An improved therapy for arrhythmia, a technology with the potential to reduce dramatically the need for drug testing on animals, and a process to improve the quality and precision of 3D printed medical devices such as artificial joints: these are among the 89 ground-breaking projects which have been supported by the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) since its inception in 2018.
Managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and administered by Enterprise Ireland, the DTIF is a €500 million fund which invests in the development and deployment of disruptive, innovative technologies targeted at tackling national and global challenges.
“The aim is to drive collaboration between industry and research and encourage companies to develop truly disruptive technologies with the potential to alter markets and sectors,” explains Jackie FitzGerald, senior executive with the DTIF at Enterprise Ireland.
“At the time of its launch it was a world first,” she continues. “There was no other fund like it. So far there have been five calls since 2018, with €300 million allocated to 89 projects involving 344 organisations working together to collaborate on innovative research projects. These are not business-as-usual projects, they are focused on the development of disruptive, game-changing technologies.”
‘These are not business-as-usual projects, they are focused on the development of disruptive, game-changing technologies’
While the fund is open to companies of all sizes across all sectors, it targets six research priority areas (RPAs) for support: health and wellbeing; ICT; energy and sustainability; manufacturing; food; and services. To date there has been a strong prevalence of health and wellbeing projects.
“Of the 89 projects funded, roughly 55 per cent are in health and wellbeing, 17 per cent are in ICT, manufacturing and energy account for 11 per cent each, and the remaining 6 per cent is split equally between food and services projects,” says FitzGerald.
The minimum project value is €3 million – €1.5 million from DTIF and €1.5 million in co-funding from the applicant. Maximum funding level is €7 million for a project valued at €14 million.
“We seek applications from large and small companies,” FitzGerald adds. “All projects must have an SME as part of the consortium. Fifty per cent of the companies supported so far are SMEs, 37 per cent are research performing organisations, and 12 per cent are large companies. All of the participating companies are clients of either Enterprise Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta or IDA Ireland.”
Funding is awarded on the basis of a competitive process. “We run calls for proposals, typically with a 12-week period from opening to close. Projects are assessed against four criteria: the strength of the technology, its economic impact and sustainability, the excellence of the project, and the quality and efficiency of the collaboration. All projects are reviewed by an independent panel of international experts. Only projects judged to be excellent are recommended for funding.”
Once approved, the DTIF team at Enterprise Ireland works with the project consortia to agree on the terms of the support contract.
“We stay close to the projects throughout their three-year duration. The first call was launched in 2018 and we are beginning to see projects from that coming to a conclusion.”
One of those projects involved the University of Galway Translational Medical Device Laboratory and Atrian Medical of Galway as partners. “They have developed a device with really strong potential to improve the lives of people with arrhythmia. It could reduce the need for open heart surgery quite dramatically and offer great improvements for patients as well as savings for the healthcare system.”
The Centre for Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis (CAPPA) at the University of Galway joined forces with Shannon based HookeBio to develop a technology platform that will allow pharma companies and clinicians to develop more accurate and responsive disease models for drug trials and may be expanded to testing of existing therapies on individual patient’s disease samples. The patent-protected Mera system is capable of generating biological data from microtissues – similar in structure to natural tissue – with the aim of reducing the use of animal models in preclinical studies while also accelerating drug development.
“Their prototype can potentially reduce animal testing by 19 million animals every year and save €120 million in trial costs for companies bringing new drugs to market,” says FitzGerald.
Blueacre Technology has worked with the TCD Mechanical, Manufacturing and Biomedical Engineering Group to develop a computer controlled hybrid laser and electromechanical machine tool for the post-processing of 3D-printed metallic parts which will be especially useful for medical devices like artificial hips. “The technology is already receiving strong interest from leading medical device companies,” FitzGerald notes.
The sixth call under the DTIF will be opened in the coming months. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.