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.

 

Dublin-based Aerospace Software Developments (ASD) is the largest provider of RFID tracking solutions on aircraft in the world with a suite of products used by the largest airlines both on-board and off.

ASD’s cutting edge RFID technology provides a quick, efficient, accurate and cost-effective way for airlines to track the movement of items and people, manage rotables and other life-limited components, and monitor the security of aircraft.

The company, founded in 2004, has found international success for its innovative products, counting the leading operators in the aviation industry – Emirates, Delta, American, Lufthansa, flydubai and others– among its clients.

It recently announced that flydubai has begun using the latest version of its RFIDAeroTrack software to monitor the cleaning of aircraft seat covers through technologically advanced RFID tags that are attached to individual seat covers to provide a unique identification. This enables the airline to keep track of the seat covers at every stage of the cleaning cycle and life span via RFID handheld scanners and labels.

Dave Browne, Managing Director of ASD, says: “We’ve worked closely and successfully with flydubai for seven years. In 2014, ASD implemented the first RFID solution in the aviation sector in the Middle East at flydubai to track the presence and expiry of emergency equipment on aircraft. Since then, ASD and flydubai have successfully implemented RFIDAeroTrack to address a number of flydubai business requirements. This latest enhancement demonstrates our ability to innovate and implement functionally rich, cost-effective solutions.”

Commenting on the partnership, Mick Hills, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Maintenance at flydubai says: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to help us to improve efficiency. RFIDAeroTrack provides a solution to help manage the cleaning of our seat covers using the latest developments in technology and we look forward to the benefits that this service will provide.”

Those benefits include aiding compliance with safety regulations and supporting the management of precautionary measures in relation to COVID-19. In addition, the application reduces the time to manage the removal and return of clean seat covers, as well as unnecessary cleaning costs by monitoring the number of times that a seat cover is cleaned.

ASD is an Enterprise Ireland-supported company and the agency’s Dubai Market Advisor, Alan O’Mahony, congratulated the team on their latest success: “Even through very difficult times in the aviation industry it is testament to the innovation and service levels of ASD to secure another contract with flydubai in a remote capacity. This valuable piece of kit will allow flydubai to streamline their maintenance activities and optimise costs in a time when liquidity is imperative to allow airlines to rebound and recapture market share.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on the aviation industry but, according to Browne, the industry seems to be using the downtime to review its work practices, which is good news for ASD.

“I think airlines have a little more time to review where improvements could be made. We’re currently implementing a number of projects for customers in the US and South Africa that allow for the tracking of additional components on aircraft and on-ground activities such as tool tracking and management of work packages from out stations to the airline’s records department.”

Diversifying products and markets

“Initially, when assessing RFID opportunities in aviation, we assumed that on-aircraft component tracking and compliance was the biggest problem area.  Based on this we developed RFIDAeroCheck  – our first RFID-based solution for aviation. RFIDAeroCheck now allows for the tracking of over 60 different component types on aircraft such as life vests and oxygen generators,” says Browne.

“Having successfully implemented a number of RFIDAeroCheck based projects, customers then identified other opportunities for RFID technology on-ground.  Based on this we developed RFIDAeroTrack, which allows for tracking of tools, test equipment, mechanics, basically anything that can be RFID-tagged.”

Over the past 10 years ASD has built upon its initial solutions and now has a suite of six products including RFIDAeroTag, which allows for the printing and encoding of tags, and RFIDAeroSecure, which allows for the placement and tracking of security labels in various parts of the airplane. Drawing on its significant expertise of RFID technology, ASD also offers a range of consultancy services.

All ASD’s solutions are standards-based, GS1-accreditted and SPEC2000-compliant. In fact, RFIDAero was the first GS1-accredited RFID software solution in aviation.

Having won international success in the aviation sector, ASD is now turning its attention to healthcare.

Applying the same innovative approach, the company has tailored its technology and created a range of RFIDMedical branded products that can track everything from wheelchairs and beds to clinical samples, patient flow and vulnerable patients.

“Moving forward we see the healthcare space as very important for us. There are a considerable number of potential applications in that space. At the minute our RFIDMedical technology is deployed within Ireland but the goal is to further develop the products and then roll them out to Europe and beyond,” says Browne.

As part of the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish company Kastus recently announced its partnership with Inficraft – a South Korea based touchscreen manufacturing company specializing in the custom development and distribution of the industrial-grade touchscreen product and technology solutions for the various market sectors since 2013.

Kastus, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland and with origins from the Technological University Dublin, will be offering its pioneering patent 24/7 antimicrobial coating technology as a standard for the Inficraft touchscreen product portfolio. Antimicrobial coating has recently been proven to effective against Covid-19 on surfaces, in a recent study conducted by a leading global test laboratory.

 

” Antimicrobial coatings are critical in this moment to help give consumers an enhanced level of protection when using shared touch screens.

 

Kastus’s unique patent 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. This same unique patent coating has also been previously proven to be effective in blocking up to 99.99 per cent of surface bacteria and fungi including antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and E. coli.

