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:
- 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
- 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
- Sales Enablement: These are the solutions which support sales and marketing teams to engage customers more efficiently, sell more effectively, and keep connected
- 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.
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 employs more than 600 people at its purpose-built facility in Monaghan and its products can be found in over 85 countries. The company invests some 7% of revenue in research and development, putting innovation squarely at the heart of its business.
In the past 18 months alone Combilift has vbrought three new products to market but it has also applied its engineering expertise and ‘thinking outside the box’ approach to the Covid-19 crisis.
In response to the shortage of ventilators worldwide Combilift set up a project team and within five weeks had developed the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device that turns one ventilator into multiple ventilator stations.
Developed in collaboration with Ireland’s public health service, the HSE, the device uses standard pipes and fittings for easy assembly. Its individual patient filters prevent cross-contamination and each patient has a dedicated digital screen which allows medical professionals to individually monitor their vital information.
“This is very much designed as an attachment which can be added to any brand of ventilator. It costs a fraction of a standard ventilator and can be installed very easily into an intensive care unit environment. This is a not-for-profit activity which we hope will open up more opportunities for Combilift in the medical device area in future,” says Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director of Combilift.
Standing still during the lockdown earlier this year was neither an option nor a reality for XOCEAN. Remote teams dotted around the world came together to organise the logistics and operation of Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) to complete projects.
Since 2017, ocean data collection company, XOCEAN, has grown rapidly and excelled in delivering expert solutions within specialised sectors. The Louth-based outfit offers a range of turnkey data collection services to surveyors, companies and agencies.
“We’re an ocean data company,” XOCEAN CEO, James Ives says. “We’ve developed unmanned technology and systems to collect different types of ocean data. Everything from mapping the seabed to inspecting subsea assets like cables and foundations for wind farms. We also collect environmental data for several sectors like offshore renewables, particularly offshore wind. And we operate globally.”
XOCEAN’s mission is to transform ocean data collection by bridging the knowledge gap that lies in 95% of the world’s oceans being unmapped. In doing so, they aim to support the sustainable and economic growth of our oceans. With goals like these, there’s no time to slow down, and the company has been busy fulfilling multiple projects for clients lately. They are supporting clients with asset integrity inspections, deep-sea sensor data transfer missions in the UK and Norway, and seabed mapping to improve nautical chart accuracy, safety, and marine environment understanding. Ives tells us they have also delivered projects in an area that he finds particularly exciting: offshore wind.
One such project involved remotely delivering and launching a USV to the sea off Suffolk to undertake survey work for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and innogy SE. The vessel carried out seabed surveys on multiple turbines at the 140-turbine wind farm, located 23 kilometres off the UK coast.
Ives believes that the use of unmanned systems holds three key advantages that will be even more relevant in a post-COVID world. “First of all, safety. If nobody needs to go offshore, that removes people from harm’s way. Second is carbon emissions. We generate about a 1,000th of the emissions of a conventional survey ship, and we offset all of those emissions. The data we collect is fully carbon neutral. Finally, we believe we can deliver the data at a lower cost.”
Offshore wind reaping the benefits of data experts
As an industry that requires vast amounts of data, offshore wind is an area where XOCEAN can offer real value. Throughout a typical offshore wind project, Ives tells us, ocean data collection and analysis is essential.
“Before an offshore wind farm is built, it needs many years of environmental data and detailed studies of the seabed to determine where to place foundations and cables. Then throughout construction, there’s a need for multiple surveys. After it’s built and is operational, there’s a 25-year period of maintaining those assets.”
Offshore wind is a crucial technology leading the charge in the face of an energy system undergoing rapid change. Globally, investment in the area quadrupled in the first half of 2020 as governments look towards sustainable futures and meeting international energy targets in an economically viable way.
“The offshore wind sector has transitioned from perhaps being a more expensive form of energy than traditional forms of fossil fuel generation, to become a hugely economic way of generating electricity at large volumes,” Ives says. The growth of the industry is a testament to this: Offshore wind is anticipated to grow from 22 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 177 GW by 2030.
The Irish offshore wind potential
Ireland has the potential to power itself, surrounded by a resource yet to be fully harnessed. Irish companies are perfectly positioned to offer specialised services and capabilities such as IoT, robotics and wireless communications to the industry. Enterprise Ireland’s offshore wind industry cluster aims to empower Irish capabilities within the space, partnering to deliver global projects, and bring the expertise back to develop the domestic industry in Ireland.
Ives believes the Irish potential to become leaders in the field is strong. “Ireland is very fortunate that it has a lot of the ingredients needed for a very significant offshore wind market, particularly in the Irish Sea, where the water depths and wind resources are good. It’s an ideal place for very significant developments offshore.”
XOCEAN is building towards international success
Keeping cogs turning during a global pandemic is a sure sign of a bright future for XOCEAN. As well as having a keen eye on the offshore wind sector, Ives tells us that their focus is on fleet growth and entering new markets. “We’re working on the 10th and 11th vessels at the moment, and we continue to plan to build more units. We’re working further and further afield; in North America, throughout Europe, and we’re looking at several projects in the Asia Pacific region. We’re very excited about the future.”
Partnering with Enterprise Ireland
XOCEAN has maintained a close relationship with Enterprise Ireland since Ives flicked the switch in 2017. Through financial and market-entry supports, he says that the help they have received has been crucial and hopes to continue the relationship.
“We work very closely with Enterprise Ireland on a lot of activities, such as exhibitions and trade missions. And they’re very helpful for us in terms of introducing us to new clients in new markets. The international offices are fantastic at being able to provide that introductory service. We’re very grateful for the support we receive, and we look forward to continuing the relationship.”
XOCEAN is one of the 50 Irish companies currently involved with the EI offshore wind industry cluster, aiding in the development of expertise, the sharing of sector knowledge, and the introductions between new global partners.
“The Enterprise Ireland team is very focused on the offshore wind market. We’ve participated in offshore wind seminars, trade shows, and trade events. It’s an important market for Enterprise Ireland, and we agree. We feel that it has huge potential, so we would look forward to continuing that.”
Proven Sales and Cybersecurity Executive to Lead Company’s Growth in the Region
Daon, a global leader in digital onboarding and biometric authentication technology, today announced the appointment of Trilochan Sehgal as Regional Vice President, South East Asia, and the opening of a new office in Singapore. The announcement affirms the importance of South East Asia to Daon and places the company in a strong position to respond to the growth of digital banking in the region.
Based in Singapore, Sehgal is an industry veteran with more than twenty years of experience in cybersecurity, including many years at IBM, where he led the identity and access management software business for APAC.
“Digital technology is transforming Asia’s economy with a projected threefold rate of growth in the digital economy alone,” said Tom Grissen, CEO, Daon. “Due to the importance of this region to Daon’s global business, we are embarking on significant expansion plans, including establishing a new presence in Singapore, in addition to our well-established presence in Hong Kong, and appointing a high-calibre, seasoned identity professional in Trilochan Sehgal to lead our business as Vice President of South East Asia.”
Daon’s trusted solutions are deployed by leading financial institutions across the world. In Asia, Daon’s clients include Japan’s SMFG/SMBC, Standard Chartered Bank and a host of Hong Kong based banks as well as The Hong Kong Jockey Club, which uses Daon technology to enable frictionless engagement with its betting apps. In 2020, the company’s presence in Asia has already expanded to include significant new partnerships. In March, the company also announced a contract to deliver digital onboarding and mobile biometric authentication to Singapore based TONIK, which provides the first digital-only bank in the Philippines. New virtual banks like Standard Chartered Bank’s Mox in Hong Kong are also using Daon’s technology and are currently live in production.
“Despite some difficulties imposed by the pandemic, digitization efforts by many South East Asian customers have recently been fast-tracked, and Daon’s technology plays an important role in enabling these initiatives,” said Sehgal. “Daon’s stellar track record with global customers, combined with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand gearing up to open the industry to new players in virtual banking, makes for great timing to invest in the region.”
