Business Irish

Friday 15 December 2017

Innovators and investors pitch in to develop future spin-out successes

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In recent years, dramatic changes have taken place in the composition of Irish exports with high-technology products and services now accounting for over 40pc of overseas sales.
In recent years, dramatic changes have taken place in the composition of Irish exports with high-technology products and services now accounting for over 40pc of overseas sales.

Gearoid Mooney

Later this month, the future of the Irish economy will be on display at the Helix Theatre in Dublin. Researchers and investors will come together to see what innovative Irish companies are achieving and to look to the next wave of innovators ready to bring their offerings to market.

In recent years, dramatic changes have taken place in the composition of Irish exports with high-technology products and services now accounting for over 40pc of overseas sales.

Irish-based companies and research institutes are global leaders in the research of agricultural science, materials science, photonics, imaging and nanoelectronics and we have a growing reputation for wider scientific excellence, evidenced by our ascent in the global ranking of citations.

Ireland is seventh in the Global Innovation Index and 14th in the world for international scientific citations per paper. We rank in the top five in disciplines such as immunology, nanotechnology, chemistry, animal and dairy and agricultural sciences, according to Thomson-Reuters data.

The European Commission ranks Ireland as number one for obtaining economic impact from the transfer of technologies from the academic research system.

An array of supports for in-house research and an extensive academic ecosystem - both of which often work in collaboration - has created a steady stream of innovations in recent years which are generating jobs and income and making a considerable difference to the world in which we live.

Some of the academic research spin-outs will be on display at Big Ideas 2016 at the Helix at the end of the month, illustrating how research is turned into profitable businesses.

Companies spun out from academic investigation and researchers looking for support in commercialising their innovation, pitch their offering to an audience of researchers, investors and Enterprise Ireland sectoral and commercialisation specialists. Participants will also have access to a panel of entrepreneurs giving insight into their own experience of taking an innovation from concept to contract.

Among those success stories at this year's event are: EmpowerTheUser, which is revolutionising training and assessment in the corporate world; Equilume, whose innovative product has transformed horse breeding; Obeo, a compostable food-waste box that no kitchen should be without; and Optrace, which is the global leader in using holographic technology to combat counterfeiting.

There will also be up-and-coming projects looking to spin-out as commercial ventures.

Among those pitching for investment are Guru Developments whose cloud-based software simplifies the academic exam process; Ostoform whose medical device manages and prevents skin complications suffered by ileostomy patients; and Phision Therapeutics which is developing drugs to treat blindness associated with diabetes and aging.

These are some of the ideas and companies that will drive the Irish economy into the future. Their potential is being supported by Innovation 2020, Ireland's strategy for research and development which aims to increase total investment in R&D led by the private sector, to over €5bn annually by 2020.

It is all very well knowing how to manipulate atoms to create the materials of the future, but turning a buck requires a very different type of know-how.

Part of the Innovation 2020 strategy involves the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation team working with the Technology Transfer Office at Ireland's academic institutions to plot a path for bringing the fruits of research to market, profitably.

This can involve providing supports such as incubation facilities, guidance on the fundamentals of running a business and mentorship.

It also involves advising entrepreneurs on how to capitalise on a spin-out opportunity through partnering with the academic sector to create what are known as spin-up companies.

If this all seems a bit academic, literally, then consider this. One Irish spin-out which began with an investment of €4,000 grew to be one of the largest software companies in the world and was sold for a whopping $162m. Anyone remember Iona Technologies? Its investors still do.

Gearoid Mooney is Enterprise Ireland divisional manager, research and innovation

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