Combilift’s innovative approach to developing customised solutions’ for companies has recently secured it significant new business in Poland, building on an already strong presence there.

Irish engineering firm Combilift is a world leader in the materials handling market, specialising in solutions for challenging situations such as long or awkward loads, or where space is limited.

The multi-award-winning company takes a bespoke approach to each customer, beginning by looking at the challenges they face and working closely with them to develop products that completely meet their specific needs.

Helping Pekabex increase productivity

Pekabex S.A. is the leading manufacturer of prefabricated structures in Poland producing traditional reinforced as well as modern pre-stressed elements. With four plants each producing different pre-cast concrete elements, the company was keen to increase productivity, improve workflow and reduce product damage. It turned to Combilift for a solution.

“Combilift’s concept is built around the efficient use of space. Our multi-directional and articulated technology can double the capacity of any warehouse – but with our bespoke service, you can tailor your Combilift for the performance and precision that you need,” explains Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director of Combilift.

“After analysing Pekabex’s requirements we customised our Combi-SC and Combi-LC carriers to help the company meet its objectives.”

The Combi-SC is a straddle carrier that offers excellent manoeuvrability. Pekabex is now using a 50to Combi-SC in its Bielsko-Biala plant handling very heavy, long pre-cast concrete elements.

“The Combi-SC can be operated by remote control which maximises operator safety and still enables millimetre-precise and easy manoeuvrability. It is a low maintenance, flexible and cost-effective solution and, with a wide range of attachments, it is completely customizable to suit specific handling requirements.”

The Bielsko-Biala plant is also using a 60to Combi-LC handling 60m-long concrete elements.

“This Load Carrier is also operated by remote control and is equipped with a 360° turntable with a 0-axle function meaning the product will always be horizontal even if the floor is uneven.”

A special Combi-SC has also been customised for Pekabex’s plant in Gdansk where it is handling filigree slabs and wall elements. Further projects with the company are underway and will come to fruition later in the year.

The recent success in Poland has significantly contributed to Combilift’s target of doubling turnover every five years and looks set to accelerate the company’s growth.

Combilift innovation

Combilift employs more than 600 people at its purpose-built facility in Monaghan and its products can be found in over 85 countries. The company invests some 7% of revenue in research and development, putting innovation squarely at the heart of its business.

In the past 18 months alone Combilift has vbrought three new products to market but it has also applied its engineering expertise and ‘thinking outside the box’ approach to the Covid-19 crisis.

In response to the shortage of ventilators worldwide Combilift set up a project team and within five weeks had developed the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device that turns one ventilator into multiple ventilator stations.

Developed in collaboration with Ireland’s public health service, the HSE, the device uses standard pipes and fittings for easy assembly. Its individual patient filters prevent cross-contamination and each patient has a dedicated digital screen which allows medical professionals to individually monitor their vital information.

“This is very much designed as an attachment which can be added to any brand of ventilator. It costs a fraction of a standard ventilator and can be installed very easily into an intensive care unit environment. This is a not-for-profit activity which we hope will open up more opportunities for Combilift in the medical device area in future,” says Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director of Combilift.

Standing still during the lockdown earlier this year was neither an option nor a reality for XOCEAN. Remote teams dotted around the world came together to organise the logistics and operation of Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) to complete projects.

 

Since 2017, ocean data collection company, XOCEAN, has grown rapidly and excelled in delivering expert solutions within specialised sectors. The Louth-based outfit offers a range of turnkey data collection services to surveyors, companies and agencies.

“We’re an ocean data company,” XOCEAN CEO, James Ives says. “We’ve developed unmanned technology and systems to collect different types of ocean data. Everything from mapping the seabed to inspecting subsea assets like cables and foundations for wind farms. We also collect environmental data for several sectors like offshore renewables, particularly offshore wind. And we operate globally.”

XOCEAN’s mission is to transform ocean data collection by bridging the knowledge gap that lies in 95% of the world’s oceans being unmapped. In doing so, they aim to support the sustainable and economic growth of our oceans. With goals like these, there’s no time to slow down, and the company has been busy fulfilling multiple projects for clients lately. They are supporting clients with asset integrity inspections, deep-sea sensor data transfer missions in the UK and Norway, and seabed mapping to improve nautical chart accuracy, safety, and marine environment understanding. Ives tells us they have also delivered projects in an area that he finds particularly exciting: offshore wind.

One such project involved remotely delivering and launching a USV to the sea off Suffolk to undertake survey work for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and innogy SE. The vessel carried out seabed surveys on multiple turbines at the 140-turbine wind farm, located 23 kilometres off the UK coast.

Ives believes that the use of unmanned systems holds three key advantages that will be even more relevant in a post-COVID world. “First of all, safety. If nobody needs to go offshore, that removes people from harm’s way. Second is carbon emissions. We generate about a 1,000th of the emissions of a conventional survey ship, and we offset all of those emissions. The data we collect is fully carbon neutral. Finally, we believe we can deliver the data at a lower cost.”

Offshore wind reaping the benefits of data experts

As an industry that requires vast amounts of data, offshore wind is an area where XOCEAN can offer real value. Throughout a typical offshore wind project, Ives tells us, ocean data collection and analysis is essential.

“Before an offshore wind farm is built, it needs many years of environmental data and detailed studies of the seabed to determine where to place foundations and cables. Then throughout construction, there’s a need for multiple surveys. After it’s built and is operational, there’s a 25-year period of maintaining those assets.”

Offshore wind is a crucial technology leading the charge in the face of an energy system undergoing rapid change. Globally, investment in the area quadrupled in the first half of 2020 as governments look towards sustainable futures and meeting international energy targets in an economically viable way.

“The offshore wind sector has transitioned from perhaps being a more expensive form of energy than traditional forms of fossil fuel generation, to become a hugely economic way of generating electricity at large volumes,” Ives says. The growth of the industry is a testament to this: Offshore wind is anticipated to grow from 22 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 177 GW by 2030.

The Irish offshore wind potential

Ireland has the potential to power itself, surrounded by a resource yet to be fully harnessed. Irish companies are perfectly positioned to offer specialised services and capabilities such as IoT, robotics and wireless communications to the industry. Enterprise Ireland’s offshore wind industry cluster aims to empower Irish capabilities within the space, partnering to deliver global projects, and bring the expertise back to develop the domestic industry in Ireland.

