ChatGPT: The rise of AI driven writing

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) language models like ChatGPT for content generation has attracted increasing attention in recent months, especially since the latest release and media hype surrounding its use. While these tools have the potential to save time and resources for researchers and companies alike there are also concerns around their use, particularly when it comes to maintaining editorial oversight, avoiding plagiarism, and ensuring accuracy and quality of the articles that in some cases are rife with errors highlighting the need for careful consideration and mitigation of potential risks arising from the use of these tools.

Background ChatGPT[1] is the SotA (state of the art) in natural language processing as an AI language model. Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT is the result of years of intensive R&D, building on the work of previous language models from the company such as GPT-1 through 3. It is essentially a refined version of GPT-3.5. With GPT-4 only being announced recently [2] allowing for multimodal input such as imagery similar to its cousin DALL-E[3].

ChatGPT was designed to fill the market need for a language model that could understand and generate natural language responses to a wide range of technical topics. In this case context is king and the ability of the tool to contextualise data, while nowhere near perfect, is a step beyond current techniques from competitors. It has seen mass adaptation in recent months and gone “viral” across the technical world. However, while there are advantages to the technology that will only improve over time, it is the human element needed to structure and decode the responses that will ultimately decide how useful an aide it will be.

Pros:

As a thought experiment let’s use ChatGPT to generate a list of its own pros/cons:

Looking at each point

  • Knowledgeable: While it does have access to a large volume of training data which on the surface may seem great but dig a little deeper and cracks begin to show as it can also be used as a source of misinformation and is surprisingly good at it[4].
  • Saves time: The time required to capture the content and verify it for inconsistences, grammatical errors, potential bias and material that cannot be cited really downplays this.
  • Versatile: One aspect of the model that is hard to play down is its ability to rephrase and rewrite vast swathes of text. But if the above two points are still at play, then re-writing garble is still garble.

Cons:

Similarly a generated set of cons:

Reviewing these points:

  • Potential for bias: This is a rather serious issue underpinning much of the data taken from ChatGPT (and others). The ability for ChatGPT to discern what could potentially be a paid source of information versus a unbiased product/technology review is severally limited.
  • Lack of creativity: ChatGPT as it stands reads poorly and it is obvious that it is a computer-generated piece. It can lead to less introspection on issues and topics that otherwise would evoke some thought.
  • Limited understanding of context: A key point to note as this can cause major discrepancies when trying to run through ideation or combine multiple idea streams into a cohesive block of logic.

While it can be an effective tool for creating technical blogs, it’s crucial to thoroughly analyse any automatically created text for biases and mistakes. The key is to take into account the technology’s limitations in order to create material that is high-quality with a human touch.

Where is it going?

We can see language models like ChatGPT, and its rivals, being more prevalent in our everyday lives. Much akin to modern day voice assistants such as Alexa, Google assistant or Siri. The technology itself can only be improved from here and with similar tools from the likes of Microsoft, who recently announced integration with Office 365[5] giving wider access to a larger dataset can bring improvements to the tool. The issues identified above including bias, inconsistencies and credibility require careful steps  to be taken to make sure it remains useful without generating ethical or privacy issues in data gathered .

Cautious of its accuracy

There have been some recent concerns raised about the use of AI language models like ChatGPT to generate content for news and media outlets like CNET. In January of 2023 it was found that errors were found in more than half of the sites AI generated content which led to the company stopping the use of their AI tool[6]. Therefore, it is important to note generated material might not be as thoroughly examined or fact-checked as material created by human writers.

Conclusion

While AI language models like ChatGPT have the potential to be valuable tools for content creation, there are important considerations to keep in mind, particularly in technical fields where accuracy, quality, and editorial oversight are critical to ensuring the reputation of research outputs. Technical writers will need to carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of using AI-generation language models like ChatGPT/Bard, and take steps to mitigate potential issues.

However, it’s important to note that ChatGPT is not a substitute for human expertise, and it will never be able to replace the insights and knowledge that come from experience and training. Instead, ChatGPT should be seen as a complementary tool that can assist with the writing process and help augment human capabilities. In-house it is being used on monotonous and time intensive tasks, which I like to call donkey work. Such examples are writing documentation, drafting technical posts and optimising solutions.

Written by Ian Mills, ARVR Technical Lead, TSSG Technology Gateway, Walton Institute  

[1] https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt

[2] https://openai.com/product/gpt-4

[3] https://openai.com/product/dall-e-2

[4] https://arxiv.org/pdf/2301.04246.pdf

[5] https://www.theverge.com/2023/2/10/23593980/microsoft-bing-chatgpt-ai-teams-outlook-integration

[6] https://www.theverge.com/2023/1/25/23571082/cnet-ai-written-stories-errors-corrections-red-ventures

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IMaR Gateway delivering solutions to industry through state-of-the-art research equipment

IMaR Technology Gateway based in Munster Technological University (Kerry), is an applied research provider delivering technology solutions for industry. The Gateway engages with industry across Ireland to increase competitiveness in the area of Intelligent Mechatronics, Internet of Things and RFID and provide the best possible solutions to meet their innovation requirements. By applying its core expertise IMaR can assist business by: 

  • Increasing volume throughputs 
  • Decreasing cycle times 
  • Optimising product quality 
  • Sustaining manufacturing competitiveness 

The Gateway currently houses state-of-the-art research facilities, which focus on technology innovation and delivery. The team have recently taken delivery of a range of specialised equipment, funded by the Enterprise Ireland capital call, which aims to support companies, not only within the region but also further afield.

