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.

 

Getting There: Strategies to promote gender diversity in business

At Enterprise Ireland, we have long since recognised that one of the keys to optimising our start-up sector in Ireland is to boost gender equality in business.

Diversity in business is vital to reflect our modern, global economy and create growing, sustainable companies. Extensive international research has shown that diversity increases innovation and creativity, while research from McKinsey & Co revealed that gender diversity leads to improved productivity and increased profitability.

However, promoting gender diversity takes work. “Back in 2011, only 7% of our High-Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) included a woman on the founding team,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “Seeing this, we put in place specific goals and plans to increase this, and now, in 2020, 24% of our HPSUs have a woman founder.”

While Enterprise Ireland is well known for its entrepreneurship supports for women, increasing gender diversity in business leadership is a relatively new objective. Towards the end of 2018, Enterprise Ireland embarked on research to look at the broader issue of women in business to assess the current situation in Ireland and to see what could be done to improve the situation. The research revealed some unsettling statistics: that less than 20% of CEOs were women, falling to 9% in larger companies; that Ireland had the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU; and that less than 10% of venture capital funding was going to companies with female founders. The research led to the publication of the Enterprise Ireland 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

“The plan has four objectives,” explains Sheelagh. “To increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs, to increase the number of women founders in HPSUs, to increase the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in companies in Ireland. All these objectives are inter-connected, so to achieve one of them you need to achieve all of them.

“We’ve set ambitious targets for ourselves – we’d like to double the number of women-led companies in the export market by 2025.” says Daly.

Promoting female entrepreneurs

While the figures have improved immensely over the past few years, it’s clear there are still some physical and psychological barriers that pose more of a challenge for women in business. For instance, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work in Ireland; in 2019, the ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland Report’ from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that 45% of women provide care for children and older adults on a daily basis, compared with only 29% of men. Networking opportunities, mentors and the visibility of women leaders in enterprise have also been identified as important for women in business.

“One of the initiatives we developed to address the barriers to funding for women founders is a women-specific call for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), a fund for early-stage start-ups with the potential to turn into HPSUs, with specific CSF calls for women entrepreneurs. In 2020, 42% of the CSF projects awarded were led by female founders.” says Daly.

“We also offer the ‘Innovate’ accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs which provides mentoring and a chance for women entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other.

This is also what is done in Going for Growth, an initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland to offer peer support along with the mentoring piece from successful women entrepreneurs through interactive round table sessions.”

“Another important initiative is the Part-time Key Manager Grant, which we introduced last year to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers. The grant is available for both men and women, but aims to attract more women to senior management roles.”

 

Accessible help

While the specific female entrepreneur supports outlined above give gender equality a significant boost, a key aim at Enterprise Ireland is to make every programme accessible for all. For instance, the first stop for most entrepreneurs is Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), with 31 offices in the country. The New Frontiers programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Third Level Institutes in 16 locations around Ireland and helps entrepreneurs develop their business in readiness for further investment without significant financial risk.

“We see really strong companies led by women at every stage of their journey,” says Sheelagh. “The supports are there, and we are really keen for more women to avail of those supports. I do believe that there are a lot of women with great ideas and the ability to put them into action; it’s then about the confidence to take that leap and use supports like the New Frontiers programme and aids from the LEOs. Those supports are there and can lessen the risk for both men and women when developing a new business.”

“Through these initiatives, Enterprise Ireland seeks to address the challenges facing women in business and to inspire and accelerate the growth of Irish businesses by advancing gender diversity in leadership teams and excellence in our start-up sector.”

FlowPhotoChem helping to green the chemical industry

“Innovation activities in the area of solar energy conversion technology, including solar chemicals, are key to achieving the decarbonisation targets set by the EU.”

Dr Pau Farràs, coordinator of the FlowPhotoChem project

Key Takeouts:

  • NUI Galway is leading a major project that is developing innovative, sustainable ways to manufacture ethylene using artificial photosynthesis.
  • The four-year project has received €6.99m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The FlowPhotoChem project will pave the way for a range of other green chemicals to be produced solely from sunlight, water and CO2.

Case Study: FlowPhotoChem

If the European Union is to achieve its target of a climate neutral economy by 2050, which will involve reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80–95%, new and disruptive approaches and technologies is needed across all sectors. Reducing emissions is a challenge, in particular, for the chemical industry, one of Europe’s largest manufacturing sectors but also one of the most polluting, emitting over 145 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year.