This new partnership with Inficraft is set to help instil a greater level of confidence amongst consumers and businesses. The factory-applied coating technology is sprayed on and sintered on to the product during the manufacturing process, forming an extremely durable immobilised thin coating, through its ‘always on’ screen protection which is crucial for the use of shared touch screens. This comes at a time where concerns relating to exposure to surface bacteria and viruses via interactions on shared touch surfaces are at an all-time high.

 

The Kastus patented 24/7 Antimicrobial coating technology offers enhanced ‘always on’ screen protection and gives consumers the added confidence to interact with shared screen areas. We are delighted to announce this partnership as we continue our strategy to roll out Kastus technology across Global markets and categories in the touchscreen space”

 

Founder and CEO of Kastus John Browne was first introduced to the ground-breaking technology by Enterprise Ireland, when it emerged out of Ireland’s third-level sector a number of years ago. This was a time when touch screen technology had yet to proliferate.

Browne immediately saw the potential for antimicrobial surface coatings, recognising that “the world was progressing with a clear move towards touch screens”. These range from touchpoints at F&B kiosks, during air travel, to employees managing inventory in factories via hand-held devices. Browne saw that the drive towards automation was also a drive towards touch screen technology.

Adding that most manufacturing companies had yet to give much thought to the fact that these high touch surfaces were not properly sanitised despite the investment in screen technologies, Browne knew that it was not enough for screen technologies to be cleaned with a wet cloth which can only further spread microbes across and between surfaces.

Since then, the company has gone on to secure clients across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Kastus is a partner to clients the likes of Zagg, a leading US producer of screen protectors for tablets and smart phones, and Oman-based tile company Al Maha Ceramics, which has reach in markets across Asia and Africa. Going beyond touch screen technologies, the company is also working with floor tile makers for tiles designed for use in residential, commercial, and healthcare settings. Browne  predicts that Kastus’s coating technology will, in time, become mandated as a standard finish under national building regulations.

Despite the scale of the pandemic, Kastus is well positioned to ramp up production to meet demand, with its RD&I team lead by Dr James Kennedy having developed a manufacturing process that is able to meet serious demand volume as it comes.

Following the Covid-19 outbreak at the start of the year during a meeting with Taiwanese and Chinese business contacts, Kastus has since gone on to receive €1.6m in funding from the European Innovation Council funding for projects focused on tackling the Coronavirus that causes Covid-19, and has invested more than €1 million in worldwide patent protection for its antimicrobial technology.

Irish AgTech company MagGrow has won the International Innovation Award at the 2020 Fieldays Innovations, announced by the New Zealand Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities, the Hon Damien O’Connor yesterday.

MagGrow has developed a patented, proprietary technology that significantly reduces waste associated with conventional pesticide spray applications, delivering your important plant protection products where they matter the most.

The Judging Panel of the International Innovation Award said MagGrow “impressed us with strong science backing an innovative solution that reduces chemical and water usage whilst improving efficacy in spraying applications.

We particularly appreciated the deep understanding of both science and farming applied in an innovation that can improve both environmental and commercial outcomes globally.

“The MagGrow team demonstrated clear understanding of both the problem to be solved and the business model to see it applied at scale. They are a worthy winner of the International Innovation Award and their solutions will bring real value to New Zealand farmers”, concluded the Judges.

MagGrow is a technology and IP company and therefore science is fundamental to delivering their world-class precision agricultural solution to growers everywhere. Farmers using the system can improve their crop coverage by 20%+ and reduce drift by up to 70%. It can also reduce their water usage by up to 50 percent and extend their spray windows.

Farmers typically see a return on investment of around one year or less just on chemical savings alone as well as healthier and less diseased crops due to the higher crop coverage. The increased coverage also supports a reduction in labour and fuel requirements.
A key selling point for farmers is the fact that there is virtually no maintenance with no moving parts, cables, electrical wires, or power supply.

MagGrow is committed to progressive research and development and has partnered with Trinity College, Dublin around pure research through their Science Foundation Ireland’s supported AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) facility.

They also have Industrial Engineering and Research and Crop Science facilities in the UK.

MagGrow was chosen as a Trimble select partner for agriculture. The global partnership has allowed MagGrow to accelerate its global expansion through Trimble’s international network.

Gary Wickham, CEO MagGrow said, “Fieldays Innovation Awards is recognised as one of the premier agricultural award events in the world, and we are truly delighted to have won. It is a great testimony to the dedication of the MagGrow team in the development of our ground-breaking technology that has significant transformational benefits.

We see this as a fantastic opportunity to connect with potential customers, investors, commercial and local research partners. It also provides MagGrow a fantastic platform to reach out to a wider audience through the various media channels.
He added, “New Zealand was always on our radar. New Zealand’s international reputation as a leader in the Agritech sector is well established.

In addition, the country is home to world leading agricultural research centres and universities. The country’s appetite for new technology that supports sustainable farming make it an ideal market for MagGrow’s innovative technology.

Locally Enterprise Ireland is doing a fantastic job guiding us on market entry strategy especially on market research, company set up, networking, customer access, and local funding supports.”

Niall Casey, Enterprise Ireland Market Advisor Agribusiness in New Zealand added: “MagGrow is one of the most exciting agritech companies we have seen emerge in the last few years from Ireland, and we are delighted to have them here.

