With digital banking being on the rise, Botswana Savings Bank (BSB) has chosen CR2, the global leading digital banking provider, to launch a suite of next-gen digital banking channels and payments services. The move forms the central pillar to the BSB digital transformation strategy to provide a suite of value-added digital services to their customers.

Headquartered in Ireland, CR2 is world-leading provider with a market leadership position in Africa, within the Digital Banking Platform market enabling over 100 banks in 60 countries to seamlessly connect and engage with their customers on the most critical banking channels today.

The sheer importance of providing dynamic digital banking payments and services has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic as customers move away from branches and physical interaction.

With CR2’s next generation BankWorld platform, BSB will have the ability to digitally onboard customers remotely, allowing the bank to efficiently increase its customer reach. The new suite of digital services will give BSB’s customers full access to relevant lifestyle-based digital services such as Person to Person payments and utility payments. Customers will enjoy an enhanced digital experience as they will be able to access their accounts, products, loans and mortgages remotely whilst being able to track their spending and budgets through Personal Financial Management, creating a better all-round customer experience.

Kabelo Ngwako, BSB Director of Support Services looks forward to working with CR2 on this significant milestone for the bank. “This investment for BSB is important and we were careful to select an experienced and trusted vendor with knowledge of our market.  As CR2 are highly rated and recognised by analysts as a world leading provider of digital banking platforms we know that by bringing them onboard to roll out our digital channels they will give us a platform that will put us at the cutting edge of modern banking in Botswana” said Kabelo Ngwako.

On the announcement of the partnership, Meabh Maguire, CR2’s Global Commercial Manager said that she believes BSB’s move into Digital Banking will give them the edge in an already highly competitive market. “Our BankWorld platform will enable BSB to offer their customers a state-of-the-art digital banking and payments service. In the times that we now find ourselves living, it is key that a bank reacts and adapts quickly for its customers and with this investment, BSB are making a strong statement as to their commitment to the future and to ensuring their customers have access to the best digital banking services available.”

In welcoming the move by BSB, Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor for Enterprise Ireland said, “In CR2, Botswana Savings Bank has chosen their world leading technology to fulfil their ambitious digital transformation strategy that will deliver huge benefits to BSB customers, providing access to the next generation of cutting-edge digital banking services that are being used around the world”.

“When it comes to advances in financial technology, Africa and the rest of the world is looking at Ireland. With the strong reputation for world leading innovation, Irish companies are at the forefront of the financial digital transformation – it’s the Irish Advantage in action”.

With the Middle East’s FinTech sector growing rapidly, Global Shares has made Riyadh, Saudi Arabia its Middle East HQ, making it the 17th office in their global network with the opening of their office in the largest Arab nation in the region. Managing employee share plans for some of the world’s biggest companies, world leading FinTech powerhouse, Global Shares is headquartered in Ireland and has 16 other offices spanning across Europe, America and Asia.

Located in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Global Share’s Riyadh office will act as the hub for the region’s service team and a base for the company’s new Managing Director of the Middle East, Abdulhadi Alherz.

With major plans of expansion in the GCC region, Global Shares has also partnered with NCB Capital – the largest investment bank in Saudi Arabia – who are providing the required custody and dealing services as part of the Global Shares offering.

Commenting on the new Middle East hub, Abdulhadi Alherz said: “Global Shares is a global fintech leader, which has reimagined technology solutions in the employee ownership space. The arrival of a global fintech leader in the employee ownership sector is great news for Saudi Arabia and the wider region, and it’s also exciting for Global Shares”.

He added “Saudi Arabia has a large, strong economy with a population of 33.7 Million and GDP of $790,000,000,000. Our country is highly diverse:  32% of the population is made up of expats and 66% of the population is youthful, both of which will help from a long-term incentive plans perspective”.

Explaining the focus on the region, John Meehan, Global Shares Business Development Director, commented that “The Middle East is a region of huge strategic importance to Global Shares as more and more companies recognise the importance of equity-based compensation.”

In welcoming Global Shares to the region, Enterprise Ireland Senior Market Advisor, Stephen Twomey, said  “It is very encouraging to see Global Shares, an Enterprise Ireland backed company, expand their footprint into the Middle East by establishing a presence in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The FinTech scene across the Middle East is both vibrant and thriving with plenty of opportunities. Irish FinTech is well received in this region for its innovative tech and ability to solve complex problems”.

“Global Shares is a great example of why Ireland has forged out its role and reputation as a global hub for finance, technology, and leading fintech innovation,” he added.

With more and more companies looking to expand into the Middle East region, there has been a major boom in the FinTech industry, and an increased opportunity for investment and growth. Global Shares has plans for continued recruitment, training, onboarding new clients and strategic partnerships in the region for 2021.

The provision of clean technologies or cleantech as its more commonly referred to, are becoming increasingly in demand across the MENA region as countries across the Gulf focus on the need for embedding a sustainability focus into their national agendas.

