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Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund: What is it?

The government’s recent announcement of recipients of the latest round of funding for this world-first fund made the many agencies supporting small and start-up businesses sit up and take notice.

Ireland has long been the European hub for some of the tech industry’s most forward thinking firms, and has accumulated brilliant minds and skills for the technology of today.

As part of the government’s Project Ireland 2040: National Development Plan 2018 – 2027, a very significant initiative will help to keep Ireland at the forefront of innovation. By taking a leading role in technological progression, Irish research institutions and academics will be able to collaborate with organisations across a range of industries and public sector organisations to deliver new value.

The trickle down effects will undoubtedly help to support the national economy, buffering it against any cross-border post Brexit shocks. Carving out a position now, creates a positive feedback loop of investment, innovation, value, learning and so on.

The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund worth €500 million sets out to help develop Ireland’s ecosystem of innovation and ability to respond rapidly to emerging opportunities in the global economy. The investment must be used to develop and roll-out innovative technologies that have potential to disrupt a sector on a commercial basis.

Developing superior technical competency will also support the work being done in Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres that help start-ups and mature firms to develop innovative products, with the ultimate goal of creating jobs in the outlying regions.

However, because the Fund is challenge-based, and deployed through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI), it will become a force for good – driving innovation in solving key national and global issues. Crucially, it will help to establish Ireland as a thriving centre for a myriad array of skills development. The Fund is a key part of the Government’s ‘Future Jobs’ initiative, a new whole-of-Government plan to secure Ireland’s economic success, starting in 2019. It is one of the first funds of its type in the world and is aimed at tackling national and global challenges to secure the jobs of the future.

A total of 27 projects have been awarded funding so far under the scheme some of which are:

  • Blockchain in the Technology Product Supply Chain
  • Advanced Environmental Decision Support System for Coastal Areas to address issues such as coastal pollution and flooding.Creating the Bionic Man: Development of a “neural training suit” to assist individuals with sensorimotor impairments.

The projects represent the partnerships that are springing up of the start-up, academic and multinational supply chains in Ireland. Another project will look to the future of colorectal cancer (a common disease in Ireland) diagnosis and treatment. The research group is made up of Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI), with Deciphex, IBM Research and University College Dublin as partners.

More than 300 applications were made under the first round. Successful projects have made it through a highly competitive process involving screening by a panel of international experts.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at the launch said ‘we must adapt to a future of greater digitalisation and automation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will mean that today’s school children will be employed in jobs and industries that don’t exist yet. Technology will also eliminate or transform existing occupations. A recent study estimated that the average Irish worker faced a 46% probability of their job being automated by the 2030s.

“The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is central to the Future Jobs Programme’, he said, ‘It’s our way of stimulating private investment in new technologies and ways of doing business, and building stronger links between higher education, multinationals and Irish SMEs.”

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