Daon is supported in its regional expansion by Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. “Enterprise Ireland are delighted to welcome the appointment of Trilochan Sehgal as South East Asia Regional Vice President for Daon in the region, and congratulate the company also on the opening of its office here in Singapore. Daon exemplifies the world leading calibre of Irish expertise and industry leadership in fintech, and it is exciting to see the value that Irish innovations bring to Asia,” said Kevin Ryan, Director for ASEAN at Enterprise Ireland. “These developments and the demonstration of commitment from client companies into the region are testament to the importance of South East Asia to their global success. We look forward to further similar commitments by client companies in 2021 and beyond.”
Dublin based insurtech start-up Describe Data helps insurance underwriters develop a better understanding of risk, enabling them to price it properly and avoid the bad deals. “In the insurance industry there is a saying that there is no such thing as bad risk, just a bad price,” says Describe Data Chief Operating Officer Gerard de Vere.
The company uses data analytics to provide insights into financial lines risks such as directors and officers, employers practice liability, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions. “Our particular focus is on the directors and officers line,” says Chief Executive Michael Crawford. “This is insurance against companies being sued and provides protection for their directors and officers. Fifty per cent of the world market for that cover is in the US, due to the existence of class action suits there as well as the country’s highly litigious culture. We gather data on companies and their sectors and analyse it to help insurance underwriters assess the risks.”
This particular type of insurance is very specific to large corporations. “We are talking about very big risks,” Crawford adds. “The policies are being written by underwriters who analyse the risk in a qualitative way. We are putting in a quantitive overlay which helps them price the risk better and do it quicker.”
The insurance industry is not noted for its early embrace of technology, however. “That can be a challenge,” says Crawford. “The industry has been around for 300 years and it never really felt that it needed technology while there was still plenty of money to be made.”
But it couldn’t resist forever. “It has been happening in capital markets for the past 30 years,” says Crawford. “And we have seen technology and data analytics being applied to catastrophe insurance for quite a long time. A lot of those tools and techniques have matured and the cost of computational power has fallen through the floor. We now have access to computing power that would have been the preserve of large academic institutions or governments 15 years ago and we can deploy these advanced techniques and tools at an affordable cost. At the same time, open-source software has been developed that allows people to share the latest solutions. It’s been a perfect storm.”
The Describe Data product is a risk engine which produces insights across four levels. The first is the financial level where it gives financial information on the company and its sector. The next is litigation and the likelihood of lawsuits against the company or within the sector.
The risk evaluation level looks at what happens if different aspects of the risk are adjusted. “The underlying market for risk is highly sophisticated,” de Vere explains. “People in the industry trade bits of risk with each other all the time and it is possible to reduce exposure in this way.”
The final level is portfolio analysis. A company may have written hundreds of these policies and the system can slice and dice the portfolio to find risk hotspots. For example, companies in the same sector, or sectors with high levels of litigation, or companies with a poor track record, can be identified for the insurer either to increase premiums or cease cover at the next renewal date.
“It’s quite a dynamic market,” says de Vere. “We have met a lot of people in London who are very savvy at this sort of thing. They have an innate skill and are very good at it. We put technology in to make it better, quicker, stronger. We call it bionic underwriting.”
That emphasis on supporting the people in the industry is very important. “People come in with robotic process automation and try to say it will replace underwriters,” Crawford notes. “But you can’t replace 300 years of underwriting experience and the instincts and innate knowledge that comes with that. What we are offering is intelligent decision support tools which help people make better decisions faster.”
Crawford explains the value of these tools. “If a company takes 100 risks, four or five might claim. Three of those will be quite minor, one will be quite large, and one will be huge. We offer the ability to understand the risks and identify the bad ones. Avoiding the one with the very large claim can transform a portfolio from a margin of 5% or 6% to 20% or 25%.”