“Countries across the Gulf have been setting ambitious sustainability goals on the generation of energy especially with the investment in large solar parks garnering the natural resource of all-year-round sun, through to actions to conserve energy to become more energy-efficient and reduce their carbon footprints” said Róisín White Barrett, Market Advisor for the MENA region.

With Ireland fast becoming an international hub for the global cleantech market, Irish companies are best placed to partner with both public and private sector organisations across the Gulf to offer their world-leading innovative solutions to become more sustainable.

Over the past decade, the global cleantech sector has grown substantially, and Ireland is playing an important role in contributing to a sustainable region and world. Irish international exports from the sector increased by $85 million in 2019 to $535 million compared to the previous year. Not only is this good news for the Irish economy, which saw a 9 per cent increase in cleantech jobs created last year, it means innovative Irish cleantech is having a global impact, helping to build a better, more sustainable world.

It is companies such as Enterprise Ireland backed NuLumenTek who export globally from their Cork headquarters who are playing a key part of this growing and important sector for Ireland.  As a provider of sustainable, smart, and energy LED lighting solutions, NuLumenTek since 2012 has delivered some of the largest retrofits lighting projects in Ireland and the Middle East.  NuLumenTek’s Managing Director, Jim Healy, views the Gulf region as a key strategic market of importance for the long term future of the company and has established offices in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Having recently just completed one the largest LED lighting retrofits in the Middle East for Almarai, the Gulf’s largest dairy firm, NuLumenTek designed, manufactured, and supplied energy-efficient LED lighting systems to cover approximately 200,000 square meters of manufacturing facilities for central processing plant for dairy products.

In total 37,000 lights were installed by NuLumenTek along with over 40,000 lights being replaced, generating annual energy savings of approximately 20 gigawatt-hours. More than 14 million kilograms of carbon were reduced as part of the project which equates to the removing of the carbon footprint left by 3,000 cars.

These solutions are both good for the environment and have a significant impact on reducing a company’s utility bills, proving to be a win-win situation. In the case of the Almarai project, the annual estimated savings achieved are valued at $1.5 million and is expected to generate lifetime savings of approximately more than $15 million over ten years.

In the wider sustainability agenda and the drive to become carbon net zero or net positive in the Gulf region, there are clear opportunities for Irish cleantech solution companies to demonstrate the Irish Advantage with their innovation in the sector.

Commenting on the opportunity, NuLumenTek’s Managing Director, Jim Healy, said that, “The fastest way to net-zero is to become much more energy-efficient. If we look at the majority of the building stock in the region, it is easy to identify ways to reduce their energy use by 50% through a range of optimisation options such as the integration of monitoring, smart controls, and technology upgrades to lighting and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems”.

With the Gulf region being a priority market for Ireland, more and more Irish companies will be best placed to provide cleantech solutions across the region to help form a better working world for generations to come.

Showcase Ireland, the country’s premier expo for the craft and design sector, is rocking a whole new look this year. Covid-19 travel restrictions mean Showcase, which is held annually in Dublin’s RDS exhibition halls, is being hosted entirely online instead.

Showcase Ireland 2021, which takes place from 25th to 29th January, has been transformed into a full-service online trade fair, complete with B2B ecommerce-enabled virtual showrooms and meeting spaces.
Because success never goes out of style, it will continue to bring international buyers together with the cream of new and emerging Irish brands, just as it has always done.

“Showcase is now in its 45th year, which is some record of its success,” says Eddie Shanahan, Chair of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers, board member of Design & Crafts Council Ireland and Chair of Showcase Ireland.

The iconic event is supported by the Design Council of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, as well as Ireland’s Local Enterprise Offices, Ireland’s micro-enterprise support agency, which uses it to showcase some of the country’s newest and most innovative emerging talent.

Another major part of the event’s appeal is the Design Ireland portfolio, a curated collection representing the cream of Irish craft and design.

Last year’s event delivered €26 million in sales across sectors such as home and gifts, fashion, jewellery and the new and fast-growing wellness niche.

“Buyers come to Showcase Ireland because they know they will find creativity and innovation”, says Shanahan, who points out that the luxury goods sector worldwide is predicted to bounce back sharply post Covid-19. “The DNA of luxury is good design, quality and craftsmanship, and sustainability. Those are the trademarks of Irish companies at Showcase,” says Shanahan.

Irish designers and makers are well positioned to meet changing consumer views about luxury too.

“Attitudes have changed. Luxury now is about supporting small artisans and crafts people as much as it is about supporting big flagship brands,” says Shanahan.

Buyers from around the world have signed up to participate in the online event, in which they can browse virtual shop windows and conduct online buying meetings.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. “International buyers come to Ireland for a point of difference, for innovation, craftsmanship, and the sustainable stories we have to tell about things like small production runs, lack of waste, and respect for the environment – all the qualities and requirements international buyers want”, accordingly to Shanahan.