Some of the specialised equipment available at IMaR includes:  

Mobile Robots 

IMaR can now provide mobile robots and an automatic conveyor test-bed to assist industry to evaluate the opportunities to free staff from low-value transport tasks in manufacturing and logistics facilities. With a suite of mobile robots and flexible conveying systems, IMaR can rapidly demonstrate the potential benefits to your organization and how these systems can be integrated into smarter, more efficient operations.   

RFID Test and Development Suite  

IMaR has established itself as a leader in applied research focusing on delivering Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID solutions for industry, the gateway has built considerable expertise in the field of RFID and related emerging technologies. The introduction of the RFID Test and Development suite to their services includes a full complement of RFID readers, antennas, RF test equipment, as well as a large catalogue of RFID tags of varying properties which satisfy many different use cases. 

This facility includes a range of RFID readers covering a wide range of technologies (HF, LF, UNF, RAIN, NFC, UWB), associated antenna arrays/multiplexers and a series of RFID test equipment to measure performance of RFID devices and application setups, verify conformance and support the development of readers, tags and ICs, measurement of tag frequency sensitivity, communication range and backscatter measurements. Where possible, all equipment will be relatively portable to allow deployment and testing of RFID equipment on-site in an industrial environment.     

Wireless Communication Testbed 

Short-range communications technology for industrial environments is a key enabler of the ‘Industrial Internet of Things‘ . Whether it is used for predictive maintenance, operational dashboard or digital twin development, IIoT requires reliable communication between a number of sensors and a control unit which analyses the data provided. To assist clients on their Industry 4.0 / digitisation journey, and in complement to its industrial sensing suite, IMaR has acquired a suite of wireless industrial communications platforms. The aim of this testbed is to help companies to choose the protocol that best suits their application by providing a trialing capacity covering the major low-power short-range (<500m) wireless communication platforms. 

The suite includes LoRa, LTE, Sigfox, GSM, WiFi, ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy together with industrial integration fieldbus technology; ModBus, EthernetIP and EtherCad. 

Industrial Process Monitoring Suite 

In recent years the development of systems such as predictive maintenance for process equipment has been somewhat hindered by the cost of sensing units and perceived complexity of digital systems to exploit the data. The industrial process monitoring suite available at IMaR will support clients to evaluate the optimum sensor deployment and data management systems for a range of use cases including not only predictive maintenance, but also the development and prototyping of operational dashboards and process digital twins.  The suite provides for measurement and logging of physical quantities including: humidity, pressure, temperature, light, acoustics, voltage, current, vibration / acceleration. Additionally, the suite includes magnetometers, GPS and gyroscopes. Most popular communications protocols can be implemented, and the suite is complemented by the above industrial wireless suite. 

Mobile data processing rig 

Many enterprises are slow to engage in collaborative research projects in the area of data science due to the dangers of exposing sensitive data to externally hosted entities such as cloud processing platforms. To address these concerns, IMaR has now acquired a Deep-Learning Server with a portable flight-case. 

The system is comprised of: 

  • a CPU/motherboard unit, 
  • RAM and Hard-drive memory, 
  • associated network interfaces and power supplies, and most critically, 
  • multiple high-power Graphical Processing Units (GPUs). 

With advances in the integration scales of these technologies such high-power processing systems have been scaled down to single space (4U – size) rackmount units, enabling the opportunity to mount the system in a rackmount flight-case to create a portable data processing data centre. The system can be fully wiped of data, brought to a specific industrial location, loaded with sensitive industrial data via a physical data transfer platform and processing can take place on-site. All data can then be removed from the server to the satisfaction of the data control officer before exiting the facility. Such a system will reduce the perceived risk of data breaches and thus expedite engagement with industrial clients in the area of data analytics and AI. 

For more information on this range of equipment and how it can assist your company check out the IMaR website or contact the team.  

Shannon ABC: a unique collaboration between MTU Kerry and TUS MidWest

Shannon ABC is a commercially focused, state of the art, Research Centre and Technology Gateway, bringing together a multidisciplinary team of researchers with commercial specialists in areas such as Biotechnology, Cosmetics, Food & Drink, Life Science and Pharmaceutical. 

Shannon ABC is unique to the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network, as it is a collaboration between two Technological Universities – Munster Technological University and the Technological University of the Shannon. The facilities are co-located between the two campuses, MTU Kerry and TUS Midwest, providing excellence in applied research, regionally and nationwide. The Gateway delivers close to market solutions for industry, acting as an access point to wider research resources and infrastructure and responds to the challenges of Industry through the sustainable development of viable and cost-effective processes and products from bio-resources.   

The co-location of Shannon ABC is a dynamic collaboration. Staff are based across both sites, projects are delivered across both sites and the staff and students meet on regular occasions to share research experiences and new techniques and technologies. This active collaboration means that when a company works with Shannon ABC they are getting access to the full potential across both sites in MTU Kerry and TUS Midwest, as well as access to the wider MTU Cork and TUS Midlands community.  

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Shannon ABC laboratories in MTU Kerry and TUS MidWest

Expert Advice and Knowledge:  

Working with Shannon ABC opens up many areas of opportunity for industry, and those who choose to collaborate with the Gateway can avail of considerable interconnected resources. This, together with the abundance of expertise and knowledge, makes it the ideal environment for the development of innovative thinking.  

