solutions to cybercrime. As an example, Cork-based Velona Systems has developed a solution that protects large call centres in the US against brute force call spam attacks, ghost calling and robocalling, a growing challenge in this sector.

Velona is just an example of our strength in the area, which is highlighted in the Enterprise Ireland Cybersecurity Innovation Series 2021, which this year is titled ‘Creating Innovative Solutions to New and Emerging Threats’. Taking place over six separate events in November and December, covering different world regions, the series features talks by leading cybersecurity experts, pitches by innovative Enterprise Ireland client companies, and opportunities for individual client-buyer meetings.

“All the participating Irish companies have identified the most urgent areas within cybersecurity and come up with intelligent solutions that potentially have a worldwide customer base,” says Pat. “For instance, one of the biggest issues now is the sharp rise in phishing emails. Cyber Risk Aware is an Irish business offering learning platforms that can build training programmes within Microsoft Office 365 to raise staff awareness regarding phishing and teach them how to spot a dangerous email. The company also offers a phishing simulation platform, which can build email templates and schedule simulation campaigns to test the level of awareness within the organisation and to offer additional focused learning for staff when required.”

Like all good responses to security threats, many solutions are based on prevention rather than cure – and with the cost of cyber crime rising sharply as the attacks get more sophisticated, this is sure to be a massive area of growth. “EdgeScan is leading the way in pen testing, or vulnerability scanning,” says Pat. “This includes scanning company IPs or carrying out pen tests on company websites or client portals to find any potential weaknesses – therefore stopping the threat before it happens.”

 

Remote working challenges

With remote and hybrid working looking likely to stay in the long term, many companies are looking for ways to boost their security with staff working on devices away from the office and even out on the road. “Remote working has brought with it many challenges; one issue is providing the same amount of security as in the office,” says Pat. “Web and email filtering identifies new malware sites and can block specific categories of websites, such as gambling sites. Galway-based TitanHQ offers advanced solutions for this issue, currently helping businesses in over 120 countries.”

A big issue for companies is our increasing reliance on mobile phones for work purposes – now a company has to look into protecting these as well as laptops and computers. “Many companies have introduced a controlled ‘Bring Your Own Device’, or BYOD, policy in which company apps are locked down or secured on the device, while others have restricted access to only corporate devices to allow for full control. And yes, there’s an Irish company involved in this area too: CWSI are experts in the field of mobile device management and offer guidance on both policy and the technical aspects of managing devices.”

It’s clear that Irish companies are leading the way in cybersecurity solutions. Many companies are finding it difficult to acquire and retain staff with skills in the areas of compliance, ISO certification, incident response, forensics and investigations – and, as Pat explains, there are several Irish companies in a great position to help. “Irish innovators such as Integrity360, SmartTech 24/7, Kontex and Evros are providing a solution to this issue by providing expert security consultant services. These companies’ Security Operations Centre (SOC service) offers uninterrupted monitoring of their clients‘ IT networks.”

 

Details of the Enterprise Ireland Cybersecurity Innovation Series 2021 can be found here

NearForm

Nearform – necessity is the mother of invention

“We’ve grown massively and have taken on new clients and staff. And part of that is down to the underlying improvement in our ability to deliver quickly.”

– Ger O’Shaughnessy, Head of Propositions, NearForm.

Case Study: NearForm

Every growing company juggles day-to-day demands with the need to innovate. NearForm, a Waterford-based global software consultancy with 200 staff in 29 countries, had the vision and ability to scale, but they needed help and found it in Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund.

Ger O’Shaughnessy, Head of Propositions at NearForm explains: “”The potential for us was to develop software tools to help us deliver more solutions at higher speed and scale in a repeatable way. While we had all the skills and leadership to do this, we needed some commercial space to be able to take staff off client work and dedicate them to research and development.”

Seeing the potential

In 2019, the team at NearForm started to look at how they could evolve their services, but they needed to innovate quickly to make their growth plans a reality. In Q4, they applied, and were approved, for Enterprise Ireland’s (Business Innovation Initiative) under the Agile Innovation Fund. Nearform’s Development Advisor  guided them through the application and approval process.

