Home » Innovation & Development » Bringing industry and academia together to foster regional growth

Richard Hayes

VP for Strategy, SETU

Sudeepth Nair

Technology Transfer Manager, SETU

Modern businesses must continuously find innovative solutions if they are to grow sustainably while minimising costs — and partnering with a university is one way to do it.

Investing in innovation for a company involves investigating more cost-effective production practices, new materials and novel approaches. However, while many companies seek to innovate, they often do not have the time or expertise to invest significantly in innovation because of day-to-day operational challenges. 

Gateways providing business solutions 

In the south east of Ireland, organisations ranging from startups and SMEs to multinational organisations can be supported to innovate by tapping into a range of training programmes, state-of-the-art facilities and a wealth of knowledge and talent at South East Technological University (SETU), which has campuses in Waterford, Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny and Wicklow. 

Its Technology Transfer Office (TTO) acts as the bridge between industry and academia by applying knowledge and innovation from research to support firms in the region, understanding the issues and challenges they face and offering practical solutions. 

In partnership with Enterprise Ireland, SETU has established four Technology Gateways closely aligned to the regional manufacturing and business landscape to help foster the commercialisation of technologies that emerge from research and provide the kind of innovation that can help businesses

Regional priority areas 

The Gateways — Design+, PMBRC, SEAM, and the Walton Institute — cover areas of advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0; ICT; life sciences and pharmaceuticals; sustainable agriculture, eco-innovation and food-tech; and financial and business sectors. 

Richard Hayes, Vice President for Strategy, explains: “Our research approach is to be closely aligned with the regional need and very focused on supporting regional development.” The TTO and regional businesses are brought together via networking events, conferences, EXPOs, roadshows and social media.  

However, companies outside those priority areas are not excluded from TTO support. The TTO also provides consultancy services, collaborates with industry on European projects, brings in partners, co-funds PhD education, connects with research and development facilities, hosts startups in its incubator, identifies funding opportunities and has programmes to highlight and address skills gaps. 

Our research approach is to be closely
aligned with the regional need and very
focused on supporting regional development.

Richard hayes

Helping companies grow 

Technology Transfer Manager Sudeepth Nair, who is responsible for converting research outcomes from the university’s programmes into commercial outcomes to benefit business and industry, explains that organisations collaborate with SETU at various stages of the innovation process — from early-stage ideas to accessing their existing commercially valuable research outputs. 

“We are here to make the right connections. It is often challenging to navigate the innovation ecosystem at any academic institution. The TTO connects businesses with the right resources and domain experts, to help advance their research and support their innovation activities by implementing our research-based knowledge,” explains Nair. “We can help across all sectors and help them advance their technologies forward to commercialisation.” 

Contributing to regional growth 

The University’s strategic plan, ‘Connecting for Impact’, outlines its mission to lead innovation and change for the region. That includes growing its population of PhD students to 400 and increasing the value of enterprise research agreements by 30% before 2028. 

In addition, a high-profile expression of the university’s ambition and commitment to the region’s economy has seen the creation of the University-Enterprise Quarter co-locating industry, education and research activities on the site of the former Waterford Crystal site in Waterford city. 

Access to modern innovation and expertise 

Hayes underlines adding value for the region. “In the 21st century, if you are not innovating, you are going backwards,” he says. “However, companies do not typically have the internal capacity to be innovators because they are busy running the business, so they need to plug into SETU to access expertise, cutting-edge thinking and technology. 

“By elevating economic performance and retaining talent in the region, we can contribute to and make an impact on the regional economy, society and culture, creating sustainable high-end and high-quality jobs.” Over the next four years, they aim to grow and offer a more seamless transfer of knowledge to industry by supporting social and economic development. 

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