‘Open Labs’ supports 150 start-ups and generates €1.5m research income

15 Feb, 2021

Open Labs, a pioneering Research and Development outreach initiative from TU Dublin Hothouse, has supported over 150 start-ups and SMEs to develop new products and services since it was established in 2018.

During that time, it has generated over €1.5m in research income and has provided industry sectors that are critical to the Irish economy with access to over 600 researchers and to high-tech facilities to support early-stage research and innovation.

Professor Brian O’Neill, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation Services at TU Dublin, says Open Labs not only enables SMEs to explore or expand its Research and Development activity, but it also fulfils a key ambition of the University to be close to the pulse of a thriving, sustainable economy. 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. Through the continued success of Open Labs, the University intends to deepen our partnerships with industry maximising our research capabilities in high-tech sectors, which are key to establishing Ireland as a Global Innovation Leader while creating high-value jobs and delivering pioneering products of enduring societal impact.”

The Open Labs process is designed to be business-friendly, with each SME assigned a dedicated TU Dublin Hothouse case manager to assist them throughout. Describing the process, Dr Shawna Johnston, Business Development Manager at TU Dublin, says “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. For example, a smaller project may be well suited to an Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland, which will fund product development up to €5,000, allowing the company to retain any intellectual property. A larger enterprise may need to raise capital in other ways, such as the InterTradeIreland FUSION programme.”

Small businesses can access TU Dublin expertise in various disciplines, including Biosensor Technologies; Data Analysis for Business and Artificial Intelligence; Food Innovation; Innovative Surface Coatings; Product Prototyping; Sustainable Infrastructure; Virtual and Augmented Reality while a new offering in Cyber Security will commence later this year.

Ken Coates from Active Difference, a company that manufactures single-use, sustainable and environmentally friendly paper and plastic products for customers worldwide, says Open Labs was hugely beneficial for his business. “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. By working with TU Dublin, our own reputation has been enhanced and provided an additional level of professionalism that large corporates expect. As with any R&D work, additional research avenues cropped up, but TU Dublin had the knowledge and skills internally to meet any additional challenges. Overall, there is a lot of knowledge and expertise in TU Dublin, which Active Difference was able to tap into to ensure the system developed was as good as it needed to be commercially viable.”

Open Labs will celebrate its success during a virtual event organised as part of National Innovation Day on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 featuring presentations from Open Lab industry partners, researchers and an opening address by President of TU Dublin, Professor David FitzPatrick.

Open Labs Anniversary Competition

TU Dublin Hothouse is delighted to announce that they will co-fund an Open Labs industry project (matched) up to the value of €2,500 for one lucky business. To win this fantastic prize, attendees must interact with the panel speakers and virtual booths throughout the event by engaging with the researchers via the chat function. The TU Dublin Hothouse team will track all interactions, and completed entries will be shortlisted. The winner of the Co-Funded project will be randomly selected from the completed entries.

Register for Open Labs Anniversary with TU Dublin Hothouse on Eventbrite.