The company has a global client list: London banks, US pharmaceutical companies, retail chains in South America, as well as blue chip brands like American Express, The New York Times and closer to home, the Health Service Executive (HSE).  But despite the wide variety of fields, all these organisations face the same challenge.

Facing the challenge

Ger says: “All of our clients want to be modern digital enterprises with market leading digital services. It’s the number one challenge in our market, not just for growth but for survival, as the world is dominated by fast-moving digital companies.”

“We’ve always been able to deliver change for clients with great digital solutions. What we came to realise – in the age of Amazon – was that delivering a great solution was not enough. We wanted to create digital platforms to deliver new features and services continuously for clients, so they could move as fast or faster than the digital native disruptors that might take their market,” he adds.

What NearForm hoped to achieve was ambitious. A lot of their work was, and still is, delivered from the open web platform – a global shared ecosystem for coders – using open source components. The team at NearForm realised that if they wanted faster, reliable solutions for their clients, they needed to move the existing open source technology forward.  By doing so, the technology would be more ‘enterprise ready’.

NearForm wanted to “advance the whole open source platform and make it available to everybody, not just our clients,” Ger says.

“Because we’re a tech services company, there’s always a pressure to be billable. We were able to do it because of the commercial cover afforded by the fund,” he says.

Learning from the process

The speedy application process for the Business Innovation Initiative (Agile Innovation Fund) had an unexpected benefit. “It made us think about our own approach and outcomes carefully,” Ger says.  “It was literally applied for in October and approved in December of the same year.”

The project kicked off in December 2019 – the timing proved to be serendipitous. Amongst the many benefits envisioned, the project aimed to accelerate their solutions. Once Covid hit, speed became even more important for their clients. And new clients soon came their way.

NearForm were approached by the HSE to create the Covid tracking app for Ireland and went on to create similar apps for nine jurisdictions. Ger says: “Everywhere from Jersey to New Jersey. We created the software, but we also donated it to the Linux Foundation so that every country could have the Covid tracking app as open source code.”

Overall, across all sectors, the impact of the innovation fund was faster delivery of high quality solutions and of course, increased revenue.  “We’ve grown massively and have taken on new clients and staff. And part of that is down to the underlying improvement in our ability to deliver quickly,” Ger says.

Their unique understanding of the open source code they advanced has caught the attention of global investors. They recently secured funding from a US venture capital firm. “One of the reasons we got investment is that they were so interested in our expertise in open source. Being able to show that we were investing in that was definitely a contributing factor to getting funding.”

What advice would he give to anyone thinking of applying for the Agile Innovation Fund and pursuing an innovation project? “It’s an opportunity to create longer-term value,” Ger says. “Our view is that if you’re not innovating then your competitors will be. Innovation is not just a nice to have, but a necessity for growth.”

To find out more about Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund, contact your Development Advisor or call our R&D unit on 01 727 2120.

 

Insights into the Commercialisation of Diagnostice webinar

Insights to the Commercialisation of Diagnostics

Enterprise Ireland UK in collaboration with Roche Diagnostics, the world’s largest biotech company and the world leader in in vitro diagnostics, examined the route to commercialisation, market access and economic modelling in this Insights into the Commercialisation of Diagnostics webinar.

Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity

International Markets Week 2021: Green agenda and digitalisation key areas for growth  

Global Recovery - Irish Opportunity

It’s been said many times that exports are crucial to Ireland’s recovery in the post-pandemic world – and Enterprise Ireland is committed to ensuring that Irish companies take advantage of the many opportunities around the world to increase their business and bolster our economy as a result.

A crucial event in the Enterprise Ireland year is International Markets Week, and this year, for the second year running, it was held as a virtual event over five busy days in October 2021.

“When Covid hit, we decided that the event was too important to miss, particularly in the context of a global pandemic,” explains Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland. “This is a time when it’s even more important for our clients to keep their exports going, so we decided to go onto a virtual platform, with our market advisors available for a full week.