The Horizon 2020-funded FlowPhotoChem project is one of many innovative projects currently developing technology that will help to reduce the chemical sector’s CO2 emissions. The project aims to develop an integrated system of modular reactors that consumes CO2 and uses concentrated sunlight to form ethylene.

Involving 14 partners from eight countries, €6.99 million in EU funding and led by Dr Pau Farràs from the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, FlowPhotoChem will produce ethylene as a proof-of-concept and will pave the way for a range of other green chemicals to be produced solely from sunlight, water and CO2.

Innovation activities in the area of solar energy conversion technology, including solar chemicals, are key to achieving the decarbonisation targets set by the EU,” says Dr Farràs.

Combining the expertise of research teams from Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Uganda and the UK, FlowPhotoChem’s technology is innovative and so too is the overall aim of the project. “Our new technologies will enable the production of chemicals using solar energy to be carried out in small-scale installations and not just in large-scale infrastructures as at present,” says Dr Farràs. For example, this technology can be used to create small devices that could produce hydrogen peroxide to purify water, responding to the needs of rural, isolated areas in sun-rich countries.”

 

Unique platform for collaboration

Alongside FlowPhotoChem, Dr Farràs is involved in a number of other EU-funded projects related to green energy and chemicals, including Solar2C­­­­­­hem, SeaFuel and HUGE, and recognises that funding mechanisms such as Horizon 2020 offer a unique platform.

“A wide range of skills is needed on an ambitious project like this, beyond what an individual organisation would have, so collaboration with different partners is compulsory to achieving our goals,” says Dr Farràs

As coordinator of the project, Dr Farràs is tasked not only with keeping on top of the development of the technology but also with managing the integration of academics and industry with different skills.

“Our approach is to manage the individual work packages through monthly conference calls to keep everyone engaged and make sure we are on track with the work. This means that when we have larger meetings with all partners, we can talk about the bigger picture because the technical details have already been covered. This kind of management structure is working well. I feel it’s important to have face-to-face interactions; at the moment it’s all virtual meetings but we’re planning for physical workshops next year.”

 

Advice for Horizon 2020 applicants

Horizon 2020 had a budget of over €80 billion over seven years and its successor, Horizon Europe, will have a significantly bigger budget offering immense opportunities for individuals and consortia to secure funding for cutting-edge research.

However, some potential applicants are wary of the paperwork involved in securing funding.

“It’s true that there is a lot of work involved in putting together projects like this,” admits Dr Farràs. “But my advice would be to use the help that’s available. The support from Enterprise Ireland is fantastic. For both the FlowPhotoChem and the Solar2Chem projects, I applied for and received the Enterprise Ireland Coordinator Grant.

“I needed someone not only to review the proposals but also to help write them. Thanks to the Coordinator Grant I was able to work with a consultant who had a lot of experience in this area, and who also helped with the administrative side of things,” says Dr Farràs

“It was also good that FlowPhotoChem was a two-stage call so the shorter document that we had written for the first stage helped with the longer second stage proposal.”

 

Personal and professional benefits

Helping to create world-changing technologies brings its own rewards but beyond that the Horizon experience offers personal and professional benefits.

“First of all, when you undertake research with other groups the impact of your research is improved. We’re also seeing that the Horizon proposals increasingly ask for information on the social aspects of the project as well as technical content, so it’s a great way to meet people from both your own discipline and from others,” says Dr Farràs.

“No matter what stage you are at in your career there are benefits to being involved in these projects. For example, there are eight PhD students involved in the FlowPhotoChem research. It’s a great opportunity for them as they will see their individual tasks converge at the end into the final system contributing to a specific and significant application.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact h2020support@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizon2020.ie

 

From idea to ambitious business: How the Competitive Start Fund helped Examfly take off  

 Turning a good idea into a viable business takes time, hard work and support – this is what Deirdre Lyons, founder and CEO, discovered on her two-year journey with online teaching tool start-up, Examfly. As one of the recent recipients of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Examfly has grown from a good idea into a promising business with big ambitions.

“Ideas on their own only have a limited value; you need the business apparatus to wrap around the idea, and that requires focus, time and help,” explains Deirdre.

Support through Enterprise Ireland’s CSF was a real turning point for the company as it allowed us to refine the product and gave us the time to research and develop the market.” 