The company is now marketing the product following a delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We spent a couple of years developing the product after we started up in 2018,” says de Vere. “Towards the end of last year, we were looking for a large insurance company to partner with to take the product and prove it. We had a couple of promising leads and then the pandemic hit and the appetite for a pilot disappeared. We decided to double down and continue product development, and we completed that work during the lockdown. We now have a product ready to go to market and we are talking to a number of potential clients.”
Looking ahead, Crawford says the company will probably go to the market for a funding round next year. “We have been self-funded so far and will probably take on investment at the beginning of next year to sustain our growth. Enterprise Ireland has been amazing in helping us. We want to continue research and development and move into other lines of insurance. It’s a very interesting time to be doing this.”
Ireland’s long heritage in call centres, its position as a global technology hub, and its highly supportive customer experience ecosystem, places it at the leading edge of the rapidly transforming business process outsourcing (BPO) and global business services sector.
Today, more than 60,000 people are employed by over 250 business process outsourcing providers in Ireland. They provide global customers with a range of complex, high-value services, including multilingual customer support, regulated foreign exchange transactions, insurance claim handling, pre-sales and sales functions, social media monitoring, technical support, and healthcare management.
Ireland’s track record in the industry stretches back almost 40 decades to the 1980s when the strong communications skills and interpersonal strengths of its people helped to establish the country as one of the world’s first call centre hubs. Indeed, by the mid-1990s Ireland was recognised as Europe’s undisputed contact centre capital.
Contact centres have grown in scale and scope since then and now provide a wide variety of customer support services through phone calls as well as an array of channels ranging from social media to web chat. This omnichannel customer engagement is now referred to as customer experience or CX.
That combination of technology and the natural interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence of the Irish people has seen the industry here move from dealing with relatively simple issues to solving highly complex problems for customers around the world.
In today’s intensely competitive world, the most valuable part of many businesses is their brand, and customer experience is a key contributor to brand value. The fact that many of the world’s leading companies have chosen to entrust that customer experience to Irish partners is an indication of the regard in which the industry is held internationally.
The industry in Ireland is now characterised by the large cohort of multinational companies that have a presence here, as well as the strength of its indigenous CX sector. Leading multinationals in the sector include PayPal with its major customer experience centre in Dundalk and Voxpro.
Originally founded in Cork, Voxpro is an international business process outsourcing specialist with Irish operations in Dublin and Cork, as well as centres of excellence in North and Central America, Europe and Asia. This highly innovative company was acquired by TELUS International in 2017 and now employs over 34,000 people.
CarTrawler is the world’s largest online marketplace for car hire, processing over 900 million hires per year across the globe. It employs 450 people, including 42 different nationalities, and covers 20 languages. In the past number of years, it has transformed itself from a call centre operation to a digital contact centre.
This critical mass of technologically advanced global business services and customer experience companies is backed by an equally advanced support ecosystem which includes Ireland’s internationally renowned research capability. Support in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and advanced data analytics is provided by the Adapt and Insight Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, while the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland-backed CeADAR Technology Centre works with CX companies in areas such as customer, text, social media, location-based, and sentiment analytics.
The close collaboration between research and industry has propelled the Irish CX and business process outsourcing sector to the front rank internationally when it comes to the application of leading-edge technologies.
Ireland’s status as a global technology hub, with all of the major technology giants including Google, Amazon, Facebook and so on located here, has given the global business services sector an inside line on the latest customer experience technologies.
That technological advantage is overlaid by a skills base unrivalled internationally when it comes to depth and quality. The country’s education system is ranked in the top 10 globally for quality and relevance to industry. Ireland’s IT specialists are among the best educated in the EU, with 82% having a third-level qualification – compared with an EU average of 62%. In addition, 56% of 30–34 year-olds have a third-level qualification, as opposed to 40% in the EU.
In addition, Skillnet Ireland, a specialist in workforce learning, has created a number of industry-led programmes for the sector right up to master’s degree level. The strength of this unique ecosystem is why the Global Innovation Index ranks Ireland 10th in the world.