“The market advisors are the boots on the floor, the people who can introduce client companies to potential buyers, so it’s a very practical week for people who want to do business.”

This year, the theme of the event was Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity, recognising that the global economy is experiencing significant disruption – but while this disruption brings challenges, there are also significant opportunities.

“Enterprise Ireland client companies enjoyed excellent overall export growth in 2019 of 8%,  with particularly strong growth in the Eurozone and North America of 15% and 16% respectively,” says Anne

 “In 2020, these figures stabilised, which was a very good result in the context of a global pandemic, but now we need to get back to 2019 levels of growth.”

Opportunities for Irish companies lie in many areas, including the green agenda and digitisation. Throughout the world, companies are investing in green and digital strategies and governments are putting stimulus packages in place to drive a recovery based on a green and digital future. This investment represents huge opportunity for innovative Irish companies.

“The current disruption in global supply chains also poses significant opportunity,” says Anne. “The drive by manufacturers in developed economies, in particular, to strengthen the reliability of their supply chains so that they are more easily accessed from a geographic and an administrative perspective, creates the opportunity for Ireland to embed themselves in these new supply chains. Ireland’s location on the edge of Europe puts us in a key position to capitalise on this move towards regionalisation of supply chains.”

 

Finding opportunities

It’s clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Enterprise Ireland client companies have recognised the importance of building a robust strategy to take advantage of these growth opportunities. A total of 710 Enterprise Ireland client companies registered for the event, booking a total of 1,663 meetings with market advisors from across the world.

To get an indication of how companies were faring as the world’s economy recovers from the challenges of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Enterprise Ireland conducted a survey of the participants ahead of the event. The results were positive: 56% of businesses indicated that they have seen an increase in exports in 2021 compared to 2020, with only 11% reporting a decrease. And, 91% of companies expect sales to increase again in 2022. In terms of trends, the survey revealed that 80% of businesses viewed digitalisation as vital over the next 12 months, while 63% said that advancing their sustainability agenda was a priority.

These results proved accurate throughout the event, which was officially launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy. Lydia Rogers, country manager for Enterprise Ireland in Canada, reported a real hunger in Irish companies to take advantage of the many opportunities out there. “I met many client companies at various stages of their export journey, from those accelerating their international growth and diversifying into new global markets to ambitious start-ups keen to explore the export opportunities in Canada. The week proved that Canada is a very attractive market for Irish companies in many sectors, including cleantech, consumer retail, engineering, life sciences, fintech and BPO, and a large proportion of digital technologies companies.

“In addition, Canada was also identified by many client companies as an entry point and as a lower-cost gateway into the wider North America market.”

And, as predicted, the green agenda and digitalisation opportunities were noted by Lydia as strong trends for Irish companies looking to Canada for growth. “Our team met many companies with innovative digitalisation solutions across travel tech, retail tech, ed tech, digital health, fintech, HR & talent tech, and IoT. There were also many SMEs with innovative solutions in areas including cleantech, mobility, smart energy and environment. Consumer retail was also a significant area of interest – a sector that experienced growth in 2020 despite the challenges of Covid-19. All in all, it was clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Irish companies have recognised Ireland and Canada make great business partners and are ready to reap the rewards from this vibrant and welcoming country.”

 

View the virtual launch event from Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week 2021 below:

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Farrell, CEO Modular Automation

Modular Automation: Creating and nurturing the women leaders of tomorrow in Ireland’s engineering sector  

What do you do to promote gender balance in an industry when there are simply not enough women actually coming through the educational process? This was the issue faced by Shannon-based Modular Automation, a cutting-edge provider of complete automation integration solutions for the medtech sector in Ireland, Europe, North America and beyond. Engineering, particularly electrical and mechanical, tends to be very male-dominated, a fact discovered by Modular’s CEO, Vivian Farrell.

