The third webinar in the Creating Tomorrow’s World series saw two-time Emmy Award winner, Eamonn Donlyn, commercial lead of Darwin & Goliath, join business development experts Neil Gordon from Trinity College Dublin and Conor McNally from ADAPT, as they discussed the innovation ecosystem that exists within universities in Ireland and the supports that are in place to foster innovation and spin out companies.
Conor McNally’s presentation focused on how multidisciplinary teams are brought together to foster innovation and explained how ideas are taken from concept through to development. Conor explained that usually technological innovation begins by either identifying a customer need or developing a capability that can lead to automation or interaction. Using examples from current projects, Conor highlighted the pathways for entrepreneurs to apply for funding from agencies such as Enterprise Ireland.
“Ultimately, the goal for the research is to get to a trial with an industry partner” Conor explained as he highlighted that the main focus for entrepreneurs should be on identifying the customer need and what the business impact is as opposed to developing a technology and trying to apply it to a market where you are unsure of your customers needs.
Conor is an entrepreneurial mentor to the startup teams and he supports them from concept to spin out. This journey goes from the early stages of concept development, developing the business case and finding trial partners, to helping with funding applications and finally helping with hiring the right team.
The second speaker was Neil Gordon who works within Trinity’s Research and Innovation (TRI) department. The TRI office aims to translate academic research for both economic and societal impact. Neil helps the research teams become investor ready. During his presentation, he highlighted 26 campus companies that had spun out over the last five years covering areas such as MedTech, Life Sciences, ICT and software spinouts which have created almost 300 jobs.
“We focus on our world class researchers and create teams that are well balanced and get them access to funding as quickly as possible. When getting started you need to think about four M’s – Money: how much money do you need and when do you need it; Market: is it a big market, is it a growing market; Management: what does the management team look like? Has it a good blend of technical and commercial people; Moat: what is making it different? What is making it unique? If we have all those elements in place then we start to engage with the investor community” advised Mr Gordon.
Finally Eamonn Donlyn spoke about his role within Darwin & Goliath, an ADAPT Centre spin-out from Trinity College Dublin focused on a recommendation system that had a sustainable focus. He explained that the technology was tested in a number of verticals before they expanded and commercialised the service. Speaking about the evolution of the company Eamon said: “Really your job as a start up company or a research project is to listen to the industry partners. This led us to narrow our focus on the e-commerce space as it seemed like the most efficient use of the technology. We started a partnership with Shopify and that allowed us to test in a very rigorous manner.”
Eamonn outlined the benefits of the university innovation ecosystem, highlighting how the university network, investment ready supports, and connections to angel investors and venture capitalists were invaluable for a company trying to spin out.
A full recording of the webinar is available to view here: https://youtu.be/qk4XjwG7uN8
Our next webinar will be focused on Financial Technology and will take place in early September. It will be advertised on this website and in our monthly newsletter. If you would like to sign up you can do that through the contact us page on the website also.