Shannon ABC has developed significant expertise in bioresource detection, identification, characterisation and valorisation, collaborating with industry and other research centres in order to deliver this expertise in applied settings. The team also have wide experience working with industry in areas such as: 

  • Bioeconomy and Bioresources 
  • Analytical and Research Solutions 
  • Microbial Biotechnology 
  • Cell Biology 
  • Food Innovation 

The approach improves client competitiveness and competence, facilitating the transfer of innovative scientific solutions. Through strategic short, medium and long-term partnerships Shannon ABC provides creative, innovative solutions to industry’s challenges as well as access to their research-based pipeline of commercially focused technology offerings. 

Range of Specialised Equipment:   

Shannon ABC has a substantial range of specialised equipment, based within MTU and TUS, which is available to enhance a company’s R&D experience. 

Below is some of the equipment available: 

  • Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS) 
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) 
  • Cell culture suite 
  • Multiplex ELISA  
  • Calorimeter 
  • Fluorescence Microscope 
  • Freeze Dryer 
  • Microalgal Food Grade Suite 

See here for the full list of equipment available. 

Facilities and Laboratories: 

The facilities at Shannon ABC are co-located between the MTU Kerry campus and the TUS Midwest campus. 

This co-location allows industry and research partners to take advantage of the synergistic skills and wide range of equipment available at the two locations. Facilities are also available for industry to access with their own staff; with a number of companies who have based themselves in Shannon ABC for periods of time from a few months, to several years. Companies based in Shannon ABC can avail of equipment and facilities across both sites. 

Shannon ABC laboratories are customised and future-proofed for wide ranging biotechnological and analytical capabilities including dedicated research bench space, analytical suites, raw material processing, HEPA filtered microbial suite and tissue culture suite and fermentation suite. Access to laboratories is controlled and restricted to authorised personnel only. 

Dedicated Gateway team:  

Shannon ABC has a dedicated Gateway Manager and a team of expert business development scientists, across both campuses, who are geared to help with your company’s individual needs. Working together to achieve a cohesive approach in a manner that is time and budget effective. 

Dr Tim Yeomans, Shannon ABC Technology Gateway Manager encourages companies to consider collaborating with Shannon ABC and highlights how co-location can be beneficial for all involved.

“The collaboration between MTU and TUS in terms of Shannon ABC is one of real substance – researchers, students and business development staff work under the banner of Shannon ABC, whether the work is done in MTU or TUS is irrelevant; the key thing is that the project is delivered. Companies often may not realise that part of their work was carried out at one or other location, other times this capability may be the reason that a company chooses to work with us. The capabilities across both sites are incredibly complementary and it is hugely satisfying when joint projects are delivered successfully, only having been possible from having access to both sites“ 

Find out more about Shannon ABC here. You can also follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest news. 

Industrial Photonic Sensing for Spectral Fingerprinting

Why light is so good for sensing

The application of light for sensing all phases, solid, liquid and gas is due to the many ways in which light interacts with the world around us. Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, waves of different energies. The visible light we see in our everyday lives is a tiny fraction of the range of electromagnetic radiation available to us through technological advancements. We cannot sense radio waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, in a room. However, if someone turns on a radio, we then recognize their presence and know they are around us. If our eyes detected radio waves, it would be of little use, as radio waves can travel through walls and we would just keep on hitting solid objects, because we just would not see them, as the waves do not interact with walls. However, when put to the right job, radio waves can be extremely useful in sensing. Significantly, in astronomy where they have been used to discover pulsars and quasars. Our bodies are sources of electromagnetic radiation, in what is known as the infrared (IR) region.  

Our eyes also cannot detect IR radiation and for good reason. IR is strongly absorbed by atmospheric gases and struggles to penetrate through air, compared to visible radiation. The world around us would be very dark as all the IR light is blocked by just gas. The opposite of radio waves, we would see barriers all around us blocking light and we would not be able to tell the difference between air and a wall. 

However, because of this strong interaction of IR with gases, this region of the electromagnetic spectrum is extremely powerful for detecting trace amounts of pollutants, such as ammonia and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in the atmosphere. Just like our eyes evolved to select visible light for a purpose, at CAPPA, we select a certain region of the electromagnetic spectrum to serve your purpose of sensing.  

The Light Fingerprint 

Electromagnetic radiation is a form of wave, where shorter wavelengths have higher energy. Depending on the wavelength of the light and the structure or location of the molecule, light can be absorbed, and the molecule is energetically excited. This excitation is the crucial fingerprint, where light can excite a molecule to vibrate, rotate, translate or to move an electron. With sufficient energy, light can also remove an electron totally from the molecule or dissociate molecules. If light is polarized, we can also select the direction the molecule points. To form a visualization of this, exchange a gaseous methane molecule to a human. Methane molecules compromise four hydrogen atoms and a carbon atom, with the carbon located at the centre and the hydrogen atoms distributed around. In comparison, a human has four limbs (arms and legs) located around a centred torso. When visualising our control over methane with light, exchange the methane molecule with a human. By selecting a specific wave of light, we can control the human to move selected limbs in/out, arms or legs, (vibrational excitation) or rotate limbs/torso at different speeds (rotational excitation) or translate (translational excitation). With polarization, we can turn the human to look in a particular direction. Knowledge of the wavelengths of light, which produce these effects, which is exceptionally dependent on structure, is the fingerprint we use to identify the molecule. 

Detection of Fingerprint  

Knowing the location of the fingerprint in the electromagnetic spectrum is important but we also need to know how to take advantage of this interaction with light. There are several ways to identify the existence of the interaction. In all cases, a suitable light source is needed. CAPPA has a large collection of light sources with complimentary benefits. Table 1 illustrates a full list of available light sources.  

Energy increases with decreasing wavelength; therefore, shorter wavelengths have the highest energy interaction, i.e. electronic excitation. These occur in the ultraviolet (UV) region, <400 nm<400 nm (where [Equation] is wavelength) and visible (VIS), 400 nm <<780 nm400 nm <<780 nm. With increasing wavelength vibrational transitions become dominant, in the Near-Infrared (NIR), 780 nm <<1400 nm780 nm <<1400 nm, and shortwave infrared (SWIR), 1400 nm <<2500 nm1400 nm <<2500 nm. At longer wavelengths, vibrational interactions remain strong and rotational transitions become more resolvable, in what is known as the Mid-Infrared, 2.5 μm <<11 μm2.5 μm <<11 μm.

The light sources illuminate the sample and if the target species is present, the absorption or scattering of light can be detected, both directly and indirectly. 

In direct detection, the light intensity reflected or transmitted by the sample is measured, using detectors such as Photodiode, MCT, InSb, bolometers or photo-multiplier tubes. In some cases, the interaction of light may be weak, e.g. where concentrations are very low, making signal change difficult to detect. Several techniques are employed to increase the strength of interaction, such as phase shift interferometry (PSI) and cavity enhanced absorption (CEA) techniques. In PSI, the transmitted signal is mixed with another light signal to improve the contrast in the change of signal. In CEA, the sample is placed inside a cavity composed of highly reflective mirrors, where light can be trapped. Consequently, light trapped inside the cavity can travel through the sample up to hundreds of thousands of times, greatly increasing the interaction path length.  

Direct absorption is the simplest technique, but not always the best. Sometimes, using indirect techniques can result in stronger signal, and importantly creates no signal when the sample is not present, in contrast to direct methods. Indirect methods involve measuring the relaxation processes occurring after light excitation. A molecule can relax in several procedures, including light emission and collisional. In fluorescence spectroscopy, light emitted by the sample after electronic excitation is a measure. Valuable information about the sample can be determined both by the timing of the emission and the wavelength of the emitted light. In photoacoustic spectroscopy, the excited molecule is cooled by collisions with neighbouring molecules, creating heating and consequently, sound waves. A microphone is used to measure the sound and the concentration of the sample can be calculated. In thermal imaging, IR light emitted directly by excited bodies is imaged. 

Industry Application  

Selecting the best light region, interaction and detection technique is a function of the sample type and location. Table 1 shows a sample list of the industries, in which different wavelength regions and detection techniques can be employed. Crucially, the expertise at CAPPA can be of assistance to select the best detection technique for your process or application.  

One such industry example is the Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) light source. CAPPA has a QCL in the wavelength range short-wave infrared to medium wavelength infrared (SWIR – MIR). The output facet of the QCL is small enough that the light emitted can be imaged to a diffraction-limited spot, enabling the analysis of miniature targets, such as fibers or micro-defects, from long distances. The high power of the source also enables imaging of large areas, in both reflection and transmission modes, to study coatings, microplastics or protein distribution. The sharp linewidth, of approx. 3 MHz, allows application in trace, low concentration, gas sensing, using techniques such as wavelength modulation and photoacoustic spectroscopy. These valuable tools make the QCL applicable in a range of fields from agriculture, environment, energy, astronomy, electricity, pharmaceutical, biology and health.  

CAPPA has a wide range of industry experience in a variety of wavelengths, techniques and sectors. CAPPA offers a number of avenues for companies to explore photonics solutions to their development needs, offering services such as research, product development, process improvement and consultancy. CAPPA has worked with a variety of companies in sectors ranging from medical, device, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, consumer electronics, medical diagnostics, analytical equipment, baby products, semiconductors, fragrance, food and beverage. 

CAPPA have worked on a variety of projects including development of a swallowable capsule for detection of intestinal bleeding, FTIR and Raman analysis of cheese maturity for Four Star Pizza, UV irradiance, dose and flow characterisation of air sterilization appliance, UVC (254nm) irradiance and dose measurements on mobile room sterilizer, in-depth processing and analysis of heard data, and R&D for an advanced optical inspection system.  

Conclusion 

The electromagnetic spectrum is the most powerful diagnostic tool we have. Using light, we have found ways to do everything from determining the age of the universe, the concentration of sulphur hexafluoride in the atmosphere down to the parts-per-trillion level and the location of a broken bone in a body. Even so, presently there are more and more applications of light being found. Light is revolutionizing areas such as communication and energy. At CAPPA, we want to highlight the opportunities light creates to Irish enterprises. 

You can learn more about the facilities available at CAPPA here and more about the service offering available for various industries here. 

 

10 common questions about Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways

What is the Technology Gateway Network? 

Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Network is a programme in partnership with Technological Universities and Institutes of Technology. Each Gateway provides an important service to Irish industry, not only within its own region but nationwide, by providing key assistance and expertise to companies with research, development, or innovation problems or projects across a broad range of sectors, focusing on key technology areas aligned to industry needs. 