That ecosystem is rounded off by support from Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. Around 90% of the firms in the sector are now engaged in some form of technology or process innovation with Enterprise Ireland support. This includes firms of every size and stage of development.
The industry is also highly proactive when it comes to promotion and development initiatives. The Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) works to ensure that Ireland continues to lead the way in CX development, while Crios, a group of long-established and experienced global services providers, facilitates the continued growth of the industry by offering international customers a single access point for a highly professional partnering solution for their customer contact needs. Service offerings from Crios members cover all major sectors, including finance, public sector, technology, utility and communication.
The inherent strengths of the Irish industry place it in an ideal position to be one of the winners from the wave of disruption that will result from the increasing use of AI, machine learning, chatbots and natural language processing.
The Irish industry has consistently moved towards higher-value activities over the years and despite increasing automation, employment has continued to grow. Ireland’s highly educated workforce is ideally suited to solving very complex problems for customers. Robotic process automation and other technologies facilitate them by freeing up time to spend on delivering those solutions.
The same technologies also make the industry uniquely suited to the new world of work being created by the Covid-19 pandemic. The great majority of roles can be performed remotely with no impact on quality or productivity. This in turn makes companies in the industry more attractive as employers and more capable of retaining key talent.
The stars are aligning perfectly, giving Ireland a unique opportunity to strengthen its position as the location of choice for companies looking for global business services partners or to expand their own customer experience operations. Ireland’s workforce is continuing to upskill into higher-value roles, and this is helping to position Ireland as a globally recognised location where complex customer interaction and experience intersects with technology.
The global energy system is undergoing rapid changes, with renewable energy comprising an ever-increasing share of our electricity grid. One of the key technologies leading the charge is offshore wind, with the UK leading the global market in 2020. The UK’s ambitious 2030 offshore wind generation targets mark it out as an international leader, with many countries, including Ireland, now following their lead with their own progressive 2030 targets.
Globally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported a 19% annual growth rate in offshore wind, faster than any other industry. Offshore wind is anticipated to grow from 22 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 177 GW by 2030.
In response, Enterprise Ireland established an offshore wind industry cluster to identify and work with the key Irish companies with the capability to support the industry’s growth. Launched in early 2019, the cluster now comprises of over 50 companies. Its members have made substantial progress securing contracts with the UK offshore wind industry, tackling the sector’s most urgent technology challenges and identifying collaboration and innovation opportunities with fellow cluster members.
Cluster Launch and Irish Capability
The cluster was formally launched during the inaugural Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in March 2019, which brought together over 120 Irish and UK industry delegates. The forum followed the completion of in-depth supply chain scoping exercises undertaken by EI’s cluster leaders, Darragh Cotter and Liam Curran, in which more than 80 Irish companies with the potential to supply the offshore wind industry were identified. Key Irish strengths stood out in the areas of IoT, big data, robotics and wireless communications with Ireland’s strong track record in engineering consultancy—particularly marine and electrical engineering—also identified as a key supply chain offering. The scoping exercises also unearthed Irish companies with the ability to effectively pivot into offshore wind from areas such as onshore wind and vessel services.
“Irish companies can offer highly skilled and specialised services to the offshore wind industry,” says Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor in EI’s London office. “We have to lean into our strengths and box clever. Our capability assessments have given us a clear understanding of where Irish companies can add value. By focusing on existing national skills, we can make strong inroads into the offshore wind industry.”
EI’s assessments also helped to inform “Harnessing Our Potential”, a report published in March 2020 by the Irish Wind Energy Association which provides a comprehensive analysis of Ireland’s potential offshore wind energy supply chain. One of the report’s four key recommendations is to recognise the importance of the EI supply chain cluster and bolster its efforts.