With a background in strategic marketing and working at a management level in Bank of Ireland, Sherry Fitzgerald and Vodafone, Vivian joined Modular seven years ago to head up their brand marketing and communications. “After spending 11 years with Vodafone in their headquarters, I wanted to explore something different as I had three small children by then. I decided to move back to Tipperary, near to where I was from, and discovered that the west of the country was a hotbed for medtech, with a lot of big names here. I didn’t know a lot about the industry but I was interested, and when a marketing role came up in Modular, I decided to go for it.”

As a non-engineer and a woman, Vivian found herself something of a rarity in the industry. “It’s unusual to come across another female CEO in these circles, or women in leadership roles, because engineering tends to be quite male-dominated. Things are changing but it’s slow.

Currently, there are 170 people on the Modular team. Creating a gender balance is extremely important to us and we have a number of initiatives to boost this.” says Farrell.

“Currently we’re at 10%, which isn’t exactly where we want to be, but it reflects the type of business that we’re in. We’ve set ourselves a target as a management team of getting to 30% by 2025. The 10% are mostly outside of the core engineering roles in our business.”

 

New initiatives

Their gender-balance target is ambitious, but Vivian says they are working hard to achieve it. “In the last 12 months we introduced paid maternity leave, something that’s very common in the multinational space, but more unusual for an SME. We put this into place to promote a better gender balance – but also to compete with those multinationals for talent. We also celebrate any big days, for instance, we celebrated International Women’s Day by giving every woman in the business a copy of Michelle Obama’s book, ‘Becoming’.

“We’re also very vocal about being inclusive as a company and talking about our 30% goal – this in a way is setting out our stall for potential employees.” says Farrell.

Like many companies in the sector, Modular also offers an apprentice scheme. “Traditionally our apprentice schemes would be in electrical engineering and tool-making – we have not had even a single female application for these. But we are rolling out new apprenticeships to other areas of the business, and I think that will provide another career path for women.”

 

Back to the start

In such a male-dominated industry, change takes time, and Vivian believes it needs to go back to the schools. “Female applicants are still few and far between. So it’s a long game – we need to be engaging with girls at Junior Cert stage or even earlier. We are seeing little glimmers of success; for me, in the role that I’m in, I feel the responsibility of showing girls that they can get to a leadership role in the industry.

“I’m involved in an initiative called Explore Engineering, which is led by key business leaders in the Midwest, along with the two main educators, UL and LIT. Our role is to increase the supply of engineers into the Midwest region; a key part of that is to get girls to consider engineering as a career choice. So for us at Modular, we are going to schools and talking to the students, building relationships with the principals and career guidance teachers, encouraging skill-building visits to us and other businesses, getting them to meet some of our younger engineers to learn more about the job.”

The battle, then, is to get women into the industry first, then to nurture their talent to get them into a leadership role. “It’s not easy to be the only woman in a big team of men and it’s about nurturing them and keeping an eye on them to make sure they progress. As a leader, you have to be aware of that and ensure you have strategies in place to help them prosper in those types of environments. For instance, offering greater flexibility so parents can juggle caring and their jobs by offering working from home options or allowing flexible working hours to accommodate the school run – which I have myself.

“Being a working mum myself, I know what it’s like and what you need, so I can bring that understanding to the organisation to try and make it a better place for women to work.”

Ultimately, however, getting that balance is worthwhile on a business level, Vivian explains.

“Our business is built on designing and building equipment, creating new solutions; that environment requires a high level of creativity and idea generation so therefore needs as much diversity of thought and opinions as possible.

But while organisations can make a change on a small and local level, ultimately, we need to change on a national level. “This is such a difficult, complicated topic, and it has to be a national conversation in order to change things,” says Vivian. “Organisations like Enterprise Ireland have a part to play, and something like The Level Project will certainly help to bring the topic into the spotlight. Having two daughters myself, I’ve seen the lack of awareness as they go through school. It’s a cultural change so it takes time.”

 

Start improving gender balance in your company with The Level Project Toolkit.

