Lantern the shining light at NDRC’s research commercialisation gig

20 Jun 2017

Image: Tanachot Srijam/Shutterstock

Getting research out of the lab and into the real world is a difficult task, though NDRC’s recent programme could help Lantern do just that.

Ireland’s knowledge transfer system isn’t perfect but, armed with significant state funding, it’s getting there.

What can help, though, is when initiatives such as NDRC’s Pre-Commercialisation Programme for researchers put scientists through their paces.

This week saw Lantern take top prize, thanks to technology that can model the “effective bandwidth” of IT services.

Run as a collaborative partnership with the Irish Photonic Integration Centre, Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) and Connect, the programme had a simple premise: it aimed to help researchers actively prepare for commercialisation funding, which will support them on the path to pre-seed investment.

Lantern – a latency analysis system for financial services – is a new network management technology being developed by TSSG.

Lantern’s project is an “application-aware monitoring tool that will deliver detailed information on the latency-focused capacity of the network to meet SLAs”.

Commercialising research ideas is a major problem, both here and abroad, so much so that Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative (TTSI) was this year bolstered by €34.5m to help researchers get their ideas to market.

Managed by Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI), the initiative aims to connect research institutes with industry, providing a link to help licence and research agreements get off the ground.

By the turn of this year, KTI had already helped 31 spin-out companies through its activities, though the hundreds of research agreements (748) and licensing agreements (206) are perhaps better examples of its work.

Patricia Scanlon, CEO of Soapbox Labs, recently told of her experiences in this area, and how, in general, researchers struggle to get their ideas from concept to reality.

“My experience is these [projects] end up sitting on the shelf and people move on,” she said.

“There’s a huge gap. Someone is doing something really cool in university and then they say, ‘Let’s commercialise it’. But it’s a huge leap to get it to market.

One of the more successful transitions from research to commercialisation in Ireland was SecuRetract, a medical device developed in University College of Cork.

Events such as NDRC’s, which draw attention to some of the better research ideas doing the rounds, will only help these transitions.

Over a 16-week period, the NDRC team worked with the researchers to identify market challenges, helping them understand the value of the customer discovery and validation process, and to explore the application of business model design to their research.

The programme also offered the opportunity for the researchers to meet entrepreneurs and expand their networks in the digital start-up sector.

This time, Lantern shone brightest.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic