‘We can fund up to 80 per cent of the cost of projects’
Partnership scheme encourages companies to work with Irish research institutions
Programme manager Lawrence Lee: ‘If a college or technology centre can build a technological solution for a company for €100,000 we can fund up to €80,000 of it.’
Irish-based companies can access the expertise and resources to undertake research towards the development of new and improved products, processes and services through Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Partnership Programme. The scheme encourages companies to work with Irish research institutions on mutually beneficial projects to generate new knowledge, know-how and valuable intellectual property.
“We can fund up to 80 per cent of the cost of projects,” says programme manager Lawrence Lee. “If a college or technology centre can build a technological solution for a company for €100,000, we can fund up to €80,000 of it. That is mainly the cost of the people involved but it can sometimes include materials and equipment as well. The money goes directly to the research partner.”
The programme has been highly successful since its inception a decade ago with an independent survey of participant companies revealing that 96 per cent of them would recommend it to other businesses.
More importantly, 71 per cent of participant companies surveyed said their objectives were largely or fully achieved.
From a commercial perspective, each €1 of funding invested by Enterprise Ireland in innovation partnerships delivered €7.71 net turnover impact at the company side.
“The independent consultants looked at the first three years of the programme, from 2011 to 2014, and then looked at the participating companies five years later,” Lee explains. “They looked at sales revenue and employment growth over that period and evaluated how much of it was due to the partnership.”
The programme is aimed at improving companies’ competitiveness and boosting their innovation capacity. “Companies need to improve continuously,” says Lee. “If they want to export, they will face new competition and will need to differentiate themselves.
“They may have to improve or come up with new versions of existing products or find ways to reduce processing costs. As long as it’s a technological need, the Innovation Partnership Programme can help.”
It is designed for companies that face a particular technological problem or have a concept or an idea they need to test but haven’t got the in-house capability to do so.
We fund the development of technological solutions to problems which companies are experiencing
“The Innovation Partnership Programme enables them to access the expertise they need through partnering with research institutions,” Lee adds. “The research institutions benefit from the opportunity to solve real world problems as well as from the intellectual property creation and knowledge generation that result from the collaborations.”
He points out that the programme doesn’t fund new product development per se. “We are not subsidising companies to do that. We fund the development of technological solutions to problems which companies are experiencing.
“If, for example, a company wanted to improve a product by building AI into it, we would not fund that piece of product development. On the other hand, if they wanted to use AI to improve their production process and help in the product improvement processes, we would fund that.
“The whole idea is that there has to be a reason to work with a research institution to get access to expertise and PhD level researchers and so on.”
Novel medical device
One company to benefit from the programme is Galway-based Novate Medica, which partnered with the GMedTech technology centre based at GMIT on the development of a high-quality test vessel for a novel medical device.
The company is engaged in the development of a filter for the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in the body, which will protect people from pulmonary embolisms. In order to test the device before proceeding to animal and human trials, the company needed a vessel that would replicate the vena cava.
The GMedTech team reviewed the literature and found the most relevant properties for the inferior vena cava and modelled the test vessels around that. The result was a silicon test vessel produced in-house at very low cost to the company.
Finding a research partner should not present a difficulty for companies, according to Lee. “All of the universities and institutes of technology are quite familiar with the programme. The connection ideally comes about through direct communication between the companies and the institutions. Sometimes Enterprise Ireland or another agency becomes aware of a company needing a solution and will encourage them to talk to experts in relevant research institutions.”
The application process is quite straightforward. “The first step is to talk to each other and identify the problem. After that, they need to establish that the research partner has the expertise to help solve the problem. The research partner then sends an application outlining the proposed project. All the paperwork is done by the college, the company doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on it.”