Ives believes the Irish potential to become leaders in the field is strong. “Ireland is very fortunate that it has a lot of the ingredients needed for a very significant offshore wind market, particularly in the Irish Sea, where the water depths and wind resources are good. It’s an ideal place for very significant developments offshore.”

XOCEAN is building towards international success

Keeping cogs turning during a global pandemic is a sure sign of a bright future for XOCEAN. As well as having a keen eye on the offshore wind sector, Ives tells us that their focus is on fleet growth and entering new markets. “We’re working on the 10th and 11th vessels at the moment, and we continue to plan to build more units. We’re working further and further afield; in North America, throughout Europe, and we’re looking at several projects in the Asia Pacific region. We’re very excited about the future.”

Partnering with Enterprise Ireland

XOCEAN has maintained a close relationship with Enterprise Ireland since Ives flicked the switch in 2017. Through financial and market-entry supports, he says that the help they have received has been crucial and hopes to continue the relationship.

“We work very closely with Enterprise Ireland on a lot of activities, such as exhibitions and trade missions. And they’re very helpful for us in terms of introducing us to new clients in new markets. The international offices are fantastic at being able to provide that introductory service. We’re very grateful for the support we receive, and we look forward to continuing the relationship.”

XOCEAN is one of the 50 Irish companies currently involved with the EI offshore wind industry cluster, aiding in the development of expertise, the sharing of sector knowledge, and the introductions between new global partners.

“The Enterprise Ireland team is very focused on the offshore wind market. We’ve participated in offshore wind seminars, trade shows, and trade events. It’s an important market for Enterprise Ireland, and we agree. We feel that it has huge potential, so we would look forward to continuing that.”

Dublin based insurtech start-up Describe Data helps insurance underwriters develop a better understanding of risk, enabling them to price it properly and avoid the bad deals. “In the insurance industry there is a saying that there is no such thing as bad risk, just a bad price,” says Describe Data Chief Operating Officer Gerard de Vere.

The company uses data analytics to provide insights into financial lines risks such as directors and officers, employers practice liability, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions. “Our particular focus is on the directors and officers line,” says Chief Executive Michael Crawford. “This is insurance against companies being sued and provides protection for their directors and officers. Fifty per cent of the world market for that cover is in the US, due to the existence of class action suits there as well as the country’s highly litigious culture. We gather data on companies and their sectors and analyse it to help insurance underwriters assess the risks.”

This particular type of insurance is very specific to large corporations. “We are talking about very big risks,” Crawford adds. “The policies are being written by underwriters who analyse the risk in a qualitative way. We are putting in a quantitive overlay which helps them price the risk better and do it quicker.”

The insurance industry is not noted for its early embrace of technology, however. “That can be a challenge,” says Crawford. “The industry has been around for 300 years and it never really felt that it needed technology while there was still plenty of money to be made.”

But it couldn’t resist forever. “It has been happening in capital markets for the past 30 years,” says Crawford. “And we have seen technology and data analytics being applied to catastrophe insurance for quite a long time. A lot of those tools and techniques have matured and the cost of computational power has fallen through the floor. We now have access to computing power that would have been the preserve of large academic institutions or governments 15 years ago and we can deploy these advanced techniques and tools at an affordable cost. At the same time, open-source software has been developed that allows people to share the latest solutions. It’s been a perfect storm.”

The Describe Data product is a risk engine which produces insights across four levels. The first is the financial level where it gives financial information on the company and its sector. The next is litigation and the likelihood of lawsuits against the company or within the sector.

The risk evaluation level looks at what happens if different aspects of the risk are adjusted. “The underlying market for risk is highly sophisticated,” de Vere explains. “People in the industry trade bits of risk with each other all the time and it is possible to reduce exposure in this way.”

The final level is portfolio analysis. A company may have written hundreds of these policies and the system can slice and dice the portfolio to find risk hotspots. For example, companies in the same sector, or sectors with high levels of litigation, or companies with a poor track record, can be identified for the insurer either to increase premiums or cease cover at the next renewal date.

“It’s quite a dynamic market,” says de Vere. “We have met a lot of people in London who are very savvy at this sort of thing. They have an innate skill and are very good at it. We put technology in to make it better, quicker, stronger. We call it bionic underwriting.”

That emphasis on supporting the people in the industry is very important. “People come in with robotic process automation and try to say it will replace underwriters,” Crawford notes. “But you can’t replace 300 years of underwriting experience and the instincts and innate knowledge that comes with that. What we are offering is intelligent decision support tools which help people make better decisions faster.”

Crawford explains the value of these tools. “If a company takes 100 risks, four or five might claim. Three of those will be quite minor, one will be quite large, and one will be huge. We offer the ability to understand the risks and identify the bad ones. Avoiding the one with the very large claim can transform a portfolio from a margin of 5% or 6% to 20% or 25%.”

The company is now marketing the product following a delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We spent a couple of years developing the product after we started up in 2018,” says de Vere. “Towards the end of last year, we were looking for a large insurance company to partner with to take the product and prove it. We had a couple of promising leads and then the pandemic hit and the appetite for a pilot disappeared. We decided to double down and continue product development, and we completed that work during the lockdown. We now have a product ready to go to market and we are talking to a number of potential clients.”

Looking ahead, Crawford says the company will probably go to the market for a funding round next year. “We have been self-funded so far and will probably take on investment at the beginning of next year to sustain our growth. Enterprise Ireland has been amazing in helping us. We want to continue research and development and move into other lines of insurance. It’s a very interesting time to be doing this.”

To slightly rephrase an old proverb, innovation is born out of necessity – and never has the world been more in need than now, as Covid 19 continues to rage across the globe. But once again, Ireland is proving its worth as a nation of inventors by coming up with some truly life-changing responses to the pandemic – so much so that we are now ranked fifth in the world for global exports of Covid 19-related goods, according to the OECD.

A recent report from the OECD revealed that exports of Covid 19-related goods are concentrated in a few key countries. The top five global exporters, which together account for 49% of trade, are Germany, the United States, Switzerland, China and Ireland.

This report backs up the findings of a previous survey by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, that named Ireland as sixth in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic

Flexibility is key

The pandemic has shown once more how important it is for companies to be flexible in our rapidly changing world, in order to respond to the needs of the market. Many of Enterprise Ireland’s client companies have pivoted to develop solutions in areas such as contact tracing, traveller safety, Medtech and hygiene transparency in the hospitality sector.