The strong advantages it offers farmers has been very well received in New Zealand and we know that their product will help local farmers solve very big problems like diseased crops, water usage, labour requirements and the cost of chemicals in a simple way”.
MagGrow is distributed by Trimble dealers, other dealers and large growers directly in New Zealand.

Airlines, hospitality brands finding new ways to work but clear information needed to restore international traveller confidence

In the search for comparisons, travel industry experts have so far come up short. This has been unchartered territory. Most analysts agree, however, that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have hit international travel harder than 9/11 and the ruinous 2008 recession put together.

The good news is that the worst seems to have passed. Domestic travel is already starting to bounce back, while search data shows that people have not lost their desire to get on a plane. Innovation and technology are helping the recovery process, which will be further boosted by clarity around post-Covid travel requirements. Not out of the woods, but certainly in a position to ask: just how bad has this been?

“It was even worse than people feared,” says Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies with Enterprise Ireland, and one of the most knowledgeable voices in travel tech. “What made it so bad is that everything happened all at once. Travel just shut down, almost overnight.

“On the industry side, one of the biggest issues is that sellers were hit by an immediate wave of cancellations,” she says. “Pretty much anything that had been booked for April, May, early summer, was all cancelled and that had an immediate impact on cashflow. It was a lot to try and absorb all at once.

“But we’re seeing signs of recovery,” she says. “If we look at the data, it’s clear that in every country, domestic travel will be the first to recover. We can see that happening already in the US, where close to 90% of revenue is driven by domestic travel. We’re also seeing pick-up in the rental market including the likes of Airbnb and car rental.

“What’s going to take longer to recover is international travel and that’s primarily because of the 14-day quarantine rule,” says Walsh. “Search data is showing clearly that a lot of people want to start travelling again but as things stand, they are not sure what the rules are. I think most industry people would agree that we need clarification and consistency on what is allowed.”

In a bid to kickstart the tourism sector, the EU has now launched an app and website that provide travelers with real-time information about coronavirus rules and the status of infections in each European country. Disappointingly, the UK declined to be involved in the data-sharing project.

“There’s still a lot of confusion about quarantine and that’s going to push out the recovery timeline for international travel,” says Máire P. Walsh. “What will also take longer is the events industry. The smaller events, 50 people and less, is already starting to come back to life in a physical/virtual hybrid way but the bigger stuff, international conferences and exhibitions, will need more time to recover.

“The nature of travel is also going to change, we know that for certain,” she goes on. “To give one example, where previously we might have booked our holiday three to six months out, now we’re seeing nearly all near-term bookings, zero to 14 days out.”

In terms of disruption, this is the tip of the iceberg, with most experts agreeing that what 9/11 did for travel security, Covid-19 will do for health and hygiene regulation.

“Most airlines and hospitality brands are looking to innovate and there are a lot of Irish travel tech specialists creating solutions to satisfy that demand,” says Máire P. Walsh. “You’re going to see a lot of innovation focussing on journey touchpoints aimed at making people safer and bringing back confidence.”

She mentions i-Hotelligence, an Irish firm with a software platform that allows travelers to manage all aspects of their hotel stay, from check-in to room access to ordering food and drink, via their phone.

“There’s also Mobility Mojo, whose core product is a toolkit for hotel accessibility,” she says. “They now offer a hygiene rating feature for hotels, so travelers know what sort of hygiene protocols and criteria their hotel adheres to. This is the sort of information people now demand and it can help the industry to recover.”

Anyone who has set foot in an airport lately will be familiar with that new staple of the travel experience – getting temperature checked before being allowed to board. Here, Ventilux has developed a mass screening intelligent body temperature detection system using AI-powered sensor technology.

In a similar space, Daon is working with Denver International Airport to provide contactless and biometric solutions that enhance traveler safety (and confidence) and streamline airport operations. There will be a focus on biometrics to reduce physical contact throughout the journey, give travelers an opportunity to assert their health status, and provide touchless retail at airport stores and restaurants.

To monitor people movement as they travel, Taoglas CROWD Insights™ is a new analytics platform that gives hotels, airports and other venues real-time information about crowd sizes and social distancing.

“Another piece of Irish innovation is from HaloSOS, which started as a live reporting mechanism for major events but which can now be deployed to inform staff if they have been in contact with a Covid-19 infected colleague,” says Maire P. Walsh.

On the customer service front, Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has deployed Cation Consulting’s leading ‘conversational AI’ platform Parly to automatically handle thousands of customer enquiries every day, and provide meaningful, instant responses to those enquiries before they reach any contact centre. They handle all messaging channels including web, email and social, in multiple languages as well as IVR/Phone and smart speakers Alexa and Google.

Finally, with a surge in data attacks targeting loyalty programmes, Irish fraud specialist UrbanFox is helping travel brands to identify weaknesses in their information management and safeguard their data.

“Companies are looking to do things better and create a more compelling travel journey,” says Enterprise Ireland’s Máire P. Walsh. “Well, the whiteboard is now clean and there’s an opportunity to do that. Crisis creates innovation and we’re definitely seeing green shoots starting to reappear.”

