Home » Entrepreneur » Academic partnerships are helping solve industry challenges

Paul Maguire

Head of Innovation and Enterprise, TU Dublin and Lead Partner, Dublin Region Innovation Consortium (DRIC)

Entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes need industry partnerships to help develop and bring their idea to a reality. Ireland’s research community is well positioned to assist.

The generation of an idea, and successfully developing that idea into a commercially successful business, is what Irish entrepreneurs are becoming more adept at. This process has been helped by the advancement of Irish research – basic or applied.

Open Labs by TU Dublin is a market focused initiative, which aims to remove barriers facing industry in engaging with universities, making world leading facilities and expertise more accessible. With 850 researchers, the university has an extensive range of research knowledge and expertise that can be harnessed as a powerful support to industry.

Partnerships and innovation are central to the mission of the university. Industry, large and small, can benefit from the expertise and skills of its staff as well the University’s state-of-the-art research facilities. Open Labs has supported over 150 start-ups and SMEs to develop new products and services and generated over €1.5 million in research income since 2018. The development of innovative ideas requires the support of people who can pinpoint the available funding options and provide real-world solutions.  

Support for companies of all sizes

Company size is not an issue for TU Dublin’s experts, who have helped some of the biggest companies in Ireland as well as those starting out. For small companies, this might involve a 4–8-week innovation project funded through the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme, or a desk-based assessment of market need and competitor analysis. For the biggest companies, it might involve multiple collaborators with significant funding, combining to develop new disruptive technology.

The development of innovative ideas requires funding and the support of people who can pinpoint the available funding options and provide real-world solutions.

The university thrives in helping companies to translate our research into an innovative, impactful product that can be sold commercially. They help staff members and students that have pioneering ideas, but are unsure how to bring them to the marketplace.

Industry is always on the look-out for new products, processes, or services that can disrupt whole industries and TU Dublin expertise can help them to achieve that. Their experts can also recommend what funding options may be available to leverage their costs. Their ability to help industry is testified through the fact that almost a third of industry clients are repeat customers.

Successful partnerships

Several success stories that have emerged out of these partnerships and made a big impact in their respective industries and societally.

Kastus developed an antimicrobial coating to protect smartphones and self-service kiosks. The coating was developed against bacteria but was is effective against COVID-19.

Micron Agritech developed a rapid, onsite test for parasites in cattle, which helps reduce antibiotic use by cattle farmers.

Ocumetra developed an eye-monitoring tool to predict when a person is becoming short-sighted and needs to see an optician. Their advances in myopia research are aiming to make treatment more accessible for all.

Ocumetra were a winner at the 2021 Knowledge Transfer Awards, while Micron Agritech was the best early stage start up in the 2020 National Startup Awards.

Students are an important part of the university’s success. The door is always open to a student with a great idea and the drive to develop it. There is more engagement with the innovation office than ever, and students are increasingly seeing starting a company as a career option that previous generations may not have.

Expansion into construction

The field of construction is changing fast, with new materials and methods required to make homes more sustainable and heat efficient. With this in mind, Open Labs by TU Dublin have launched a new construction industry research capability. The aim is that in the coming years, the building sector here can, through increased links with the university, help to reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint by adopting new design and manufacturing methods.

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