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”

 

Irish companies are taking up the fight against Covid-19. New developments rapidly emerging from Ireland, one of the leading medtech hubs in the world, are being used to help stem the advance of the virus.

New rapid Covid-19 diagnostic test

Dublin based HiberGene Diagnostics develops and manufactures molecular diagnostics tests for human infectious diseases. It specialises in the manufacture of rapid and highly accurate testing solutions that are cost effective and simple to use.

Now it is developing a new and rapid test for the novel coronavirus, which it hopes to bring to market shortly after clinical evaluation at potential sites in China, Italy & Ireland.

HiberGene’s tests are based on non-invasive human samples such as swabs, and minimal sample processing.

Because the test for the new coronavirus is a “near patient test”, samples will be taken and tested on location, without needing to be sent offsite to a laboratory, it expects to diagnose a positive COVID 19 result in approx. 20 minutes, many times faster than the fastest existing molecular diagnostic tests.

New Protein to fight Covid-19 through diagnosis, vaccines and research

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.

Its new recombinant SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (code CK 6404) is available for diagnostic test manufacturers, vaccine developers and researchers globally, all of whom are working to stem the current pandemic.

“Patients are currently being screened for the virus by PCR”, explained Philip Noone, CEO of Aalto Bio Reagents, “however there is an important need for serological tests as well to detect all those mild or even asymptomatic cases that may otherwise be missed. Sero-epidemiologic investigations, such as those aimed to better understand transmission characteristics and severity of COVID-19, are also essential.”

The medical field and diagnostic industry have an unrelenting requirement for access to scientifically proven raw materials in outbreak situations like this, where fast diagnosis is required, he said. “With our new SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein we endeavour to meet this urgent demand.”

Irish company Aerogen has pioneered new ways to help people in respiratory distress. To date more than nine million patients worldwide have benefited from its innovative 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.

Its products offer a lower risk of transmission of patient generated infectious aerosol for health care professionals in acute care settings than traditional nebulisers.

For patients requiring ventilation, its vibrating mesh technology, and closed circuit design, makes it a viable option to help deliver industry-leading care. Recent UK government guidelines state that when treating respiratory patients a closed suctioning system must be used, and that ventilator circuits should not be broken unless necessary.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, the Aerogen Solo device has an in-line circuit design and is designed so that the medication reservoir is isolated from the breathing circuit, minimising nebulisation of contaminated fluids.

Air Purification System to Kill Airborne Viruses

Pioneering plasma technology developed by Irish company Novaerus is already being deployed to purify air for patients and medical staff.

Novaerus helps control the spread of pathogens by closing the infection control loop made up 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.

Several of its medical-grade, clean air solutions have been donated to hospitals in Wuhan, China.

These include its latest model, Defend 1050, a mobile solution designed for rapid remediation in large spaces and situations with a high risk of infection.

Coronaviruses spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. “The most difficult disease transmission-route to guard against is airborne because we have very little to protect us when we breathe,” explained Dr Kevin Devlin, CEO at WellAir, the Irish parent company of Novaerus.

New Augmented Reality Hand Washing App

Leaders across the world have stressed that the primary tool we have at all our disposal in the fight against Covid-19 is the ability to wash our hands. Stemming the virus’ spread depends on how often, and how well, we do that.

If hand hygiene is done properly it can be over 90% effective in preventing the spread of harmful germs, yet a large number of people are unaware that they are not washing their hands correctly.

SureWash is an augmented reality hand washing app developed to provide proper hand hygiene training to healthcare workers, patients and visitors worldwide.

It ensures compliance in hand hygiene to World Health Organisation protocol by delivering training in an engaging manner that encourages participation. By providing real-time feedback, it helps users to improve their technique.

The software system also provides infection control personnel with the data necessary to monitor hand hygiene progress and to guarantee positive results.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic it has launched its app to the general public, so that everyone can play their part.

New Covid-19 online portal allows GPs to treat patients remotely

Patient portal developer Wellola responded to a call from Ireland’s Health Services Executive (HSE), Ireland’s national health authority, to develop and launch a new secure communication portal for clinicians and primary care providers in response to the pandemic.

Called HSE Covid 19 Portal, it’s an easy to use digital tool designed to optimise doctor and patient safety.  Patients access it via an app which is downloadable via the HSE Covid 19 website. The new online portal allows GPs and healthcare providers to treat people remotely so as to protect themselves from Covid-19. The portal allows GPs and primary-care providers to easily offer patients a range of services, including online bookings, a video consultation service, secure messaging and form completion to assist in triaging.

The Covid 19 app is based on existing technology already developed and tested by Wellola and so was ready to launch just four days after receiving the call from the HSE.

Finally, in the face of a worldwide shortage of life saving ventilators, an international initiative called the Open Ventilator Project quickly came together on Facebook to design and build a 3-D printed ventilator.

In Ireland the project was led by Colin Keogh of Sapien Innovation, a specialist in applied innovation, creativity and design thinking services. Within a week it had produced a prototype it hopes will be validated by Ireland’s health authorities for use in the fight against Covid-19.

Whether it’s Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Augmented Reality or the Internet of Things, the world’s biggest brands know they must harness the power of digital technology to gain that all important competitive edge.

When it comes to sourcing excellence in digital innovation, Audi, Philips, Primark, Women’s World Banking and the Special Olympics look to Ireland for smart digital solutions.

“Irish tech companies listen to the demands of the global market and understand those needs. CEOs know the value their products and services can bring to global brands and they deliver to the exceptional standards required” says Carol Gibbons, Head of ICT within Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s Trade and Innovation agency and the VC arm of the Irish Government.

Small island, global mindset

Ireland is home to a vibrant cluster of more than 1,000 Irish digital technology companies. In addition, many multinationals firms have chosen Ireland as their strategic European base, making Ireland one of the largest and most spirited tech hubs in Europe. The strong Irish company base is dominated by an international sales focus and a flourishing startup entrepreneurship base.

Many of these Irish tech companies are proven world leaders in their industries, delivering smart, effective products to global household name businesses, across a diverse range of industries: HR to Media, Travel and Manufacturing, Financial Services, Social Media and Games, Mobility and Project Management.

“There’s incredible energy and depth in the Irish tech space,” says Gibbons. “We have a truly open innovative economy. Irish tech companies here are driven and forward-looking, and work with a global mindset. More than half of their turnover comes from export sales.”

The largest demand for Irish tech is in North America with Irish technology companies exporting €1.6bn in 2018. This is followed by the UK with €0.9bn exports and the Eurozone with €0.5bn exports in 2018.

Standing tall with global giants

Securing deals with global brands such as Audi, the Special Olympics and Women’s World Banking is far from easy, but Gibbons says Irish companies succeed because of their domain knowledge, their ability to apply relevant technology and their global experience.

Many tech titans have EMEA and development centres headquartered in Ireland. “Irish tech firms have grown up alongside these global leaders, often collaborating with them bringing technology and know-how together to facilitate new technological developments enabling more rapid research and development. Irish companies are immersed, in this culture of pursuing excellence in innovation,” says Gibbons.

Embracing innovation, fostering excellence 

“Across the globe, Ireland is known for its deep-rooted pedigree in software development. That has laid the foundation for the extraordinary digital technology innovation now happening here, across AI, Data Analytics, Blockchain, AR VR, Cognitive Cloud Computing and IoT,” says Gibbons.

“We also produce and attract amazing talent to work in this sector, and our tech firms are supported by a world-class R&D ecosystem and vibrant investment activity.”

For decades, Ireland has had a strong innovation agenda, to become one of the leading Research, Development and Innovation locations in the world. Over the past thirty years, Ireland has built a growing reputation for scientific excellence and is now a world leader in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress.

In fact, in 2018 the European Innovation Scoreboard ranked Ireland first for innovative SMEs and first for employment in knowledge-intensive activities. Ireland has also had a very strong success rate in Horizon 2020 funding, the EU-wide programme for research and innovation. Since the programme’s inception in 2014, Ireland has secured more than €500m through Horizon 2020.