Ireland is ranked as one of the top five global MedTech hubs, and many of our top companies have ramped up production in order to meet the world’s demands for nebulisers, ventilators and other treatment and protection equipment. For example, Medtronic, the world’s largest standalone medical device maker, produces ventilators in Galway and has more than doubled its workforce of 250 and moved to round-the-clock production. Enterprise Ireland client company Aerogen has also increased production of its aerosol drug delivery products through ventilators to patients in critical and intensive care. And, Galway-based M&M Qualtech, which produces ventilators, nebulisers and medical monitoring equipment for Medtech customers including Aerogen and Medtronic, has reported capacity demand three to five times higher than pre-crisis levels.

Technology innovations

Many Irish companies have also come up with technology solutions in a number of areas to help us through the crisis. Software development company NearForm worked with the HSE to develop Ireland’s national Covid Tracker app, which rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid 19. This technology is now being used in apps in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Scotland, and in several states in the US, including Delaware and Philadelphia.

Other Irish technology companies producing innovative solutions during the crisis include:

 

  • Scheduling software company Swiftqueue – optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres

 

  • Irish identity technology firm Daon– working with Denver International Airport to pilot a multi-faceted ‘seamless travel’ programme, designed to solve the challenges of bringing passengers and employees back to airports

 

  • Internet of Things specialist Taoglas – helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing

 

  • Digital mental health providers SilverCloud Health – opened up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the mental impact of Covid 19

 

  • News story tracker company NewsWhip – its Covid19 Live Story Tracker ensures its users receive accurate, real-time data and analytics

 

 

  • Cybersecurity exporter Edgescan – helping its clients understand, prioritise and mitigate cybersecurity risks for a remote workforce

 

  • Surface innovations company Kastus– its pioneering patent 24/7 antimicrobial coating technology for touchscreen/other surfaces has been proven to be effective against Covid-19 on surfaces

 

Innovative solutions

Other Irish companies are responding to the crisis by using their flair for innovation to come up with answers to help the crisis. Irish engineering firm Combilift is a world leader in forklift trucks and a specialist in solutions for challenging situations such as long loads or in limited space. Its team applied the same kind of ‘outside the box’ thinking to develop the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device that turns one ventilator into multiple ventilator stations.

Irish biotech company Aalto Bio has announced the availability of a new protein, SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (code CK 6404), for diagnostic test manufacturers, vaccine developers, and researchers globally, for use in the fight against Covid 19.

Novaerus, an Irish company specialising in medical-grade clean air solutions, produces a patented, portable air disinfection device, the Defend 1050, which has been proven to reduce MS2 Bacteriophage (a surrogate for Covid 19) by 99.99% in just 15 minutes.

Finally, Hibergene Diagnostics has developed an innovative new test for Covid 19, which delivers positive results in just 30 minutes – significantly faster than current tests.

These are just a few of the Irish companies that have responded positively to the current crisis, proving once again that innovation and flexibility are part of our DNA as a country.

Enterprise Ireland  spoke with Chris Ambler, Head of Asia Pacific at Arkphire, on the company’s plans to drive regional expansion from Singapore. This comes after the company announced an acquisition deal with Singapore-based Generic Technologies.

The full interview can be found here

Headquartered in Ireland, Arkphire is a world-leading managed services provider (MSP) delivering services across cloud, cybersecurity, networking and digital workspace technologies in addition to desktops, collaboration and data centre offerings. The company also provides IT procurement solutions to Multinational companies globally. Arkphire’s expansion into APAC is driven by demand from their multinational client base who want to set up operations in the region.

The company has seen significant growth in the past few years, from a modest €12 million in 2013 to €150 million in 2019 – a marker of its growing industry leadership as an established specialist in global IT procurement and tech services. As Arkphire continues on this growth trajectory, it was only a matter of time that the company expands its service offering and caters to rising demand for these services in the Asia Pacific region.

Responding to a question on Arkphire’s expansion plans for Asia Pacific, Chris Ambler shared, “The goal is to bring all of our solutions and partnerships that we provide in Europe, and offer them to our existing clients in the region. We also want to bring on new customers to expand our client base, and the real value is in our ability to share customers between Asia Pacific and EMEA and help support our clients’ growth across the globe.”

“Over the past few years, we have received a lot of requests from our clients to help with their challenges in Asia Pacific. So what we are bringing [to the region] is a lot of knowledge and experience, and the way I see it, we are going to grow our business to give our customers continuity globally across the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, and provide solutions  for all their IT procurement needs,” he added.

Generic Technologies quickly comes to the forefront as a strategic move for Arkphire. The Singapore-based business was built on the back of increased demand for Apple and Adobe technology and support services, with a specialist focus on digital and creative sector customers, in addition to local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Having grown to become a specialist authorised reseller of Apple, in addition to holding gold partner status with Adobe, Generic Technologies has recorded an annual turnover of €5.85m.

Singapore, one of the major business hubs in Asia Pacific, serves as a strategic launchpad for Arkphire’s regional plans. Often cited as a key gateway to Southeast Asia, Singapore is at the heart of Southeast Asia’s burgeoning tech and innovation landscape, one of the most vibrant and competitive innovation ecosystems in the world.

“It is important that we invest in the region to show that Arkphire is here to stay. If we’re going to do that, it is really key to identify a business that has pedigree and talent in the local market. The focus around this acquisition is to acquire the knowledge and expertise [that has been gained] over a long period of time to help us develop a solid foundation to grow the business locally, and [subsequently] expand across the region,” Ambler said.

Arkphire’s acquisition of Generic Technologies will deepen its ability to support a network of customers across Southeast Asia and help scale up service delivery model capabilities at a regional level. The acquisition is a landmark deal for Arkphire following the opening of its regional office in 2019 and will support the company’s expansion in the Asia Pacific market.

“We opened the Singapore office last year as the headquarters of the Asia Pacific business. We have since added Hong Kong and Japan as regional offices, and we are working on expanding those. Asia Pacific is a region where we see significant growth and opportunity for the business. We see the Asia Pacific market as a region where we can add significant value, and also where we can build a sustainable and long-term business to continue our growth,” said Ambler.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish state export agency, has played an important role in supporting Arkphire as the company navigates challenges in the region, according to Ambler. “Not only has Enterprise Ireland supported us through the initial stages of getting our business set up and running but the agency also linked us up with contacts that we needed to access to get things up and running in other countries, and help solve challenges that we face locally as well. Enterprise Ireland has been a significant help to us, and we look forward to what we can achieve as we continue to develop our business in the region,” he said.