Within six to eight months we had a major client signed up and will be launching our platform with a second client this month.

 

Small beginnings to big ambitions

The story of Examfly began, like many start-ups, when Deirdre spotted a gap in the market for a teaching resource to help students with professional tax and accountancy exams. A former lecturer and grinds teacher with the Tax Institute of Ireland, Deirdre could see how people were struggling with the material and how it was taught.

“The people who are studying these subjects are working full-time, generally as trainees of big firms, and they find it hard to fit in study and to test themselves on their knowledge. These are dense and technical areas; we’re also in a time of diminishing attention span, so it’s harder to settle down to this sort of material.

“Our solution is a set of interactive online tools that teach the material using animated videos which provides a punchy, fun and visual way to learn the material. Then we use game-based tools for testing your knowledge, building your confidence in the subject and understanding where you might be struggling.

“These subjects are not just about learning but they’re also about skill acquisition. In other words, unlike school exams where you’d just spit out knowledge that you have taken in, with these exams you have to apply the knowledge in context. Our tools recognise this: they are are quick, interactive, fun and backed by insights from education psychology and technology that furthers the student’s progress rather than diminishing their attention span even further.

“Covid-19 accelerated the move to online learning, but it also revealed that not all online learning is created equally, so we’ve had a lot of engagement from big firms recently. The failure rate in these subjects is as much as 50%. The feedback on Examfly is that it’s more enjoyable, painless and effective to study using our tools than the traditional book and/or talking-head PowerPoint.”

Another advantage is the data that this software gathers. “We use the data we get on progress and potential pain points to give the firms insights about how the students are doing, where their strengths lie and what they might be struggling with. This allows us to adapt the learning journey for the student too, and on a collective basis it helps us improve the learning experience.”

And for Examfly, the sky really is the limit – this software has potential for many other subjects as well as updating skill sets and professional development.

 

The power of support

Deirdre began to develop her idea through research, looking at the psychology of education, and the difference between learning and skill acquisition. Then, to get the time and the support to see if her idea could turn into a viable business, she embarked on Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme in November 2018; this is an early start-up programme that gives innovators six months to explore their idea.

“By the time I finished New Frontiers, I had the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) ready, I received a lot of good feedback and I really felt that the idea had potential. I had left my job so I needed either a big customer or some sort of investment to continue with the idea, as well as the sort of supports offered in the Enterprise Ireland ecosystem.”

“I felt the CSF was a great fit for us, and winning it allowed us to develop the product and the business further. In essence, it gave us time.

While the money and support offered by the CSF was beneficial, Deirdre felt that the application process also helped advance her business. “The application process is very rigorous but it’s also a great exercise in working out your business model. It really interrogates both the idea and the business, and your plan for execution. It forces you to think very ambitiously. The pitching process is hard, because it comes down to being able to express everything you want for your business in a concise but exciting way. You also need to stand over it for the follow-up questions. It’s very good practice for speaking to angel investors, or any other investors further down the line.

“The CSF is a great way to take that next step; the value that you get from this is far more than just the money, it’ll change your confidence level, your ambition. Even if you don’t get it the first time around, your business and your idea will be a lot stronger for having gone through the process.”

Apply for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – find the application form and eligibility criteria here.

 

 

 

Supporting Regional Development Critical To Future Jobs Growth

 

Resilience is a word we became used to in 2020 and it is an apt term to describe how Irish business responded to the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period.

For thousands of businesses across Ireland, and their staff, it has been a tough, challenging year marked by disruption and uncertainty. But what has been remarkable is how Irish businesses have responded to the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

At Enterprise Ireland we work closely with the Irish manufacturing, export and internationally traded services sector.  We invest in established companies and start-ups, we assist companies to begin exporting or expand into new markets and we back research and development projects creating future jobs.

This week we launched our annual review for 2020.  The good news is that the companies we are proud to support employ more than 220,000 in Ireland.  Despite the challenges faced in last year, nearly 16,500 new jobs were created, closely mirroring the 2019 outturn.

However, job losses were significantly higher than in previous years, resulting in a net reduction of 872 jobs across the companies we support.

There is no sugar coating the fact that it was a tough year for business.  However, behind these statistics are individual stories of companies taking brave decisions to change their business model, reimagine their product offering and find new ways of doing business and connecting with customers to trade through the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland has worked with these companies throughout the year to ensure viable companies have the liquidity, supports and advice they need to trade, and importantly, to sustain jobs.

