The October Lunchtime Session focused on the funding opportunities for research and development available through Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) Innovation Partnership programme. The session was presented by the programme manager Declan McGee.

A well attended session, we were informed that in the case of small companies up to 80% of the funding for research projects can be funded by Enterprise Ireland with the balance being contributed by the company itself. The definition of a small company for this purpose is one to 50 employees with turnover not exceeding €10 million.

The purpose of the grant is to allow companies work with the right academic research partner in Ireland, to develop and exploit a commercial opportunity through collaboration.

Declan went on to say that EI has found the scheme successful with each €1 of funding invested delivering €7.71 net turnover impact for the company. As a result the scheme is likely to continue, and with only 24% of the investment so far going into the ICT sector there is good potential for future investment in the area.

In terms of applying for an innovation partnership the advice was very clear;
– The applicants should have identified a clear opportunity to develop an innovative product, process or service.
– The company does not have the capability in-house to develop the innovation.
In this case the company should develop an outline proposal and in consultation with EI develop a full proposal for consideration. In this process it was pointed out that there is a feasibility study grant available to investigate the possibility of going forward with a full proposal. Declan was very clear to point out that the purpose of the feasibility grant is very much to pave the way for a full proposal and not a grant for R&D.

As mentioned already the research is collaboration between the company and a research partner, because the output may well include intellectual property the advice was very clear. The rights and agreements must be well thought out, this detail is not the remit of EI, but funds will not be released until Heads of Agreement are signed.

Other points of interest included that more than one company can apply as a consortium, also that while the average EI contribution to an Innovation Partnership is €125,000 it can go much lower, to around the €20,000 mark, and indeed much higher for the right proposal.

A current client of the EI Innovation Partnership, Tanya Kelly from Two Ten Health provide a straight speaking slide on the pros and cons they had encountered with the programme. On the positive side Tanya referred to the access to skillsets and the opportunity to exploit new opportunities through the innovation delivered. On the challenges side Tanya cautioned to understand that there is a large time commitment required from the organisation, it is not a case of briefing the academic partner and waiting for them to deliver the solution.
Finally Kevin also mentioned the availability of smaller research funding through the Innovation Voucher programme, a programme he said is currently under review, to make it easier to work with.