Open Labs start-ups surpass €1.5m in research income

15 Feb 2021

Dr Shawna Johnston. Image: TU Dublin

The TU Dublin initiative helps young companies with their research and development needs.

Open Labs, a research and development programme at TU Dublin Hothouse, has announced that its initiative has helped start-ups generate more than €1.5m in research income.

The initiative started in 2018 at Hothouse, a centre for commercialising research out of the university. It provides support to start-ups that require assistance with research and development, and more than 150 start-ups have taken part to date.

Start-ups are paired up with a case manager to identify the help they need with their product or service and how to secure funding to make it possible.

“The Open Labs case manager works with a company to identify and prioritise their immediate innovation needs, connecting them with suitable research expertise and equipment, and determining which funding option is most appropriate – State, private or collaborative options,” Dr Shawna Johnston, business development manager at TU Dublin, said.

The sectors the Open Labs initiative has worked with covers many fields and disciplines, including AI, food, surface coatings and virtual and augmented reality. It is adding a cybersecurity component this year.

Active Difference, a Wicklow-based company manufacturing environmentally friendly paper packaging for food, has participated in the initiative to help with testing its products.

“Active Difference did not have the level of testing and verification in-house required for the development of a system to satisfy the requirements of global brands such as Coca-Cola and Burger King, but these were readily available in TU Dublin,” the company’s chief executive, Ken Coates, said.

Prof Brian O’Neill, director of research, enterprise and innovation services at TU Dublin, said that Open Labs has cultivated a deep relationship with industry to help develop new products.

“Open Labs demonstrates the talent and real-world problem-solving skills of TU Dublin researchers working across the university, allowing us to share competencies, join ideas, create synergies and unearth new opportunities,” O’Neill said.

He added that the university is seeking to deepen its partnerships with high-tech sectors.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin