There is a corner of Ireland where taking a drive along the road from the airport will soon be like driving into the future. In Shannon, County Clare, there are plans to capitalise on collaboration among a growing number of companies operating in the technology sector by developing a future mobility campus in the town. The move is the latest step in the development of Ireland as a hub for the development of connected, autonomous, shared and electrified vehicles.
John Cormican is General Manager of Vehicle Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover Ireland, which last year opened a 88,000 sqft Global Centre of Excellence for connected and autonomous vehicles near Shannon Airport.
At Enterprise Ireland’s CASE: Driving the Future forum, Cormican explained: “What we’re doing, together with a bunch of partners, is putting together a smart city IoT campus where we can prove out our technologies in a physical area. A test bed scenario, essentially.”
Why the future of mobility is forming in Ireland
Jaguar Land Rover’s selection of Ireland as location for this centre for researching, developing and integrating new technology and software into cars epitomises a shift in the focus of car manufacturers, away from traditional automotive manufacturing bases such as Detroit towards technology hubs such as Silicon Valley and Ireland.
“People haven’t typically associated automotive with Ireland,” Cormican said. “We don’t have a heavy manufacturing footprint like Detroit, Germany or Japan. What Ireland does have is a huge amount of technology. Facebook, Google, Intel, Cisco, Ericsson, Valeo, Johnson Controls, Uber, Analog Devices, Microsoft, Dell, Salesforce, LinkedIn – all of these companies and others are employing hundreds of thousands of people in technology in Ireland.”
The presence of these multinational companies has spawned a tech ecosystem of innovative Irish companies who are developing products and applications across multiple sectors.
Cormican said that the capabilities that exist, for example, in the CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) Ireland cluster of companies, together with the collaborative nature of the organisation, are attractive for automotive OEMs such as Jaguar Land Rover.
“Most of these companies are not designing automotive-specific solutions,” he said. “They’re designing cool technology that can fit into aerospace or can fit into IoT applications or can fit into automotive or mobility services,” he says.
“Whether they’re sensor companies or artificial intelligence companies or cybersecurity companies, they’re all creating different technology solutions, which can now be relevant for the automotive market, which wasn’t the case five or ten years ago when it was mostly about engineering components.
“The supply chain has been greatly disrupted and the relationships we have now are going away from a traditional OEM tier one, tier two, tier three supplier model towards a lot of collaboration and innovation. That’s because sometimes the technology and solutions are emanating from a tier two or tier three supplier in the old way of thinking – so why wouldn’t we have a direct relationship with them to understand how their technology works and how we get it embedded in our vehicles?”
Why Jaguar Land Rover chose Ireland
Alongside this burgeoning capability, other factors that made Ireland such a compelling location for Jaguar Land Rover included the availability of talent at universities and institutes of technology.
Cormican said: “We’re employing people with different skillsets than other locations – people with skills in software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, embedded software, virtualisation, cloud services, functional safety, and cybersecurity. There is a constant flow of graduates with skills in these areas.”
The future of mobility is a journey towards connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles. In Ireland, it is also a journey of collaboration which Cormican believes is only just beginning.
“It’s a genuinely exciting time because it really is a transformation. It’s about people having mobility services in the near future, where they would have been excluded in the past. People who perhaps can’t drive or don’t want to drive will have many more options. In Jaguar Land Rover, we call this the Destination Zero strategy – zero emissions, zero congestion, and zero accidents.”
The car of the future needs partners right now, says Toyota innovation leader.
The future of cars is captured in ACES, an acronym for: Automated, Connected, Electric and Shared. It presents traditional car makers with a problem, according to Kelly Kay of Toyota Research Institute (TRI).
“Whereas before the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) just made cars, now they are all going to have to do all these things, and they suck at it,” said Kay. “They don’t have the skills to do it, nor the engineers, nor the tech people. They can’t solve all these problems by themselves. They need technology partners.”
Kay, who is chief safety officer and executive vice president of TRI, gave the keynote address at Connected Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, an event organised by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency.
TRI was founded in Silicon Valley in 2015, backed by a US $1 billion investment into artificial intelligence with a focus on autonomous vehicles and robotics. Its work focuses on both the future of the auto industry and of Toyota’s role in it, with a US $100 million corporate venture capital fund, which invests in companies focused on mobility issues of the future.
The car of the future will make driving safer
Autonomous vehicle development is being driven by a number of factors, she said, including the fact that it could make driving more fun, give people more time in their lives and improve traffic congestion.
At its core, however, is the opportunity to save lives, a fact that has perhaps not yet been made sufficiently clear to the wider public, she suggested.