Discover more in the upcoming webinar The Digital Customer Journey is broken. Let’s fix it.
With Travel Industry Analyst, Henry Harteveldt and Enterprise Ireland’s SVP Digital Technologies, Máire P. Walsh

Thursday, 6th August, 11am ET – Register now

Prior to the onset of Covid-19, we were already seeing huge disruption in the payments space. The power dynamics were changing as businesses and consumers shifted from cash and cheques to digital payment methods.

Cards were still king for retail but mobile solutions and wallets like Apple Pay saw huge levels of adoption. Digital person to person (P2P) apps began to take a serious foothold as they continued to demonstrate improved user experience and seamless integration with existing infrastructures.

That change is now trickling into other sectors long dominated by cash and cheques, such as remittances and business payments. Big tech is taking a larger slice of this market.

It appears now that the adoption of better and more robust payments platforms will only rise, bringing with it new opportunities for businesses that can provide solutions for potential new types of fraud threatening data security and privacy.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for the big banks. It also creates an opportunity for best in class new entrants in the payments space.

West Coast Big Tech is here, and it wants to eat your lunch

The rise of P2P payment platforms such as Venmo are only the beginning. We are seeing Silicon Valley and the wider San Francisco region increasingly encroach into the financial services space, with Stripe alone recently raising $600 million, valuing the company at $36 billion.

The company has seen a growth in demand during Covid. Existing clients of the platform include Instacart, Doordash, Postmates and Caviar. It recently added Zoom.

John Collison and his CEO brother Patrick have stated that in the period since March 1st, Stripe generated $1 billion in revenue.

The swift and tactical approach from Valley based tech firms has seen traditionally slow-to -respond banks lose ground in the race for your wallet.

It’s not just payments. Peer to peer lending, alternative investing, alternative risk assessment, among other areas traditionally provided by banks, are now growing rapidly in Silicon Valley, with significant players such as Affirm, Brex, Plaid and Dataminr emerging. The disruptors are here, and they are not going away.

Using Data to minimize risk and free up employees

The financial services industry is currently coping with the task of processing a mountain of applications for government led small business loan programs. Banks are also trying to ascertain who is entitled to temporary amnesty on mortgage payments as arrears grow, and are setting aside reserves to cover loan defaults coming around the corner.

Financial institutions of all sorts are looking at alternative solutions to manage functions such as loan processing, risk assessment and portfolio management.

Increasingly, they are looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and data intelligence to best ascertain what parts of their lending portfolio is most at risk in the virus driven recession. They are also looking at ways in which to better utilize their data to develop compliance solutions and best practices.

That means increasing opportunities for companies with AI driven solutions in the financial services sector.

The challenges of managing remote workers

For those industries where work from home is possible, managing a workforce remotely is a big challenge. So too is the managing the return to office process, which will be done on a staged and strategic basis.

Banks and other businesses will need to live with a remote workforce component for the foreseeable future. Better and more robust platforms for managing staffing and other remote considerations are increasingly required. With offices closed all around the world, companies are scrambling to manage such considerations as global payroll, global and local tax compliance.

For banks, the processing of loan applications has been particularly troublesome. Appetite from these banks for tech solutions is ever growing.

Opportunity is out there

Innovative Irish Fintech companies are strategically well positioned in the post Covid era. Ireland’s history of a large and dynamic financial services sector has helped build an expert workforce.

That fact, combined with the growth of big tech on Irish shores, has created something quite unique.

In US fintech we now see two thought leaders: the traditional banks on the East Coast and the big tech giants out of Silicon Valley. Great Irish companies combine both those mindsets, and have deep domain knowledge of each.

 

Phonovation, the market leaders in secure, Application to Person (A2P) messaging has developed anti SIM swap attack software which prevents hackers gaining access to bank accounts.

Aylien uses a unique combination of data and AI to help banks and others manage risk and optimize access to news monitoring. It leverages artificial intelligence to empower forward thinking enterprises to collect, analyze and understand vast amounts of human generated content. It is increasingly seeing banks using its product to as an alternative resource to assess portfolio risk.

Taxamo helps companies around the world to meet their global tax requirements. It recently signed a collaboration with Deloitte to provide a tax compliance service enabling online marketplaces be tax compliant.

Altada uses its AI solution to help businesses grow and reduce employee time spent working on data. It has seen great success in its target sectors of Government, Financial Services, Professional Services and Human Capital. In financial services, its application is being used to reduce the legal and operational costs in processing the purchase of loan books.

Payslip’s digital technology solution transforms global payroll operations creating a streamlined, low risk, cost effective process for the business. It has demonstrated its effectiveness in the crisis recently, helping a San Francisco based technology company onboard two new payroll countries in just five weeks using Payslip.

Accelerated Payments offers a unique invoice finance solution to SMEs. Using its platform, businesses can access cash tied up in their invoices in just 24 hours. During Covid, many new customers turned to it to ease cashflow concerns at a difficult time.

TerminusDB has given back the power of data to the businesses that gathers it, but doesn’t readily know how to use it effectively. The result is unified, well-structured and refined data – the jet fuel of future business. TerminusDB greatly reduces the time and effort required to build any application that shares, manipulates or edits data. Banks and financial institutions are increasingly turning to TerminusDB to better execute their business.

As we move into the post Covid era, fintech innovation will be more valuable than ever.

