Software R&D ‘matchmaking’ network created

3 Feb 2010

In an effort to stimulate the Irish software industry by bringing together software firms and third-level research institutes, the Irish Software Association (ISA) has launched the Irish Software Innovation Network (ISIN).

The network, which received Enterprise Ireland funding of €200,000, will be a free service to both the business and academic world looking to collaborate and share expertise.

“There is massive potential to boost innovation, enterprise and employment if we can get our software companies to work more closely with research institutes,” said ISIN manager Michael Martin.

“To do this we have developed a dedicated database to simplify and speed up the matchmaking process. The network will be of interest to any business that wants to commercialise a specific technology, but which may not have the internal resources needed to conduct the research themselves.”

The network, which will function as its own self-contained unit at IBEC, will act as a matchmaking service between software companies and third-level research institutes to connect software companies to world-class expertise and research emerging from universities and colleges.

Goal of the Irish Software Innovation Network

The ultimate aim of the ISIN is to help form clusters of academics, indigenous software companies and multinationals to address particular problems posed by industry in a collaborative fashion, explained Martin.

“The big thing I’m learning from talking to companies is there’s a distinct lack of information. There are a lot of structures out there to help companies, but the information is not getting out to them.”

Martin cited a similar industry-wide network set up in Scotland in 2005 that has resulted in more than 851 enquiries – 60pc from SMEs – being processed to establish capability and capacity and more than 205 academic collaborative projects initiated.

“The problem in Ireland was that during the boom economy no one had to make an effort. But now all of that is gone and smaller companies are struggling to survive. Coming together and finding new products and routes to market is a matter of necessity and the work of college and university researchers could be vital.

“We need to bridge that gap in knowledge and help companies that haven’t interacted with college R&D and tech transfer offices to develop products and services for the future,” Martin said.

College researchers working with SMEs

Owen Laverty of Maynooth University’s Technology Transfer Office explained to that college researchers, too, need to work with SMEs and often an industry need can shape the direction of their research.

“It’s all about market pull. If researchers understand what the market wants, it helps to get the research out there quicker. A researcher could have a good body of research but there may be no demand for it. But if you have businesses coming to researchers with a product or a market idea it creates the right appetite.

“Ultimately it directs ability at both ends of the discussion and that can’t be a bad thing,” said Laverty.

Laverty went on to say that industry, too, needs to learn how to deal with universities. “The ISA is trying to simplify the process and make R&D more accessible so companies can be successful.

“The key is businesses understanding what they can expect from an intellectual property (IP) license deal with a university, what is required of them and the legal perspective involved.

“Businesses think that this is not accessible to them but university researchers are crying out to help the economy so of course it must be made accessible. Demystifying the process is essential,” Laverty concludes.

By Marie Boran and John Kennedy

Photo: Gearoid Mooney, director of ICT research commercialisation, Enterprise Ireland is pictured here with Sean Baker, chairman of IBEC’s Irish Software Association and Prof Barry Smyth, UCD, at the launch of the Irish Software Innovation Network (ISIN) in Dublin

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years