Contemplating the unusual market circumstances that Asia Pacific and the world is currently in given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Ambler believes that technology will become a necessity to the survival and long-term resilience of businesses.

“Every business, no matter what they’re doing, has been disrupted in some way by the outbreak of Covid 19. Aside from the usual tele-conferencing technology that we’re seeing in these times, we foresee a big wave of new technology around digital workspace and office collaboration. Businesses also need to evolve and adopt technology so that their businesses can be more agile and survive business disruptions into the future .”

Arkphire is now positioned as the largest and fastest growing Irish headquartered IT procurement and IT managed services business. Arkphire Group has an unrivalled network of partnership accreditations with leading global IT vendors and is an Apple Authorised Enterprise Reseller (AAER), Check Point 4-Star, Cisco Gold, Citrix Platinum, Dell Titanium, HP Platinum, IBM Gold, Lenovo Platinum and Microsoft Gold Partner.

 

By Jack Callaghan, Senior Vice President (Digital Technology)

Digital Transformation of the modern workplace remains a crucial factor in preserving company culture, staying competitive, and enhancing customer connection.

The Covid-19 health crisis has resulted in extreme changes throughout the workplace which will have a lasting impact on various issues including how teams collaborate and interact, what tools and resources are available and what methods organisations engage to connect with customers.

And while there is no doubt that the pandemic posed many challenges across every sector, the mass transition to a more digital workplace has provided businesses with a taste of some of the productivity gains which can be achieved by the adoption of modern workplace applications and future workplace practices.

In this article, we will delve into the future of the workplace, the primary drivers of digital transformation and the advantages of becoming an intelligent enterprise by investing in digital modern workplace solutions.

What is a Digital Modern Workplace?

The Digital Modern Workplace consists of digital processes and platforms which address the way organisational teams interact, drive insights, automate business processes, and sell effectively.

Every company’s digital workplace is customised by a toolbox of solutions chosen to best support their employees’ work practices, to preserve company culture, and also to strengthen their connection to the customer.

And the four key pillars which must be considered when organisations first implement their internal digital strategy are as follows:

  1. Collaboration: This refers to the tools, software applications and systems designed to promote workplace collaboration, workflow productivity, and the sharing of project and task related information across teams
  2. Automation: The processes which reduce the amount of time spent handling mundane and repetitive tasks which will free employees up to work on more creative briefs. Automation includes artificial intelligence solutions, robotic process automation, bots, and virtual assistants
  3. Sales Enablement: These are the solutions which support sales and marketing teams to engage customers more efficiently, sell more effectively, and keep connected
  4. Security: This is a major consideration when it comes to digital modern workplace applications, so it is vital to have adequate controls to protect the business

The marketplace for digital modern workplace applications has also undergone significant change. Most notably, the Cloud continues to redefine the channels which connect digital modern workplace solutions to end users by making solutions more accessible (i.e. multi-cloud services & commercial cloud marketplaces) and enabling more functional integrations across applications.

This means that the process of deploying workplace software solutions has been made easier for organisations, allowing them to become more agile and flexible with the types of technologies they have in use while simultaneously saving significant expense and time – something which is necessary to onboard and scale new technologies as they become available.

Key Drivers of Digital Modern Workplace

While Covid-19 has had a severe impact on industry across all sectors globally, it is also true to say that even without it, we were heading into one of the most defining half decade periods for major changes to the workplace.

How businesses prioritise digital transformation after the current crisis will play a major role in their ability to compete in the not-so-distant future. And a long-existing driver of this transformation has come from how we are evolving socially. So while undoubtedly, digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic, it hasn’t actually been the primary driver.

Currently millennials make up less than 50% of the workplace, but by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up by this age bracket – the majority of whom believe in having the option to work from anywhere and also to focus on working intelligently rather than harder.

So as more and more millennials take over decision making roles, the direction of the workplace will change to favour digital tools and processes which facilitate remote working, improve communication, and increase both accessibility to information and digital task management for teams.

Also, the next wave of disruptive technology will be another impacting factor. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will not only improve business efficiency, it will also reduce the number of mundane tasks employees are currently having to perform, freeing them to focus on more meaningful and creative briefs, and further speeding up the innovation cycle.

We have already seen early examples of workplace AI including chatbots, virtual assistants, intelligent analytics, and robotic process automation. But over the next five years the reliance on solutions utilising AI will become much more instrumental in all competitive workplaces.

Lastly, as customer expectations continue to rise, so too does the need for businesses to embrace solutions which more effectively connect sales and marketing teams to meet the needs of the customers.

Digital workplace applications have opened more and more channels which connect organisations to customers, and they continue to transform how we approach sales, marketing, and customer experience. Commonly known examples may include Sales Force Automation (SFA) technology and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, which improve selling efficiency by allowing organisations to collect huge amounts of highly useful data which will continue to have an impact on future selling strategies.

Ireland as a Hub for Digital Modern Workplace Solutions

Irish companies are at the forefront of innovation in the digital workplace and are well-positioned to compete globally as companies seek new solutions to support employees digitally, preserve culture, automate process, and connect with their customer.

And below is a snapshot of some of the Irish innovators aligned to Collaboration Tech, Workplace AI Solutions, Sales Enablement and Customer Experience.

Collaboration & Workflow Management Solutions

Teamwork is a work and project management tool which helps both in-house and remote teams to improve collaboration, visibility, accountability and ultimately end results. Founded in Cork in 2007, Teamwork has continued to expand globally and currently they have seven offices worldwide, serving over 22,000 customers in 184 countries.

Workvivo is an internal communication and employee engagement platform which has been designed to connect employees with the goals and values of their organisation, build a strong culture of recognition, and promote collaboration across teams. Workvivo serves as the primary intranet for many of its customers, with companies ranging in size from 200 people to 85,000 people globally. In February 2020 it announced the opening of its first overseas office in San Francisco, and shortly afterwards closed its series A round with Tiger Global Management and Frontline Ventures.

Poppulo is a global leader in employee communications technology offering pioneering software and expert advisory services to enable organisations to plan, target, publish, and measure the impact of their communications across multiple digital channels, all in one place.

Workplace AI Solutions

Boxever is a personalisation platform which uses data and AI to help the world’s biggest brands make every customer interaction smarter and deliver game-changing customer experience. Boxever’s platform capabilities include omnichannel personalisation, customer segmentation, customer journey automation, optimisation and testing, and also analytics.

Webio, the Conversational Middleware Company, is on a mission to automate the worlds business to consumer conversations. Webio has built an interface platform which enables enterprises to automatically conduct all its existing customer interactions over any messaging platform. It is channel agnostic and is a fantastic solution which links information and services APIs to deliver the conversational interface.

Sales Enablement

Channel Mechanics transforms channel offerings through their Cloud based channel enablement PRM Platform, allowing vendors to rapidly deploy programmes with precision targeting and have real-time visibility into ROI. Ultimately this creates competitive advantage as it enables sales ideas to be quickly transformed into targeted and focused offers giving partners the offer they need, when they need them and eliminating the old ‘Spay and Pray’ approach.

Solgari is the enterprise solution for organizations with demanding, multi-channel needs, who are looking to increase efficiency and effectiveness, meet all related compliance requirements, and to delight customers. Their solution has made a global impact and is being used in over 40 countries to-date, serving customers across financial services, fintech, retail, e-commerce and many more, all on a per user per month SaaS model.

If you’d like to connect with innovative Irish companies, click here .

Based in its state-of-the-art distribution and training facility in Oswestry in Shropshire, Aico has been a market leader in domestic fire and carbon monoxide (CO) protection for the past three decades. Pioneering new technologies, the company offers high-quality alarms designed, developed and manufactured in its parent company’s factory in Shannon on Ireland’s western seaboard.

The partnership between Aico and EI Electronics, its parent, dates back to 1990 and between them they now employ 930 people across the UK, Ireland and Europe, with annual sales reaching €240 million in 2019. “Our success is built not only on producing the highest-quality alarms, but also through passionate people, continued innovation, exceptional service and unrivalled support,” says Aico National Sales Manager Steve Trafford.

EI Electronics was founded in Ireland in 1963 as a subsidiary of US multinational GE. When GE entered the fire alarm market in the early 1970s, EI Electronics was awarded the manufacturing and R&D mandates for the new product line. That was followed by a significant reorganisation at GE which saw three senior executives buy out the Irish subsidiary.

“That was the beginning of EI Electronics as a private Irish company,” comments EI Director Brendan Barry.

Demand for domestic fire protection products had surged in the UK following the tragic King’s Cross fire in 1987 and EI Electronics was selling into the market through a tie-in with Black & Decker. That company subsequently exited the fire alarm and security market, leaving EI Electronics with the task of developing its own consumer brand.

That’s when a newly established distribution company came calling. “Aico approached us in 1990 to supply our products to them,” Barry recalls. “It was an easy decision for us to make. We were hungry for business at the time, but we couldn’t have foreseen what this partnership would lead to.”

Another critical milestone on the Aico journey came in 1992 with a change to the UK Building Regulations which required mains-powered smoke alarms to be fitted in all new homes. That saw the beginning of a very strong relationship with local authorities and social landlords throughout the UK.

“I was working in the social housing sector in the late 1990s,” Steve Trafford points out. “The 1992 Building Regulations had been followed by the introduction of new standards for fire alarms in 1995. We fitted a lot of Aico detectors back then. We always used the specified brand and that tended to be Aico. We weren’t very comfortable with other brands, Aico was trusted and proven. The underlying technology may have changed and improved over the years, but nothing has changed in relation to quality. Nothing is batch tested. Every product is individually tested four times before it leaves the factory.”

The company was well placed to respond to these market changes, according to Barry. “We had the right products at the right time, and we grew very quickly in the social landlord and local authority market. Our success is built on having really good complementary operations in the UK and Shannon.”

Continuous improvement and product development are also central to Aico’s success. “We introduced Kaizen manufacturing methodology in the 1990s and we continuously improve our products and processes,” says Barry.

Innovation comes from both arms of the company. “It can be Aico-led in some cases, and if it’s under the cover, it is led from here,” Barry explains. “There is very strong creative cross-over. Aico works very closely with our customers and listens to them so that we can continue to fulfil their changing needs.”

So strong was the relationship between the two companies that EI Electronics acquired Aico in 2004. “When the owner wanted to sell the business, it was a natural move for us to acquire it. The partnership had worked so well for us up until then we wanted to continue with it. I can’t remember a year since then when we haven’t had double-digit growth.”

Aico works very closely with the contractors who install its products. “Education is critical to everything we do,” says Trafford. “Educating our own people, educating the market in terms of changing standards. We have trained more than 25,000 electrical contractors in the UK free of charge over the years. It’s part of their continuing professional development. When we change a product, we offer free training to update them on it. We have four mobile training facilities out on the road supported by our Centre of Excellence in Oswestry.”

Looking to the future, Trafford notes that advances in connected home technology will bring further benefits to customers. “We are incorporating IoT technologies into our products. This will enable customers to get a lot more information from sensors in homes and upload it to the cloud. For example, our biggest social landlord customers might have 100,000 properties, with four or five devices in each. If someone has had an alarm activation in London or tampered with a device in Edinburgh, they will know about it immediately if the devices are connected to our home gateway.”

That capability also has implications for social care. “Our ageing population means that a lot of tenants may require additional care,” Trafford adds. “If the landlord is able to get information about the temperature in the home, they will know if the tenant is heating it properly. And that’s just the beginning.”

Turnover has been doubling every five years. “We believe this will continue and that we will reach €400 million by 2023,” says Barry. “Our main markets at present are the UK, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia. We are selling into a number of other European markets, including Finland, Norway and France, and we are at the initial stages in North America.”

Listen to Episode 4 of the Enterprise Ireland Evolve UK Podcast with EI Electronics/AICO on how collaboration across the Irish Sea led to unprecedented growth for the Irish Company

Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences are finally becoming an integral part of our lives, with many Irish companies producing innovative solutions in several industries. These industries include education & training, manufacturing & industrial, and the original use case of AR/VR, gaming & entertainment.