“Initiatives like Ireland’s €500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is game changing. The funding enables companies to collaborate on disruptive technology with true innovation value. We’re seeing an exceptional output from this in areas such as AI, Blockchain and sustainable technology.”

Backing brilliance, building the pipeline

Recently named by Pitch Book as the second largest VC investor globally, and first in Europe, by deal count in 2019. Enterprise Ireland invested €24 million in 127 start-ups in 2019 and €72 million in venture funds in 2018, as part of its Seed and Venture Capital Schemes.

“We walk the journey every step of the way with Irish tech firms,” says Gibbons. “We know the global landscape and we know what it takes to transform a high-potential start-up into a globally scaled business. On a daily basis our network of 40 international offices work with companies to help them source innovative Irish technology not just to grow and lead but to reshape the entire customer journey and accelerate growth in the years to come.”

Over the last 10 years, Ireland has emerged as a significant player in the start-up space, with a strong focus on leading-edge and disruptive technologies.

Ireland’s world-class start-up ecosystem and skilled entrepreneurs were celebrated last week at Start-Up Showcase 2020. The event, organised by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, brought together 127 companies in which it had invested in 2019, to the tune of €24 million.

Ireland is steadily building an impressive pipeline of high potential start-ups (HPSUs) that are benefitting from a highly developed start-up ecosystem, an unrivalled culture of connectivity and innovation, and a broad range of supports from Enterprise Ireland.

“Strategically, start-ups are critically important to the Irish economy, as they operate at the leading edge of innovation,” says Niall McEvoy, manager of the HPSU ICT team at Enterprise Ireland.

“Among the start-up companies that we support every year, there will be some that go on to be the great Irish companies of the future that are globally scaled and internationalised. So it’s absolutely critical to the future of the economy that the State and other funders continue to invest in start-ups.”

It’s that rationale that has made Enterprise Ireland unique in a global context in being a significant investor in early-stage businesses. In fact, Pitchbook recently ranked it the number one investor in Europe and number two in the world for the number of investments in start-ups in 2019, by VC deal count.

Supporting start-ups through early challenges

Every start-up faces similar key challenges: refining the product to attain optimum product–market fit, fundraising and, once market validation is achieved, building a company that can deliver real scalable growth.

“Enterprise Ireland has a wide suite of programmes and financial supports, as well as a team of advisers that have built up a huge bank of experience around helping our clients overcome these early challenges,” explains McEvoy. “We work with start-ups at the pre-seed/validation stage and also at the seed and scaling stage.

“Our pre-seed support focuses on mentoring, helping companies with market intelligence, skills development and customer engagement all the way up to starting to win business and preparing for investor funding. Financially we support pre-seed companies via our Competitive Start Fund, and through feasibility funding and Innovation Vouchers.”

Stage 2 support is about accelerating the  early stage growth of the company, Enterprise Ireland is a significant direct investor at this stage through its iHPSU funding mechanism and also participates in follow-on investment at Series A stage for those companies making the most progress.

“As well as this financial support, we have an extensive network of international offices that start-ups can work with to explore overseas markets,” says McEvoy.  “That’s a key differentiator when you compare Enterprise Ireland with other agencies around the world.

“Companies also get very intensive advisory support and we encourage peer-to-peer learning, for example through the HPSU Founders Forum, which connects companies to each other, and to previous generations of entrepreneurs.”

The strength of the ecosystem

McEvoy believes that one of the things that makes Ireland such a great place to start a business is how connected the ecosystem is.

“Enterprise Ireland is a significant player but you also have VCs, and accelerator and incubator programmes across all of the key verticals that help companies test, validate, grow and attain product–market fit,” he says. “It’s very much about the power of the network and the wider connectivity to investors, to other entrepreneurs and to international market opportunities.”

Connectivity to universities and research centres is also important. Last year, 13 of the start-ups supported by Enterprise Ireland were spin-outs from third level organisations.

“A lot of innovation is coming out of research labs; through our Commercialisation Fund and other supports Enterprise Ireland provides the conduit to spin-out and turn the research into real-world, commercial opportunities.”

There’s also a healthy interest in start-ups within Ireland’s multinational business community, which recognises the value of the innovation and disruption that are a natural part of the start-up arena.

“The level of collaboration between indigenous companies – established and start-up – and multinational companies has never been greater, particularly through initiatives like the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, which encourages indigenous companies, multinationals and third level institutes to work collaboratively,” says McEvoy.

Ireland has a growing global reputation as a tech hub and this, says McEvoy, is down to the emergence of technically strong and focused start-ups.

“To be a strong tech hub it’s not just about having the people, you need to have resources, education and training and the connectivity. Whether a new HPSU is emerging from an indigenous company that has already scaled or whether it’s emerging from university or from the multinational sector, they all need to be able to progress rapidly and get the supports that come from the ecosystem. The strength of the ecosystem is absolutely key.”

Sectors and standouts

ICT continues to be the dominant sector for Irish HPSUs, with some 70% of new companies funded last year falling broadly into this category.

Fintech has been particularly strong, and in recent years we’ve been seeing a growing focus on deeptech.  A lot of our early stage companies are starting to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning in their software solutions. That’s a very strong and exciting trend,” says McEvoy.

Dublin company, Aylien is one such company. Its AI-powered news intelligence platform digests the world’s news content and identifies what matters to a business with human-level accuracy. Artificial intelligence is also at the heart of EdgeTier’s technology, which increases the efficiency of customer service centres by helping human agents to respond to customer queries by suggesting responses and providing context-sensitive and personalised data.

Meanwhile, VR Education is using augmented and virtual reality to transform training content, and is working with organisations such as the BBC and Oxford University.

In the medtech / life sciences sector, which after ICT is the next biggest focus for Irish start-ups, Nuritas is combining artificial intelligence and genomics to discover and unlock natural bioactive peptides with health benefits.

“I believe that Ireland is punching above its weight in terms of the strength of its start-up ecosystem and the cutting-edge innovation that is driving new company establishment and growth,” says McEvoy.

 

The new partnerships will provide health facilities across China access to Novaerus patented clean air technology.

Novaerus, an Irish company that manufactures and sells patented medical-grade, clean air solutions, has partnered with seven established distributors across China, in regions such as Hubei, Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangzhou City and the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. The new partnerships are welcomed at a time of growing concern surrounding the recent infectious outbreak, caused by a novel coronavirus, that started in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Global health authorities are currently monitoring the recent outbreak, which has been spreading across China, with a growing number of additional cases identified globally.

Symptoms of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. There are currently over 28,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with over 500 reported deaths.

It’s not yet clear how easily 2019-nCoV spreads from person-to-person. However, previous strains of coronavirus, MERS and SARS, were thought to have been spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.

“The most difficult disease transmission route to guard against is airborne because we have very little to protect us when we breathe,” says Dr Kevin Devlin, CEO at WellAir, the parent company of Novaerus. “Infection prevention specialists have pointed out that surgical masks are not designed to keep out viruses. Cleaning the air is a fundamental component of managing infectious outbreaks.”

Due to the small size of viruses, many clean air solutions, including standalone filtration, are unable to trap viral particles. Novaerus portable air dis-infection units use a non-selective, rapid killing, patented plasma technology, offering a unique and safe solution to kill airborne viruses 24/7.  The technology has also been independently tested to reduce MS2 Bacteriophage, a commonly used surrogate for SARS-CoV* (Coronavirus) by 99.99%.

“Given the rapid and consistent kill rates achieved using Novaerus, it is reasonable to anticipate that our plasma technology will show similar impact and rapid kill rates across all viral particles,” says Dr Felipe Soberon, Chief Technology Officer at WellAir.

Novaerus portable air dis-infection units will be available to healthcare facilities in the regions of Hubei, Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangzhou City and the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.