Developing the platform has been challenging due to its international nature. “Scheduling meetings is a complicated process because as buyers in Japan are going to bed buyers in the US are getting up,” he explains.

As part of its digital transformation, the Showcase Ireland website has been repositioned as a B2B source facility, a valuable year-round resource.

While very many participants look forward to a return to the RDS next year, Showcase Ireland will continue to develop its online presence in a way that mirrors the changes taking place in retail, he points out.

“It’s not a question of bricks or clicks anymore, it’s both, plus a whole range of other digital tools,” says Shanahan.

Migrating the event online extends its reach, points out Sean Davis, Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director – North America, who is based in New York.

Some aspects of the show are however impossible to replicate online, he admits.

“Showcase Ireland has always been about delivering real value to buyers, and part of that has always been our Irish hospitality,” says Davis.

In the absence of Ireland’s famous hundred, thousand welcomes, organisers this year have decided to add value by commissioning an in-depth report from international research organisation Frost & Sullivan, entitled “Generating Global Growth Through Ecommerce”.

It will be launched at the show with live online analysis from the report’s authors, with copies distributed exclusively to participants.

Irish craft and design travels well. According to Davis, brands such giftware maker Connemara Marble, boot and shoemaker Dubarry, fashion label Carraig Donn and jewellery maker Solvar are much sought after.

Showcase Ireland 2021 provides a wider audience than ever with an opportunity to see why Ireland’s craft and design is so highly prized internationally.

For the organiser it has of course been a case of ‘cutting their cloth according to their measure’- the digital redesign only took place because of the pandemic. Like all good design innovation however, it has resulted in improvement.

Says Davis: “The steps we are taking in 2021 will help Showcase Ireland to grow and flourish for years to come.”

Visit Showcase Ireland 

Covid-19 hit the travel sector like a severe bout of turbulence on an otherwise smooth flight. The industry has been severely damaged but innovation, leadership and technology – especially Irish technology – will accelerate a global recovery in 2021. Here are six key trends to watch out for.

You will need another passport

Airlines, hotels and tour operators were forced to play the waiting game throughout 2020, but the introduction of testing and immunity ‘passports’ could be the jump-starter that travel needs.

Irish firm LetsGetChecked has been the pioneer in this space, partnering with American Airlines to trial end-to-end testing that has been extended to multiple destinations to reopen travel. With a vaccine on the way, we also know that many countries and airlines will insist on proof of vaccination to travel, probably sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Daon has already teamed up with American Airlines and Denver International Airport to deploy VeriFLY, an app that provides real-time digital credentials to allow users seamless, touch-free transactions; in essence, an immunity passport so people can travel.

 

Hygiene will be make-or-break

From now on, anyone getting on a plane or checking into a hotel is going to insist on the highest possible standards when it comes to hygiene. Accordingly, travel operators will have to be seen to be doing everything possible to protect their customers.

EI client CW Applied Technology provides hospital grade sterilization for hotels through UV light technology, while others like P3 Hotels and Avvio allow for seamless self check-in and check-out. Again, the focus is on building confidence and reassurance among potentially gun-shy travellers.

Altada uses the power of AI and machine learning with canines to track people with Covid, including early detection and people that are asymptomatic in locations with large numbers of people such as airports. These abilities will help drive safety, reassurance, and trust and will be key until everyone is vaccinated.

 

Business trips will have to wait

It’s going to take time for corporate life to return to normal, and even longer for corporate travel to follow suit. There are big questions about duty of care and companies will have to think carefully before allowing employees to travel.

In tandem with that, people have taken to remote working and virtual meetings like ducks to water. Some work trips and events are now simply unnecessary while others will become hybrid affairs, mixing virtual with in-person attendance.

Where flexibility is required, the likes of MeetingsBooker provides automated bookings to help corporate clients source local workspaces for teams that are working from home but who need to meet, either regularly or occasionally. This is in addition to their existing very robust solution for booking events and stays at hotels all while providing automation for hotels and office buildings who provide the supply.

Cogs and Marvel an award winning live and digital brand experience agency work with leading companies on events and more importantly the experience people have before, during, and after these events. Now very much core to their offering is heavily curated virtual events.

 

Local will lead the way

We saw a surge in staycationing last year, and the focus will remain on domestic leisure travel while corporate and international wait for the dust to settle. Looking at the data, it’s clear that people are opting for much closer destinations (within a 2-3 hour drive), where home rental providers like Airbnb can give people more control of their environment.

Wherever you are travelling, you are going to see an abundance of care and caution at every turn, with innovation providing that all-important reassurance factor.

 

Booking will be better

There will be huge innovation behind the scenes as well. For example, travel sellers will continue to enhance their systems and be more competitive in the race for direct bookings.