How can I work with the Network?
The Network is open to companies of any size so whether you’re a start-up, SME, or multinational, our dedicated Technology Gateway managers and staff are available to assist with all aspects of your R&D or Innovation project. 

Do I need to be an Enterprise Ireland client?
No, the Technology Gateway Network is open to all Irish companies, you do not need to be a client of Enterprise Ireland to collaborate. 

My project requirements are small, can I work with the Network? 

Yes! Whether it is a small, relatively straightforward €1,500 project or a longer, more detailed €200,000 Innovation Partnership project, the Network will provide the relevant resources to complete your project on time and within budget. 

How do I know which Gateway to contact? 

The Network is designed so that you can discuss the initial investigative stages with your regional Gateway Manager. They will take you through the process, available funding options and arrange an introduction to the Gateway most suited to your project. However, if you have already identified the most suitable Gateway, you can contact the Gateway Manager directly. 

What can I expect when working with a Gateway? 

Within each Gateway, a Gateway Manager and a team of specific business development researchers and engineers act as the key contact points and manage the successful delivery of projects. The Technology Gateway network has the expertise of over 300 industry-focused researchers, with the specialist equipment and facilities of four Technological Universities, (ATU, MTU, TUD and TUS) and one Institute of Technology (DKIT), so there is a lot of advice and help on offer. Gateway Managers work closely with their Gateway team to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget. 

How should I prepare for my initial meeting with a Gateway? 

Innovation can be daunting, but knowing your audience, researching the supports available and considering the positives gained, is a step in the right direction. If you are coming to the Network with a specific problem to be addressed, its useful to have as much background information as possible. This will allow the Gateway team to assess the best way forward. The team can also help you in drafting a project plan for your proposal and are happy to provide guidance and help at all stages of the process.  

Can I avail of the resources of more than one Gateway at a time?
Yes, the unique selling point is our network structure. Our Gateways frequently work collaboratively on innovation projects. If your project requires the expertise of additional Gateways this will be organised by your lead Gateway manager. 

Am I eligible to apply for funding? 

The Network offers a range of Enterprise Ireland funding options to suit companies of all sizes. Current funding mechanisms available include Innovation Vouchers, Innovation Partnerships and the Agile Innovation Fund. Companies can also fund the research themselves. Some terms and conditions may apply in respect of some funding options but Gateway teams will explain in detail the requirements and process. Further information on all supports can be found here. 

What is a Technology Gateway cluster? 

Three Technology Gateway Clusters have been developed to enhance the level of collaboration within the Network. Since 2016 these industry focused research & development clusters have specialised in the areas of Internet of Things (Applied IoT), Engineering, Materials & Design (EMD Ireland) and Food & Beverage technologies (Irish Food Tech). The clusters provide a one stop shop for industry by providing access to research and engineering professionals, equipment and expertise through a single point of contact.  The cluster can aid with greatly reducing time to market by providing the necessary resources and equipment to develop new and innovative near-to market solutions in a timely manner.

Companies wishing to collaborate with the Technology Gateway Network can contact the team for more information.  

 

 

What to expect when collaborating with EMD Ireland

The Engineering, Materials, and Design (EMD) Ireland cluster of the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway provides specialised technical support, guidance, and assistance to Irish companies of all sizes. For companies wishing to acquire knowledge in research, development, and innovation, EMD Ireland can provide vast experience in the implementation of close-to-market solutions. 

Who are EMD Ireland?   

EMD Ireland consists of seven Technology Gateways specialising in areas such as energy, precision engineering, polymers, protective coatings, prototype design, medical imaging technologies and 3D medal additive manufacturing. With skills, knowledge, and expertise in a variety of industries, the EMD Ireland team strives to equip Irish businesses with the essential aids and supports to advance the growth of RD&I throughout Ireland. 

Companies who choose to work with EMD Ireland benefit from the use of the extensive linked resources available, resulting in a more unified and timely approach to innovation. The team of Gateway Managers and Business Development researchers and engineers works on both large and small projects with a diverse spectrum of clients. You do not need to be a client of Enterprise Ireland to collaborate with the cluster.  Collaboration within the cluster is key, allowing continuous transfer of shared skills and experiences within the cluster, a benefit which can unlock many doors for Irish businesses. Companies also benefit from an availability of professional guidance and expertise, flexibility in approach, and a high degree of cluster member engagement. Companies frequently discover that the cluster becomes a crucial extension of their total R&D capabilities during the product development process. 

What to expect? 

Every innovation journey starts with the creation of a new idea or the acknowledgement of an existing problem within a product or process. All 16 Gateways have a dedicated manager, business development staff and team of researchers and engineers who act as key contact points for industry. If you know which Gateway is the most suitable for your project, make contact with the relevant Gateway Manager, if not your regional Gateway Manager will be able to assist in referring you to the most appropriate Gateway.  

At this early stage the team will work with you to outline your company need. Should your project require expertise from multiple gateways, this transition will be managed in-house by your lead gateway, aiding in process efficiency as well as adherence to financial and timetable expectations.  

Funding and supports can often be critical in allowing a company to proceed with a project. A discussion will take place detailing the various funding options open to you, providing detail on the application process and eligibility for funding. Companies often find funding applications stressful, don’t worry our Gateway teams are here to help every step of the way with support, guidance and advice on submitting your application. 

