DIT Hothouse scheme to bring R&D resources to small firms
Open Labs initiative allows access to college facilities and 600 researchers
Under the Open labs programme, a team of DIT researchers will work to complete an R&D project in a mutually agreed time span. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A new programme from DIT Hothouse is set to open up access for small and medium-sized businesses to researcher expertise, labs and equipment.
The Open Labs initiative will essentially create an external R&D facility for small firms, giving them access more than 600 DIT researchers and facilities in product prototyping, virtual reality, internet of things, data analysis for business and innovative surface coatings.
The new programme will remove some of the barriers that SMEs face, and make it less risky to engage in R&D.
Paul Maguire, senior innovation portfolio manager in DIT Hothouse, said he believes the scheme will foster greater collaboration between DIT researchers and SMEs.
“Early-stage research is often high risk and requires significant investment, meaning many small businesses are effectively restrained from developing product ideas,” he said. “Open Labs by DIT Hothouse will allow a company to develop a product idea using DIT researcher expertise, labs and equipment, essentially creating an external R&D wing for the company.”
Under the programme, a team of DIT researchers will work to complete an R&D project in a mutually agreed time span. “Open Labs will support a business through each product development phase from writing the technical brief, outlining what research skills and lab equipment are required, evaluating funding options and, finally, the timely delivery of the product to suit business needs,” Mr Maguire said.
The initiative will also offer expert funding advice to companies, helping them to determine which funding option – State, private or collaborative – suits them best.
Prof Brian O’Neill, director of research, enterprise and innovation services at DIT, said the founding of Open Labs was “a hugely significant opportunity” for companies and DIT, as well as for the economic development of Dublin and surrounding areas.
“Open Labs will not only allow an SME to explore or expand its R&D activity, but it will also demonstrate the talent and real-world problem-solving skills of DIT researchers working across the institute,” he said. “Open Labs will maximise DIT research capabilities in important high-tech sectors, which are key to establishing Ireland as a global innovation leader while creating high-value jobs and delivering pioneering products of enduring societal impact.”