As countries around the world seek ways to live alongside Covid-19, social distancing becomes more important than ever.  For organisations and businesses, achieving it while minimising damage to productivity is vital.
A raft of highly effective solutions has emerged from Ireland to help.

For innovation watchers, that’s no surprise. A recent international survey placed Ireland 6th in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic, just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.
Enterprise Ireland client companies have been leading the way.

That includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for Industry 4.0, working with clients in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres.

Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.

As UtilityAR CEO and founder Patrick Liddy explains: “Over the past couple of months the buzzword has been business continuity. We are now moving to return to work and the issue is how that can be done safely.”

“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes.”

Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration.

With fewer workers expected to work alongside one another as a result of Covid protocols, including staggered start times and shift changes, it allows workers to receive guidance or ensure they are following correct procedures, and allows co-workers or advisors to assess their progress remotely.

Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified challenges for the construction industry in relation to induction and training.

Much of this traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom environment, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.

Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated and moved a construction site’s orientations and registrations online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.

Since Covid it has been enabling the construction industry to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.

Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere. Instead of having to show up a work trailer to do paperwork, a worker can complete everything online the night before so they can stay socially distanced and safe during the registration process.

 It solves the problem of training too by allowing workers and subcontractors to login to GoContractor to undertake all their training and orientations online prior to coming on a worksite, removing the need to break social distancing protocol to be properly on-boarded onto a site.

For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.

GoContractor also allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked in and out at a distance.

The company has clients in the USA, Canada, UK and across Europe, including  some international construction companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.

Irish software firm Solgari has an integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options that are both fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance, from GDPR to MiFID II, to customers around the world.

Since Covid-19 the company has been helping distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. This means companies whose staff are working remotely can keep up to date records of all client interactions.

Internet of things specialist Taoglas has launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches in public gatherings in both indoor and outdoor venues.

The solution can also provide a CROWD Insights Wearable Tag, similar in size to an identity badge worn with a lanyard, that delivers automatic contact tracing capability. This is proving vital to business and factory owners as they deploy solutions to ensure business continuity in the event of further outbreaks.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,” says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive and founder of Taoglas.

The solution is quick and easy to install, using existing Wifi systems and collecting anonymised data via smartphones. It offers same day deployment – remotely – via a cloud management platform, whether to healthcare facilities, venues, retail stores, restaurants, airports, cities or towns.

Where social distancing breaches occur, software company NearForm’s mobile tracing app rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app helps curtail the spread of the virus and eliminate the growth of clusters.

Lastly, because social distancing doesn’t reduce the risks posed by the shared use of touch screen devices, Irish coatings specialist Kastus pioneered a solution.

Such devices see high public usage at airport terminals and fast food restaurants. Kastus’s patented technology uses ambient moisture and light as a fuel source to generate oxygen radicals, a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen, which attach to bacteria and viruses and works to kill them.

Its antimicrobial surface coating is already used by makers of floor tiles for residential, commercial and healthcare settings.

For Kastus founder and CEO John Browne, news that independent testing had proven its efficacy against the novel coronavirus was no surprise. “Our coating is designed to kill superbugs such as e.coli and MRSA but we had a strong degree of confidence that it would work against coronavirus too, and it does,” he says.

Kastus ensures our germs too remain socially distanced.

With Australia and New Zealand implementing some of the strongest business restrictions in the world, Irish companies with operations in Australia and New Zealand are using empathy, creative thinking, and an Irish Advantage to transform their businesses and facilitate stronger customer ties, particularly amongst some of the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality, logistics and leisure.

Focusing on convenience, efficiency and safety, these Enterprise Ireland backed companies got creative with their digital capabilities which look set to flourish in the post-Covid-19 ‘new normal’.

Delivering on demand for the Restaurant Industry

Restaurant dispatch delivery software company VROMO, whose R&D centre is located in Perth, has stepped up its local expansion in response to huge demand.

The company equips restaurants of all sizes with the software to sell food and manage orders online, take payment and hire delivery drivers on demand. Crucially these benefits provide a vital lifeline to restaurants, allowing them to adhere to government social distancing measures in Australia and New Zealand.

Alan Hickey, VROMO CEO, explains “We have restaurants that had never considered delivery contacting us now asking ‘how can I turn this around asap?’ It is the only way they can sustain their business right now. The last three weeks have been crazy for us.”

Hickey’s confidence is well placed, as VROMO has already raised €3.85 million from existing investors, including Enterprise Ireland. Investor confidence has been fuelled by the company’s impressive client list including Burger King in New Zealand. “They came to us and asked to use our app to do their own deliveries,” Hickey said. “We thought: if they believe our product can work for them, we don’t have a huge amount of work to do to make it really polished and bring it to the market on a scalable basis.”

With online food delivery revenue in Australia set to grow at an estimated annual growth rate of 7.1%, coupled with the millions of consumers turning to delivery during the Covid-19 crisis, there is every chance VROMO can deliver on its potential.

