Top 5 reasons your company should actively embrace innovation

Innovation can be an important step in a company’s continued success and development. If you’re a start-up, SME, large indigenous or multinational company in Ireland, it should be at the forefront of your thinking. Innovation provides a range of positive advantages which in these uncertain times could provide stability and growth for many Irish companies.

We’ve put together the 5 top reasons why your company should consider including innovation in your business practices.

  1. Competitive Advantage

It’s imperative that in an increasingly busy, connected and technological world you gain an edge over your competitors. By including innovation as a natural part of your company’s structure, it allows you to stay ahead, stand out from the crowd and create much-needed differentiation in what can sometimes be a very crowded market place.

  1. Meeting consumer needs

Recognising the current needs of your consumer, predicting change and developing your product or service to provide a solution is a critical factor in the success of business today. In today’s fast-paced world, technology and consumer demand change so rapidly that keeping in step with what is required calls for continued research and development of your service, process or product line. Maintaining innovation development in line with your consumer needs will ensure continued success.

  1. Development of new and existing markets

Growth is a key factor in the development of any business; in fact, it is an essential element for survival and success. The introduction of innovation practices allows for the continued development of new or existing products or services into markets which may previously have otherwise been limited or closed.

  1. Availability of funding

There are many different types of innovation funding available depending on your particular company circumstances. Agencies such as Enterprise Ireland have a range of innovation funding to suit many different circumstances, ranging from €5,000 Innovation Vouchers, Innovation Feasibility studies, Agile Innovation grant right through to larger Innovation Partnerships. Depending on your company’s current status and eligibility, these types of funding have proven to be extremely valuable for many Irish companies.

  1. Economic growth

There is no doubt that successful and continued innovation could increase revenue streams and boost company profitability. As your product or service matures in the market, Innovation can play a key role in the continued creation of new opportunities, expansion and growth for your company.

Take a look at our Supports page for more information about available Enterprise Ireland Innovation supports.

Internet of Things (IoT) trends to watch in 2019

As 2018 draws to a close, Tom Fitzmaurice, Business Development Manager of the Applied IoT cluster, looks forward to what promises to be yet another year of rapid evolution in the world of IoT. In fact, 2019 is shaping up to be no different from its predecessor when it comes to exponential growth for the Internet of Things and in this blog post, Tom looks at some potential hot topics for the year ahead.

Cybersecurity

Thus far, IoT device manufacturers have remained behind the curve when it comes to in-built security measures in their product lines. When you purchase a wearable or temperature controlling IoT device for your home, it is not advisable to assume it is secure. On the contrary, unless specifically stated by the manufacturer it would be safer to assume it is NOT secure.

It’s predicted that 2019 will see manufacturers place more emphasis on providing solutions that are designed to protect their IoT devices from data loss/intrusion with wider acceptance being afforded to biometric-infused and other innovative security measures. As in all aspects of life, there will always be new digital threats emerging that will require re-active and more importantly, pro-active solutions to combat as the IoT industry strives for a safer and more secure environment into 2019 and beyond.

Connected vehicles

Advances in the world of the connected vehicle are continuing to transform society as we know it and are changing the way we will use transportation in the future. In addition to the strides being made in powering new vehicles with electricity, increased connectivity capabilities will enable vehicles to communicate with everything around it, including road signs, traffic indicators, other vehicles and pedestrians.

4G, and eventually 5G, networks will allow for higher speed communication, facilitating much greater control over these vehicles. Once again, the development of stringent security measures will be required to ensure the safe use and operation of these more environmentally safer and cost-effective vehicles of the future.

Smart communities

Smart cities have been evolving steadily over the last number of years. Data streaming from thousands of IoT devices around some of the major metropolitan areas is being digitally analysed and used to improve the quality of life for inhabitants. This is achieved by monitoring and enhancing air quality, providing better traffic management systems and implementing smart energy management technologies.