Embedding the Irish supply chain into the UK offshore wind industry is seen by Enterprise Ireland as a crucial strategy to maximise local supply chain involvement in future Irish projects as well as helping to provide an essential testbed for additional global markets. Proving capability in real-world environments and developing relationships with key industry stakeholders is the name of the game.
Cluster Launch and Irish Capability
While the industry cluster is a vehicle to promote Irish capability to the offshore wind industry, the cluster also facilitates and encourages collaboration amongst Irish companies. “Companies get to know each other and their respective strengths, they can identify areas where they can work together and supplement each other’s offers. This has led to joint tenders and enhanced service offering. Fostering that collaboration, whenever possible, is vital to the ongoing success of the cluster,” according to Liam Curran, Senior Technologist with Enterprise Ireland.
Key to the success of the cluster is a collective understanding of how the industry operates, its procurement rules and practices, the key technological trends, and cost reduction drivers. EI has enacted several market-based initiatives to increase awareness amongst Irish SMEs. Activities to date have included;
- EI offshore wind insights programme: This mentorship programme, run from EI’s London office, links cluster members with UK industry experts. The mentors work one-to-one with companies to provide feedback and direction on the value proposition, market entry strategy, as well as customer and competitor landscape.
- Market study visits: 20 Irish companies took part in an EI visit to East Anglia; a key offshore wind hub on the East Coast of England. Cluster members met with industry leaders to discuss their supply chain needs and to view both an offshore wind construction and O&M ports.
- Webinar series: Due to the current pandemic, many planned events have been moved online in recent months. One such event, originally intended to be held in Croke Park, was transformed into an educational webinar series which is ongoing.
- Virtual conferences: In October 2020, Enterprise Ireland and eight Irish companies will have a presence at Global Offshore Wind, a three-day online event with over 400 speakers and exhibitors from across the offshore wind industry.
- Expert consultations: Enterprise Ireland has partnered with an expert third-party consultant in Scotland to provide additional one-to-one support to Irish SMEs seeking to work in the UK offshore wind industry.
Enterprise Ireland Cluster companies support over 4,000 jobs in Ireland, and with the development of the Irish offshore wind industry, there is a strong regional employment opportunity. Coastal communities that once relied on fishing can pivot their marine expertise to the sector and stand to benefit significantly from its development in Ireland. SSE, for example, have designated Arklow as their Operations and Maintenance base for their Arklow Bank project and anticipate employing 70 people locally. Marine Engineering and vessel handling skillsets in other port locations (such as Killybegs) are readily convertible to the needs of the industry. Irish ports are factoring offshore wind into their expansion plans, with Shannon Foynes, for example, looking at developing their port as a base for Floating Offshore Wind off the West Coast.
- Louth-based Unmanned Surface Vessel experts XOCEAN recently carried out seabed surveys on seven of the turbines at the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard wind farm for SSE Renewables & RWE Renewables. They have also signed a framework agreement with SSE Renewables to cover their entire offshore wind business.
- Mobile connectivity company Vilicom have signed a contract with Danish energy company Ørsted for wireless communications solutions on the Hornsea Two offshore wind farm. It recently launched its energy division as a direct response to the market opportunity promoted by Enterprise Ireland.
- Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions specialise in providing geophysics services to the industry and have built extensive global offshore wind experience in the UK, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
- Irish Sea Contractors have developed an innovative subsea cable repair technology using a diver habitat system. This solution can be used to repair offshore wind electricity cables on the seabed.
- Inland and Coastal Marina Systems have delivered pontoon systems for Crew Transfer Vessel (CTV) ports and harbours servicing the offshore wind sector, with Vattenfall in Aberdeen a recent high-profile customer.
Ireland’s forward-thinking and innovation-focused offshore wind supply chain works with industry partners to accelerate the growth of offshore wind globally. From IoT and data analytics, to marine and electrical engineering, Irish companies offer flexible and solutions-oriented services, always focusing on the industry’s future trends and technology needs. Join Enterprise Ireland and leading Irish companies on Tuesday, October 20th to understand how they can support your offshore wind project. https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6294943073015904011