There are an estimated 6.1 million traffic accidents in the US alone each year, leading to 34,000 deaths a year. The fatality rate is equivalent to a jet airliner crashing every three days but 90% of it is caused by human error. “That’s where we can stop it,” she said.
Toyota’s Guardian system is being developed to step in and assist a driver who has made a mistake. Accidents are most likely to happen when poor driving conditions, or hazards, meet with a tired or distracted driver.
The future of the auto industry
There are five levels of autonomous driving, ranging from none, to assistive technologies, to partial and then full autonomy. When will the industry reach the top level, is the question Kay is most often asked, she said. Not in the short term is the answer. Part of this is attributable to the challenges facing legacy auto makers.
“It used to be that only OEMs made cars. At TRI, our competitors aren’t just the Fords, but the Waymos and the Ubers of the world, who are out there trying to create the technology that is the future of the auto industry.”
Toyota is an investor in Uber and is collaborating with it to bring autonomous ride-sharing as a mobility service to market at scale. To accomplish this, technology from each company is being integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles to be deployed on Uber’s ride-sharing network.
“The car nowadays doesn’t have much technology in it. In the future, however, it will be a really big robot. But the sector is moving much faster than an OEM can move. TRI exists to get Toyota to see how it can move as fast as a Roadstar.”
In 2018, China’s artificial intelligence start-up Roadstar.ai announced plans to produce more than 1,000 self-driving electric vehicles by 2020. Less than a week after Kelly addressed the conference, Alphabet subsidiary Waymo announced it would launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service.
Why OEMs want technology partners
Who is going to buy the cars that manufacturers like Toyota build in the future? Companies like Uber, Kay said. The risk, however, is that the car becomes a commodity, playing second fiddle to the mobility service provider’s brand.
“OEMs don’t want to be the Foxconn of the automotive industry,” she said. “That is, the maker of the case, while everyone else makes the guts. No one in the automotive industry is setting itself up for that.”
This is driving demand from OEMs for technology partners. “We are going to find technology partners to help us, whether chip manufacturers or for automation. We are doing a lot ourselves, but partnering with companies that are further along than we are allows the OEMs to catch up.”
Toyota is also partnering with battery companies such as Tesla, important given that 50% of the current cost of an electric vehicle is accounted for by its battery.
Part of the challenge facing OEMs is the pace of development in this space. Advances in technology are happening more quickly than those for car makers, for whom a three-year production lead time is the norm.
“How do we figure out how to make those changes quicker? Using young creative and innovative thinkers and companies will help. OEMS by themselves can’t solve these problems. Car sharing, ride sharing, that’s not our domain. We need partners all over the world.”
It also needs help with particularly thorny aspects of autonomous driving, including how to develop AI systems that recognise the “social ballet” of driving, the facial gestures, waves and nods that drivers are used to interpreting.
How to cope with bad drivers is difficult too. “People are going to do things we don’t expect them to do, but autonomous cars work on the basis that everyone is going to follow the rules. If others don’t go around a junction in the right order, an AV will just sit there, waiting.”
Ensuring a global standard is also challenging, requiring alignment between multiple OEMs, technology players, regulators and even insurers. All of this work provides opportunities for Ireland’s leading edge automotive, software and electronics suppliers.
“This is why I’m here – to meet companies,” Kay said.
Some of the most senior figures in Irish blockchain are succeeding, not despite not coming from a tech background but because of it, delegates at Blockchain for Finance Conference heard.
The which took place in Dublin’s Aviva stadium was attended by more than 300 professionals from the worlds of finance and technology. The aim was to find out new ways to commercialise the fast growing world of distributed ledger technologies.
Co-author of the recent Government discussion paper on the subject, Mai Santamaria spoke at a ‘lunch and learn’ panel discussion about her background as a native of Barcelona who studied and qualified as an accountant. She worked for a number of banks and insurance companies before joining the Department of Finance 18 months ago as a Senior Financial Advisor.
Canadian Coral Movasseli is Managing Director of Girls in Tech Dublin, a global not for profit that runs a number of programmes designed to encourage more women into the tech sector. She previously worked for the Canadian government, in its foreign office, as well as in telecoms and banking before coming to Ireland to work as a professional services consultant.
Blockchain offers rich opportunities for collaboration
Laura Clifford, industry partnership manger at the ADAPT Centre based at Trinity College Dublin, told the audience how she had studied biology at university and how this led to work in the medtech and subsequently the tech sectors. She now drives fintech collaboration at ADAPT, acting as the broker bringing industry and academia together to commercialise academic research.
“One of the reasons I’m focused on blockchain is because of the opportunity it represents for bigger things and further collaboration,” said Clifford, who, along with others on the panel, co-created Blockchain Women Ireland, an initiative designed to encourage women to participate in this still nascent but fast-growing sector.
Fellow panellist Emma Walker, who is managing director of Wachsman, a dedicated professional services firm for the blockchain sector, spoke of her background as a Spanish and sociology graduate. The opportunity she was given, at age 25, to set up the European office of what at the time three years ago was a two-person operation based in New York, gives some indication of the opportunities that exist in blockchain, she said. Today, the company employs 120 people globally.
Speaker Luana Cavalcanti is a UX/UI designer at TradeIX, a blockchain technology company who started out in the hospitality sector working on cruise ships. She changed careers three years ago by retraining first in localisation and has progressed rapidly, thanks in part, she said, to mentoring she received from other women in tech.
People from all backgrounds are required in the fast-growing blockchain sector, and not just as technologists, but as people who can best communicate the use cases to a wide audience, delegates heard.
“Blockchain is fragmented and, as it is emerging, questions are arising in relation to regulation, to interoperability with legacy systems, to transitions and how to manage them,” said Clifford.
It requires people with change management experience, who have transitioned initiatives before, as much as it does financial experts and tech experts, she said. “That’s why I got involved in Women in Blockchain,” she told delegates. “As you can see from the panel, not one of us has taken a linear path into the blockchain realm. It’s a very enjoyable space and I wanted to be part of that journey.”
The ‘penny drop’ moment came for her in relation to blockchain while attending an earlier conference, where a speaker called blockchain the ‘TCPIP’ of our day.
Realising that crypto currencies are simply to blockchain what email is to internet, “I thought, here’s an opportunity for me to be part of something and not feel like an imposter. It’s emerging. The barriers to entry aren’t there and I don’t have to try and retrofit myself into it,” she said.
Blockchain represents a paradigm change, said Movasseli, and as such it requires a diverse set of skills to drive it forward commercially.
To succeed, it requires diversity around more than gender, said Santamaria. “If you’re the kind of person that is driven by learning something new every day, you can’t go wrong with blockchain because you don’t stop learning,” she said.
It also offers a clear sense of purpose. “It really does feel there is a wider purpose to the blockchain project because it is all about collaborating to actually improve things.”
By Padraic Geraghty, UK market advisor in digital technology.
Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are set to benefit companies in both Ireland and the UK in the coming years. This is largely due to the impact of a key cohort of companies with expertise in core telecoms and the information and communication technologies that underpin them.
The relevance and importance of this expertise should not be underestimated. Despite some of the big claims made for it, IoT is actually a recent iteration of traditional telecoms technology and the benefits for both UK and Irish companies could be huge if harnessed correctly. While, in the past, this technology was used to connect people, it is now increasingly being used to connect things as well.
A new report by SAS and the Centre for Economics and Business Research states that big data and IoT is set to be worth £322 billion to the UK economy, or 2.7% of GDP, by 2020.
There is also a significant focus on using IoT throughout the UK to change and improve people’s everyday lives. An example of this is Cityverve, a smart city project in Manchester which has a large IoT focus. The aim is to make Manchester smarter, connecting people and things within the city to help drive innovation and commercial opportunity. Then, over time, using the insight generated by IoT devices to deliver a citizen experience that both inspires and empowers them to experience a better quality of life. This aim is achieved by partnerships between Irish and UK companies as they work together to deliver solutions.
The role of Internet of Things in business
The arrival of 4G and 5G communications technologies will enable the connection of vast numbers of devices with built-in sensors to gather data, that was previously difficult and costly to obtain.
One issue to consider is that much of that data will be of little, or no use, to UK companies and organisations collecting it. Just because a technology exists doesn’t mean a company has to use it. There should be a defined role for the application of IoT in a business. In many ways, the decision can be redefined by a rule termed the ‘internet of important things’. If the data being gathered, or connections being made, add value to the business, the technology should be used. Otherwise it should not.
Sectors already employing IoT
World-class Irish companies are developing international reputations, largely focused on the industrial space and, as a result, UK companies are taking note. These companies are moving in a small and highly specialised niche, providing solutions to a range of sectors, including transport, logistics, manufacturing, engineering, and utilities. Irish IoT companies rarely operate in the relatively low-value consumer space.