Relocating the Gym to the Living Room

Glofox, a gym management software company, has pivoted successfully to launch a new platform that enables gyms and fitness studios in A/NZ to deliver live streaming and premium on-demand content to customers outside the traditional gym setting. To accelerate the urgent roll out in 48 countries, and to support companies to thrive in a fitness industry which is sure to have a stronger digital element in the future, Glofox have announced additional funding of $10M.

The driving force behind the new platform and funding was the decision of governments to close gyms in March. Glofox now enables fitness businesses to keep operating remotely and fulfilling their customers fitness needs online during Covid-19.

Glofox CEO, Conor O’Loughlin, said: “COVID-19 has transformed the fitness industry. Many gyms have made the leap to delivering virtual experiences overnight. Consumers have learned how to consume fitness content digitally and are beginning to feel comfortable with that. Businesses are adapting fast, and those that adopt new tools will survive now and be able to add new revenue streams coming out of this pandemic.”

The company celebrated the opening the of their Australian office in 2019, using Sydney as a base and launchpad to deliver industry leading customer experience to their customers in Asia-Pacific. Director of CX Operations, Stephen Mannion feels that the Australian market will be key to Glofox’s swift roll out as “Australian fitness operators such as F45 Training, Z Fit Studios and Cadence Pilates have been the earliest adopters of the new platform, bringing their workouts online, retaining members, building communities, and managing all aspects of their businesses with Glofox”.

Digitising the Waste and Recycling Sector

AMCS Group is the world’s largest provider of integrated, end-to-end software and hardware solutions for the waste, recycling, logistics and resource management industry. The company helps more than 2450 customers reduce their operating costs, increase asset utilisation, optimise margins and improve customer service by digitalising the end-to-end waste management process.

Because of the challenges posed to the waste and recycling industry by Covid-19, AMCS has announced the roll out a new cloud-based customer support portal, greatly improving end-customer service levels that also enables office staff to use the system whilst working from home. Household and commercial customers can schedule pick-ups online or through an app, track the vehicles arrival and departure, and ensure social distancing is maintained for essential waste collection workers.

The impressive new features have helped AMCS win new customers in Australia during the crisis, including Melbourne based Urban Waste. Co-Founder and General Manager Leonardo Scalia has already realised benefits in his business: “We love the product, we have seen immediate efficiency increases from customer service through to operations, accounts and sales database perspectives,” he explains. “This software suits our business to a tee, before AMCS, no software had the ability to collate data that was waste purpose built. Its next level. The tech, info, data is far superior to anything else in the market”.

There are now over 100 waste companies and councils using AMCS across Australia and New Zealand and AMCS A/NZ Director Michael Bates sees Covid-19 as the perfect storm for digital acceleration,  “Companies in the waste and recycling industry that have already invested in digital operating systems have fared much better than those still functioning through more traditional methods, Urban Waste are an excellent example of this”.

Stephen Mullan, Market Executive – Digital Technologies, Enterprise Ireland A/NZ

Innovative Irish companies are partnering with international organisations to hasten innovation and increase the deployment of 5G across the world.

 

With the potential to reach speeds 100 times faster than 4G and bring a new wave of digitisation across industries, it’s no surprise that all eyes are on this promising technology. The global 5G infrastructure market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 54.1% during 2019-25. As well as the improvement in network speed, the low latency that 5G provides  enables further use cases across VR, robotic process automation and IoT.

 

Global demand from the world’s biggest players

 

Perhaps the most significant event in 2020 for 5G commercialisation is the predicted launch of Apple’s 5G-enabled iPhone later this year. The launch should have significant implications on consumer expectations around 5G availability and coverage.

As more 5G enabled IoT, gaming, VR/AR and cloud computing applications are launched, interest will continue to grow.

Companies spanning industries have high expectations for 5G. According to a Gartner survey, two-thirds of enterprises plan to utilise 5G by 2020 with IoT and video applications as the key drivers. Now live in 24 markets, 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years, and to account for 20% of global connections by 2025.

 

7 Irish companies making the connection

 

Irish telecoms companies, long bolstered by the industry’s commitment to R&D and innovation, are at the forefront of the worldwide deployment of 5G networks, partnering with international companies to make it happen.

Alpha Wireless is a market-leading specialist in designing and manufacturing high-performing antenna solutions. Last year, Alpha Wireless provided antennas for a 5G-enabled mobile network at the Millbrook Proving Ground that enabled self-driving vehicle testing. Their goal is to enable the rollout of next-generation telecommunications networks.

CEO Fergal Lawlor spoke about the potential for Irish companies to partner with global infrastructure providers and mobile operators, saying: “It’s incredible to think that 5G will be able to support the connectivity demands of three times the world’s population in years to come.”

Benetel provides a unique combination of disruptive and differentiated radio platforms, services and RF expertise. Their modular platform approach provides scalable solutions for communication providers. In 2018 big industry players like AT&T, China Mobile & Orange Mobile formed the ORAN alliance, showing a movement towards open interface solutions that Benetel provides.

“Benetel envisions that organisations will require the ability to quickly and cost-effectively customise and evaluate the benefits of 5G networks. We’re responding to this demand with deployment-grade open interface RUs,” John Doyle, Founder and CTO of Benetel, explains while speaking about the company’s addition to the OpenAir Alliance in 2019, whose mission is to provide software and tools for 5G wireless research and product development.