Irish firm Arvoia does this brilliantly, using an independent AI cloud with over 2.3 billion data points and trillions of behavioural insights (travel, hospitality, mobility) to deliver the most sophisticated prediction and personalization products to drive sales and delight customers.

Airlines will also look to make up a revenue shortfall from food and baggage through additional ancillary offerings in the booking experience. A great example here is Sim Local, which helps travellers switch SIM to avoid excessive phone charges, or Coras which provides tickets to major events across the globe. The ability to drive new revenues while offering more choice at the right time in the right place will ensure the industry offers a complete retail experience.

 

Irish solutions for a changing world

Around the world, Ireland is synonymous with travel. Our people and technology have played a significant part in building the industry, and now they have focused even more on product and are offering solutions to rebuild and restore confidence.

We are also seeing Irish companies pivot to focus on solutions to accelerate the travel industry recovery. Daon, LetsGetChecked, Altada had no track record in travel but have stepped up to really help the industry in a meaningful way.

 

We will get there

If 2020 was travel’s annus horribilis, the good news is that green shoots are emerging fast. People want to travel, and Irish innovation will help them do that. Here’s to safe and happy travels in 2021.

Máire P. Walsh is SVP Digital Technologies with Enterprise Ireland

Award-winning Irish nano-technology company Kastus is to partner with global technology giant Lenovo in a move that looks set to transform the hygiene and safety standards of commercial touchscreen usage.

Kastus is a developer of revolutionary, light-powered, ‘always on’ antiviral and antimicrobial surface coatings which have been independently proven to be effective against human Coronavirus and up to 99.99% of surface bacteria.

Lenovo, which has a major OEM solutions business, is one of the top three manufacturers of IT products in the world.

Already the world’s leading PC company, Lenovo is also a leader in smartphones, tablets, industry solutions and data centre infrastructure.

The new partnership will see Lenovo offer a bespoke range of commercial antiviral and antimicrobial screen protectors for existing machines, using Kastus’ patented protective coating technology.

It will also see Lenovo develop a new line of products which will have Kastus’ technology built-into screens as standard.

The move represents a major step forward for public health. Studies have shown that coronavirus can survive on a smooth surface – such as mobile phone glass or a touchscreen ticket terminal at an airport – for up to 28 days.

By partnering with Kastus, Lenovo’s OEM customers will have access to a proven solution to help protect end-users of essential touchscreen appliances – from ATM machines to cinema ticket terminals to handheld inventory management devices in factories – against harmful bacteria and viruses, including coronavirus.

Lenovo sees the light

Kastus’s pioneering protective coating technology is light-activated, so its power source never depletes. That enables it to provide continuous protection for shared surface users in an environmentally friendly way and one to which bacteria and viruses cannot build resistance.

Kastus’s patented coating uses ambient moisture and light as a fuel source to generate oxygen radicals, a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen, which attaches to bacteria and viruses and works to kill them.

Its coatings have been proven effective in blocking up to 99.99 per cent of surface bacteria and fungi including antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and E. coli.

Kastus’s light-activated – or photocatalytic – technology, is supported by 44 global patents and has been at the forefront of antiviral and antimicrobial surface protection since 2014, offering the ultimate ‘always-on’ protection for touchscreen devices.

 

Kastus’s factory-applied coating technology is sprayed on and sintered on to a product during the manufacturing process, forming an extremely durable immobilised thin coating.

As the Lenovo partnership shows, it offers solutions for both new screen devices and tempered glass screen protectors which can easily be applied to retrofit and protect existing commercial screens already in use.

Lenovo will provide Kastus’s screens and screen protectors for both its own devices and those of its industry partners, presenting a significant addressable market.

After all, any screen can be protected, from laptops to self-service restaurant kiosks to medical devices, ensuring the safety of both a businesses’ consumers and its colleagues.

Antimicrobial coatings are a critical tool in the current environment to help give consumers enhanced levels of protection when using shared touch screens.

The Lenovo partnership comes at a time when concern about exposure to surface bacteria and viruses, as a result of interactions on shared touch surfaces, is at an all-time high.

Kastus has you covered.

As Lenovo builds its OEM business, it looks for key partnerships that complement its own technology and adds significant value for its customers as they build their solutions, explains Craig Arold, COO Lenovo OEM.

“Kastus technology is a great example of first-in-class innovation that meets a critical need in the market. By providing antiviral and antimicrobial capability, our partnership with Kastus will set the pace in helping make touch-screen solutions safer in the market,” explains Arold.

The team at Kastus is thrilled to be partnering with Lenovo too, as “one of the most significant and innovative providers of IT equipment on the planet,” according to John Browne, CEO of Kastus.

“By using Kastus screens Lenovo customers will add their devices to the millions already protected by Kastus, allowing consumers, colleagues and families to confidently interact with the touchscreens that have become so integral to work and leisure,” says Browne.