You can also expect to discuss deliverables and timelines. Agreeing on deliverables at this stage means there will be no unexpected surprises further along the road. It also ensures the project runs smoothly, on time and on budget.  

Once everything is in place and funding has been approved, your project will commence on the start date agreed and will be managed throughout by your lead Gateway team, who will also update you on how your project is progressing. You will be informed when your project has been completed and provided with the agreed outcome as laid out in the project deliverables. 

How can you get started?  

The cluster has a dedicated support office and team to help with your companies’ individual needs. If you have an idea for a new product, service or process or are experiencing difficulties with an existing process, get in touch with us to see how we can assist you in developing an innovative solution.  

 

  

Technology Gateways in your region: Midlands / Mid-West

Do you need Research, Development & Innovation assistance for a project, process or service that you are currently working on? Are you unsure where to start? Often the first step is getting in touch with those who can help. 

Enterprise Ireland has a network of Technology Gateways, based in Technological Universities and Institutes of Technology around the country. Providing innovation, assistance, funding support, know-how, and guidance for companies and businesses throughout the country. The Midlands and Mid-West region has a wide range of expertise available for companies to access through the network and is home to three Technology Gateway centres that provide specialities in engineering surface technology, microsensors, renewable energy, and other sectors at the TUS Athlone and Limerick campuses. With a wide range of advice and information accessible, funding from Enterprise Ireland, the combination of expertise and talent is unsurpassed. 

 Midlands 

APT Technology Gateway (Applied Polymer Technologies) 

APT Technology Gateway is situated at Technological University of the Shannon: Athlone Campus and provides Polymer solutions, product development assistance, and troubleshooting capabilities for organizations that use plastics materials. 

APT provides clients with access to world-class R&D infrastructure, experience, and resources, both locally and nationally. Collaboration with industry to solve difficult challenges, give R&D support, and ease technology transfer to businesses. 

The Gateway provides all industrial collaborators with access to  facilities and expertise available at TUS via the Materials Research Institute MRI and the larger Gateway network, as well as assistance in accessing diverse funding models to generate innovative solutions to drive sustainability, support exports, and job creation. 

Specialisations: 

Pilot and Production scale Injection Moulding, Blow Moulding, Thermoforming, Extrusion and Compounding equipment and knowledge. 

  • Advanced Analytical Facilities for materials research, testing and troubleshooting. 
  • Design, Rapid Prototyping, Insert Tooling and Micro-Moulding Capabilities 
  • Unrivalled Polymer Materials Formulation and Development Expertise 

COMAND Technology Gateway  

COMAND Technology Gateway situated at Technological University of the Shannon: Athlone Campus provides industry-focused technology solutions for the software industry across different media platforms. 

The Gateway focuses on the research and development of future interactive media technologies such as cross-platform apps, mobile media cloud, 3D sensing, and Internet of Things interoperability. These technologies are complementary and, when combined, create the opportunity for new and innovative forms of “connected media” – personalised, real-time, interactive applications – in a variety of commercial fields such as telecommunications, gaming, television, e-health, e-learning, e-tourism, e-retailing, entertainment, and digital marketing. The purpose of COMAND is to transmit these innovations to industry in order to maximize economic gain. 

Specialisations: 

  • Cloud media platform: leverage media processing in the cloud and end user 
  • Media systems: intelligent and cross-platform multimodal development 
  • User interfaces: multimodal interfacing 
  • Real-time data analytics 
  • Interoperability of the Internet of Things (IoT) 

Mid-West 

SHANNON ABC Technology Gateway 

Shannon ABC Technology Gateway, based in Technological University of the Shannon: Limerick Campus,  was founded to assist businesses in maximizing the value of bioresources. For over ten years Shannon ABC have worked with Irish food and beverage businesses to help them develop new products, enhance current ones, and improve procedures.

The majority of their food and beverage research is devoted to developing new ingredients and analyzing their effects. Primary research conducted is designed to be use-inspired research, or research having an application in mind. Shannon ABC is also a member of Irish Food Tech cluster, a group of Technology Gateways active in the Food and Drink industry, and collaborates with Food@LIT to offer consumer-facing services for Food and Drink enterprises. 

Specialisations: 

Shannon ABC can support companies from raw material to final product: 

  • New product development
  • Ingredient screening
  • Technology review
  • Bioactivity testing
  • Microbiological testing
  • Analytical testing
  • Process development and analysis
  • By-product valorisation
  • Shelf-life testing
  • Sensory analysis
  • Consumer studies
  • Food labeling/claims

For additional information on our Gateways or previous projects, check out our Network page and case studies section. 

 

Quick guide to Enterprise Ireland Innovation Funding

Innovation is essential if you want to stay ahead in competitive and fast-changing markets. For many companies however they may lack the time, expertise, equipment or funds to develop the types of innovative solutions that could set their business apart.  

The Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Programme is available to companies across Ireland. With 16 Gateways operating in a range of sectors and working with companies from start-ups and SME’s right through to Multinationals, providing knowledge, experience, funding support and innovation solutions is what we do! 

