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

    Pricing Excellence – Pricing Study 2021 Webinar

    This Pricing Study was conducted by Enterprise Ireland in collaboration with Simon-Kucher & Partners.

    The study recorded nearly 500 responses with strong representation across all sectors demonstrating that the topic remains a high priority for businesses.

    This webinar presents the results of the survey along with guidance on how to develop and implement a price increase process.

     

    Gain key business insights with our on-demand UK webinar series

    Designing the workplace of the future – A new guide for all employers

      The world of work was shaken to its core in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland and hundreds of thousands of Irish workers had to suddenly work from home.

      The slow and steady drive towards digitalisation accelerated sharply, and virtual meeting programmes such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became commonplace. Now, 15 months on, and with the vaccination programme well underway, employers can begin to think about a return to the workplace – hopefully permanently. But the many lessons learned during the pandemic has had both employers and employees thinking about the future workplace – will we ever go back to the way it was? And do we want to?

      Enterprise Ireland has produced a new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work, which aims to help business owners think about the positives and negatives from the last 15 months and to use these to build a sustainable business model for the future. With many employees welcoming the idea of remote working into the future, either full-time or for part of the week, is it time for employers to recognise the positives of remote working and tie it into their company policy on a permanent basis? And if so, how can they make it sustainable?

      “This is a follow-on from last year’s Covid-19 employer guide; last year we looked at the health and safety aspects of returning to work, while the theme of this year’s guide is around the future of work,” explains Karen Hernández, Senior Executive, Client Management Development at Enterprise Ireland. “During Covid, the workplace has changed, the nature of work has changed for a lot of people, and what employees expect from their employers has changed. Our aim is for all companies to be prepared to put in place the right structures and practices that suit their business needs and also the needs of their employees.

      “A large portion of our client base experienced the need to rush into remote working when Covid-19 hit Ireland in 2020. There have been some advantages and opportunities associated with this; some businesses found they’re as productive, if not more productive when working remotely. This guide aims to help companies take what’s worked well over the last 15 months and create some sustainable practices and processes that work for everybody.”

      The guide was developed in partnership with Fredericka Sheppard and Joyce Rigby-Jones of Voltedge, a highly regarded HR consultancy based in Dublin. “The objective with the guide is that it gives you a framework to start developing your own plan for the return to the office,” explains Fredericka. “All organisations are going to have their own dynamic, their own set of circumstances, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Our aim was to identify key pillars for organisations to use to develop structure and a suitable framework for their business.”

       

      The importance of asking questions

      A huge emphasis is placed on the need for communication with employees when making these decisions. “Employers need to engage with and actively listen to their employees, while also driving their business forward,” says Joyce. “This is intended as a broad guide, where employers can pick and choose the relevant pieces to them.”

      “It’s very important that employees feel that they’re being heard,” adds Fredericka. “However, decisions need to be made based on a number of factors, and employee input is just one of those factors. Obviously it’s really important to manage expectations and sometimes it’s just down to how you ask the questions. Give them some context from a business point of view. It’s not just about the employees’ wish-list, it’s also about creating a sustainable workplace for the future.”

       

      Managing remote workers

      Many employers are looking at keeping some sort of remote or flexible working practices in place – and offering this flexibility can be very positive when it comes to attracting talent. “Almost two-thirds of our client base are saying they find it hard to attract, engage and retain talent,” says Karen. “Companies need to consult and stay close to their employees and ask them what they want – and include aspects like flexibility as part of a value proposition to attract candidates.

      “Many companies that we are working with are looking at some sort of hybrid model, where employees combine time working in the office and time spent working remotely, at home or in co-working spaces. There are huge upsides, such as accessing skills from different parts of the country that they never would have before – offering remote, flexible or hybrid working is attractive to employees.

      However, this can be difficult to manage, and companies need to consider what works for the team as a whole as well as what’s right for individuals within those teams.”