“With consumer awareness and demands around enhanced touchscreen protection growing, we look forward to working with the Lenovo team to bring the always-on benefits of the Kastus protective technology to a wider global audience.”

Coating the world

Founded in 2014, Kastus’s globally patented range of ‘always on’ antiviral and antimicrobial surface coatings are designed to protect both glass and ceramic surfaces.

They are proven to global ISO and ASTM lab test standards to protect coated surfaces against harmful bacteria, everyday tough viruses such as Influenza A & Hep A and, more recently, human coronavirus.

In June 2020 Kastus was awarded a significant European Commission grant to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic and support recovery in Europe.  Today it is partnering with a host of global brands, including Lenovo, enabling them to add enhanced protection to their commercial and personal use touchscreen portfolio.

The applications are enormous – literally

Kastus’ coatings include solutions for both finished products – such as screen protectors for existing screens – as well as coatings for use in the manufacturing processes of all types of new products. They are effective not just on glass but ceramics too.

Their efficacy had already resulted in partnerships prior to that with Lenovo, such as with Zagg, a leading US producer of screen protectors for tablets and smartphones, as well as Omani-based tile company Al Maha Ceramics, which has reach in markets across Asia and Africa.

Kastus is working with floor tile makers for tiles designed for use in residential, commercial, and healthcare settings and,  John Browne predicts, Kastus’s coating technology will, in time, most likely become mandated as a standard finish under national building regulations.

Given the lessons learned during the current pandemic about human health and the need to manage shared surfaces of all kinds, very many manufacturers are likely to follow Lenovo’s lead.

To find out how Kastus can add value to your products visit www.kastus.com

Irish companies are carving out a reputation for technical excellence and the development of innovative solutions in the rapidly growing $300 billion global space technology market. At present, more than 70 of these companies are engaged in projects with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a diverse range of areas including structures, materials, microelectronics, photonics, telecommunications, radio systems, and life sciences.

ESA is the primary gateway to this exacting but highly lucrative market for Irish firms, according to Enterprise Ireland Programme Manager Tony McDonald. “ESA is the only agency we have access to in Ireland that can qualify products for use in space,” he points out. “You can go anywhere with that verification. It’s a very specific quality mark that gives a product credibility. It is recognised by NASA for its technology readiness level scale, so it allows Irish companies to sell their products there as well.”

Ireland is a member of ESA, with the government here contributing €20 million to the agency each year. “The 22 member states contribute €6 billion to the ESA budget each year and it uses that to place contracts with industry to develop technologies for the space programme,” says McDonald.

But the prize on offer to Irish companies goes far beyond those contracts. “If you can develop something that works in space, it means it is very good and extremely reliable,” McDonald explains.

“It helps position the company in other markets which demand high levels of performance and reliability. When it comes to reliability, the product has to be zero failure. That makes it very expensive to develop and it may be too expensive for other market verticals. But the automotive sector is now looking for the same reliability. The guidance systems for autonomous vehicles have to be zero failure. A key part of the strategy for Irish companies succeeding in space is to have transferability to other markets.”

Ubotica is one of those Irish companies which is blazing a trail in the space market. The firm is bringing artificial intelligence to satellites to make them far more efficient in how they process images and send them back to Earth.

The company has combined AI and edge computing capabilities to the Myriad 2 vision processing chip designed by Irish company Movidius. In short, this allows the chip to interpret images in space and decide which ones are worth sending back to Earth.

The current application, which is running on the recently launched PhiSat Earth observation satellite, is for cloud detection. “It detects when there is cloud in an image,” says Aubrey Dunne, Ubotica co-founder and Vice President Engineering. “At present, Earth observation satellites gather data and then downlink it to the ground station when they are overhead. About 66pc of the world is covered in cloud at any one time. This means the majority of the images downlinked will have to be thrown away and downlink time is very expensive. By detecting the clouds before the downlink, the time can be optimised, with only usable data sent.”

Connections between the thousands of satellites being put into low Earth orbit by internet and cloud technology companies like SpaceX, Amazon and Viasat is the business of Galway-based mBryonics. The company has pioneered the development photonic integrated circuits (PICs) which use light to transmit data wirelessly and at the ultra-high speeds required by these new networks.

“We have to deliver terabit capacity at very low power and the cost has to come down by an order of magnitude as well,” says mBryonics CEO John Mackey.

“Data has to be routed from satellite to satellite in the network and between the ground stations. The switching speed has to be incredibly fast. If you are connecting from Ireland to the US through the network in most efficient way, the connection has to be made within one trillionth of a second, with the system deciding on how to do that autonomously. With our PICs we can put all the systems required to do that onto a chip no bigger than a fingernail. They have many advantages for space, including low weight and low power consumption and they offer viable pathways to producing high volumes at low cost.”