The IoT ambition is focused on all aspects of the transportation sector; trains, boats and planes. Developments in IoT are enabling entire trains to be connected, beyond just passenger wifi and movies streamed in displays in seat backs. IoT technology is also being used to connect mechanical aspects of the train, too. Data is collected from the motors, contact with the track, various sensors in the carriages and the locomotive, to help improve safety and efficiency. Wifi is also now available in the sky for aircraft. While aircraft manufacturers have been connecting up avionics for quite a while, wifi services for passengers are new.
Companies to watch in the IoT space
While both delivering impressive innovations and progress within the IoT space, the UK can benefit from the solutions Irish companies are developing in the area.
Dublin-based Magnet Networks has a UK presence and is currently involved in a smart city IoT project in Wembley. It provides all the connectivity to the 85-acre Wembley Park smart city project which aims to reinvent renting and show how technology can infinitely help the way we live and work. Wembley Park, which encircles Wembley Stadium, will feature 5,000 new homes and 1 metre sq ft of commercial space – all connected to Magnet Network’s high-speed 20GB broadband network controlling a range of IoT devices. It was created in a joint venture with developers Quintain, which has already proved to be a potent lure for potential tenants in what is seen as the exemplar for future smart cities in Europe.
Over-C enables end-to-end visibility to service-centric operations while optimising compliance, reducing risk, and delivering smart paperless reporting. Over-C recently announced a partnership with O2 and ScotRail, Scotland’s national rail service provider. The technology partnership will enable O2 to offer Over-C’s digital transformation solution to new and existing clients in the UK, under the name O2 Smart Compliance.
ScotRail, which manages more than 350 stations across Scotland and employs over 5,000 people, has signed a five-year agreement to use O2 Smart Compliance, as part of their commitment to increase safety and facilitate compliance.
Vinnett Taylor, Head of IoT sales for O2, added: “At O2, we are constantly on the lookout for strategic partners that offer disruptive solutions that allow us to deliver quantifiable transformative impacts for our enterprise customers. Our goal was to offer an Internet of Things solution that combined innovative connected devices with scalable, customisable solutions, bringing together sensor data, cloud storage, machine learning and enhanced connectivity. Over-C’s platform delivers on all counts.”
Over-C, also took part in Irish Advantage’s Scotland Trade Mission.
These companies are supported by an exceptionally strong academic research base in Ireland, as well as world-class research centres.
These research efforts, combined with the existing cohort of established and emerging companies with expertise in the technology, have helped create a vibrant IoT ecosystem in Ireland – an ecosystem which UK companies should absolutely be benefiting from.
Over the last 13 years, graduates from Ireland’s Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have founded more venture-backed companies than graduates from any other university – according to PitchBook’s most recent Universities Report.
The PitchBook Universities Report is a “fresh compendium of the university programs that have produced the most founders in the venture landscape, ranking programs by their prolificacy across unicorns, female founders and more.”
Additionally, according to the report, TCD is the only European university in the top 50, ranking in 46th place, two places higher than its ranking in 2017. It is the fourth year in a row that TCD has been ranked first in Europe by the venture-focused research firm.
This achievement clearly shows Ireland’s ongoing and confirmed international reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship, a clear advantage for international companies wishing to find Irish businesses to partner with.
John Whelan, ICT commercialisation manager at TCD said of PitchBook’s Universities Report, “This rankings report is simple and quantitative. It is based on real numbers that can be drilled into and verified independently. These hard facts and easy to understand figures put an Irish research institution as first in Europe for the fourth year in a row.”
PitchBook conducted independent analysis from 2006-2018, in which time Trinity College Dublin alumni produced 232 entrepreneurs, formed 212 venture-backed companies and raised approximately $3.26 billion capital. Last year there were 216 entrepreneurs, 201 companies and capital raised increased from $2.372 billion. In 2016, there were 192 entrepreneurs and 180 companies.
Recent successes include Dr Nora Khaldi’s Nuritas company, an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up and client, which raised $20 million in Series A funding in March, bringing total investment to $30 million, including early-round funding from U2’s Bono and The Edge amongst others, and Intercom – which recently achieved unicorn status after being valued at $1.275 billion following a recent $125 million investment round. Other notables include AR/VR-focused Volograms, data specialist DataChemist, food redistribution charity FoodCloud, and Artomatix, a software solution for 3D artists, all of whom are also supported by Enterprise Ireland, the national export agency.
Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, Chief Innovation and Enterprise Officer at TCD said about the announcement, “The news today that Trinity is again Europe’s leading university for graduate entrepreneurship further supports these ambitions and our role as a global leader in enabling the best students to become the best entrepreneurs.”
To foster this entrepreneurial spirit and initiative, Trinity College Dublin plans to build a new campus to foster entrepreneurship and innovation and hopes to be home to more than 400 start ups.
