Turn your bright business dream into a Vital one

A new project funded by the European Union is matching good ideas with those who can make them real

 A still from Pajanimals produced by Sixteen South. Colin Williams, the founder and director of Sixteen South – a Belfast based children’s television company – has just won the Entrepreneur of the Year award in the 2014 Aer Lingus Viscount Awards.

A still from Pajanimals produced by Sixteen South. Colin Williams, the founder and director of Sixteen South – a Belfast based children’s television company – has just won the Entrepreneur of the Year award in the 2014 Aer Lingus Viscount Awards.

 

Are you one of those people secretly nursing a brilliant business idea or invention that you have never been able to do anything about?

If so here is your chance: an initiative called “Vital” aims to match great business ideas with the people who can turn them into a reality. Funded by the European Union, the €2.56 million project is managed jointly by Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dublin City University and Queen’s University, Belfast.

What makes this project different is that what Vital wants to do is give these good ideas the best chance of commercial success.

In essence, the people operating Vital believe the best way to do this is to give them to someone else.

Kieran Fegan, director of Vital, says what is important is that the “idea owner” benefits from any kind of market success their idea achieves.


Screening
“We’re looking at lots of new business ideas, new inventions and a range of new technologies from numerous sources,” says Fegan.

“We carefully screen them and once these ideas are validated by us, once we believe there is an idea that can be fast tracked to market, we connect the idea generator with an implementer – either someone who is a seasoned entrepreneur or a well-established company.”

Everyone wins, he believes, because the person with the business idea or product concept is protected from the outset via, for example, licensing/technology transfer agreements or an upfront sale of their idea to their ideal match.

On the other side of the coin, the entrepreneur or established company selected as the match partner gets the chance to exploit potentially innovative technologies or products that could help grow their business.

The Vital project has one key objective at its core – to booster the Border economy. While anyone can get involved, the project is specifically designed to create a “positive economic impact” in Northern Ireland and Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth and Sligo.

Anyone who signs up to Vital, particularly an entrepreneur or business, must be prepared to take this to heart – but it does give local businesses and entrepreneurs based in the region a head start.


Evaluation
Fegan says Vital has already “banked” about 170 ideas and technologies. The evaluation process has identified 25 strong business cases and it is in the “advanced stages” of introducing idea generators to their prospective suitors.

The ideas include a prototype for a refrigeration unit, an innovative design for bike pedals, a marine safety product, a pioneering approach to oil-spill cleanup and a ground breaking hi-tech autonomous surveillance platform.

As Colin Williams can testify, sometimes all it takes is just one good idea to build a successful, export-focused business from scratch. Williams, the founder and director of Sixteen South – a Belfast based children’s television company – has just won the Entrepreneur of the Year award in the 2014 Aer Lingus Viscount Awards.

The awards celebrate Northern Ireland companies who have achieved outstanding business success in the last 12 months.

Like the other winners in the 2014 Viscount Awards, Williams clearly loves what he does – and that perhaps more than anything else is what sets business winners aside from the people with ideas who never make it.

l The other winners in this year’s Viscount Awards, which were supported by The Irish Times, include: Andor Technology, (Most Innovative Company); Elmgrove Foods (Exporter of the Year); Export Technologies (Best Small Business); Devenish Nutrition (Best Medium Business); and Almac Group Ltd, (Best Large Business).

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