Another innovative Irish company making inroads in space is Lios, formerly known as Restored Hearing, which is using its revolutionary SoundBounce acoustic material to protect the interiors of launch vehicles from the extreme noise and vibrations encountered on the journey into orbit.

“The most exciting part of that is the nose cone,” says Lios CEO Rhona Togher. “We help the contents of the vehicle get into space safely unharmed by the rough journey.”

The SoundBounce material is up to three times thinner and 1,000 times more effective than traditional solutions. “It is a lot lighter and smaller than the one currently being used,” she adds. “That will enable the mass of the vehicle to be reduced and allow the companies to put a lot more stuff up there. Success in the space sector will open up opportunities for us in other industry sectors like the automotive and aerospace sectors. We can now say our product is qualified to a much higher level than they normally look for. That will break down a lot of barriers to entry to those markets.”

The number of new Irish companies engaging with ESA developing technologies for the space market has doubled over the past year.

According to McDonald, “We have seen a flowering of companies in the area. There are a few factors at play. The market is changing and becoming more commercial and we are seeing the concept of new space. The market is moving away from a top-down structure led by states and state-run bodies to a bottom-up one led by commercial organisations. It’s really exciting to see the number of start-ups in Ireland engaging with space. They are springing up with new technologies which are being adopted pretty quickly. The capability of Irish companies in this market is really something to see.”

Founded in 2011, Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions (GDG) is a civil engineering consultancy with specialist geotechnical skills. GDG provides innovative solutions to clients around the world, principally in the offshore wind sector. The firm’s geotechnical engineers provide a range of services to both the domestic and international markets in areas spanning concept design, detailed design, in-situ monitoring and general geotechnical advice…

GDG is currently working on offshore wind projects in Ireland, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines and is targeting the US for further growth. The company is ideally positioned to take advantage of the rapid growth in the Irish offshore wind sector which is anticipated in the coming decade as a result of regulatory changes and the implementation of the National Climate Action Plan.

GDG began life in industry-funded research into the technical problems faced by offshore wind projects being carried out in University College Dublin (UCD). This grew into a consultancy business for the lead researchers and eventually to the establishment of GDG.

In 2012 GDG decided to expand its business internationally; this led to the firm winning contracts in countries as diverse as Canada, Myanmar, Tunisia, Germany, and Belgium.

The net result was a portfolio of very high-quality reference projects which provided the base on which to expand the engineering team to enable the company to take on more work. By 2014, the Irish economy was in full recovery and GDG began to win contracts in its home market as well. Today, GDG has 90 staff, with plans to increase that to 100 in the near future. The company’s office network has grown to span Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Edinburgh, London and Bath, with plans in place to expand into Japan, South Korea and the East Coast of the US once Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

The company’s work profile has changed over the years. “We do a lot of work in the heavy engineering and onshore renewables sectors, but 65% of our work is offshore wind,” says Doherty. “We are now working on projects in Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan and we are looking at opportunities in other markets like the US.”

The services provided are very high-end technical solutions, including geotechnical data interpretation, site identification, site assessment, site investigations, cable route design, seabed stability assessments, and anchor design for tethered structures. The aim is to stay with projects from design through to construction and commissioning.

As the Irish offshore wind market is gaining momentum, GDG is keen to assist in the selection of the most suitable sites for development as well as the engineering of those sites in the most efficient and innovative manner.

A key driver behind that momentum is the Marine Planning and Development Management (MPDM) Bill. The previous maritime consent regime was complex and unwieldy and held back offshore wind development in Ireland. The MPDM seeks to establish in law a new regime for the maritime area which will replace existing state development consent regime. It is intended to streamline procedure on the basis of a single consent principle.

It is believed that the MPDM will greatly improve conditions for offshore wind development. A number of projects are in the process of transitioning from the old Foreshore Act to the new regime. They will get special treatment, and be able to move ahead quite quickly, and there will be a steady stream of projects for the next 25 years.

As the only indigenous Irish consultancy with a decade of experience on offshore wind projects worldwide, GDG is well placed to prosper in that market. The company also has extensive experience of dealing with various Irish stakeholders such as the ports, coastal communities, the fishing community and statutory bodies.

The company’s largest markets will remain overseas. “For the next decade, our biggest markets will probably still be in Asia in countries like South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines. The US will also be a major market for us,” says Doherty.

GDG has benefited from Enterprise Ireland support over the years. “That has been very helpful in allowing us to remain at the cutting edge of what we do. We have received a lot of support from the Agile Innovation Fund for our ongoing research and development work,” he concludes.

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

A novel use for one of its existing products combined with a new addition to the range has opened up new markets around the world for Dundalk-based engineering firm Multihog. Winter maintenance applications had been one of the main uses for the company’s range of highly manoeuvrable and versatile tractors until UAE machinery dealer Intercare came calling earlier this year..