Dr O’Brien continued, “Trinity has placed innovation and entrepreneurship at the heart of its strategy – from the development of plans for a new innovation campus at Grand Canal Quay, to the establishment of a University Bridge venture fund to enable investment in new start-up companies, to the creation of Tangent, Trinity’s ideas workspace to enable student and graduate entrepreneurship.”
The new €1 billion campus will be based in what is soon to be known as the Grand Canal Innovation District, modeled after innovation districts in Cambridge Square in Boston and other cities. University College Dublin (UCD) has a similar space and innovation hub on campus – NovaUCD a “purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facility for knowledge-intensive companies.”
A successful partnership between Urgo Group, French healthcare leader in the international wound care and self care market, and Ireland’s Bluedrop Medical, has made the company keen to partner with more Irish start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises.
Urgo Group Business Development Analyst, Mokhtar El Kouche, said that factors, such as partnership development, flexibility, openness, and focus on innovation, have been influential in building a successful relationship.
“We have had a very positive experience with Bluedrop Medical,” said El Kouche. “We are very interested in visiting Ireland to see the growth of the Irish Medtech sector and to understand what other Irish SMEs and start-ups are developing.
Galway-based Bluedrop Medical won a place on Urgo Group’s prestigious Mentorship Program in February 2018. Urgo Group, who specialises in wound treatment, was particularly impressed by Bluedrop’s ability to develop partnerships in France.
Successfully collaborating across Europe
“Bluedrop’s team is very open-minded and happy to collaborate. It was in this spirit that they approached us,” said Mokhtar. “Their spirit of open collaboration breaks any boundary that exists between countries.”
“Even in the EU, there are differences and challenges in each market. When we work with Bluedrop, their open approach enables them to adapt to any of the challenges that exist in markets like Spain, France, or the UK. They have an openness to adapt and adopt a multi-country approach,” added Mokhtar, who sees it as an essential skill for other Irish SMEs collaborating with European partners.
Irish businesses are ranked first globally for flexibility and adaptability, a crucial advantage that helped Bluedrop Medical in their pursuit of opportunities with Urgo.
“The business model has the potential to satisfy everyone,” says Mokhtar. “To make any deal in business work, you need to get everyone on board and share the pie with all stakeholders.
“Bluedrop’s solution would create value for patients by helping to prevent long-term chronic wounds with drastic consequences, and for payers, through effectiveness and big cost savings. It would also create value for partners through its consumer revenue model,” adds Mokhtar.
Medicine of the future
Urgo Group was also impressed by the innovative nature of Bluedrop Medical’s solution, which would help to prevent amputations caused by diabetic foot ulcers. Bluedrop Medical was selected as a winner because it has the strong potential to satisfy the “Medicine of the Future – Four P’s” criteria. These include the treatment being predictive, preventive, participative, and personalised.
“Urgo is always looking for the newest, most innovative products that are in development. Bluedrop has a lot of synergies with Urgo, so coming up with an innovative product that really helps patients is always a strong fit for us. Bluedrop’s product is projected to include aspects of artificial intelligence in the design, which is extremely promising,” adds Mokhtar.
As Mokhtar reflects on Urgo’s experience with Bluedrop Medical, he recommends that medtech buyers searching for solutions should look to the Irish market.
“Reflecting on my own experiences with Bluedrop, I would definitely recommend that buyers from big groups work with Irish medtech start-ups and SMEs,” he says. “If they have the same mindset as the Bluedrop team, then it is absolutely worthwhile to seek Irish businesses out and collaborate with them in the long-term.”
Irish researchers have secured more funding from Horizon 2020, the EU’s programme on research and innovation, which commands a total budget of approximately €75 billion.
Ireland has secured over €513 million since the programme was launched in 2014. In the most recent batch of announcements, Ireland secured wins under both the academic and industry focuses of the research programme.
Three awards totalling more than €8 million were made to researchers at Irish universities by the European Research Council earlier this month.
- Professor Fergal O’Brien at the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) Department of Anatomy and AMBER: The materials science research centre, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, was awarded €3 million for a research project that aims to revolutionise the treatment of damaged articular joints, such as the knee and ankle. This innovative treatment is achieved by combining cutting-edge advances in the area of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing with new insights in stem cell and gene therapy to develop a platform biomaterial technology, or scaffold, capable of repairing bone and cartilage.
- Professor Rhodri Cusack at Trinity College Dublin (TCD): The professor and his team at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) were awarded €3 million to conduct a research project which will use neuroimaging to measure the hidden changes in mental representations during infancy and compare them to predictions from deep neural networks. The technology has been responsible for recent exciting advances in artificial intelligence.
