There has never been a better time for business to collaborate with universities

Saturday, March 19, 2016 - 18:30

Collaboration with universities for research and development represents a huge opportunity for Irish businesses, according to Dr John Scanlan, Director of Commercialisation at Maynooth University.  Starting from a position of near parity in 2003, total export sales of Irish companies that participated in R&D activity outstripped those who did not by a ratio of 4.5:1 over ten years. Dr Scanlan was speaking in advance of Maynooth University’s Connect 2016, the biennial event which links more than 200 businesses with 40-plus research teams in order to facilitate collaborative partnerships.
“There is a huge opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs that are willing and able to engage with universities.  Not only can they leverage the broad range of supports offered by universities to access world-class expertise and state of the art services and facilities, but they can also avail of significant funding supports from Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, and the EU. The much talked about ‘Knowledge Development Box’ that will guarantee a favourable tax rate for income generated through R&D investment only serves to make the proposition more attractive.”
“The Irish infrastructure to enable commercialisation of research and the collaboration between business and academia is second to none, and these partnerships have the potential to create sustainable, highly-skilled employment.  In the last few years we have seen an increase in people setting up their own companies and a renewed focus on innovation.  As a result of this, the real impact that research can have on industry has increased significantly. We are seeing the formation of more spin-out companies from universities and the direct transfer of expertise and knowledge from educational institutions to established companies,” said Dr Scanlan.
Scanlan pointed to a successful partnership with the Department of Biology at Maynooth University and Sigmoid Pharma, a specialty pharma company developing new therapies for gastrointestinal and immunological diseases and disorders. Discussing his company’s collaboration with Maynooth University, Sigmoid Pharma CEO Dr Ivan Coulter said: “Sigmoid is highly collaborative in its approach to research and innovation, and we benefited greatly from working with centres of excellence such as Maynooth University’s Department of Biology. The expertise and insights that we access through collaboration is world class, and we have worked closely with researchers in the development of potentially life changing treatments, including Cycol—a treatment for ulcerative colitis, a condition which effects 1.4 million people worldwide. Cycol is now undergoing late stage clinical trials.”
Treemetrics CEO Enda Keane, another business leader to see his company thrive through collaborating with Maynooth University researchers, added: “Our clients in the global forest industry, both large and small, want to know one thing: how much is their forest worth? To ascertain this, one must compute representative species, volume and timber quality, and identify damage caused by extreme weather events drought, disease, and pest infestation.  Through our collaboration with the Maynooth University’s Social Science Research Institute, we have developed a revolutionary forest management system based upon cutting-edge technological developments. The researchers at Maynooth completely understand the value and importance of our business and, crucially, they are always excited to tackle any problem we set them.”
Maynooth University Vice-President for Research, Prof Bernard Mahon said: “Connect 2016 is a great opportunity for business leaders and researchers to meet and explore how they can work together. Last year we launched MaynoothWorks, our business incubation hub, which provides a space on our campus for companies who want close proximity to the research and innovation that is consistently being produced by our world-class centres of excellence.”
Maynooth University currently has more than 50 ongoing industry collaborations across multiple disciplines with companies including:

Sigmoid Pharma - Sigmoid Pharma Limited is a specialty pharma company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.  Sigmoid’s goal is to develop new therapies for unmet clinical needs in gastrointestinal and immunological diseases as well as for immune-oncology related disorders.
The company was founded in 2003 with the vision of developing a new oral drug delivery technology to address the persistent challenges of poor aqueous solubility of small molecules, poor systemic bioavailability of orally administered large molecules, as well as optimising controlled release.
Treemetrics Treemetrics was founded in 2005 by foresters Enda Keane and Garrett Mullooly.  The company has developed a revolutionary forest management system that caters to both large and small scale foresters.
The system facilitates the classification of representative species, the computation of volume and timber quality, and the identification of damage caused by extreme weather events drought, disease, and pest infestation.  Treemetrics is classified as having High Growth Potential company by Enterprise Ireland.
Verifly - The latest venture from Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman provides web and mobile applications for recreational drone users. It is based in the MaynoothWorks hub.
Verifly partners with pilots, manufacturers, regulators, insurers and privacy advocates to develop built-in compliance technology. Verifly provides continuously-updated global data on no-fly zones and works with manufacturers to ensure effortless and comprehensive compliance.  This enabling technology includes: flight and activity restrictions; a secure, global identification registry for pilots and drones; a secure, global registry of drone and operator activity.  

For further information on Maynooth Connect here.