Paul McCloskey, Tyndall Institute

LEDLUM, a shining light in LED efficiency  

LEDLUM

Horizon 2020 was about putting together the right consortium that could do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at Tyndall National Institute

Key Takeouts:

  • Tyndall Institute played a key role in a recently completed project that aimed to significantly reduce the size and weight of LED drivers while increasing their lifetime expectancy.
  • The ambitious 3.5-year project received €4.1m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The outcomes included near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

H2020 Case Study: LEDLUM

As the world faces the imminent impact of climate change, there has never been a greater focus on environmental issues nor a greater sense of urgency. While governments debate macro issues, some researchers are looking at small concerns that can have a big impact. One of these is LED drivers.

LED light bulbs are much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional bulbs. They can last up to 20 times longer than standard forms of lighting, so fewer bulbs need to be manufactured, they can be up to 80% more energy efficient than conventional bulbs and they contain no toxic elements that require specialist disposal.

The fly in the ointment, however, is the LED AC/DC converter, known as a driver, which is not only much less reliable than the bulbs themselves but also bulky and difficult to integrate into the light fitting.

This driver was the focus of LEDLUM, a Horizon 2020-funded project involving seven European partners drawn from business and academia, and over €4 million in EU funding. LEDLUM’s objectives were to make major improvements to the volume, weight, lifetime and size of the driver to create a more environmentally friendly product.

Among the partners was Tyndall National Institute in County Cork, which brought its expertise in the area of magnetics on silicon to the table. Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at the Institute, led the ‘passive components’ work package. He explains how the consortium took a pragmatic approach to achieving the project’s aims.

“Horizon 2020 projects are a combination of research that pushes the boundaries and the development of something that companies can commercialise.” says McCloskey

Within LEDLUM there was initially a little built of tension between those two objectives as the companies in the consortium were more focused on the commercialisation of a product and the universities on pushing the science. So as a consortium we came up with the idea of having two tracks. The development track aimed to get close to something that businesses could use in the near future to create a product, while the research track had a lower level of technology readiness and an emphasis on demonstrating how the challenging goals set might ultimately be achieved. I believe the project delivered on both.”

LEDLUM’s outcomes included the development of near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

“Horizon 2020 is a way of getting involved with companies that will ultimately use the science in a real-world application.” says McCloskey

One of the outcomes of this project was the licensing of Tyndall’s magnetics on silicon technology. We’ve developed a capability and reputation in this area over many years. Through LEDLUM we further developed the technology and were able to transfer it to one of the biggest silicon foundries in the world with the production scale up at a facility in Europe. That’s a major achievement for us. That’s tying our research into a real-world product,” says McCloskey.

 

Competition and support

Running from 2021 to 2027, Horizon 2020’s successor, Horizon Europe, has a €95 billion funding pot and the triple aim of developing scientific excellence, tackling global and industrial challenges and supporting innovation and inclusivity across Europe. And like Horizon 2020, it is a highly competitive arena.

“There are a lot of organizations chasing this funding. But Ireland performs above average in terms of winning this type of EU funding and Tyndall is one of the most successful institutes. We’ve been involved in these kinds of projects for many years as our research depends on securing this type of funding,” says McCloskey

To help research institutes and businesses to secure Horizon Europe funding, Enterprise Ireland regularly gives talks highlighting what Horizon calls are coming up, how to go about getting involved and how to build a consortium. They also fund travel costs associated with building the consortium and offer support to write the proposal.

 

Advantages of collaboration

Horizon 2020, and now Horizon Europe, is about putting together the right consortium that can do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

“That opportunity for collaboration is hugely important. You get the chance to work with other universities and businesses throughout Europe. When you talk to companies you hear what the real-world problems are; understanding that is a terrific insight for a researcher. Overall, I found the LEDLUM project to be an enjoyable and instructive process,” says McCloskey.

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

H2020 success stories banner link

Digitalisation: a key strategy in ensuring export success

Start your digital journey

During this period of recovery, Irish companies are looking at every way possible to grow and increase their business. While finding new markets for your offerings is an important strategy, the role that digital transformation can play in business growth cannot be underestimated. According to the World Economic Forum, over $3.1 trillion in productivity gains could be added to the global economy by digital initiatives by 2025.