 

“They found us through our website,” recalls Multihog marketing manager Fiona Reburn. “They bought a machine with a combi snowplough and brush attachment. Lots of airports use that attachment to clean snow from under planes where larger vehicles can’t go. Intercare’s end customer Bee’ah bought it to clean sand from the streets after sandstorms. This was a new application for an existing attachment for us and our first deal in the Middle East. It is opening up a new market for us and there is definitely potential there for more orders.”

The launch of the Multihog Sweeper in 2019 has broadened horizons. “The Sweeper is taking us into new markets in warmer climates,” says Reburn. “It is opening up lots of new markets where they almost never have snow or harsh winters. Everyone needs a sweeper, whether they are in Montreal or Dubai. The Sweeper contains the Multihog DNA – it’s small and compact and can operate on steep inclines. And you can put different attachments on it to make it a snowplough, a de-icer or a pressure washer.”

The Multihog DNA she refers to can be traced back to the company’s origins in 2008 when it was founded by Chief Executive Jim McAdam, the former Managing Director of Moffett Engineering. McAdam had played an instrumental role in the development of the revolutionary Moffett Mounty truck-mounted forklift before applying his engineering skills and innovative mindset to solving a problem at his home – a lawn on a steep incline that was proving extremely difficult to mow.

His initial design for a dedicated grass-cutting machine quickly morphed into a multi-purpose tractor which is now used by some of the world’s busiest airports, local authorities and maintenance contractors.

Innovation and market diversification have been critical to the company’s success over the years. Airports were a very significant component of the Multihog customer base, but that has diminished somewhat this year along with the dramatic downturn in air travel. “We have diversified a good bit in recent years,” Reburn adds. “In the US, we are targeting municipalities and maintenance contractors for parks and zoos and so on. We are also expanding in Europe and we delivered a machine to Antwerp Zoo recently. We have diversified into warmer climates as well, again targeting municipalities.”

Business in the US is very strong, she continues. “Municipalities make up our strongest market there. We have grown our American dealer network quite a bit this year. Even though our sales team was grounded by the pandemic they were able to go online, do the lead generation, and sign up quite a few dealers in Canada and the US.”

The Sweeper has taken the company into new market segments. “A huge amount of knowledge and effort went into its development and getting the suction right,” says Reburn. “The machine needs to have really good suction, but the noise has to be kept down as well. A huge amount of work went into that. We are very happy with it and the feedback from customers has been really good. The Sweeper also received a four-star rating from the European Engineering Industries Association particulate tests, the highest rating possible.”

Enterprise Ireland supports continue to play a significant role in the company’s success, according to Reburn. “They have always been a huge support to us. We are in constant contact with their overseas office network and Alan O’Mahony is helping us with our dealer search in the Middle East. We are also currently undertaking a digital marketing strategy project with the support of Enterprise Ireland’s e-Marketing Improvement programme. That will help us refine our digital strategy and grow our brand online. The Intercare order for the UAE market showed the importance of having a strong online presence.”

New product and market development will remain key to the company’s future growth strategy. “We are constantly innovating, and we always have new products in the pipeline,” says Reburn. “We will also continue to expand our dealer network both in existing markets and further afield. We signed up new dealer in Australia earlier in the year. That was another first for us and we are hoping that Australia will be another big market for our products. Again, they wouldn’t be interested in our machines for winter application. They will use them for weed control, grass mowing and so on.”

Closer to home in a more traditional market, the company has just won a contract to supply a number of Sweepers to Swedish airport operator Swedavia. “The beauty of the Sweeper is that it can be put to multiple uses in summer and winter,” Reburn points out. “And we’ve just appointed Frissen Kehrtechnik as the importer for Sweeper for Germany.”

According to Enterprise Ireland’s Middle East, Africa & India market advisor Alan O’Mahony “Multihog’s latest innovation in machinery highlight’s their adaptability to operate in some of the world’s harshest climates. Enterprise Ireland MENA team continue to support Multihog and provide new avenues for growth for the company across the Gulf markets.”

The Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse impact earlier in the year, but the company has made up for lost ground since. “It was very tough,” Reburn recalls. “Production stopped earlier in the year because we couldn’t get parts in and that slowed our growth. We are back up and running at full production. We are lucky we can stay open and we are catching up now.”

One in every two Irish cows consumes at least one of the products supplied by Cork-based animal nutrition producer, Nutribio.

It’s fair to say its track record is proven after decades in the market. So when Nutribio decided to tap into the global rise of the dairy milk pool by exploring new markets, it found fertile ground when it decided to tap into East Africa.

Kenya may be as far removed from Kerry or Kilkenny as can be imagined but for dairy farmers of all hues, their concerns are universal – to keep a herd healthy, and to get the best yield possible.

Dairy comprises some 4 per cent of Kenyan GDP and accounts for 14 per cent of total agricultural GDP so it was a natural target market for Cork-based Nutribio looking to break out from well-trod UK and EU markets to the likes of Pakistan and East Africa.

