Enterprise Ireland announces €1.14m SBIR fund and challenges for 2020

4 Mar 2020

From left: Hilda Dowler, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital; Nuala Nevin, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; David Wall, Tallaght University Hospital; Marguerite Bourke, Enterprise Ireland; Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland; Naomi Rooney, National Transport Authority; Tommy Furey, Marine Institute; and Abigail Murphy, Environmental Protection Agency. Image: Enterprise Ireland

This year, Enterprise Ireland is calling on small and medium-sized businesses to help public sector bodies solve issues in health, transport, biodiversity and climate action.

On Wednesday (4 March), Enterprise Ireland announced that it has approved a total of €1.14m in joint funding to drive collaborative projects, or challenges, between innovative companies and the public sector.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme encourages start-ups to explore and co-design unique solutions with the help of public sector teams, through competitive challenges.

Enterprise Ireland announced that this year’s approved SBIR challenges include climate action, health, biodiversity and transport. The State agency received 23 applications from public sector bodies to participate in the SBIR programme and has shortlisted these applications to five challenges.

The challenges and funds

The climate action challenge will take place with Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency, and aims to create a circular economy for soft plastic waste in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has committed €240,000 to this initiative.

According to Enterprise Ireland, this particular challenge is seeking solutions to counter the problem of plastic waste in Ireland by looking at opportunities for closed-loop reuse systems, with an initial focus on reducing plastic waste from school lunches. The goal of this challenge is to reduce the carbon footprint of schools by lowering their plastic waste generation.

‘The five challenges, identified by the public sector bodies, are sectorally diverse and will ultimately benefit citizens’ needs both in Ireland and internationally’

There are two challenges relating to health. The first involves the Mater Hospital and the Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, as part of the Ireland East Hospital Group. The aim of this challenge is to reduce the incidence and impact of in-patient falls within the hospital.

Enterprise Ireland has set aside €200,000 for this challenge, which aims to address the prediction, detection and prevention of falls in the Mater Hospital initially, with potential to extend a solution nationally.

The second health challenge involves Tallaght University Hospital and it aims to improve the care of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients in the community.

This challenge will help the Dublin hospital to seek solutions to improve COPD patient self-management and incentivise affected patients to take control of their health. Enterprise Ireland’s fund allocates €200,000 for this challenge.

For the biodiversity challenge, Enterprise Ireland is offering €300,000 to small businesses collaborating with the Marine Institute to develop innovative solutions to map coastal seaweed resources in Ireland. This project notes that seaweed is an under-utilised natural resource and a technology-based solution could enable future determination of its distribution in inter-tidal areas in Ireland.

Finally, this year’s transport challenge, which will involve the National Transport Authority, hopes to gather accurate information on vehicle capacity for bus and coach passengers, with a focus on improved accessibility. Enterprise Ireland’s fund for this challenge is €200,000.

For the benefit of citizens

Enterprise Ireland’s executive director, Stephen Creaner, said: “Innovation is a key priority for Enterprise Ireland. We know that effective innovation is essential to the future growth and sustainability of every business.

“The SBIR challenges present excellent opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, to extend their innovation ambition and capability, while accelerating their route to commercialisation, and enabling improved efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services.”

Creaner added: “The five challenges, identified by the public sector bodies, are sectorally diverse and will ultimately benefit citizens’ needs both in Ireland and internationally. Enterprise Ireland encourages entrepreneurs, developers and researchers who have solutions in these spaces to take up the challenge.

“We look forward to the exciting new concepts and innovative ideas that will emerge as a result of these challenges.”

All challenges are expected to be live on the Government’s e-tenders website no later than 1 May 2020. Further information will be available on www.sbirireland.ie.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic