Research Collaboration between SMEs and Universities

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The value of research collaborations

The SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) today need innovation. Innovation needs open-mindedness and collaborative spirits. Today, in Ireland with the support of Enterprise Ireland (EI), SMEs can collaborate with Academia in a number of projects that bring added value to their produce.

If you run an SME that has buckets of resources — all the skills, insights and money you could possibly need — you need read no further. But how many SMEs have all the resources in-house to stay on top of their industry and ahead of their competitors? The answer (not that many) is precisely why knowledge transfer — collaboration between industry and academia on research — has an important role to play. In a world where technology is developing at a head-spinning pace and innovation is the buzzword du jour, if you’re not actively moving toward the “next big thing”, you’re effectively in reverse.


SMEs needs and how research collaboration can help

“You need to be constantly looking for the innovations, and that’s where collaboration [with the third level/academic research] can be a real help,” says Gearoid Mooney, the divisional manager for research and innovation at Enterprise Ireland (EI). “If you spot an innovation and don’t have the in-house brains trust to adapt it for your business, you have to get that somewhere.”

And this “somewhere” are the Universities and the Technological Institutes in Ireland.

A number of Academics are now collaborating in Innovation Partnerships, with the support of EI, with SMEs in Ireland.

The Innovation Partnership Programme can help you to take your business to the next level. Enterprise Ireland can help your company to access the latest skills and expertise from research institutes throughout Ireland.

The Innovation Partnership Programme can provide up to 80% of the cost of research work towards the development of new and improved products, processes or services, or generate new knowledge and know-how.

In an independent survey of companies that participated in the Innovation Partnership Programme:

  • 96% of respondents would be willing to recommend the Programme to other businesses.
  • 71% of participant companies surveyed said that their objectives were largely or fully achieved.
  • Each €1 of funding invested by Enterprise Ireland in Innovation Partnerships delivered €7.71 Net Turnover Impact at the company side.    

Our research and the needs of SMEs

In the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Limerick (UL), my research team is working in close collaboration with a number of SMEs on the cardioprotective properties of Irish food, with a particular interest in marine species (e.g. salmon) and fermented foods (e.g. cider, yoghurt and cheese).

We are investigating the production of novel nutraceuticals and novel functional foods with enhanced bioactivities against platelet aggregation and atherosclerosis. Thrombosis and atherosclerosis is the first step during the development of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD).

The role of food fat (i.e. lipids), and in particular polar lipids against thrombosis are studied in these foods with the scope to formulate novel products against CVD. We are working in close research collaboration with industry and particularly SMEs. Research collaboration takes time to build but it’s the only way forward, in the post-pandemic world, to create novel functional foods with added value; foods that can carry a valid health claim (in line with the EFSA CVD guidelines).

If you are producing a food product with cardioprotective properties (e.g. kefir, cheese, yoghurt, fish, seafood), and you want to add value to your product, our team would be happy to discuss with you the possibilities of research funding towards the health-claims labeling of your product.

“Health claims” are going to be a game changer in the years to come and research data on the cardioprotective properties of your product is a safe way forward.

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