      “There’s a big need for management support and training, especially for middle and line managers and supervisors who are dealing with a remote workforce,” explains Joyce. “It’s difficult for them, but it’s important that they get it right. Ensuring your managers are confident in what they do, and in their engagement with their teams. We are hearing that companies are looking to bring their employees into the office more, but it’s about getting that blend right between remote working and the office. One aspect that we emphasised in the guide is the need to make sure you are not discriminating against employees who are not in the office environment.”

      Identifying and managing issues such as burn-out and isolation is essential if companies are to offer some sort of remote working policy. “Companies that have regular check-ins and meetings with staff and use different methods of communication, such as video calls, emails and direct messaging are more likely to keep employees engaged when working remotely.  It’s also important for employees to have individual focus time, where they are able to detach from colleagues and concentrate on getting their work done without interruption”, says Karen.  “Long term, we don’t know enough about hybrid working for a definite ‘best practice’ but instead companies should pilot different ways of working – for instance, we have some companies who are trialling a ‘team days’ concept – having the whole team in for certain days of the week, then for the rest of the week, they’re working from home.”

       

      Piloting the new workplace

      The aim of the guide is to pose those broad questions that will help employers in every sector decide on the right workplace for the future of their business – but there is no need to rush into a decision. “The biggest challenge for employers is making the decision as to how you’re going to handle this working environment,” says Joyce. “Are you going to fully return, are you going for a hybrid, can you facilitate a full return in the workspace that you have? Employers need to make very big decisions, and very strategic, long-term decisions, so we’re suggesting that they talk to their employees about what they want and then piloting whatever they plan to do before they make any strategic decisions that will impact on the business going forward.”

      Covid-19 has had a huge effect on how we work – but now is the time to use what we have learned since March 2020 to create a more inclusive, sustainable business model, one that pushes the business forward while creating a culture that values employees and their health and wellbeing more than ever before. This can only be a positive thing.

       

      To download Enterprise Ireland’s new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work’, click here.

      The eCommerce boom in Germany

      Germany has always been a nation of online shoppers, but Covid-19 has seen eCommerce become even more deeply rooted in society – with 65 million people, or 80% of the German population, now purchasing online on a regular basis.

      And as the country has the largest economy and consumer market in the Eurozone, Cathy O’Shea, Market Executive for Trade Development, Germany, at Enterprise Ireland says it couldn’t be more important to Irish companies.

       Popularity of online shopping to continue

      Huge German digital retailers like Zalando will be familiar to fashion-forward Irish consumers, or those who work in their Dublin offices, as the multi-national mega-retailer took in profits of nearly €8 billion in 2020 alone,” she says. “But this is only the tip of the iceberg in the German eCommerce boom, as store closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t just create a new wave of online shoppers, it also activated a new wave of online shops. So while stationary retailers were forced to close their doors amid varying levels of lockdown, this has made the eTail environment more competitive than ever.”

      This, she says, is reflected across the whole Eurozone, which saw record-breaking eCommerce sales of €717 billion last year – and highlights the Eurozone opportunities on our doorstep and the benefits of accessing the biggest free trading area globally with little friction.

       

      Irish businesses successfully trading in Germany

      The market expert says virtual selling and digital networking are not going anywhere fast. So if you’re missing a virtual sales capability, you have a skills gap. But there are a number of Irish companies with very successful business relationships in Germany.

      “Increased competition means that eCommerce retailers need to pay critical attention to every customer touchpoint and focus on excellence behind the scenes to stand out from the crowd,” she says. “So there is a clear demand for innovative solutions which help connect online retailers to their customers.

      “Over the last year, we’ve really seen eCommerce and Retail Tech innovations out of Ireland grow their business in the DACH region, one example being Luzern – a leading eCommerce platform and related services provider, specialised in delivering innovative strategies for Amazon Marketplaces.

      “Nowadays, up to 70% of product searches begin on Amazon, making it the largest search engine for eCommerce. Essentially, if you are a growing brand, Amazon is a must for getting discovered by new customers and this is where Luzern comes in – they help companies to reimagine their Amazon strategy and find new ways to protect their brand, while also increasing their online revenue.”

      Opportunities for innovative Irish firms

      According to O’Shea, Luzern isn’t the only Irish company making its presence felt in the German market.

