Monday 10 December 2018

Disruptive tech brings great opportunities for Irish firms

Many Irish companies face challenges posed by the emergence of disruptive technologies.(stock photo)
Many Irish companies face challenges posed by the emergence of disruptive technologies.(stock photo)

SME Advice: Declan Black

The way companies do business is changing rapidly, with emerging disruptive technologies impacting how they will operate, what they will offer customers and the skills they need for the future. Enterprises must innovate to develop new capabilities, products and services to stay relevant and competitive.

Disruptive technologies have improved how business is done but present companies with greater challenges and higher risks. Harnessing emerging technologies to develop market solutions requires new capabilities to be built to overcome these challenges.

With the pace of change accelerating, it is crucial that we encourage Irish enterprises to engage with these opportunities.

Government and Irish state agencies recognise that companies will require enhanced supports to address these challenges. One such support is the new Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), to encourage enterprises and researchers to collaborate to assist Irish companies target opportunities. It will also help connect and build on substantial capabilities in Ireland to support the development of world-leading technologies and solutions.

The DTIF is a €500m Government initiative, with €90m made available in 2019-2021, supporting the development of innovative solutions and disruptive technologies that have the potential to significantly alter markets and their functioning and to shape the way that businesses operate. The fund will support projects with a value exceeding €1m.

Research shows that investment in innovation delivers increased company turnover, exports and profitability. Companies that collaborate perform even better, as partnering with others to solve challenges enables them to improve their service and product offerings more quickly. Yet, in GDP terms, the amount Irish companies spend on innovation is roughly half that of other small open economies in Europe.

Meanwhile, the performance gap between companies that consistently invest in innovation and those that do not is increasing annually.

The emergence of trends like Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) signals a new age of industrial change. Many Irish companies face challenges posed by the emergence of disruptive technologies, such as artificial and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, sensors and data analytics, smart materials, 3D additive manufacturing and biotechnology developments.

The DTIF will help ensure that Irish companies can respond to these challenges and target opportunities to ensure we can engage in new supply chains and develop attractive products and services to meet future industry and consumer needs.

The DTIF will bring together Ireland's strongest business sectors in order to, for example, create links between ICT companies and the medical devices or food sectors.

Potential disruptive outcomes include things like the development of autonomous driving features for vehicles, the ability to use blockchain to track food quality and other products through the supply chain, or the application of real-time monitoring of physiological conditions to improve the delivery of medicine.

The response to the call for expressions of interest was extremely strong, indicating the volume of Irish enterprises with the appetite to disrupt their industries. This ambitious fund has energised companies to invest in development of new solutions with global appeal.

The fund has the potential to encourage development of world-leading disruptive market solutions that can enhance Ireland's international reputation as a hub in which innovative solutions are developed.

Enterprise Ireland is keen to work with companies that want to explore how they can build innovation capabilities to develop such solutions. We believe innovative offerings will emerge from projects supported through the DTIF, as Irish companies are inspired to push ideas with the highest commercial potential through development to win business in international markets.

  • Declan Black is innovation development manager at Enterprise Ireland.

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