- Professor Kenneth Wolfe, of the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Medicine and Conway Institute: Professor Wolfe was awarded €2.37 million for his project ‘Killer plasmids as drivers of genetic code changes during yeast evolution’, which will examine the evolution of genetic code and the changes it underwent in several species of yeast.
Earlier this month, nine Irish Small and Medium Enterprises were awarded Phase One funding under the SME Instrument, the programme’s industry focus. The award provides a sum of €50,000 to fund a feasibility study and business acceleration services.
Irish biotech company Avectas, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, was awarded €2.1 million under Phase 2 of the SME Instrument, Avectas is developing a technology allowing for permeable cells to be extracted from a patient, re-engineered to attack cancers, and infused back into the patient.
They join 56 other Irish companies who have been awarded phase one funding since 2014.
Ireland’s Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D. commented, “Irish researchers continue to punch above their weight and their continued ability to win such competitive funding highlights the fact that they are among Europe’s best. Since the programme was launched, 8,600 applicants from Ireland have secured more than half a billion euros in funding for research and innovation projects across a range of sectors and industries.”
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, the government agency which leads the national support network for Horizon 2020, said, ‘It’s been a fantastic week for news of Horizon 2020 with Ireland’s researchers and companies very ably competing at the highest levels, demonstrating both Ireland’s research and innovation excellence.”
Ireland’s strong performance reflects its growing international reputation for innovation, a key source of its competitive advantage.
Enterprise Ireland’s 14 Technology Centres, 15 Technology Gateways and 12 Science Foundation Research Centres focus on cutting-edge areas including big data, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, digital content, nanotechnology, sustainable food, smart technologies and marine renewable energy. In each of these centres, scientists and engineers work in partnership across academia and industry to address crucial research questions.
Building on two decades of investment in science and technology, the Irish Government continues to put innovation first with the implementation of its Innovation 2020 strategy.
Ireland is home to some of the most remarkable medtech start-ups in the world. Let’s take a look at a small selection.
Having enjoyed exponential growth from 50 to 350 companies over the past two decades, Ireland has quickly emerged as one of the world’s top five medical technology hubs.
While 13 of the top 15 global medtech companies have bases in Ireland, it is not only big companies who are enjoying success. The country has also spawned an incredible wave of homegrown talent, and now boasts some of the most innovative medtech start-ups in the world.
Coroflo has developed a groundbreaking breastfeeding monitor, the Coro, which can accurately measure exactly how much breast milk a baby is consuming. The Coro is the first breastfeeding monitor in the world that can give mothers accurate, precise, and real-time data about milk supply.
Coroflo has already received Richard Branson’s seal of approval and raised €900,000 in seed funding at a €4m valuation.
“One of the main obstacles to successful breastfeeding is a concern about low supply, with some mothers uncertain about how much milk their baby is getting,” explains CEO, Rosanne Longmore.
“At Coroflo, we’re using patented technology to develop the world’s first accurate breastfeeding monitor to help overcome the problem and ultimately tackle low breastfeeding rates.”
The platform developed by Carefolk is for people who care, quite literally.
Designed for both healthcare professionals and carers, the platform provides access to six products that can be used independently or together on the platform, integrating and talking to one another to create one perfectly formed system.
“We’ve built a multi-tenancy integrated care platform that seamlessly integrates care teams, single care professionals, community and social services, and families,” CEO Owen O’Doherty explains. “The platform also contains ‘Carefolk Community’, which allows caregivers to connect and share.”
A huge undertaking, the project is certainly having an impact. Carefolk won two awards at the 2017 IMSTA Medtech Awards, picking up the Best eHealth/Digital and Best Primary Care/Community awards.
While you might not have heard the term rhinitis, if you have not suffered from the condition yourself, you almost certainly know someone who has. The term describes an inflammatory condition on the inside of the nose that results in congestion or rhinorrhoea, and affects roughly one in five people across the world.
Based in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, Neurent Medical is developing a minimally invasive solution for the condition, which has the potential to revolutionise the way in which patients are treated, offering a better quality of life for millions of people.
“It’s a disruptive device play in a pharma world,” says co-founder and CEO Brian Shields, who established Neurent Medical with David Townley in 2015.
“Rhinitis is largely treated by drugs, from over-the-counter to prescription medication, depending on its severity. We’re developing a single-use device for ENT surgeons to treat both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis, providing a better quality of life for the millions of sufferers worldwide.”
Founded by Rob Laffan, father of a five-year-old girl with non-verbal autism, TippyTalk helps other non-verbal children to communicate. The technology translates pictures into text messages, which are sent to the phone of a family member or caregiver. The app helps a person who is non-verbal to communicate and express a desire, want, need or feeling.
“We are the next generation of augmented alternative communication (AAC) for people who are nonverbal,” Rob explains. “Once upon a time, the only way to communicate using AAC was face-to-face but our platform allows users to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
The innovation isn’t limited to the home. The company has just launched a version of the product for the educational and professional care markets called TippyTalk EDU, which boasts two-way communication and a hub that provides data-driven insights on students and clients.
Incereb is developing a range of paediatric, neonatal and foetal sensors for EEG monitoring that can be applied in minutes, with minimal training.
Previously, attaching EEGs to a baby’s head to determine brain function would take time and training, and would be uncomfortable for the child. Incereb set out to change that.
“Having worked in neurophysiology for almost 20 years, with almost 8 years in paediatrics and neonatal ICU, it was obvious that many NICU devices were simply adult devices scaled down for use on tiny babies,” says founder Jim Roche.
“Incereb is the first EEG device of its type to be designed specifically for use on neonates in the NICU. It’s faster to apply, accurate, kinder to the baby, and makes EEG brain monitoring in the NICU available 24/7/365”
The Incereb design has already celebrated a number of successes in the US and entered the South American market last year.
Following an extensive peer review, Incereb’s neon range (neonatal EEG Electrode arrays) received a 2017 Innovative Technology designation from Vizient, the largest member-driven healthcare performance improvement company in the US, which represents approximately $100 billion in annual purchasing volume.
Managing medication can be tricky, even for those who only need to take one tablet per day. When self-injection and dynamic schedules are involved, managing medication can be a huge barrier to successful treatment.
With a 96% patient acceptance rate, HealthBeacon – described as a ‘sharps bin’ for those who self-inject at home – is the result of some tinkering and a lot of effort, according to founder Jim Joyce.
“After going a few rounds as mad scientists, we found a practical solution that helped patients take their medications on schedule,” he explains.
“We could see the data impact immediately as we increased a patient’s probability that they would remain on treatment and by remaining on treatment we could drive better outcomes. Now that we had an impactful product, it was time to build a company around it.”
Connexicon Medical specialises in the manufacture of tissue adhesives and sealants for topical and internal applications.
Its product, Indermil Flexifuze, is a liquid topical tissue adhesive used to close wounds that can stay in place for five to eight days, acting as a physical barrier to microbial penetration. Part of a fast-moving and competitive market, the company has raised over €1.15m in funding to date.
A more established start-up, having been around for five years, Vivasure makes polymer implants and delivery systems – primarily focused on minimally invasive vessel closure in cardiology, interventional radiology, and vascular surgery.
In 2016, its first European product – a vascular closure device – saw investors back it to the value of over €16 million. The company aims to meet clinical requirements with a particular focus on arterial and venous closure devices, based on its patented PerQseal technology.
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up with the latest medtech news from Ireland.
The fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, which saw many people leave the construction industry, left Europe as a whole struggling with skills shortages, according to the Association of European Experts in Building and Construction (AEEBC) – and the recovery felt in recent years has made these effects more sharply felt.
“Now there is a recovery, mainly in Northern Europe, shortages have gotten worse,” says Martin Russell-Croucher, General Manager for AEEBC, and a chartered surveyor and chartered environmentalist. “Fortunately for some countries, the collapse of the construction industry in countries like Italy and particularly Spain, has freed up professionals to fill some of the spaces in Northern Europe.”
“While trades have moved to the ‘hot spots’ such as Germany, there are problems with language and skill levels,” he says. “There are also issues with this movement of tradespeople as they tend to be cheaper to employ than locals and this can undermine the home market if locally trained people can’t get jobs because they are too expensive. This has been happening in Denmark.”
“There have been skill shortages for some time, certainly two years or more. The shortages tend to be localised, for example, London and the southeast of England where most of the construction has been taking place. The shortages are both trades and professions.”
All European countries have a dearth of labour, partly due to more people retiring than are coming into the industry and also the large numbers that left the following the crisis in 2008, according to Mr Russell-Croucher.
“France seems least affected as it continues to attract people into the sector,” he says but adds that the phenomenon is not limited to France: “Germany is now booming, and sucking in the additional people required from other countries.
Mr Russell-Croucher continues “All European countries are facing problems of upskilling existing people in building information modelling (BIM) to meet future standards.”
The Home Builders Federation in the UK recently carried out research, which illustrated the importance of EU workers in building the country’s homes, with one in five workers hailing from outside of the U.K. Mr. Russell-Croucher says that “Post-Brexit access to skilled labour is essential if the industry is to hit government housing targets.”
However, the general situation is not at crisis level as far as the AEEBC is concerned. “Governments are trying to improve the number of their own citizens coming into the industry but it takes time to train people and construction is not a popular choice of career. Most, like Germany and the UK have relied on migrant workers but this is becoming an issue for the UK because of the current uncertainty,” says Mr Russell-Croucher.
“In the UK, the government has been supporting apprenticeships but changes to the funding methodology are causing problems. All countries are promoting the construction sector jobs but of course this is not a quick fix as it takes a couple of years to train somebody to a minimum level in most trades.”
As recruiters pitch for the same small pool of people, attracting skilled candidates has become highly competitive and aggressive.
“Apprenticeships are fine up to a point but for tradespeople, it means using trained people for training and that means they are less efficient and lose money, so they are reluctant to take on that role if they are self-employed,” says Mr Russell-Croucher.
“I’m afraid the old system of firms directly employing their own trades who trained up their replacements has vanished, not to return because it was no longer competitive.”
Tough working environment
Making the industry more enticing for women has also been mooted as a potential method of attracting candidates.
“Getting more women into the industry would be great but construction is not always an attractive career. Booms and busts and a tough working environment with little job security makes it a hard sell to anybody,” Mr Russell-Croucher says.
Making digital tools part of the construction process could lead to a more transparent and accountable construction sector with better allocation of human resources and increased productivity, according to Anastasios Koutsogiannis of GenieBelt, a real-time project management software and mobile app that provides instant communication from site to office.
Money speaks all languages
“The best recruiter is money,” states Mr Russell-Croucher. “If a job pays well, people will put up with the problems. A few years ago it was announced that electricians were being paid very well – I think it was £60,000 or £70,000 a year – on Heathrow airport Terminal 5. Suddenly there was a surge in people applying to be electricians.”
Contact John Hunt to discuss how Enterprise Ireland can help you source strong Construction partners.
The new Future Data Centre white paper analyses the major technological and infrastructural changes that will impact design and construction trends over the next five years.
Download the white paper to get:
- A snapshot of the current data centre construction landscape
- Major changes impacting the design and build process
- Regulatory and technological drivers of change
- Strategies to respond to emerging trends with smart design and construction
The white paper explores important questions facing the data centre market:
1. For enterprise companies juggling a complex set of outsourcing options, what can be expected from cloud, colocation and managed service providers in terms of facilities that are future-proofed on behalf of clients?
2. There is considerable difference of opinion about what the future holds among companies that invest in the construction of data centres to meet IT requirements or to offer IT, cloud or data centre services commercially. How can a response to disruptions in the marketplace be planned for?
3. Are the issues that the hyperscale facilities of major cloud providers face completely separate from those experienced in the construction smaller data centres? Or are there learnings that can be shared across projects?
4. What will the next 5 years bring, in terms of technological and infrastructural change? How will such changes impact on the design and construction of data centres? Is the data centre construction sector equipped to respond to rising demand for digitsation?
The advantages Ireland offers as a location has led to the development of a world-class cluster of companies with an unparalleled competency in data centre design, build and fit-out.
Karin Angus, Senior Market Adviser and Data Centre Lead for Europe at Enterprise Ireland says,
Ireland has become one of the principal data centre hubs for many of the world’s technology giants, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Dell EMC, Yahoo, IBM, HP, Facebook, Equinix, InterXion and Digital Realty. The largest data centre operators have partnered with Irish construction companies to build the most sophisticated ‘hyperscale’ data centres across the globe. As a result, Ireland has become a world-class exporter of Data Centre Services with a cluster of high-tech Irish construction and engineering companies positioned as market leaders in the global sector. Companies such as Collen Construction, Jones Engineering Group, KES Group, Linesight, Mercury Engineering and Winthrop are successfully exporting their data centre expertise internationally, delivering major projects across the UK, Europe, the Nordics, North America, Russia and the Middle East. It’s their expertise, adaptability and capability, in terms of speedy and efficient delivery on complex high-tech projects, that has set Irish companies apart.
Nick Parfitt, Senior Global Research Analyst, Data Centre Dynamics Group and the author of the white paper, say.
Data centres represent the foundation of the digitalised world. The processes of initial design and construction are key to maximising the opportunities and minimising the risks associated with data centre investment, as well as building in the technologies that will deliver on key requirements such as resilience, efficiency, scalability, flexibility and security. The quality of what is designed and built today will impact the future scope of the digitalised era.