      ChannelSight is another great example and is one of the fastest growing Irish start-ups in 2021,” she says. “Their software is used by hundreds of brands across 65 countries, and they have experienced particularly rapid growth over the last year as the explosion of online retail has prompted brands to invest in eCommerce technology.

      “In the DACH region, it works with multinational brands such as BSH, one of the global sector leaders in home appliances, and Tado, an emerging technology company and European leader in intelligent home climate management. So it is great to see German retailers embracing Irish solutions and seeing significant growth as a result – and these are just two companies of many. For any other businesses wishing to avail of eCommerce opportunities in the Eurozone region, Enterprise Ireland can support them in accessing the market.

      “And in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, there are distinct pros for Irish companies looking to export as Irish SMEs are tech savvy, and digitisation is on top of the political agenda in German-speaking markets. As well as that, Irish companies react fast, deliver on time and are quick to pivot when hardship strikes – this reactivity and reliability goes a long way when doing business in the DACH region.”

       

      Research is vital

      But despite the fact that there is an Irish advantage in the region, the market executive says that buyers have high standards and Irish companies need to be able to show their commitment to the market and come prepared if they are to win business.

      “The value proposition needs to be clear, well-defined, and specific in order to make an impression,” she advises. “And as a Market Executive in Enterprise Ireland’s Düsseldorf office, my role involves supporting Irish client companies to access market opportunities in the DACH region – so market research, buyer introductions and in-market connections are all areas that we can assist with across the whole Eurozone – even in the virtual environment, securing some face time with the right decision maker can go a long way.

      “This is why we built a virtual 1:1 networking into our digital Consumer-Centric eCommerce event which took place on June 10th. The event was all about the German perspective on the eCommerce market right now, looking at the trends, pain points and opportunities the future will bring in this area. It’s an exciting time to be selling online and it’s going to ignite some big conversations and we wanted to accommodate that.”

      Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre offers world class market research reports to help inform market strategy. To find out more about doing business in Germany, visit our German Market page.

      2021 virtual trade mission – Reaching a global audience

      In the not-too-distant past, companies wishing to establish a successful business relationship with firms overseas, would have relied heavily on international travel and perhaps an office or ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in the country in question.

      But these days, there is also another option as there are many international companies located across Ireland who are more than willing to do business with local businesses – and Gerard, Fenner, Senior Executive of Global Sourcing for Enterprise Ireland, says his team can help to bring Irish SMEs and multinational firms together.

      “The combination of modern technology and accessible travel has made the world a much smaller place and opened up a myriad of global opportunities for Irish businesses,” he says.

       

      Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland collaboration

      “But travelling to or even selling out of this country isn’t the only means for companies at home to expand into the international market as there are hundreds of multinationals right here in Ireland, which are willing and able to engage with indigenous firms. Since its formation in 2012, the Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team has been working with colleagues in IDA Ireland to introduce Irish owned businesses to international firms to respond to their specific requirements.

      “Working with companies across every sector, including pharma, medtech, ICT, engineering, financial services and energy, our team helps to develop relationships between Irish companies who are seeking to sell their product or service and multinational firms who wish to purchase same – so our particular focus is on providing sales opportunities and partnerships between Enterprise Ireland client companies and Ireland-based multinationals, predominantly IDA firms.”

      According to Fenner, there are many benefits to both the seller and the buyer in these business relationships and apart from supporting industry at home, it can also lead to opportunities in export markets – and winning a contract with a multinational gives a scaling Irish company a valuable reference site for its move into export markets.

      “We have found that one of the most productive means of securing relationships between Irish firms and multinationals based here is by means of events where introductions can be made, and sellers can have pre-arranged face to face meetings with potential buyers,” he says.

       

      Developing international relationships

      “In 2014 we organised the first Trade Mission in Ireland. The event was minister led and took place in various regional locations across the country over the course of a couple of days – and since then, it has taken place every year, apart from 2020, due to lockdown restrictions. It has always garnered a lot of interest and helped to develop contracts and future relationships.”

      So it seems that trade missions have long been an effective means of introducing businesses to prospective clients, but since the onset of the pandemic, industry across every sector has had to pivot online and learn how to do business in a virtual world.

