Monday, 10 October 2016

UCD EGA Autumn Panel Discussion on 'Engineering Research and Job Creation'

Last Thursday night the UCD EGA Autumn Panel Discussion 2016 explored the roadmap from research to job creation. The discussion on 'Engineering Research Innovation and Job Creation' was to be led by Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

Professor Eoin Casey, Dr Helen McBreen Atlantic Bridge, PJ Rudden EGA President, Minister Sean Kyne,
Professor Orla Feely Vice President UCD and Professor David FitzPatrick UCD Dean of Engineering

However the impending Budget 2016 intervened requiring her attendance at a Cabinet Meeting last Thursday evening and her speech was very ably read by Sean Kyne TD Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Natural Resources. Minister Kyne, like the Minister is a native of Co Galway and is a UCD Masters Graduate in Agricultural Science. He too is interested in the innovation and jobs area where he recently participated in a similar event with Minister Mitchell O'Connor to launch CURAM -  a joint Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research project on medical devices led by NUIG with partners UCD and other third level institutions.

UCD EGA President PJ Rudden introduces the Minister and Panel of Speakers
The Minister's speech was full of reference to the national importance of engineering research now substantially funded by SFI. 'Engineers make the world go round' he stated 'from the creation of everyday things like buildings, transport, water supply, iPhones and medical devices like artery stents and the means of keyhole surgery'.  He also placed the evening’s event firmly in the context of  Enterprise 2025 – the Government’s plan for enterprise and job creation over the coming decade.  This advocates a ‘whole of Government’ approach to drive sustainable employment and higher standards of living for all.  Our successful enterprises will be competitive, productive and globally connected, enabled by our entrepreneurial and innovative culture that is embodied in people, place and Government he stated.

Minister Sean Kyne sets out Government policy on research innovation and enterprise

UCD EGA President PJ Rudden, Minister of State Sean Kyne TD and Vice President Professor Orla Feely

The Panel Discussion was led by UCD Vice President for Research Enterprise and Innovation Prof Orla Feely who outlined the current research landscape in UCD. She also traced the history of economic development from the founding of the Irish State linking to the development of UCD Engineering to the Royal College of Science in Merrion St which became the UCD School of Engineering in the 1920s following the formation of the Irish Free State. Thereafter the State and the UCD School of Engineering developed in parallel from what is now the Taoiseach's Office in Merrion St. There UCD engineers like Dr Thomas McLoughlin was one its first graduates who set up the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Scheme on the River Shannon which also led to rural electrification transforming Ireland into the 40s and 50s. Another example in the 60s and 70s Professor Seamus Timoney led the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering with important research on combustion engineers.  Today’s research is focused on Food, ICT, Energy and Environment, Health, Culture, Economy and Society.

Minister of State Sean Kyne TD and Vice President Professor Orla Feely
She stated that it was important to consider both 'pure or basic research' and 'applied research' as part of the same continuum. 'They are part of a process to benefit both the economy and society' she told the packed auditorium. She explained how UCD is playing its part in fostering what she called the 'Irish technology ecosystem' not only nurturing talent but also providing support at all stages of the commercialisation process. In addition NovaUCD is the university's home for new ventures and entrepreneurs while NexusUCD is a new development offering office space to established innovation led companies who are collaborating with the UCD research base.

'Through our ideas and our graduates we support innovation success stories such as Enbio, BiancaMed, Dairymaster and APC Ltd. We also support innovation in multinationals through partnerships such as the two IBM-UCD 'co-labs' on our campus'.

Orla used the example of the closure of Digital in Galway, a sad story when it happened but transformed the initial loss of jobs into a series of innovative new job creating firms in West of Ireland and elsewhere.

Professor Orla Feely giving her address on the Research Ecosystem
UCD she said 'with its ambitious capital development plan will yield many more engineering jobs in Ireland in artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and cyber security' to name but a few and will transform how we live' she concluded.

Dr Martin Curley Professor of Innovation at NUI Maynooth - on pre-recorded video - echoed Prof Feely's thoughts on the importance of the research ecosystem for nurturing innovation and growth. He went on to explain the concept of Open Innovation 2.0 which encompasses intelligent, profitable and sustainable solutions.