There are many ways in which to engage with the Network, including a range of Enterprise Ireland Innovation Supports. Currently companies collaborating with Technology Gateways can be funded through 3 main funding programmes, (subject to size, finances and project). Our Gateway experts will provide a more thorough explanation of the prerequisites and procedure, along with any applicable qualifying criteria and terms & conditions. Therefore, before applying, it is worthwhile to visit the Enterprise Ireland website or speak with the Technology Gateway team. A brief overview of the current innovation supports offered by the Technology Gateway network is provided below. 

These are:  

Innovation Voucher Programme 

The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher programme is open to all small and medium-sized limited companies registered in Ireland. Innovation Vouchers are worth €5,000 and are available to assist a company or companies to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider. 

  • Each Voucher gives you €5,000 worth of time with an expert, third-level researcher to help you develop your new or existing product, process or service 
  • Innovation Vouchers can be used for any kind of new product, process or service 
  • Vouchers can be exchanged for knowledge transfer projects from the knowledge provider. 
  • There are two types of vouchers available. A fully funded €5,000 standard voucher and the 50-50 co-funded Fast Track voucher (to a maximum value of €10,000). 
  • Small and medium-sized companies may make use of a maximum of four vouchers, one of which must be a 50-50 co-funded voucher. 
  • A company may have one ‘active’ voucher at any point in time and they are valid for 12 months from the date of issue. 
  • Please note that Innovation Vouchers are exclusive of VAT . You will be charged VAT by the knowledge provider and this cost must be settled separately by the company. 
  • Applications can be made throughout the year via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System 

 Agile Innovation Fund  

The Agile Innovation Fund is a grant to companies who support the development of new or substantially improved products, services or processes (up to €150,000 with total project cost of less than €300,000). Grant rates are 25% to 50% dependent on company size and any collaboration involved in the project. The process has been streamlined for eligible companies with a short online application and fast-track approval. 

  • The Agile Innovation Fund is suitable for a range of companies, such as: Companies new to R&D and planning their first R&D project, operating in short, product life cycles, undertaking small or short projects. 
  • The Agile Innovation fund is open to clients of Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office and Údarás na Gaeltachta as well as all registered companies that are trading with positive EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation). 
  • The fund supports activities which fall under experimental development or industrial research or a combination of both. 
  • A two-part application is submitted on the Enterprise Ireland website. The application will ask for a company profile, background, project overview and a technical project plan. A separate offline project plan document will also be required. 

For more information on the application process check out the Agile Innovation webpage. 

Innovation Partnership Programme  

The Innovation Partnership Programme encourages Irish-based companies to work with Irish research institutes resulting in mutually beneficial co-operation and interaction. Companies can access expertise and resources to undertake research towards the development of new and improved products, processes, services, and generate new knowledge and know-how.  

  • 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. 
  • Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership Programme provides grants of up to 80% towards eligible costs of the research project. Funding from Enterprise Ireland will normally not exceed €200,000. 
  • The company must be a registered client of one of the following state development agencies: Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office, Údarás na Gaeltachta.  
  • The company must have the full support of their assigned Development Adviser/Agency Contact to participate in the programme. This support must be confirmed before any application forms are submitted. Clusters of companies and/or research institutes are welcome to apply to the programme. 
  • Project types can be grouped as subsets of either Industrial Research or Experimental Development. The ‘Full Grant Rate’ CANNOT exceed 80% for Industrial Collaborative Research and 60% for Experimental Collaborative Development. 
  • All Innovation Partnership projects require the company partner to provide a minimum cash contribution of 20% of the total project cost. 

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these funding options, get in touch with your regional Technology Gateway Manager, who will provide more detailed information on the process and funding options.  

 

New Year New Start: How Technology Gateways can help your company in 2023 

As we enter into a new year, consider if 2023 will be the year you take that next step and start your innovation journey… perhaps you’re struggling with accessing expertise, knowledge or equipment for a preexisting product, process or service?. Be assured that whatever the problem, be it technical solutions, assistance in designing or redesigning a product, or simply a new idea, we can help.  

Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways has been working with Irish industry since 2013, providing a range of innovation solutions. We understand that companies differ in the level of innovation support required and can provide a solution that works for all. 

For many, innovation may mean adapting their business plan, engaging with new technologies, making an incremental change to an existing product or product line or developing a new product. No matter where you are in your journey, an initial conversation with a member of the Technology Gateway team is always the best place to start.  

What is the Technology Gateway Network? 

Technology Gateways has been developed in partnership with Atlantic Technological University, Technological University Dublin, Technological University of the Shannon, Munster Technological University and Dundalk Institute of Technology to assist industry in areas of research and development. Since 2013, the Network has collaborated with over 3,560 Irish based companies completing in excess of 5000 innovation-based projects. With 16 Technology Gateways located nationwide providing services and supports, across a range of technologies, companies can be certain that the team working on your project are highly skilled in their area of expertise.  

The Network is open to companies of any size so whether you’re a start-up, SME, or multinational, our dedicated Technology Gateway teams are available to assist with all aspects of your project. We understand that companies may not have the time, resources or indeed the equipment to invest in innovation, our Gateways are uniquely positioned to aid companies of all shapes and sizes, often, in time becoming an extension of a company’s R&D unit. 

What supports and funding are available? 

The Network offers a range of Enterprise Ireland funding options to suit companies of all sizes. Current funding mechanisms available include Innovation Vouchers, Innovation Partnerships and the Agile Innovation Fund. Companies may also provide their own funding for research. Some terms and conditions may apply in respect of some of the funding options, but our Gateway teams will explain in detail the requirements and process. Further information on all supports can be found here. 