 

Education and Training

The use of immersive technology for education and training is anticipated to be one of the largest areas of growth, with predictions stating that it has the potential to boost global GDP by $294 billion by 2030. Fortune 500 companies including UPS and Walmart have introduced immersive technologies for employee training and development with Walmart reporting an increase in user retention across their academies of between by 10-15%.

Irish technology companies have been responding to this trend, creating innovative and authentic training experiences to be consumed in an immersive environment. Irish VR production studio VRAI creates powerful VR training experiences with a focus on hazardous material training. Their platform Hazardous Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) uses both VR and artificial intelligence (AI) to make training more authentic and measurable, while reducing risk to the employee. HEAT allows employers to track and measure progress over time by using AI to generate reports and insights to track training effectiveness and identify predictive indicators of future performance

Branching out from their traditional broadcast and media focus, Digisoft is using digital twin technology to create training environments for life sciences labs. Their product CyberTwin creates a digital replicate of labs and facilities to ensure an efficient and safe working environment by eliminating unnecessary visitors. This allows for new recruits to be kept away from the production area until they are ready to enter, while also ensuring a deeper level of learning through interactive engagement.

 

Improving accuracy and efficiency

Immersive technologies are also being used across the manufacturing, energy and utilities sectors to improve efficiency and accuracy of workflows. For example, Boeing uses AR glasses to guide technicians as they wire aircraft, reducing production times by 25% and error rates to almost zero.

Irish company Utility AR creates AR solutions for sectors including manufacturing, pharmaceutical and utilities that allow the user to interact with the real world while accessing existing databases and software systems. Their Remote Advisor platform allows a more experienced technician use the forward-facing camera on a pair of AR smart glasses to see what the local technician is seeing. They can then provide feedback via audio or using onscreen markups. These technologies can prevent delays in getting crucial work completed while also helping to reduce the experience gap.

 

Immersive Gaming and Entertainment

AR/VR technologies originally had the most impact in the gaming industry, and this market still accounts for approximately 50% of total VR software sales. A well-known success in this space is Pokemon Go, an AR mobile app that garnered more than 500 million downloads and $470 million in revenue in its first 80 days.

Founded by Nikki Lannen in 2013, Irish game development studio War Ducks has released several best-selling VR games including Sneaky Bears and Rollercoaster Legends. The studio is now in the process of developing one of the industry’s most anticipated AR game for mobile, which will be released later this year.

In addition, holograms, 3D images created by photographic projections, have been steadily gaining momentum in the space. Volograms, a spin-out from Trinity College Dublin, has taken this technology to the next level. Their platform enables the capture of real people into volumetric holograms, volograms, which can be enjoyed within all kinds of AR & VR experiences, apps and social media.

Finally, not all immersive experiences need to be enjoyed in a headset or a through a screen, with immersive in-person events increasing in popularity as society demands more interactive experiences and brands work to create more engaging live content. Creative production studio Algorithm specialises in creating powerful immersive experiences using a variety of creative technologies including 3D mapping projections, LED arrays and holograms. Their focus on live experiences ensures the audience member watches the real world interact with the digital as part of artistic performances, festivals and events.

Immersive technologies are on their way to becoming significant parts of both our personal and professional lives. At Enterprise Ireland, we are committed to working closely with Irish companies that are becoming major global players in this exciting sector.

For more information, please get in touch with our San Francisco-based market advisor, Hannah Dobson – hannah.dobson@enterprise-ireland.com

 

 

 

With a huge leap in the number of people out of work around the world and some employers lacking the confidence to hire right now given wider macroeconomic uncertainties, it can seem like a bleak time for the jobs market.

It’s not all bad news, however, with many sectors temporarily stopped or slowed down rather than being in a long-term funk, meaning hiring plans are still active, if delayed in some cases. In some sectors hiring is continuing at pace, but recruitment teams can find themselves overwhelmed or frustrated by bottlenecks.

Two Irish talent tech companies offer solutions that not only enable companies to source their talent pipelines in a much more efficient, engaging and forward-thinking way, but also enable them to level up their entire candidate management process.

Rezoomo: future-focused talent acquisition

For companies anticipating increased workforce needs down the line, talent acquisition software firm Rezoomo has the answer. With its Future Roles feature, companies can post roles they expect to need to fill in three, six or 12 months’ time. Not only does this offer hope to candidates, but it also enables companies to build up talent pools.

“We have companies use it to build up a database of talent when they know they have an upcoming project or will be opening a new office or, in the case of hospitals, adding a new ward,” says Cathal Doorley, founder and CEO of Rezoomo.

This feature is just one element of Rezoomo’s recruitment software. “It includes an applicant tracking system, candidate relationship management, employer branding, candidate experience and candidate management into one intuitive all-inclusive solution with video at its core,” says Doorley. “Effectively, we take the offerings of four or five companies and roll them into one easy-to-use, intuitive platform.”

Video has become critical to companies seeking to recruit at scale, he says, pointing out that candidates are more likely to look at video first than any other information in a job ad. “We see job ads with video get 34% more applications,” he says.

Rezoomo comes with a built-in recording system, making it easy to create rich and engaging recruitment campaigns, but also to send video and audio messages to candidates during the hiring process.

“Every time you engage with a candidate, you can send a video or audio message instead of a text message. For example, you could make a video rejection or thank you. It creates a more personalised approach for candidates and allows recruiters to build a rapport with them.”

Furthermore, if someone applies for a job, they can update it any time they want, meaning the employer always has an updated version of that CV if they are reviewing their pipeline of potential candidates.

Set up seven years ago and used by hotel groups, retail groups and food service chains among others, Rezoomo also counts multiple hospitals and healthcare providers among its users. “It’s built to be used by any company of any size anywhere,” says Doorley.

vsource: boosting efficiency and diversity in hiring

When it comes to scaling recruitment efforts, companies can feel they have to choose between recruitment software companies that use machine learning to find candidates or recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firms that use people to recruit candidates. You can have the best of both worlds, however. vsource combines both approaches, using technology and human input.

A talent sourcing and engagement platform, vsource uses artificial intelligence, search algorithms and skilled human insights to find and engage with candidates, including passive candidates who are not actively seeking a new role. Household name global tech companies, including Amazon, Cisco, Google, McAfee and Pandora, use it to hire for open positions, scale projects and expand the talent pool in their pipelines.