Enterprise Ireland supported companies have a key role in the Irish economy.  65% of employment is outside the Dublin region and these indigenous Irish companies, many of which are world leaders in their field, are critical to delivering balanced regional economic development.

Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for regional development.  It outlines specific plans for each region in the country, drawing on their existing enterprise base, their connections with third level institutions and their unique potential for growth.

The strategy is backed significant funding.  This time last year more than €40m was allocated, in a competitive call, to 26 projects fostering regional entrepreneurship and job creation.

These included the Future Mobility Campus Ireland, based in Clare, which explores the potential of autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, UCDNova’s Ag Tech innovation centre in Kildare and the Clermont Hub in Wicklow which focuses on content creation and draws on the region’s established film and audio/visual track record.  The 26 projects were supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which has seen €100m invested in similar projects since 2017.

Given the potential impact of Brexit, particularly in the Border region, 11 similar projects designed to cluster expertise and innovation were supported with €17m in support under the Border Enterprise Development Fund in 2020.

These were strategic initiatives, closely linked to government regional policy, with a medium to long-term focus on supporting regional enterprise.

However, due to Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland moved last year to provide more agile interventions to regional businesses assist them to reset and recover.

Ensuring that viable companies had the access to finance was an important necessity.  Through the government-backed ‘Sustaining Enterprise Scheme’ Enterprise Ireland allocated €124m last year to support more than 400 companies employing more than 10,000 people.  The majority of this funding went to regionally based companies.

Similarly, €8.2m in funding for 95 enterprise centres, which are critical to the start-up ecosystem and future job growth regionally, was made available in September.

Retail business across Ireland also benefitted from the Online Retail Scheme which saw 330 retailers allocated €11.8m in funding to enhance their online offering, reach new customers and increase sales.

Through a mix of strategic funding aimed at long-term enterprise development and more agile funding supports Enterprise Ireland has helped to sustain jobs throughout Ireland in 2020.  We’ve also supported those sectors, such as cleantech, construction and life sciences which continued to grow and create jobs last year.

The pandemic will have lasting effects including how we work and where we work.  Many of these long-term changes can complement strong local and regional economies.  A key element of the Powering The Regions strategy was the potential of remote working and co-working hubs that Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing with our partners.  That potential has been accelerated by the changing work patterns evidenced in the past year. Now, more than ever, having a strategic approach to enterprise development is vital, and Enterprise Ireland looks forward to the role it can play as we recover and build for the future.

By Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.

New African Dawn: Launch of the Continental Free Trade Agreement

A new year usually brings with it hope, optimism and new resolutions. The first two weeks of 2021 have however been fraught with the on-going pandemic, Britain’s exit from the EU and increased protectionism and populism around the globe. In marked contrast with this tone, one continent is pushing forward with hope, optimism and new resolutions.

The first of January 2021 saw the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This milestone agreement strives for greater trade cooperation on the continent. The aim is to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4-trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. This agreement comes into force, with support from 54 of the 55 countries recognised by the African Union (Eritrea being the sole exception) is a hugely positive move.

The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 and of the 54 Member States of the African Union that have signed, 30 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single market for goods and services, facilitate the movement of persons, promote industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth, and resolve the issue of multiple memberships, in accordance with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The agreement lays a solid foundation for the establishment of a Continental Common Market.

AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity to boost intra-regional trade as well as increase Africa’s negotiating position on the international stage. Intra-African trade has always been relatively low. In 2019, only 15% of Africa’s $560-billion worth of imports came from the continent – compare this with a figure of 68% in the European Union (UNCTAD).

In addition, many African nations have struggled to develop better-enabling environments for attracting investment and it should follow that this agreement will help to make the continent an increasingly attractive location for foreign companies seeking to penetrate its huge market potential.

This landmark agreement is off the starting block but there is much to be negotiated to reach the desired goal of #OneAfricanMarket.

Under AfCFTA trading, with an aim to eliminate export tariffs on 97% of goods traded on the continent, tariffs on various commodities where rules of origin have been agreed will be drastically reduced and businesses of all sizes will have access to a much bigger market than they used to before. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade will also be addressed and a mechanism for reporting of NTBs has been put in place (www.tradebarriers.africa).