Can I avail of the resources of more than one Gateway at a time?
Yes, our unique selling point is our network structure. Frequently, our Gateways collaborate on innovation-related initiatives. If your project requires the expertise of additional Gateways, this will be organised by your lead Gateway manager. 

How do I get started?  

If you have an idea for a new product, service or process or are in need of innovation assistance for an existing element, get in contact with your regional Technology Gateway Manager who will take you through all your options, explain available funding and supports and refer you to the most appropriate Gateway team. 

Into the unknown: identification of rogue impurities in medicines and medical devices at PMBrc Gateway

Introduction 

The appearance of an unexpected, unexplained peak in a chromatogram during product testing strikes dread in analytical labs across the pharma and medical device industries. While the emergence of a persistent impurity peak is worrying, those that appear intermittently in some samples but not others can be even more baffling and difficult to explain. The PMBRC at SETU Waterford has worked on many impurity identification projects over the years with a good deal of success, although we have been left stumped on one or two occasions. The following blog describes how we go about tackling impurity identification projects for our industry partners. 

Impurities in HPLC Chromatograms  

An impurity often shows up as an unknown peak in a HPLC chromatogram. A simple way to check if it is an API degradation product is to check the PDA spectrum of the impurity and compare it to the API. Beware however: dissimilar spectra do not necessarily mean they are not related. Figure 1 compares an API spectrum with that of a drug product impurity. The impurity is a degradation product and is structurally quite similar to the API, but clearly has a very different UV spectrum. 

Figure 1   PDA UV spectrum of the API (left) and API degradation product (right). Although structurally quite similar, they have very different spectra. 

If API forced degradation and excipient compatibility studies have already been performed, then it may be possible to determine if this is a drug degradation product based on the relative retention time (RRT) of the impurity. An inspection of the API chromatograms following exposure to extreme temperature, light, pH and oxidation conditions may show an impurity at a similar RRT and indicate the source of the impurity. Again, a simple comparison of PDA spectra (if available) will help confirm this. However, forced degradation studies often yield messy chromatograms with many coeluting peaks and similar spectra. Often mass spectrometry will be required to definitively identify the unknown. 

Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS) analysis for unknown identification 

MS is a powerful technique for determining the molecular weight of compounds eluting from a HPLC column. However, it can sometimes be hard to directly compare HPLC-UV and LC/MS chromatograms. Many industry HPLC techniques use non-volatile buffers in the mobile phase. Phosphate buffer for example has multiple pH buffering ranges and works particularly well in mobile phases, yielding good peak shape and separation resolution. Phosphates are totally incompatible with MS however and the first step in most MS projects involves the replacement of phosphate with a volatile buffer alternative such as ammonium formate. This inevitably results in a shift in retention time (and relative retention time) of the peak of interest. Finding the impurity peak in the new chromatogram can sometimes be challenging, but again, a peak area and PDA spectral comparison can help.  

Assuming we can target the peak of interest, the next step is to obtain its mass spectrum if possible. Our new Q-TOF LC/MS, which was funded by an Enterprise Ireland infrastructure grant, allows high resolution MS analysis which can yield the empirical formula of the unknown compound. If the unknown is related to the API or is a known impurity/degradation compound, this can sometimes be enough to tentatively identify the structure pending confirmation via a retention time match with a standard (if available). However, if it is an exogenous impurity an empirical formula will often not be enough to identify the compound. As molecular weight increases, the number of potential structural isomers with a given empirical formula grows enormously. At this point, some structural information can be gleaned from LC/MS-MS techniques. 

Figure 2  LC/MS analysis of a phthalate impurity. Top: UV chromatogram of the impurity; Middle: extracted ion chromatogram for the phthalate molecular ion; Bottom: mass spectrum of the impurity.  

LC/MS-MS  

Instead of basing the identity of an unknown compound only on its molecular weight, we can get additional information on the molecular structure using a process known as MS-MS. Basically this involves detecting the molecular mass of the compound and setting the instrument to apply a collision energy to break up the molecule into smaller fragments. These fragments are then detected again by the MS instrument. The way a molecule fragments can be used to help piece the structure of the compound together. The way a molecule fragments, the mass of the fragment ions, the relative abundances of the fragment ions and the exact molecular mass of the complete structure can be used to support the identification of an unknown compound.  

Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) Techniques 

GC/MS can be a great way of identifying impurities if (and it’s a big if) they are volatile and thermally stable. Peaks in GC tend to be very narrow and well resolved from other components. Electron impact (EI) ionisation causes fragmentation of the unknown molecule and the resulting fragmentation pattern can be matched against a database to help identify the compound. Structurally similar compounds or those in the same homologous series will have similar fragmentation patterns which can be hard to distinguish from each other. However, it can be useful to determine the general class of compound (e.g. phthalates) while chemical ionisation (CI), which causes less fragmentation, can be used to identify the molecular ion.  

Summary 

LC/MS and GC/MS, aided by knowledge of degradation pathways and potential contamination sources, can be very powerful tools in the identification of unknown impurities which show up during analytical testing. These projects are rarely straightforward and success is not guaranteed. However, with a bit patience these unknowns and their source can often be identified. 

Authors:

Niall O’Reilly, Ph.D., PMBRC Technology Gateway Manager

Mike Kinsella, Ph.D., Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Science, SETU