Formed as a joint venture by Glanbia and DairyGold more than 25 years ago, Nutribio produces animal nutrition products focussed on the dairy herd. Typical products include complementary feeds such as Crytopguard to help calves fight off cryptosporidium.

‘Our expertise in this area actually goes back to the 1970s,’ said CEO Donal O’Sullivan. ‘We started with Co-Operative Animal Health as an active animal medicine business and Nutribio was formed in the 90s.’

‘Around 50 per cent of Irish cows eat something from our product range so we have a deep understanding of the nutritional requirements of dairy cows,’ he added.

It’s given the firm a deep understanding of what works in animal nutrition and the allied animal medicine sector and, in parallel, a significant wealth of knowledge in the regulatory and compliance environment in which these products have to operate. Working in the EU has its own advantages, says O’Sullivan, because clients from outside of the Eurozone seek out Nutribio as a partner on market entry under its contract manufacturing arm.

‘It’s a mature market with a lot of red tape and we’ve been able to help customers redesign their products so their products are still compliant with EU regulations and can guide them on packaging and so forth. We’ll then go on to manufacture for them and that’s how some firms can springboard into the EU market which has been very useful to us.’

But while the EU and the UK was a sizeable market for Nutribio the lifting of EU milk quotas in the past decade spawn internal conversations on gaining business in new markets. It was then that the firm’s valuable relationships with clients and partners began to pay dividends.

Nutribio had a strong relationship with Norbrook, the Northern Irish animal veterinary pharmaceutical company, and this partnership was to prove pivotal to gaining access to Kenya in East Africa.

‘We looked at all the different geographies that were of interest, the likes of India, China, South America and so on, and Kenya figured strongly. Norbrook were already in the capital, Nairobi and as a small company, we felt a collaboration was the best way forward. You really need to know what works on the ground in a new market.

Nutribio had already availed of strategic business supports from Enterprise Ireland which would help the transition such as Innovation for Growth and Leadership for Growth.

‘These were brilliant, actually,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘Because they gave us the tools and common language within our organization to be able to tackle this market entry. It creates an internal company culture that is not only common to us and our own goals but translates to a recognisable vocabulary when dealing with partners and targets in our new market.’

It meant the firm, with Norbrook’s local knowledge, was able to start the long process in 2015 of preparing to go to market in Kenya and the wider East African region.

‘We did all the usual stuff,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘Market research, product testing, trials, feedback, working out if there was value, not just for us and our customer, but for all the partners in the chain. It looked good so we went to market.’

‘It’s never a one-size-fits-all and when you go to market in this way it’s not an instant prescription with a result; you have to think of these as a set of tools in your toolbox.’

The work on the ground in Kenya led to the firm developing milk booster Nutrilick to improve milk production. Nutrilick has successfully increased the daily yield per cow at a cost-effective return for the farmer, and, on average farmers achieved an increase of 2 litres per cow per day. This increase equates to approximately 600 litres more milk per cow per annum, a sizeable gain for the Kenyan farmer.

Entry was successful and O’Sullivan was taken aback by the appetite of the African dairy farmer’s willingness to engage with new technology.

‘There were, obviously, some different nutritional requirements but what struck me was the thirst for knowledge among the customers. They are direct and rigorous in their questioning and it can come as a bit of a shock but they really wanted to get to the heart of all the science and make sure we could back up our claims. It was refreshing.’

Mawalimu Lawrence Njuguna Munyua, a farmer from Kiambu County, said he saw returns within three months. ‘In that time fertility was super, all my animals came on heat, the high levels of energy in the block has given me 2-3 litres of milk extra. The product is extremely palatable and my animals look shiny and happy. I have also seen a reduction in the amount of concentrates I was using from 12kg to 5-6kg saving money while improving profit.”
By 2019, Nutribio was able to go to full launch into Kenya and the air miles for the senior management team and O’Sullivan was worth it.

‘People talk about shoe leather in the context of sales and, you know, its not a cliche to say that you’ll wear out your shoes doing all of this. But, you have to, really. The end result is worth it,’ he added.

And O’Sullivan is glad they acted when they did. When they set out on the route to the new market they had no idea that within less than 12 months of finally securing entry, Covid would strike.

‘For us, the hard miles had already been done, and we can Zoom or Microsoft Team-it with clients and partners now. But nothing beats face-to-face. It’s certainly unsettling times, but at least we know we’re all in the same boat. We can still service existing relationships but for us, as we grow, what about the start of the pipeline? What about new customers? New partners? That’s the challenge.

‘We’re going to have to adapt and we’re going to have to learn.’

Adapt and learn.

It could almost be Nutribio’s own company motto.

By Jack Callaghan, Senior Vice President (Digital Technology) Enterprise Ireland 

 

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 prioritize 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 world’s 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.

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.