“It’s about transforming the recruitment process from a relationship-based activity based on gut feel to a data-informed broader system,” says James Galvin, founder and CEO of vsource. Furthermore, he says, it can reduce bottlenecks and make hiring fairer, especially as remote work is commonplace now, says Galvin.

“Up to now, recruiters have often ended up hiring people they already know, but if you want to really scale and be fair to people from different backgrounds, you need to know who is out there and the skills they have.”

As recruiters reimagine how they work, it’s also an ideal time to shift to hiring based on potential rather than seeking candidates who are an exact fit based on current needs. vsource offers that talent pipeline and also enables recruiters to build networks of candidates for the future.

“They might think, ‘Well, in three years we expect we will be hiring a lot of people similar to this candidate’, so they can start talking to and getting to know people in the pipeline. Instead of looking at the same small group of candidates, they can cast the net much wider. It is much fairer from a diversity perspective — it’s all about the pond you’re fishing in.”

Despite the initial shock of Covid-19, many firms are now seeing this period of disruption as an opportunity to reassess and improve how they care for and develop employees, and ultimately build better organisations.

These three Irish talent tech firms are supporting HR teams and managers at global firms as they examine how a push for employee development, behavioural change and organisational transformation can help businesses build strong capability for the future, whatever it may bring.

Our Tandem: Helping to shape workplace culture

While companies have had many organisational challenges in adjusting to the ‘new normal’, the human side of remote working has been the most critical.

“We are all social beings,” says Jim O’Brien, one of the co-founders of Our Tandem, a performance management technology company based in Ireland, with offices in London, New York and Toronto. “We have lost that time we used to have to interact with colleagues and build trust in the workplace, so organisations are looking for ways to replace it.”

Our Tandem re-imagines the world of work to provide a digital employee experience and engagement solution, designed to ignite and sustain a workplace culture that inspires all employees. With a new vision for performance management, Our Tandem delivers a toolkit in the form of a desktop site or an app, to develop the people in the organisation, break down barriers and deliver a rich and meaningful solution.

Initially, Our Tandem was more focused on being a feedback channel, but it has evolved, says O’Brien. “It is now a culture change tool, helping you to shift the culture from one of low feedback or judgmental feedback, to one where the entire employee experience – from feedback, to goals and check-ins and surveys are an everyday experience, with no surprise or fear involved.”

Our Tandem includes crowdsourced real time feedback, regular check-ins and goals (which accelerates the capability of managers to coach), pulse surveys, structured 360s and insightful analytics, meaning the entire employee experience can be measured at every touchpoint. It integrates with existing HR and comms tools, and Our Tandem has also partnered with Willis Towers Watson to provide change management services and training.

“There is always an element of change management with the rollout of an Our Tandem implementation and is something that is very important to us as an organisation,” says O’Brien. “The tech itself isn’t a silver bullet, but the platform encourages this culture change.”

These include nudge functionality, which encourages managers to share feedback with team members, and prompts to push feedback recipients to engage with those who send feedback — which helps to foster supportive employee relationships.

Founded in 2016, Our Tandem has built a large client base across Europe, mostly comprising enterprise customers. Among others, these include financial firms such as Swiss Re, Abn Amro, Axa, and Société Générale and luxury brands such as Cartier and Mont Blanc.

PulseLearning: caring for employees, caring for business

In these challenging times, it’s vital for employers to have a culture of safety and care, says Pa Fealy, CEO of PulseLearning, an award-winning, global learning company founded in 1999.

“People often have a deep desire to help each other but they’re not sure what to do. On the flipside, we all need help sometimes, but we are not sure how to ask for it PulseLearning seeks to bridge the gap between someone who has a willingness to help and someone who needs help.”

PulseLearning created the I Am Here employee mental health and wellbeing programme with clinical experts to facilitate cultural change within organisations. It promotes an environment where asking for help is encouraged and facilitated. It has already been launched to more than 850,000 people.

As part of theI Am Here programme, all team members begin to understand the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Some choose to become more actively involved by becoming Tribe Members or Ambassadors. This affords them the opportunity to take a lead role to ensure I Am Here is embraced within the organisation.. “With support including scenario-based training, we give teams the courage, confidence and skills to show they care, ask the question and call for help,” says Fealy.

PulseLearning’s I Am Here programme is demonstrating that clients using I Am Here, see an increase in the use of employee assistance programmes and a significant, sustained reduction in sick days and workers’ compensation claims for clients.

“We believe an evidence-based mental health programmes is a unique differentiator for businesses and shows measurable financial impact,” says Fealy, pointing to a recent Deloitte study which found one-sixth of workers in the UK have a mental health problem at any one time, with stress, anxiety and depression causing almost half of all working days lost.

“I Am Here fundamentally creates a behavioural and cultural change in an organisation. Mental health and wellbeing supports are not just a nice-to-have, they are a need-to-have. Loss of time in the business by a Team Member has a business impact as well as a human impact.”

Beyond mental health and wellbeing, PulseLearning also provides learning solutions on topics as diverse as induction and onboarding, sales enablement, compliance and more to clients globally. It has subsidiaries in Australia, Canada and the US. Its clients include Adobe, Ericsson, Nissan, Roche, Sage and many other global names across multiple sectors.
Register for I Am Here at www.iamheretribe.com

Code Institute: upskilling for digital transformation

Upskilling is a real concern for any company engaged in digital transformation, especially as it can leave experienced employees doing their best with outmoded skills.

Time and again, however, the Code Institute has seen large firms being able to take their seasoned employees and help them adapt, thereby benefitting both the workers and their employers.

“Take BT, which is a huge telecoms giant,” says Jane Gormley, Director of Employer Engagement at the Code Institute. “It had a really large network of hardware engineers who understood the mechanics of the business and the industry, but whose skills were becoming outdated as BT moved to a digital network.

“Our talent assessment tool can be rolled out to 10,000 people at once. BT used it to find the people were interested in and suited to becoming a developer, and put them through a training programme.”

Both companies and workers are increasingly realising, she adds, that training is an ongoing process. “Giving existing staff new skills is vital to successful digital transformation and also supports internal mobility for employees. We all know there is a massive digital skills shortage, but it is really positive to be able to retain your existing experienced staff. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Code Institute’s core product is a university-accredited diploma in full stack web development. Its content is reviewed quarterly under the auspices of an industry council, which includes representatives from Accenture, Intercom, Microsoft and PayPal, among others. While individuals can sign up to study, the Code Institute also works closely with HR and learning and development teams within corporate clients.