Cubic Telecom is a global connectivity management software supplier that offers solutions powering connectivity for leading IoT, automotive and mobile device companies across the globe. Cubic works with leading companies such as Audi, Panasonic, Volkswagen and Woolworths, providing them with connectivity in over 180 countries.

After successful rounds of funding and international partnerships to further global 5G innovation, Cubic Telecom’s CEO Barry Napier predicts that 5G will be a global game-changer in and beyond the automotive industry: “We will see an increase in the services being streamed directly to the car, and more manufacturers offering Wi-Fi hotspots in their vehicles.”

Druid Software provide cellular core applications for 5G, CBRS, IoT, Public Safety, Neutral Host, and Patrol & Enterprise Communications. Druid supply core network technology and components to Global System Integrators and Network Equipment Providers.  Their technology is enabling LTE private networks withing mining, shipping, transport and manufacturing.

Openet provides Business Support Systems (BSS) to some of the world’s leading service providers (AT&T, BT, Orange) enabling them to create new revenues from digital services, improve customer engagement and enjoy faster time to market. Last year, they entered into a partnership with Samsung Electronics to deliver 5G core network solutions.

Speaking about the partnership, Openet’s CEO Niall Norton said: “This was a significant investment to ensure that Openet’s Digital BSS software fully supports 5G. The BSS market has changed, old business models are gone, and world-leading companies like Samsung want to work with independent, innovative and agile vendors who will make a difference.”

Software Radio Systems delivers open, auditable software for mobile wireless systems, providing custom product solutions, applications and modular, portable libraries for a range of wireless technologies including LTE and 5G NR. Previous projects of note include work with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and SmartSky, an air-to-ground connectivity provider for commercial aircraft.

While speaking about a recent partnership with US-based VT Systems to transform multimedia streaming on mobile devices, Paul Sutton, SRS co-founder says: “This is a transformational project which will provide seamless video streaming content directly to millions of users over huge geographic areas.”

Taoglas, a world-leading provider of RF antennas next-generation IoT solutions, has deployed innovative IoT projects across automotive, utilities, smart cities, healthcare, telematics and more. Taoglas have an industry-leading portfolio of 5G antennas for both sub-6GHz and mmWave frequencies and were the first to market with antennas that support the 600MHz spectrum being used by T-Mobile in the US.

“Our high-performance and cost-competitive subsystem will help solidify a broader and faster deployment of the [5G] technology,” notes Dennis Kish, COO of Taoglas, speaking on the back of a recent partnership with MixComm on a design that aims to reduce barriers to worldwide 5G adoption.

 

Ireland has a reputation as being the heart of ICT in Europe, and Irish companies are helping to pave the way towards global 5G deployment, evidenced by high-profile partnerships like those listed above, and through the energy, commitment and enthusiasm within the sector as a whole. With expectations from consumers and business alike, these companies are providing the support and expertise needed to achieve a faster, more connected digital world.

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.”

The Covid-19 crisis has brought out the best in Irish companies, which are assisting the response with a range of innovative and creative solutions.

Repurposing production lines to manufacture hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment (PPE), new digital healthcare applications, and the rapid development of new test kit components – these are just a few of the very many highly innovative responses to the Covid-19 crisis that have emerged from Irish companies in recent months.

“It’s amazing how resourceful and creative people become when they are challenged,” says Enterprise Ireland, Divisional Manager for Innovation & Competitiveness, Tom Kelly. “We are seeing companies innovating, adapting and creating new solutions and product lines in response to the crisis.”

He points to the shortage of hand sanitiser products as an example. “The need for a massive increase in supplies was one of the earliest instances. Several companies repurposed their existing systems to manufacture them.
Mervue in Cork partnered with Irish Distillers and is selling directly into the HSE. EPC in Clara, Co Offaly manufactures medicated toothpaste, but has set up a completely new line for sanitisers; it went to Grants in Tullamore to secure a supply of alcohol. EPC is also selling into the HSE and other markets. That story has been repeated by other companies like Univet, Chanelle and Ovelle.”

The shortage of PPE is also being addressed. “Irema Ireland ramped up production to increase supplies of high-quality surgical and respiratory masks,” says Kelly. “Other companies are looking at aprons and gowns, but that’s still at an early stage.”

Another ‘great story’ relates to face shields. “From a standing start, we have seen a number of companies like Key Plastics step up to manufacture face shields for use in the health service. The engineering sector has been particularly responsive.”

Moving into the lab, Aalto Bio Reagents is manufacturing a nucleocapsid protein for diagnostic tests. This is known as a lysis buffer, which is used for the purpose of breaking open cells.
“Aalto Bio Reagents worked very closely with the HSE and the National Virus Reference Laboratory and came up with a formulation within a week. Serosep is another company that is manufacturing test kits. You have to recognise the courage and capability of companies like that. What they are doing is the result of an innovative mindset, which is serving the country very well at present.”

It is not only established companies that are making a contribution. Enterprise Ireland-supported high potential start-up (HPSUs) are also playing their part.
CALT Dynamics in Wicklow, a 3D printing start-up in Ireland, are printing 3D printable protective visors that could help to bridge the shortfall of PPE both in Ireland and overseas,” says Enterprise Ireland, HPSU Manager, Industrial & Lifesciences Alan Hobbs. “It has linked up with Automatic Plastics in Tinahely and is now supplying products to a number of hospitals.”