       

      Online introductions and meetings

      As current guidelines continue to prevent physical events of this nature taking place, this year, on May 12th, the first ever virtual Global Sourcing Trade Mission became the alternative.

      Launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, the event proved as popular as ever with 65 multinationals and 240 Irish companies registered with over 350 meetings. And according to Gerard Fenner, the online system was popular with both the variety of different international firms and indigenous companies looking to set up new business relationships.

      “When the Enterprise Ireland companies registered on the event platform, they provided some company information about what they do and what their offer is, and this allowed suppliers to search through this information and put in a request for a meeting,” says the international trade expert. “Similarly, the supplier was also able to request a meeting with a buyer in order to pitch a product or service.

      “Although these 15-minute meeting slots were different to how things normally work at a physical trade mission, it proved to be very successful with feedback from both sides indicating their positivity – and early signs show the possibility of new business relationships and further revenue to add to the €32 million in contracts which have been secured from these trade missions.”

      The Global Sourcing Team lead says there was also the added positive bonus of no travel, which meant that the multinational could bring in individuals from different areas of their business to meet potential suppliers – so rather than just one representative attending the event, firms could bring in someone from finance or with technical expertise to liaise directly with companies pitching a particular service.

      “Overall it was a great success and we have run smaller online events similar to this over the past year and many multinational firms have come back to us to say they were impressed with the fact that they got to meet so many different businesses,” he says.

      “So, the trade mission, whether it takes place at a venue or online, is an important platform for raising awareness about the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs and helping them to establish future business relationships. And given the interest in this year’s event, despite the difficulties surrounding the current global situation, the future looks bright.”

      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.

      German Healthcare System: Telekom Healthcare Cloud

       

      The German healthcare market is the largest in Europe offering a wide range of opportunities for Irish medtech and e-health businesses.

      This Enterprise Ireland webinar discusses the importance of using a reliable cloud provider when providing business services to the German Healthcare System.

      Watch the webinar to hear insights from Alexander Gerlach,  Telekom Healthcare Solutions on:

      • Why businesses should use a trusted cloud provider in the German healthcare sector?

      • What makes the German market so unique?

      • Open Telekom Cloud: Public LaaS for European Enterprises

      • Importance of Data protection and compliance – Certifications

       

      Middle East Aviation: Ready to soar once again in the post-pandemic future

      The Covid-19 pandemic has hit few sectors harder than the aviation industry, with severe restrictions on travel and closed borders resulting in a dramatic decline in passenger volumes globally. Airports around the world have had their resilience tested to the limit as they faced the initial paralysis of the skies, followed by the ongoing waves of the pandemic. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon driven by the rollout of the global vaccination programme in the majority of countries, albeit at different levels of implementation.

       

      Predicted growth

      Despite the significantly curtailed demand globally and regionally due to Covid-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the Middle East will see a 4.4 percent growth in passenger journeys over the period through to 2039. “With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) home to some of the most advanced airports in the world and often exceling in passenger service, they are on the front foot to ensure restored confidence in flying once again,” said Alan O’ Mahony, Market Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland.

      “Airport operators and airlines are monitoring the situation closely and continue to adapt to the evolving situation. They are now faced with the challenge of balancing additional health and safety requirements with providing a good passenger experience as they seek to restore confidence in air travel. Innovation and technology across the Middle East will play a key role in unlocking improvements for passenger experience and safety whilst also igniting the recovery for the sector. Ireland has forged a strong reputation for delivering world-leading innovative solutions that are used every day by the largest airlines in the world and across the wider aviation sector. We need this innovation now more than ever to power the industry’s recovery and Irish companies will continue to shape this new age for air travel.”

      Pandemic-era air travel

      Technology has advanced swiftly over the course of the pandemic in reaction to the ever-changing environment, and a new focus on health considerations in technology and process transformation has emerged.