The online learning environment includes 24/7 student chat support, a personal tutor and the learning management system itself, which is primarily video-based and which tracks students so they can be contacted and supported if they are falling behind. Each student is also assigned a developer working in industry to act as their mentor.

In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

From boosting physical and psychological health to enabling better employee communications and performance management, Irish talent tech companies are leading the way.

The five companies showcased below provide companies around the world with cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees.

Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments.

Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

“We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.

“Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture. People need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.”

Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

Woodies, an Irish chain of DIY stores, found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform, including NETGEAR. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, and with Eric Yuan of Zoom as an existing investor, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.

Frankli: automating continuous performance management

While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

“Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli, which is headquartered in Sligo. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition.

“People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

“Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.

Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

“If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

“They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

With users in Ireland and India, including ABP, one of the biggest media houses in India and Kingston Technologies a multinational hardware manufacturer, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK.
So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them to make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.

“The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.”

Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars, including , Michelle Fogarty, former Head of HR in EMEA for Twitter — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

“We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

“We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has a global user base in over 10 countries, including PayPal, AIB and Northern Trust. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”

Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed

Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

“POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources and offers tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journalling,” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

“The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

“POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During Covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard”.

Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

“All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

Enterprise Ireland client companies have helped put Ireland into the top echelon of countries whose innovative solutions are helping to reduce the impact of Covid-19.

A global survey ranks Ireland among the top countries in the world for producing innovative solutions to the current crisis.  Ireland has come sixth in a global ranking of those responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic.

Inventive solutions coming out of Ireland span everything from med tech devices to diagnostics solutions and contact tracing software, and place the country just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.

The survey is compiled by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, in association with the UN-backed Health Innovation Index (HIEx) and partners such as Crunchbase, a US business information platform.

Ireland’s top ranking position reflects the fact that within weeks of the World Health Organisation declaring the pandemic, on 11th March, more than 100 Enterprise Ireland client companies had responded with innovative solutions.

As a result Ireland is one of just a few in the Top 20 country ranking which is singled out by the report’s authors for “over-performing in Covid-related innovation”.

The rankings consider the number of innovations in each country, giving extra points for those which it selects as ‘outstanding’ in the fight against the virus.

The scale and scope of Ireland’s innovation response to the pandemic is immense. It includes examples such as nutraceuticals firm Mervue Labs in Cork partnering with iconic drinks maker Irish Distillers to create hand sanitisers.

Similar initiatives are to be seen among human and animal health companies such as Univet, Chanelle and Ovelle.

Irish mask maker Irema, a contract manufacturer to US conglomerate 3M and other medical device suppliers, has expanded its workforce and built a new production line to ramp up production of reusable respirator-grade masks.

Ireland’s engineering sector stepped up to the plate quickly too. Long established companies such as Automatic Plastics and Key Plastics, whose clients range from pharmaceutical and food packaging to telecoms and aerospace, pivoted to manufacture face shields for use by health service workers.

High potential start ups are responding fast too, with CALT Dynamics, a 3-D printing company backed by Stanley Black & Decker, making protective visors.

Software companies have risen to the challenge with alacrity.  Clinical practice management solutions company Wellola launched a secure patient communication portal for general practitioners in Ireland’s national health service, the HSE. By providing treatment remotely, it is helping to keep queues and wait times down, while at the same time protecting both doctor and patient from the spread of Covid-19.

Scheduling software company Swiftqueue is optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres.

Irish medical devices innovators are coming to the rescue too. PMD Solutions, creator of pioneering patient monitoring devices, is trialling a new respiratory monitoring solution in one of Dublin’s biggest hospitals.

Jinga Life allows people to securely record, store and share their own medical information. By providing for the digital transfer of things such as CT scans, MRIs and x-rays, it reduces the risk of infection from handling current technologies such as CDs.

Digital healthcare company PatientMpower provides tech solutions for people living with long term illnesses. Its remote monitoring enables clinicians to provide continued high quality care to vulnerable patients without the need for hospital visits during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the world’s leading digital mental health providers, SilverCloud Health, is opening up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the impact of Covid-19.

The Irish company has offices in Boston, Dublin and London and clients such as Ireland’s HSE and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and Canadian retail pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart. It is providing programmes on stress, sleep and resilience for free to its clients’ 150 million customers.

Tracking and tracing is an effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19 and Waterford based software development company NearForm is working with Ireland’s HSE to develop a mobile tracing app for the disease.

The potentially life-saving app will facilitate the rapid notification of people who have been in contact with someone who is subsequently been found have tested positive for the virus.

Irish artificial intelligence start up Oblivious AI has developed a Covid19 contact tracing solution that provides accurate information at speed while at the same time protecting people’s privacy. It is being piloted in India.

Internet of Things specialist Taoglas is helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Augmented reality hand washing app SureWash, which is already used by healthcare workers globally to ensure proper hand hygiene, has been made available by the company to the general public, to stem the spread of the virus in the community.

Dublin based HiberGene Diagnostics, a developer of molecular diagnostics tests for human infectious diseases, is developing a new and rapid test for the novel coronavirus, based on non-invasive human samples such as swabs.

Because it is a “near patient test”, samples will be taken and tested on location, without needing to be sent offsite to a laboratory. It could produce a positive COVID 19 result many times faster than the fastest existing molecular diagnostic tests.

Fellow Irish biotech company Aalto Bio Reagents has launched a new protein with the power to fight the Covid-19 on three fronts – diagnosis, vaccines and research.

Irish med tech company Aerogen has pioneered new ways to help people in respiratory distress using aerosol drug delivery technology.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, Aerogen has an in-line circuit design, which means the ventilation circuit does not need to be broken for drug delivery. Its management team believes it could therefore be a viable option to help deliver industry-leading care to patients infected with Covid-19.

Finally, innovative plasma technology developed by Irish company Novaerus is helping to close the infection control loop of hands, surfaces and now air. It uses a patented technology that kills airborne viruses by sucking air from a room and passing it through patented plasma coils which destroy them, reducing the risk of cross-infection.

Irish companies are continuing to respond to the pandemic challenge with resourcefulness and creativity, says Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s divisional manager for innovation and competitiveness. “We are seeing companies innovating, adapting and creating new solutions.”