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Research Innovation Focus
Research Innovation
insights and opportunities for innovation across the sector.
Examples include Food for Health Ireland (FHI), which was
established in 2006 when several representatives from
the dairy industry and Enterprise Ireland came together to
explore the possibility of collaborating to fund nutrition and
health research to improve public health. The aim was to
conduct research in `precompetitive' areas by teams that
share a vested interest in success. The Dairy Processing
Technology Centre (DPTC) is an industry/academic
collaborative research centre, hosted by the University of
Limerick, with a research agenda driven by the long-term
growth opportunities for the dairy sector. The centre is
funded by Enterprise Ireland and dairy industry partners.
More recently, the meat industry, supported by Enterprise
Ireland, collaborated to establish Meat Technology Ireland,
a strategic research and innovation base in beef and
sheepmeat processing in Ireland, as a `one-stop shop' for
meat processing research and technology.
Orla says these collaborations have been advantageous
for industry, and their success is recognised in the ongoing
support from industry partners. "FHI is going into its third
phase. The industry is behind it and in the evaluation of
what FHI 3 should look like, the industry partners got
together and decided what the focus should be for the next
five years. MTI is further back as it was only launched in
2017 but, again, our feedback from clients is very positive.
DPTC is now perceived to be an essential part of the dairy
research eco-system and is helping lead the industry
into next-generation dairy processing and production.
Feedback from industry has been very good and I certainly
think they would be the first to let us know otherwise
because they are also part of the funding model."
Orla says the implications of such collaborations is far
reaching, even beyond the industry partners. "Any of those
centres can do collaborative research with any Irish-based
company, a partner company or a non-partner company.
They can collaborate via Horizon 2020, or they can do it
through the innovation partnership programmes, so you
don't have to be a partner to benefit from what's happening
in the centres."
Innovative landscape
This network and infrastructure are also important in
making Ireland an attractive location for the international
food industry, Orla explains. "From an FDI perspective,
which Enterprise Ireland manages, the consistent
commentary is around the connectedness of the research
landscape within Ireland because we have third level, we
have the technology centres, the Science Foundation
Ireland centres, and the ongoing research at Teagasc. It's
all very accessible and everybody knows somebody who
can help you if they can't. That's something that has led
some companies to come and do R&D here and you don't
necessarily see those in press releases. Moorepark, for
example, is housing a number of Chinese companies who
are doing R&D work."
Return on investment
Enterprise Ireland works with 500+ client companies in its
food division. Orla says her team is championing innovation
in the food sector because evidence shows investment
in innovation delivers significant returns for businesses.
"There is evidence that R&D-active companies generate
more sales in export and are more resilient. We also get
R&D numbers from our annual business review and we
know that Enterprise Ireland client companies that availed
of innovation capability, funding and collaboration supports
have 67 per cent more global sales than the non-R&D
active companies, so the evidence is compelling. On the
flip side, we know from a further study that the product
life times in export markets are only an average of one
to three years; therefore, constant innovation is required
if companies want to grow but, equally, maintain their
exports, because it is expected in the marketplace that they
will innovate in some way, whether it's branding, packaging,
process or product etc."
Changing the mindset of companies is an important
element of this and Enterprise Ireland has innovated
internally to better deliver and encourage uptake of its
innovation supports. "We developed a client engagement
model which is a way of delivering relevant supports
to clearly defined needs in a consistent, structured and
collaborative way. It builds on Enterprise Ireland's years
of experience in helping companies to overcome barriers
to growing their businesses. Following a team-to-team
detailed discussion across the six business pillars, we
usually just focus on two areas and if one of those is
innovation, one of our technologists will have a deeper
discussion with the company to draw out the areas that
they need to focus on and why. The company may have
done some work with Bord Bia [the Irish Food Board] on
insights, which is important for understanding the market
they are serving and how they deliver on that and how
the product might need to change to meet that need. The
senior technologist will work with the company to help
shape the next phase of R&D. The model is designed to
support companies to achieve growth and exports tailored
to their strategic ambitions. It comes down to what really
will make the step change to allow a company to grow in a
sustainable way."
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