      “One trend that will become more widespread is the adoption of contactless technology in order to minimise the spread of viruses and reduce interaction between staff and passengers throughout the entire journey,” explained Alan. “A good case in point is Irish company IO Systems which operates the automated baggage return tray systems in Dubai International Airport. The company has adapted its latest models to include blue light cleansing technology to ensure their trays are actively cleaned as they automatically return through the baggage system. Airports can ensure additional safety measures are applied whilst still ensuring a good passenger experience is delivered through the introduction of these type of innovative solutions.”

       

      Taking flight

      “The hot topic in the industry right now is the digital health certification to capture the completed vaccination process or Covid-19 status of people intending to fly,” said Alan. “Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon is leading the way by creating the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport to help those eligible to travel to navigate the changing entry requirements associated with Covid-19. The company’s new VeriFLY app, which has already been adopted by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements of their destination.”

      VeriFLY provides digital health document verification, confirms eligibility, and allows people to combine necessary travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, in one place, allowing travellers to ensure they are fully compliant with all the departure and arrival requirements before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks are available for check in.

      “The ingenuity, ambition, and adaptability that Daon and their partners have demonstrated throughout the pandemic are making a significant contribution to restoring traveller confidence and ensuring a positive passenger experience. It’s just one example of how innovation from Ireland, one of the major travel tech hubs in the world, is playing a leading role in the recovery for the sector.”

       

      Advanced technologies

      Responses to Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across almost all sectors, and it’s thought that many of these changes will have a lasting impact. “With the global smart airports market to top $22.6 billion (USD) by 2025, the requirement for advanced technologies – especially as part of the immediate recovery – will continue to be an important market for the vast array of Irish companies operating in the sector. We are likely to see new entrants into the airport space across technologies such as biometrics, robotics, cloud technologies and IoT.”

      “There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the air travel industry and the recovery for the industry is still some distance away. With that said, recent trends offer reasons for cautious optimism. While it’s certain that air travel will never look the same again, these innovative solutions will help to ensure international airline travel is, once more, cleared for take-off.”

       

      Ground-Breaking BidX1: Building GHG Strategy with GreenStart

      Fast-moving digital property company BidX1 is changing the way property is bought and sold, making the process more transparent, efficient and convenient for users.

      The firm has developed an innovative digital platform, tailored specifically for real estate transactions, and has sold over 10,000 properties to date, raising more than €2bn.

      This rapidly expanding company, which is transforming the property landscape through technology has also taken a forward-thinking approach to climate action and sustainability.  BidX1 embarked on the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart programme to help them develop a GHG Emissions and Carbon Strategy – with the goal of ensuring that environmental principles are embedded in their business model.

      The company, which is headquartered in Dublin and has operations in the UK, Spain, South Africa and Cyprus, was founded on an inherently sustainable ethos.  “We knew we were doing well from a sustainability perspective, but we didn’t have precise metrics to work with because we have been in such a high-growth phase for the past few years.”

      “We’ve now established a Carbon strategy and have calculated our emissions across every market, identifying hotspots and key areas for improvement” explains Nicole Pomeroy, Head of Communications. 

      While 2020 and the global pandemic was a watershed for traditional real estate agents, it was not a significant transition for BidX1 who pioneered a fully digital model in 2015.

      “We have developed a digital platform which connects users across the globe with property investment opportunities in 5 markets – and enables them to complete the entire transaction online. We wanted to match that level of innovation and ambition in our environmental policies, putting climate action at the forefront of our decisions as we expand existing operations and also enter new markets”, she explained.

      Passion for sustainability

      Recommending the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart process she said: “All that is needed to start the process is somebody who is passionate and committed – and who is willing to bring that passion throughout the company” referring to her colleague Eanna Glynn who is part of the finance team and the Head of Sustainability at BidX1.

      Eanna is passionate about sustainability and environmental issues and has led the charge within BidX1 with the full support of CEO Stephen McCarthy and the management team.  “We looked specifically at greenhouse gas emissions for the GreenStart process. I wanted to aim for carbon neutrality and when I spoke to the management team, they encouraged me to figure out what that journey would look like for us. We kickstarted that with a carbon assessment. It did seem daunting at first but once we had connected with our advisors via GreenStart, who are experts in this field, the process became quite seamless,” he explained.