These early-stage companies are making a particular mark in the digital health realm. “We’ve been seeing a distinct uptick in that area,” says Hobbs. “A number of Irish companies have secured contracts with the HSE, and with other health services. We now have a cohort of innovative young Irish start-ups that have just secured their first reference sites in the domestic market. This is very important, because when they go abroad, they will get asked about sales at home.”

One such company is practice management software developer Wellola. It has launched a secure patient communication portal for the HSE that enables GPs to treat people remotely if possible.

Meanwhile, all appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres are scheduled using software from another innovative Irish firm, Swiftqueue. “Patients don’t realise that this is being done on Irish-developed software,” says Hobbs.

These are just a few among many new healthcare solutions being brought to market by Irish firms, according to Hobbs.
PMD Solutions is trialling new respiratory monitoring technology with Beaumont Hospital at the moment. This fits in with the HSE strategy of shifting care into the community, and it takes a lot of the stress off hospitals. Jinga Life’s technology for the e-transfer of CT scans means less handling of CDs and so on, and it also reduces risk of infection. Finally, patientMpower provides the tools for patients with lung complaints to be followed remotely with integrated medication management.
The company is also providing a new remote triage service for Covid-19 patients in the home.

And there are other benefits, Hobbs adds. “There is also an impact on supply chains. Having companies doing these things locally makes a huge difference to delivery times.”

Looking to the future, Kelly says the Covid-19 crisis is likely to change the way we think about healthcare supply chains. “We already recognise the need for food security and energy security. It is becoming increasingly obvious that healthcare security has to be viewed in the same way.”

As the global battle against Covid-19 intensifies, Irish medtech and life sciences firms are ramping up production to meet soaring demand for nebulisers, ventilators and other badly-needed treatment and protection equipment.

Half of the existing ventilators in acute hospitals around the world were made in Ireland, which is ranked as one of the top five global medtech hubs.

Doubling production of critical devices

Medtronic, the world’s largest standalone medical device maker, produces ventilators in a large manufacturing plant in Galway, in the west of Ireland. It is doubling its capacity by more than doubling its workforce of 250 and moving to round-the-clock production.

Another firm increasing production to meet high global demand related to coronavirus treatment is Enterprise Ireland-backed client Aerogen. It’s the world’s leading supplier of aerosol drug delivery products through ventilators to patients in critical and intensive care.

Before the current crisis, Aerogen already provided hospitals in more than 75 countries with its products, benefitting 10 million patients.

Aerogen CEO John Power expects the company could ship 3m or 4m units in 2020, up from 2m in 2019. It is also investigating how to address the global ventilator shortage by adapting non-invasive ventilation systems.

Power and his team are striving to ensure they can meet the sudden and unprecedented growth in demand. “We are a global company and we are balancing demand from across the world,” he says.

Demand up by as much as 300%

Galway-based M&M Qualtech manufactures products for the medtech, aviation, ICT and other sectors. It produces ventilators, nebulisers and medical monitoring equipment for its medtech customers, including Aerogen and Medtronic. It says it’s seeing capacity demand three to five times higher than the usual pre-crisis level.

M&M Qualtech began to see this spike in manufacturing demand in early March and already expects to produce 4m nebulisers this year, up from 2m last year. It also anticipates a similar rate of increase in production of nebuliser controllers (likely to produce 45,000, up from 35,000) and ventilator AC modules (expecting to make 18,000, up from 5,000 in 2019).

It’s increasing capacity by focusing factory production on the most critically needed medical products, hiring up to 25% more Production Operators, engaging with suppliers daily to expedite materials into production, and redesigning its factory to meet social distancing requirements.  

Ripple effect of Covid-19 crisis 

Also based in the west of Ireland, Vitalograph is the world leader in the analysis of cough drug trials. It specialises in cardiorespiratory and related devices that measure lung and cardiac function, diagnose lung disorders and also produces associated products and software.

Vitalograph is working to meet increased demand for spirometers and consumables such as bacterial-viral filters and test kits and seeing a significant increase in orders of remote monitors. Over the past 15 years, Vitalograph remote monitoring has mainly been used in clinical trials but is now rapidly being adopted by mainstream healthcare.

“Remote monitoring enables the most vulnerable patients with conditions such as COPD, cystic fibrosis and IPF to remain in their homes and not travel to hospitals or clinics and risk picking up infections,” said Frank Keane, the company’s CEO.

“As the patients we serve will be the most vulnerable to a respiratory disease of this nature, we are doubling our efforts to ensure we can fulfil our mission and serve them at this time.”

Vitalograph has also recruited more staff, and increased both capacity and orders from sub-suppliers, and activated their comprehensive business continuity plan.

Deirdre Glenn, Head of Lifesciences with Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation said; “In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish medtech companies are rising to the challenge of meeting the increased global demand for essential equipment needed for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. As the second largest exporter of medtech products in Europe, and with the highest number of people per capital employed in medtech in Europe, Ireland is primed to play its role in the global fight against Covid-19”