EI Funding To Tackle Societal Problems

16 Oct 2019 | 09.55 am

EI Funding To Tackle Societal Problems

Public bodies and the private sector can partner to solve societal challenges and share €750,000 through the SBIR fund

16 Oct 2019 | 09.55 am

Enterprise Ireland is inviting applications for the third instalment of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fund, which partners public bodies with the private sector to find solutions to “age-old societal problems”.

The €750,000 SBIR fund encourages public sector bodies to collaborate with businesses to address specific challenges affecting Irish citizens.

The public sector body procures research and development to progress the idea and co-designs the solutions with the awarded companies. Enterprise Ireland co-funds successful challenges.

Previous challenges that have been tackled through the SBIR fund include illegal dumping, solutions to rural transport and engaging ‘unheard voices’ in communities.

Tom Kelly, head of EI’s innovation and competitiveness division, said that since 2014, contracts worth more than €1m in total have been awarded to 69 companies by public sector bodies, as part of the SBIR programme.

“The challenges, identified by the public sector body, are particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses, accelerating their route to commercialisation and providing them with a vital first reference site,” Kelly added.

Public sector bodies applying to the fund are tasked with proposing the challenges that will be addressed by the SBIR fund. They also have to commit a minimum budget of €100,000 to tackle the challenge identified.

As part of the publicity push for the new SBIR funding round, Enterprise Ireland published details of a survey of 42 SMEs awarded funding in previous challenges.

The surveyed companies report 27 new jobs created and a further 88 existing jobs retained.

More than four out of five of the companies surveyed also managed to secure additional funding as a direct result of the SBIR Challenge.

Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, said that the SBIR mechanism enable the council to partner with 30 SMEs to address challenges such as flooding, smart mobility and increased cycling in the city.

“As a direct result of the funding, we have been able to co-design solutions and create new market opportunities for the companies that have partnered with us,” Keegan continued.

Elsewhere, Limerick City and County Council used the SBIR initiative to find solutions to deal with fire safety and access in historic buildings.

The challenge was won by Safecility, a Dublin-based business that has created software solutions for building safety compliance management. It was awarded SBIR funding of almost €60,000 to help address the challenge.

Safecility CEO Cian O’Flaherty said that the SBIR initiative provides a “fantastic opportunity to work with real problem owners who cannot solve public problems with products currently on the market”.

Each SBIR challenge selected will be worth a minimum of €200,000 in funding. The call is open until 4 December 2019. Up to five SBIR challenges will be awarded and will be announced in early 2020.

 

Photo: Cian O’Flaherty (left), Tom Kelly and Enterprise Ireland’s Marguerite Bourke

 

 

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