Funding the next wave of disruptive innovations
Fund to invest €500m over next 10 years in collaborative projects with strong potential
The fund focuses on the national research priority areas. File photograph: Getty
The next call for applications for funding under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) is due to be launched before the end of the month. The fund will invest €500 million over the next 10 years in collaborative projects with the potential to develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies to transform business.
“We are expecting to issue the call later this month,” says fund director Imelda Lambkin. “Similar to previous calls, we are looking for technologies with potential to alter markets and the way business operates.”
The fund focuses on the national research priority areas, she explains. These include ICT, health and wellbeing, food, energy, climate action, sustainability, manufacturing and materials, business process and service innovation.
“We are looking for collaboration between companies and researchers in universities and institutes of technology,” Dr Lambkin adds. “We have a range of schemes in Ireland that fund collaboration but not at the scale of the DTIF. We are looking for big high-end projects. Funding starts at €1.5 million and applicants can ask for much more than that.
“We are talking about multimillion euro projects with the potential for real disruption. It is one of the first funds of its type in the world and is aimed at tackling national and global challenges to secure the jobs of the future.”
Projects which have received funding under previous calls include new drug delivery platforms, a next generation heat pump, energy from wastewater technology and an artificial intelligence platform to aid regulatory compliance.
“We’ve had a broad range of projects across different areas,” she says. “In all cases, they bring together very innovative Irish SMEs, and in some case involve large multinational companies. That’s a very interesting dynamic. We are seeing Irish SMEs working with some of the largest companies in the world on the development of innovative new technologies.”
One such collaboration involves IBM Ireland, Tyndall National Institute, UCD, Maynooth University, Rockley Photonics, MasterCard Ireland, and Equal 1 Laboratories. The quantum computing project is seeking to develop a software platform for multiple qubit technologies, to explore their potential to address challenging problems arising in areas such as financial services, logistics or drug discovery.
In the health and wellbeing area, a group comprising OmniSpirant, Aerogen; National University of Ireland Galway, and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland received €9.4 million for the development of inhaled bioengineered exosome therapeutics, delivered by tailored aerosol delivery technology for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Also in the health and wellbeing area, VistaMed, Perfuze and Telefex received €4.4 million for the development of a clot ingestion system medical technology to treat stroke.
Another project at the intersection of information technology and health is an AI-enabled software medical wearable device that will empower kidney dialysis patients to self-manage and provide clinicians with insights to improve care. This is being developed by a consortium comprising Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), patientMpower and Sixty.
A consortium led by the RCSI and including Ergoservices, Microsoft Ireland Operations, and Singularity Alpha received €3.9 million for blockchain and AI-enabled stratified trial system. This a highly secure blockchain-enabled, trustworthy and GDPR-compliant platform that matches patients with clinical trials, based on their personalised clinical and genetic data, ensuring complete patient control and ownership of that data and providing a future share of any value derived from this sharing.
“Another very interesting aspect of the DTIF is that we are seeing many of the applicants win industry awards and further funding at a European level as well,” says Dr Lambkin.
Covid-19 is likely to have an impact on the funding call, she believes. “This has been an extreme and unusual year and we are aware that the current situation regarding Covid-19 may be having a significant impact on the research, development and innovation activities of companies and academic researchers,” she says.
“It may have an impact on a company’s ability to apply for funding,” Dr Lambkin continues. “For example, will they be able to commit to three-year projects during a pandemic. They have different priorities like survival now. We are working to understand the nature of those impacts on projects.”
She says the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the DTIF will try to facilitate any appropriate measures that may prove necessary to assist applicants and will take a flexible, constructive approach and will consider issues on a case-by-case basis.