      “We have set up a dedicated sustainability team within the company with a sustainability lead in each of our markets as we had to think globally. GreenStart with Enterprise Ireland was the starting point for that.  We have been focussed internally so far but we will now be assessing more of our suppliers to encourage change externally too”.

      They have been blown away by the enthusiasm within BidX1.  “It has had a snowball effect – it’s not just us driving this – it’s everybody.  We always thought we would be pushing a rock up a hill but for us the rock is already at the top of that hill! There is such support and enthusiasm internally – and while we have said that we can’t do everything all at once when it comes to sustainability – that enthusiasm is a good problem to have!”

      The advice from BidX1 to other companies starting out on their green transformation journey is: “Don’t be afraid. Get started, with the right advice and assistance from Enterprise Ireland. Don’t think that because you are a professional services company or office-based firm that it’s not for you and it’s not relevant. It is. Until you start measuring and are clear on your own figures and targets, you cannot effect meaningful change.  It’s not just manufacturing companies that have to race to achieve the 2050 goals – it’s everybody.”

       

      To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

       

       

      SpeakingNGI – Shaping the internet of the future

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

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

      Key Takeouts:

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

      Case Study: SpeakingNGI

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

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

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

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

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

       

      From data gathering to experimentation

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

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

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

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

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

      Building on experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Stryve makes strides in Poland

      Poland has made huge progress in recent years to become a regional ICT powerhouse. Its economy has been growing for decades, even after the financial crisis, and large educated population attracted investments in new sectors such as global business services that in turn drove growth of ICT skills and infrastructure. Exports of ICT services have been steadily increasing from €3.2bn 2014 to€7.7bn EUR in 2019.

      Growth of the ICT sector will be accelerated even more with news from Google and Microsoft announcing that they will build hyperscale data centres in Poland, their first in CEE region. Microsoft’s $1bn investment in the data centre in Poland will also cover creating critical skills and learning opportunities for an estimated 150,000 employees, partners and students. The skills development program will include training, e-learning programs, workshops and hackathons on cloud computing, developing with AI and machine learning technologies, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Since Google is planning similar scale of activity in utilizing its data centre, this creates huge opportunities for Irish companies such as Stryve, which as certified experts in Cloud Computing & Data Security has the expertise and products in cloud technologies and cybersecurity that will be essential  for the digital transformation of Polish and international businesses operating in the region.

       

      International Expansion

      While Stryve already had a presence in Poland, the company availed of support from Enterprise Ireland, leveraging their market expertise and local network to gain introductions to enterprise customers and ICT decision makers to drive opportunities for their cloud and cybersecurity products.

      “Poland has established itself as a significant centre for science and technology”. says Andrew Tobin, CEO of Stryve

      “It is a known hub of research and development in the EU, with many companies engaged in information technology and business process outsourcing. Poland in recent years has had one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and has increased demand for cloud services. It is the digital heart of CEE.

      Tobin adds “With this in mind, Poland makes an ideal strategic location for Stryve to continue our international expansion.”

       

      Digital Transformation

      2021 is a time of challenge and opportunity for small businesses who want to prioritize their digital transformation journeys. Fortunately, tools that weren’t seen as feasible for small businesses due to costs and resources are now becoming the norm for SMEs, integration of their workflows with cybersecurity is certainly one of them.

      Stryve understands that protecting data is more important than ever with backup literally becoming recognised as the last line of defence for data protection, especially given the increase in ransomware and hack attacks.  The company also recognises and communicates the importance of having a disaster recovery solution in place. Disaster recovery is often mistaken for something that is needed only in the most exceptional circumstances, when something goes wrong or misfortune strikes. In reality, a disaster recovery solution needs to be implemented during ordinary times so that when you truly need it, it can step up to the task and ensure that in the midst of a high pressure situation, losing data is one less thing you and your organisation need to worry about.

      For more information about doing business in Poland download our Going Global guide for Poland.

       

       

       

      Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

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

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

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

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

       

      The Pandemic Pivot

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

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

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

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

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

       

      Building Back Better

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

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

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

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

       

      Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

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

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

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

       

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