To ensure they share in these gains, Irish businesses are primed to drive their digital transformation strategies but it’s important that they take a holistic approach so their digital plan can evolve as the business grows.

“Most Irish companies are somewhere along the digital maturity curve,” says Conor O’Donovan, Head of Marketing Communications and the Client Digitalisation Unit at Enterprise Ireland. “Some are at the very early stage, which means they have only begun to look at ways to optimise their business through moving to the cloud for example, or implementing a CRM to improve how they engage and record customer data and interactions. Other companies are further along the journey, and are embedding automation to streamline manual repetitive tasks, while others are adopting data analytics and AI into to improve data analysis and predicting trends that impact their businesses and providing real time customer or supplier information upon which they can make informed decisions.”

 

Challenges and developing a digital mindset

While the advantages of adopting a robust a robust digital plan are clear and plentiful, there are challenges facing SMEs. “Knowledge and awareness are key issues,” explains Conor.

“Many businesses don’t know where to begin or who to speak with about their digital roadmap, and therefore find it challenging to select the right partner and vendor. Another key challenge is access to skills, both strategic and technical. says O’Donovan

“Ensuring that these skills are available to the business either internally or externally are key success factors, as is developing a digital mindset across the business. Finally, the availability of finance can be a key challenge in implementing the right solutions.”

Many businesses mistakenly believe that digitalisation is just about expensive technology, but this is only part of the story. According to Conor, there are four key aspects to a successful digital strategy, all of which need carefully addressing.

“Firstly, ask yourself why you need a digital strategy. It’s easy to read about a new platform or technology solution but a good digital strategy must be aligned to your business strategy. Ask yourself a number of key questions. For example, what business objective can be enabled by the digital plan? Is it about finding new customers or increasing sales with existing ones? Is it about improving production efficiencies or about strategic decision-making, which requires the availability of real-time accurate information drawing from several business units or locations? These are all important questions that must be answered before you start.

“The second key factor is process. It is hugely important to review and optimise processes before layering on digital technologies. An inefficient process before digital will remain an inefficient process after digital. Talk to Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices for help on this; we have LEAN programmes to support process optimisation.

“The third key element is people. Digital strategies will only work if people at the senior levels and across the organisation understand digital possibilities, see the benefits to the business and champion its adoption. says O’Donovan

“It must be driven by multiple people across the organisation and developing a digital culture and mindset across the business is key. There are multiple programmes on digital available from Skillsnet, the IMI and others to support this.

“Then finally we get to the technology piece. This part can be daunting for companies with limited budget, so it’s vital to take the time to really assess the technology required. It’s also important to ensure interoperability as new technology comes on stream as part of a multi-year plan – so the technology ‘speaks to each other’. This will avoid expensive integration and data extraction issues at a future date.”

 

Supports progress your digital journey

While the above might feel daunting, especially for businesses at an early stage in their digital journey, there is plenty of help available. Enterprise Ireland can help Irish exporting businesses to focus on and develop their digital strategy. The new Digital Ready Scorecard is a short self-assessment online tool that enables businesses to assess their current digital readiness and identify any gaps. The scorecard also signposts supports from Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and across Government. More information can be found on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Enterprise Ireland also offers a €9k fully funded Digitalisation Voucher for eligible companies to engage independent experts to develop their digital strategies before purchasing any technology. All these aids will ensure that Irish exporters can reap the significant rewards of a robust and dynamic digital strategy.

A person gathering market intelligence by analysing graphs and statistics on a sheet of paper

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

The saying that ‘knowledge is power’ is certainly true of successful exporting. Companies must use market intelligence to understand their customers’ requirements, cultural considerations, market trends and what competitors 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 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 using market intelligence

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.

CEO Spearline

Spearline: Taking practical steps to promote gender balance in leadership roles

A diverse staff to meet the diverse needs of their target audience – to Spearline, gender balance in every part of the business, particularly in senior roles, naturally makes sense. But for the Cork-headquartered company working in the field of telecommunication technology, getting good gender balance is much easier said than done.

