MLE aims to boost R&D among European SMEs


3 Aug 2004

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MIT’s MediaLab Europe operation in Dublin is to embark on a series of partnerships with regional development agencies throughout Europe to boost the level of innovation and R&D taking place within European SMEs. The initiative may also see specific regional development agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland for example, gain access to the €48m worth of R&D taking place both in Dublin and MIT in Boston.

In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, MediaLab Europe (MLE) managing director Simon Jones said that the lab has already commenced a partnership with the Highlands and Islands Development Agency in Scotland to give the agency similar access as corporate sponsors like Intel, Ericsson, AIB and Orange to high level technology R&D taking place in Dublin.

Jones explained: “I think you will begin to see greater involvement between MLE and the public sector. We have started working with the Highlands and Islands Development Agency to show them how to boost innovation. Businesses within their area are entirely SME so we have fostered a partnership with them whereby SMEs in the region can have access to innovation here. This is a model you will see more and more.”

He explained that MLE will host an event on 23 September on the future of innovation in a regional context, which will be attended by regional development agencies from across Europe, including the new accession states.

Jones elaborated: “Scottish R&D policy has to be different to north of France, which has a large former mining community, for example. However, the development of a culture of innovation is something we believe we have a role to play. We have taken the MLE principle of innovation to show it would work in multi lingual, multi cultural Europe.”

Jones became head of MLE 10 months ago following the departure of Dr Rudy Burger. Before that Jones was Dean of Engineering & Design at the University of Bath.

In describing the business make-up of the not-for-profit MediaLab, which came to Ireland initially on the back of Irish Government funding and sponsorship from Eircom, Jones explained: “Not-for-profit also means zero losses. At the height of the tech boom, MIT in Boston was 97pc funded by the corporate sector. Europe is different and the mix would be 50pc corporate, 50pc public funding. As well as this, the reality is that Europe is not a large corporate base like the US but rather a patchwork of SME-led economies and that’s the market reality we face.”

Jones explained that some €48m worth of innovation and R&D work is taking place between the Boston and Dublin MediaLabs. The Dublin lab, he added, has raised sponsorship from eight key partners, including AOL, Intel, Ericsson, BT, Orange, Fiat and AIB and the average sponsorship fee is worth €300K per annum. The lab also funds its existence through targeting European Union R&D grand funds, both academic and industrial.

By John Kennedy