Deirdre Glenn, Manufacturing, Engineering and Energy Research Commercialisation Manager at Enterprise Ireland speaks to AG about how the organisation is supporting innovation throughout the country…
Ireland is one of, if not the, leading Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) countries in Europe, offering key commercial environments for companies to develop their research and innovation activities. RDI has a significant impact on economic growth and jobs throughout the country, and is a crucial part of government strategy.
Along with government departments, Enterprise Ireland plays a key role in supporting innovation by companies, and helping them to engage in the research and innovation ecosystem. The organisation shares the ambition of the Irish government, which is to put innovation at the core of their policies and strategies for the future – in order for Ireland to become a leader in research and innovation.
Enterprise Ireland’s Manufacturing, Engineering and Energy Research Commercialisation Manager Deirdre Glenn explains to AG the role of her organisation in making Ireland an ‘innovation nation’. “Research and development is hugely important, as is investment in innovation,” she says. “This government has very much committed itself to driving forward a knowledge based economy, and the delivery of that is very heavily supported by Enterprise Ireland.” Glenn says around 80,000 new jobs have been created over the last 3 years through the Irish government’ Action Plan for Jobs which has a strong focus on promoting and supporting innovative research and technology.
“The Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) Action Plan for Jobs is very much about increasing the levels of research and innovation within companies and by helping them to gain competitive advantage in international markets. Ultimately our aim along with the government is to create jobs within our domestic economy.”
In their end of year statement, Enterprise Ireland reported that client companies had created 19,705 new jobs in 2014. This reinforces their strategy of driving innovation, as well as their leadership positions in international markets and new sectors. In order to make this happen funding is crucial.
“Investment has been critical for our economic recovery, and investment by the government is still somewhere between €6 -700m, which shows they have continued to invest significantly in building research capability and skills to support the development of new innovative products, processes and services,” explains Glenn.
“Of that €650m plus investment from the government, Enterprise Ireland’s investment is about €120m.” This is spent on the following activities; Funding R&D in companies; commercialising State funded research into market-ready products and services, funding collaborative research and innovation projects between companies and teams in research providing organisations; developing entrepreneurs and supporting new high-potential start-up companies.
Collaboration and partnerships play an integral role in developing new innovations, and Enterprise Ireland supports companies and helps them to engage with that sector. Ultimately enabling them to develop partnerships, and unlock skills and expertise in order to improve competitive advantage.
“Collaboration is a huge priority for Enterprise Ireland, and particularly for my department to effectively and efficiently leverage the wealth of innovative knowledge and skills available in the education system. “One of the most successful programmes that we run to help achieve this, is the Innovation Partnership programme,” says Glenn. “The company articulates its specifications and we identify an academic to do the work on behalf of that company. It’s about organisations coming together around a specific need.
“A really good example of this is one we funded recently, which was around 3D printing. An Innovation Partnership was created between a research institute, a tool manufacturing company, and an engineering company. All 3 worked together to deliver a new innovative 3D research programme.”
Glenn explains that Enterprise Ireland works very closely alongside government departments, in order to coordinate and maximise the return in state investment on public research – essentially getting more bang for their buck. “Within the Department of Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise (DJEI) there are 3 agencies in particular – Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), which work very much in close co-operation,” she notes.
“Enterprise Ireland and IDA are very much about trying to understand what enterprise needs are and ensuring then that the required knowledge and skills are available to them and they can get access to it.” One of the main programmes Enterprise Ireland use to deliver on these needs is a joint venture with the IDA – the Technology Centre Programme. Enterprise Ireland and IDA jointly support 15 Technology Centres which are delivering market focused, industry-led research for companies across national priority areas:
Manufacturing and Materials:
- Applied Nanotechnology – CCAN
- Manufacturing research – ICMR
- Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing – PMTC
Health & Medical Technologies:
- Connected Health – ARCH
Innovation in Business Processes & Services:
- Innovation Value Institute – IVI
- Learning technologies – Learnovate
- Financial Services – governance, risk and compliance – GRCTC
- Applied Data Analytics – CeADAR
- Microelectronics Circuits – MCCI
- Bioenergy & Biorefinery – TCBB
- International Energy Research – IERC
- Dairy Processing – DPTC
- Food for Health Ireland – FHI
A great example highlighting of all 3 agencies working together recently was an event held in Ireland called the National Innovation Showcase. It brought together enterprise companies, research communities, and education institutes to help industry engage with the third sector.
“The whole point of that day was to target industry and to have an event that would make it as easy as possible to find the information they wanted in one location on one day. “We also launched the first National Directory of Research and Technology Centres at the Showcase. The whole purpose of this is to provide a profile and details of the 38 research centres and technology centres of scale that are supported by the State to help companies navigate the system”, says Glenn.
One new resource on offer in Ireland is Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) which is based in Enterprise Ireland and run in partnership with the Irish Universities Association. The aim of KTI is to maximise the benefit of State funded technology, ideas and expertise getting into the hands of companies, allowing them to innovate and grow. The KTI web portal enables businesses and the public sector to leverage the potential of Irish research and innovation by providing an overview of the capabilities and research talent at the country’s research performing organisations. The portal also provides guidance on IP, licensing and commercialisation opportunities as well as practical guides to contracts and sample agreements.
As with many of the Enterprise Ireland resources and programmes, it aims to make the process of engaging in collaborations or sharing knowledge between companies and higher education institutes more accessible and efficient.
Ireland also tests its mettle on an international platform, and has utilised European initiatives such as Horizon 2020. This is one of the largest European funded research programmes, and as the leader of Ireland’s support network for the programme, Enterprise Ireland is keen to ensure they get the most out of it. “Horizon 2020 is going to be vital to our research growth here in Ireland; it is based on competitive calls and is open to anyone, be that researchers, organisations or companies.
“As a nation we have adopted a strategy to ensure that we have strong participation, particularly for companies. We have an ambitious national target to win €1.25bn of the funding. For us it is about getting our SME’s to engage in those large projects. “Framework Programme 7 (FP7) was very industry relevant, and Horizon 2020 is even more so, meaning there is massive opportunities for all our clients in all sectors.”
Enterprise Ireland is leading Ireland’s participation in Horizon 2020 and is committed to achieving high success rates for company participation. Add this to the fact that it is also deeply embedded in the knowledge and commercial research transfer infrastructure having funded much of its development over the last decade through the Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative and the establishment of Knowledge Transfer Ireland and it is clear that Enterprise Ireland can stand over its tagline ‘where innovation means business’.