Open licensing creates €30m Irish tech player


16 Oct 2007

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A group of ex-Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) workers in Galway have built up a business that employs 150 people and has a turnover of €30m per annum as a result of encouraging multinationals to grant licenses to remanufacture their products.

Galway-based Multis was set up in 1994 and is responsible for additional revenues of up to €200m for technology multinationals HP and Sun Microsystems.

The company effectively asked these companies for permission to access their licensing in order to remanufacture old servers that are about to be retired and sell them on to Fortune 500 companies that include eBay and Ericsson.

“Many of these companies would be using servers in their data centres and are not yet ready to move to new platforms yet,” explained Multis founder Sean Keenan.

“They need more of the same systems. However, by this stage many of the existing players will have moved to manufacturing newer systems.

“We effectively bridge that gap with the re-manufactured product that would be fully-branded by HP or Sun.”

Keenan said his company originally approached the manufacturers and asked for access to their licensing.

“We entered into a technology agreement that will enable us to delivery fully-branded product to the customer. The agreement gives us access to the technical information needed to build the servers as new products.

“Effectively we spotted an opportunity to align ourselves with the companies and apply structure to a market opportunity. We have expanded into Holland and are expanding in the US. It’s a large market with good margins. The opportunity is there and there currently is no dominant player,” Keenan added.

According to Jim Cuddy, manager of technology licensing at Enterprise Ireland, this is a model the agency is encouraging other Irish companies to pursue. “There are loads of technologies that are created but tend to gather dust. In the right hands and by using an open innovation policy they can be the catalyst for companies to grow.”

He said Irish companies looking to discover available technology for licensing can do so by looking up the Innovation Relay Network and the European Space Agency through www.techsearch.ie.

Cuddy cited Irish companies like Heatsolve in Westport, which licenses in technology to make electric blankets; Ntera which licensed in nanotechnology for LCD displays; Kerry Foods which licensed in technology to make the Cheese Strings product; and Donegal-based Mantis Cranes which bought in technology to manufacture self-erecting cranes for the construction sector.

Technology transfer and how licensing can grow Irish businesses will be discussed at an Enterprise Ireland event at the Stillorgan Park Hotel on 24 October. Speakers will include Professor Henry Chesborough, executive director at the Centre for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley and regarded as one of America’s Top 50 Innovators.

For more information go to www.innovation.ie.

By John Kennedy