Companies across Ireland are currently engaging in innovative projects which aid with their development, growth, and success at home and abroad. To enable the development of these projects, Enterprise Ireland provides advice, support, and funding through their regional office network and with programmes such as the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network.
The Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway programme is a network of 17 gateways situated Technological Universities and Institute of Technology across the country. Our unique geographic approach is a key aspect of the network, with 15 of our 17 Gateways located in the regions. Each Gateway provides an important service to Irish industry, not only within its own region but nationwide, by providing key assistance and expertise to companies with research, development, or innovation problems or projects across a broad range of sectors. Access can be funded by various Enterprise Ireland Innovation supports or directly funded by the company.
To find out more about the ongoing development and importance of innovation in regional areas, we talked to Dr Stephen Seawright, WiSAR Technology Gateway Manager, about the centre, its services, and the growth of innovation in the North-West.
Explain a bit about WiSAR and your role within it?
The Wireless Sensor Applied Research Technology Gateway (WiSAR) is located in ATU Donegal and provides solutions to Irish industry for the Internet of Things (IoT) using its expertise in wireless, embedded electronics and related software. WiSAR has been providing support to Irish industry for 15 years and, while our foundation is in electronics, today we have expertise in all levels of the IoT stack from the physical layer through to software and data analytics.
Home to an extensive team of researchers and engineers, we work on a wide range of collaborative R&D projects for industry. The range of facilities available at WiSAR allows for a very high standard of research and development to be conducted. My role, as Technology Gateway Manager, is to engage with industry, not only in the North-West but nationwide. I have a broad remit, which ranges from helping clients define projects or ideas, assisting with project funding applications, and driving the projects forward to ensure key deliverables are met on time and on budget. Throughout the process, I’ll also liaise with the company to keep them informed of progress.
What services can WiSAR provide?
WiSAR has a range of technologies and services available. Our facilities provide companies with a flexible and expert R&D resource, allowing them to examine the potential for existing and emerging wireless and sensor technology within their businesses. Our lab includes electronic prototyping facilities, 3D printing and RF test equipment operational to 40GHz. Companies engage with WiSAR to conduct technology research, to develop and build prototypes, to undertake feasibility studies, and to collaborate on new product development. We have a dedicated ready-made R&D infrastructure which can be applied to industry problems of all sizes and in several instances, we become an external R&D source for companies that come through our doors.
What type of company do you normally engage with?
We work with a wide variety of sectors such as healthcare, sports & tourism, renewable energy, marine, transport, and the environment to name but a few. Our team provides assistance and support to all types of companies from start-ups and SMEs right through to large multinationals. Companies can access our services through a range of Enterprise Ireland supports such as the Innovation Voucher Programme, Innovation Partnerships, Feasibility Study or the Agile Innovation fund. Companies also have the option to fund projects directly themselves.
What are the main benefits for a company engaging in an innovation project?
Rapid advancement in technology is constantly disrupting existing products and even entire business models offering both challenges and opportunities for new product development and process improvement. Innovation has become essential for Irish industry to remain competitive and relevant to a global audience and by engaging with the innovation process companies have taken the first step to ensure continued development and growth.
Innovation can open many doors and provide new opportunities such as market diversification, increased client base and product line extension. For similar reasons, the Gateway network attracts start-ups and entrepreneurs with disruptive concepts but insufficient technical capability to realise their idea. Large or small, established or new, it is important that companies realise that they are not alone; by engaging with Gateways like WiSAR, they can expect expert advice and support from specialised research centres around the country.
How important is the WiSAR Gateway for the North-West and beyond?
The North-West has a wide and diverse range of companies operating throughout the region. As with any Irish company, the importance of establishing a presence, developing growth, and maintaining a sustainable business is critically important. Often, the key to all three elements can be working within an innovation ecosystem. The WiSAR Gateway not only provides a centre of excellence in embedded electronics and software but a valuable resource for advice and support in innovation funding. The centre is a one-stop shop for all types of companies, be it their first engagement with innovation or indeed a company who has been through the process before.
It’s important to remember that companies can engage with us whatever their innovation problems may be. We work closely with our sister gateways throughout the Technology Gateway network, ensuring access to a level of expertise in a wide range of specialities. We are also a member of Applied IoT, a specialised Technology Gateway cluster operating in the area of Internet of Things. This level of collaboration and co-operation provides industry with access to over 250 researchers and engineers, ensuring they receive relevant and dedicated help and support every step of the way.
What’s your advice for a company thinking about starting their innovation journey?
Innovation can be daunting, but knowing your audience, researching the supports available and considering the positives gained, rather than the negatives, is a step in the right direction. Remember that help, support, advice, and expertise are available every step of the way.