In parallel to the AfCFTA, the African Union has also introduced the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.

Though it will be years before the AfCFTA is fully implemented, the significant steps that have been taken to get the agreement to this point should not be underestimated, particularly in the current difficult global environment. Increasing prosperity on the African continent will ensure that it continues to be a continent of great interest to Irish exporters.

Enterprise Ireland has been assisting Irish companies to navigate the Sub-Saharan African market through our office in Johannesburg, along with an established and growing network of industry specialists across the continent. Contact us to learn more about the opportunities for your business in this growing export destination.

Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor, Middle East, Africa & India

Irish tech and expertise to help drive global offshore wind growth

The global energy system is undergoing rapid changes, with renewable energy comprising an ever-increasing share of the electricity grid.

One of the key technologies leading the charge is offshore wind, with the UK leading the global market in 2021. The UK’s ambitious 2030 offshore wind generation targets mark it out as an international leader, with many countries, including Ireland, now following their lead with their own progressive 2030 targets.

Globally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported a 19% annual growth rate in offshore wind, faster than any other industry.

In response, Enterprise Ireland established an offshore wind cluster to identify and work with the key Irish companies with the capability to support the industry’s growth.  Launched in early 2019, the cluster now numbers over 50 companies. Its members have made substantial progress securing contracts with the UK offshore wind industry, tackling the sector’s most urgent technology challenges and identifying collaboration and innovation opportunities with fellow cluster members.

Cluster Launch and Irish Capability

The cluster was formally launched during the inaugural Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in March 2019, which brought together over 120 Irish and UK industry delegates. The forum followed the completion of supply chain mapping exercises undertaken by Enterprise Ireland’s cluster leaders, Darragh Cotter and Liam Curran, in which over 80 Irish companies with the potential to supply the offshore wind industry were identified. Key Irish strengths stand out in the areas of IoT, big data, robotics and wireless communications with Ireland’s strong track record in engineering consultancy—particularly marine, geotechnical and electrical engineering—also identified as a key supply chain offering. The scoping exercises also unearthed Irish companies with the ability to pivot into offshore wind from areas such as onshore wind and vessel services.

“Irish companies offer highly skilled and specialised services to the offshore wind industry,” says Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor in EI’s London office.

“We have to lean into our strengths and box clever. We have a clear understanding of where Irish companies add value. By focusing on existing national skills, we can make strong inroads into the offshore wind industry.”.

While the industry cluster promotes Irish capability to the global industry, the cluster also facilitates collaboration amongst Irish companies. “Companies get to know each other and their respective strengths, they identify areas where they can work together and supplement each other’s offers. Fostering collaboration is vital to the ongoing success of the cluster,” according to Liam Curran, Senior Technologist with Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland hopes to hold its next in-person Offshore Wind Forum at the end of 2021 to showcase Irish SME capability to a range of international and domestic stakeholders.

Cluster initiatives

Key to the success of the cluster is a collective understanding of how the industry operates, its procurement practices, key technological trends, and cost reduction drivers. Enterprise Ireland has enacted several initiatives to increase awareness amongst Irish SMEs. Activities have included;

 

  • Offshore wind insights programme: This mentorship programme, run from Enterprise Ireland’s London office, links Irish companies with UK industry experts. The mentors work one-to-one with companies to provide strategic direction.

 

  • Market study visits:Visits to key UK offshore wind hubs to increase member’s industry knowledge and to build important supply chain connections.

 

  • Industry Exhibitions:In October 2020, Enterprise Ireland and eight Irish companies virtually exhibited at Global Offshore Wind, which gathered over 400 speakers and exhibitors from across the industry.

 

Offshore wind cluster companies support over 4,000 jobs in Ireland. Export opportunities, combined with the development of Irish offshore wind, creates a strong regional employment opportunity. “We have seen coastal communities internationally pivot their local marine experience to the Operations and Maintenance phase of a project and Irish coastal communities can do likewise. SSE, for example, have designated Arklow as their O&M base for their Arklow Bank project and anticipate employing 70 people locally” commented Liam Curran.

For now, the immediate focus for the cluster are the established export opportunities in markets like the UK. “Irish companies are increasingly successful internationally. This experience will be crucial to the success of Irish offshore wind and increasing Irish jobs in the sector over the coming decade” noted Darragh Cotter.