“In the field we’re in, it’s hard to get a gender balance, particularly with regards to software development,” explains Spearline CEO Kevin Buckley. “But it’s important – we believe that the more diversity a company has, the better it performs – and countless studies have backed this up.

“I think most companies within our sector are aware of the importance of gender balance; we would hear this constantly referenced when on training courses or meetings. But achieving it can be tricky.”

 

People-focused business

Established in 2003, Spearline has developed a cloud-based platform that proactively monitors critical business telecommunication services, replicating the experience of a client’s customers and callers and allowing them to diagnose, escalate and resolve issues before they become noticeable problems. With clients including Zoom, Mastercard and Global Call Forwarding, Spearline is a problem solver with a diverse customer base – so having a diverse workforce to match is a must.

“I believe that the more diverse your thinking as a company, the better it will be,” says Kevin. “Men and women have slightly different ways of thinking, and I mean that in a positive way. Bringing these together can only improve our thinking as a business. And our users and clients would be both men and women, so I don’t understand why a company wouldn’t try and go for a 50-50 balance. Basically you’re trying to get a diversity of thought within your organisation, whether that’s gender, ethnic or more. A nice way of describing it is that we’re citizens of the world – we’re looking for a broad understanding of the world, and that is down to diversity.”

 

Practical steps

With teams based in Skibbereen, Waterford, Bucharest in Romania and Ahmedabad in India, Spearline is working hard to achieve a good gender balance in every part of its business. “We’re currently at 31.6% but by 2030, we’ll be setting a goal for ourselves to meet 40%,” says Kevin. “The software development side, which is about a third of our team, is very male oriented, but the other parts of the company tend to be less so – we would be pushing 40% in most of the other areas.

“We constantly look at the issue when hiring, especially in the last few years as we have matured as a company.says Kevin

“Entry level positions for software development are dominated by men, but when hiring, we strive to identify people with strong leadership skills and support them as they progress their career with us. For instance, we interviewed one prospective candidate who was self-taught and had huge ambition and potential. She is now head of the QA team. We believe that this approach helps out gender balance policy in every area of our business – and in terms of leadership roles both our Chief Commercial Officer and our Chief People and Culture Officer (CPCO) are women.”

To attract more women into leadership roles, the company has put in a number of benefits to suit both women and men who are juggling work and family. “Two years ago, we brought in maternity, paternity and adoptive leave, and we’ve just introduced a hybrid model of working, which is two days in the office and three days at home. We also have flexible working hours, to accommodate school runs, and we offer career development opportunities through subsidised study. Our aim is to keep pushing the whole time, to create a workplace that is inclusive and diverse.”

Lorraine McCarthy, CPCO, adds, “I think it’s definitely working. We have a lot more women coming through in India, and that’s a growing team, we have 45 there now. Our country lead in India is female; we made her head when she came back from maternity leave, and to make someone head just after returning from maternity leave would be virtually unheard of in India. But she was the right person for the job, it’s as simple as that.”

Visibility of women in leadership roles also supports another important strategy in promoting gender balance which is role modelling. “Yes, we have 40% women in our Indian team now, which absolutely proves the point,” says Kevin.

 

Leading the way

Spearline is one of the progressive businesses that have seen the business benefits of gender balance in management teams, and have been working hard to attract more women into every aspect of their business. This strategy is aligned to The Level Project, a campaign by Enterprise Ireland to increase the number of women in senior management and leadership positions in Irish companies. This was a key aim highlighted in the 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

“I do see a difference in the world in terms of promoting gender balance; society has moved on and there are a lot of people doing a lot of good things in making that change.” says Kevin

Enterprise Ireland has great weight and clout, and by getting behind gender balance, it’s really putting a spotlight on the issue – we’re constantly bombarded by information, but when it comes from a heavyweight like Enterprise Ireland, people do listen.”

 

Start improving gender balance in your company with The Level Project Toolkit.

Private Healthcare webinar

Private Healthcare – UK webinar

Private Healthcare UK webinar

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

Topics discussed in this webinar include:

– Market size and scope.

– Private Healthcare landscape and sectors.

– Digital health usage across the private sector.

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

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