€750k Small Business Research Fund for SMEs and public sector

Enterprise Ireland has unveiled a new €750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fund.

SBIR encourages the Irish public sector to partner with innovation-led businesses and explore unique solutions, through competitive SBIR Challenges.

The public sector body procures research and development to progress the idea and co-designs the innovative solutions with the awarded companies. Enterprise Ireland co-funds successful Challenges.

“Since 2014, contracts worth a total of over €1m have been awarded to 69 companies by public sector bodies, as part of the SBIR programme”

This is SBIR Ireland’s third competitive call to state agencies, county councils and local authorities who are seeking solutions to a diverse range of public Challenges.

Co-funded by Enterprise Ireland and the awarded public sector body, each SBIR Challenge will be worth a minimum of €200,000 in funding. The call is open until 4 December 2019. Up to five SBIR Challenges will be awarded and will be announced in early 2020. For information on SBIR and the live call see www.sbirireland.ie

“Driving innovation in our client companies is a key priority for Enterprise Ireland,” explained Tom Kelly, head of Innovation and Competitiveness at Enterprise Ireland. “Through programmes like SBIR, SMEs can help tackle societal problems and develop innovative solutions through strategic collaborations with public sector bodies. Since 2014, contracts worth a total of over €1m have been awarded to 69 companies by public sector bodies, as part of the SBIR programme.

“The Challenges, identified by the public sector body, are particularly suited to small and medium sized businesses, accelerating their route to commercialisation and providing them with a vital first reference site. I look forward to seeing the solutions harnessed from the Challenges and welcome applications from across the public sector.”

A recent survey of 42 SMEs who were awarded funding in previous Challenges shows that 50,000 users are benefiting from SBIR-funded innovations in Ireland. The surveyed companies report 27 new jobs created and a further 88 existing jobs retained.

More than four out of five (84pc) companies have managed to leverage additional funding as a direct result of the SBIR Challenge. Almost two-thirds (64pc) of innovations are still in the pre-commercial phase, so these figures are expected to increase as the companies further develop and scale their product or service.

To date, Enterprise Ireland, through SBIR Ireland, has supported 20 Challenges in collaboration with local authorities, government departments and agencies including: illegal dumping, solutions to rural transport and engaging ‘unheard voices’ in communities.

“Through the SBIR mechanism we have been able to engage the market and partner with over 30 SMEs that have collaborated with the city council to help solve challenges such as flooding, increasing cycling, addressing last mile deliveries and growing smarter mobility solutions,” said Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council.

“As a direct result of the funding we have been able to co-design solutions and create new market opportunities for the companies that have partnered with us. The impact for us has been a change of culture internally, but it has also helped accelerate the adoption of new technologies. We would highly recommend the SBIR programme for any local authority or public service organisation.”

Safecility

Safecility was awarded an SBIR by Limerick City and County Council, on the ‘Solutions to deal with fire safety and universal access in historic buildings’ Challenge.

“The SBIR process allows us to develop products to solve Challenges facing the public sector in a collaborative way,” said Cian O Flaherty of Safecility.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to work with real problem owners who cannot solve public problems with products currently on the market. In Limerick, we are developing innovative fire safety solutions for historic buildings that will have a global impact and receive payment for the innovation work. This is a win-win for start-ups looking to make a big impact on global problems and has been an excellent experience for our team.”

Main image (left to right): Cian O Flaherty, Safecility; Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s head of Innovation and Competitiveness; and Marguerite Bourke, Enterprise Ireland’s Small Business Innovation Research Ireland Manager.
Photo: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic

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Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 15 October, 2019