Helen McBreen, PJ Rudden, Sean Kyne, Eoin Casey and David FitzPatrick listen to Martin Curley on Innovation
Dr Curley traced the history of Innovation. 'Closed innovation is centralised and inward looking , while open innovation is externally focuses and collaborative' he stated. He described the Internet of Things Systems Research Lab in Intel at Leixlip which is used to validate research 'by developing open innovation ecosystems and partnerships to validate research through real world deployments and test beds. When high ambition and disruptive technology intersect, we get 'high expectation entrepreneurship' which when start-ups expect to employ at least 20 staff within five years. These companies create 80% of all jobs'.

He concluded 'Engineers are the wealth creators in society and digital is colliding with all types of engineering. Digital technology is ready but are we?' he asked in conclusion.

Prof Eoin Casey dealt with the commercialisation of university research. He said that a university can do the type of frontier/curiosity research that industry does not typically do, does not want to do or cannot do. However, partnership with industry are crucial and delivers enormous benefits for the economy. Both options can lead to very successful options in terms of job creation' he stated.

Professor Eoin Casey outlines the lessons learned from the commercialisation of OxyMem startup from UCD

 “The right team is also critical for success and it must be borne in mind that academics are not always cut out for the business end, even if they are company founders. This might sound a bit controversial. Some professors can become entrepreneurs, but only if they leave the university. Some can be successful chief technology officers or chief scientific officers, however.”

Professor Eoin Casey, Sean Kyne and Dr Helen McBreen
Casey went on to stress the importance of credibility in order for a spinout to raise money. Investors look for credibility in the team, market and product. “It’s also worth noting the timescales involved in developing a product – especially in capital-intensive technologies – and securing patents, which are a necessary evil in order for investors to take you seriously,” he said. 

The OxyMem co-founder elaborated on the importance of getting the right support, from organisations like Enterprise Ireland and from the university. “Education drives innovation,” he concluded, “and we’re very grateful for all the support we received right from the beginning throughout the entire commercialisation process.”

Tom Kelly Head of Manufacturing and Competitiveness Division in Enterprise Ireland contributes to the debate at Q&A 
Dr Helen McBreen, Investment Director of Atlantic Bridge, spoke about how the global growth equity fund focuses on technology investments and helps Irish tech companies conquer international markets.

Dr Helen McBreen outlines the route for research commercialisation
An engineer herself, McBreen explained how Atlantic Bridge has over $500 million assets under management across five Funds and has an international investment platform that has been applied to build global companies from Irish start-ups such as Movidius, Metaio, Swrve, 3DR Robotics and Fieldware.

“I manage and operate the most recent high profile investment fund at Atlantic Bridge, which was just launched in July: the University Bridge Fund,” she explained. “This is a €60 million fund specifically for early-stage companies with global potential that are built from world-class research generated at UCD, Trinity and all third-level research universities and institutions.”

Over the next five years, she said, the University Bridge Fund will invest in high potential spin-outs and start-ups emerging from the third-level ecosystem to build global companies of scale across key growth sectors.

“Engineering research is a core part of the disruptive change that’s happening in key sectors and we want to put Irish engineers at the forefront of areas like life science and personalised medicine,” she concluded.

UCD Dean of Engineering, Prof David Fitzpatrick, wrapped up the evening’s presentations by extending his thanks to the Minister and all the speakers.

Professor David Fitzpatrick thanks the Minister, Panel Speakers, audience and event organisers
The Panel Discussion was followed by a very lively Q&A and short reception afterward.

Professor David Browne UCD Vice Principal for Research,
Innovation and Impact and PJ Rudden EGA President

Dr Kieran Feighan Vice President Engineers Ireland, Nicola Fortune UCD Careers
 and Skills Consultant, Dr Amanda Gibney UCD Associate Professor in
Civil Engineering and PJ Rudden, EGA President
Emma Fagan Eirgrid, Ellen Le Bas UCD and PJ Rudden EGA President

UCD Staff Clare Ryan, Gillian Reilly and Leila Shaddadi

Former Presidents of Engineers Ireland Bill Grimson and Professor
Jane Grimson Trinity College with current Engineers Ireland
Vice President Dr Kieran Feighan
EGA President PJ Rudden with President of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) Richard Crowe and Senior Adviser in the Dept. of Housing Planning and Local  Government Ed Hanlon

Professesor David FitzPatrick UCD Dean of Engineering, Dr Martin Curley
Professor of Innovation Maynooth University and PJ Rudden EGA President

Neasa Fine-Kane RPS Roisin Bradford Irish Water and
Evan Hughes BAM
The large attendance in Clinton Auditorium
Minister Kyne arrives at UCD before the event.  Thank you for coming to speak at our event.


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