A helping hand for entrepreneurs
Ireland can boast some world-class centres for innovation and support for start-ups, the ‘Irish Times’ Innovation Roadshow was told
FOR ALL THE economic problems we face at a macro level, Ireland can boast some world-class centres for innovation and support for start-ups. That was one of the key messages from the first of this year’s Innovation roadshow events, held at University College Cork last Friday morning.
The college itself has been at the forefront of research and innovation to date, according to Prof Anita Maguire, vice-president of research and innovation at UCC.
Maguire outlined the remarkable rise of Irish research up the international rankings in the past 25 years and highlighted the investment from various bodies that has led to Ireland’s recognition as a centre for excellence on a global scale.
“We are now starting to see the delivery of nearly 25 years of work and development in terms of successful commercialisation and start-ups. Here at UCC we created what I believe was the first campus company back in 1985. Since then 18 firms have been created on campus, 10 in the last five years. Of these, 15 are still in operation, employing over 100 third- and fourth-level graduates,” she said.
UCC boasts four dedicated centres for research: the Tyndall Institute, the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, the Environmental Research Institute and the recently announced Maritime and Energy Resource Centre. The first two have already spun out internationally recognised commercial successes and there is great hope for new developments from these and the others in the near future, she said.
Given that it’s located in the national hub for pharma, it’s hardly surprising that UCC has close links to industry, particularly multinationals, but Maguire points out that while UCC was working on 35 industry-sponsored projects last year, it’s access to small and medium-sized firms is regarded as equally important.
“We top the list of third-levels with projects securing Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Vouchers programme, when SMEs can get funding to carry out research in association with academia,” she says.
The Irish Times Roadshow series aims to offer practical insights and advice on innovation and start-ups, and three workshops were given on funding, marketing and technology.
The funding strand was presented by two entrepreneurs with first-hand experience of the funding rounds and turning research into commercial success.
Joe O’Keeffe is a serial entrepreneur with 10 previous start-ups under his belt. His current firms include InfiniLED, which is bringing to market research on LEDs carried out at the Tyndall Institute. His other current business, ScienceWorks, aims to provide support to start-ups in getting to market.