The success of smart cities is leading to the testing and commissioning of such technologies on a smaller scale in towns, villages and individual communities around the globe. Attracting increased interest is the concept of localised communities, serviced by microgrid power stations and comprising high-performance homes kitted out with energy-efficient systems, appliances and other connected devices. Expectations are high for such developments to integrate into a larger ecosystem of connected devices, creating more comfortable living conditions and delivering huge energy savings.

Connectivity

Finally, we’ll glance at the world of connectivity – one of, if not the, most important ingredients when it comes to IoT. In the absence of a strong connection between them, the billions of connected devices deployed around the world would be rendered useless. Having outlined the boundless opportunities for development in cybersecurity, connected vehicles and smart cities, the reality is none of these would be possible without strong and reliable connectivity.

5G is being earmarked as the means to connect all things digital and transform the world we live in. Promoted as being up to 10 times faster, with 50 times less latency and 1,000 times the capacity of 4G, 5G is set to bring billions more connected devices online making way for further disruptive technologies and the creation of new business and financial opportunities.

Tom Fitzmaurice is the Business Development Manager for the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway Applied IoT cluster. The cluster is a consortium of five of Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Gateways, providing a single point of contact for companies looking to access technical capabilities for Internet of Things (IoT) research and development. Visit the A IoT page and follow them on Twitter for all the latest news and events.

Looking to innovate? Apply to the Agile Innovation Fund!

Are you falling behind your competitors? Do you need a quick solution for your product? Are you keen to innovate?

Being innovative and acting fast certainly are key to survival these days. Enterprise Ireland understands the need for rapid change and that is why the new Agile Innovation Fund was introduced.

What is the Agile Innovation Fund?

Enterprise Ireland’s new Agile Innovation Fund was created in response to the threats and opportunities posed by Brexit. It allows companies in sectors with rapid design cycles to keep their advantage by offering an online application and fast-track approval process, so you can quickly engage in the innovation activity necessary to make your international growth ambitions reality.

It is called the ‘Agile’ Innovation Fund as it offers faster turnaround times from application to approval than the RD&I funds. This fund allows companies to access up to 50% in support for product, process or service development projects with a total cost of up to €300,000.

Collaborate with a Technology Gateway - apply for the Agile Innovation Fund

Can this fund be used to collaborate with a Technology Gateway?

Yes, the Agile Innovation Fund is one of three ways in which Enterprise Ireland can fund your collaboration with one of our Technology Gateways. Once you receive funding, you can contact your chosen Gateway, or if you are unsure of which one best suits your needs you can contact the Gateway Team on +353 (01) 708 2954 for guidance.

Who can apply for the Agile Innovation Fund?

The fund is open to everyone; both Enterprise Ireland clients and non-Enterprise Ireland clients can apply.

Am I eligible for the fund?

You are eligible to apply for Agile Innovation Funding, if:

  • Your company is an Irish-based manufacturing or internationally traded services company.
  • You can show adequate cash resources to implement the proposed RD&I project.

Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) client companies are eligible to apply if:

  • Sustainable revenues of €500,000 have been achieved.
  • The company is EBITDA + in the previous accounting period (or previous 9 months prior to application) and can demonstrate future EBITDA + status.
  • No external finance in the form of equity (subject to no double funding) has been raised in the previous six months.

How do I apply?

The application process has been made as easy and as straightforward as possible for applicants.

You can apply online at any time. Full guidance for completing each section can be found within the system. If you are an EI client, you are advised to speak to your Development Adviser (DA) before submitting an application.

Along with the application, you must submit a Project Plan. The Project Plan should be completed by the Technical Lead for the project. Details on submitting the Project Plan separately are included in the confirmation email you will receive when your online application has been completed and submitted to Enterprise Ireland.

If you are a non-EI client, there is a simple expression of interest (Outline Proposal) form that consists of one A4 sheet of questions where you will outline the basic details of the project. This allows an EI staff member to review the proposed project and follow up with recommendations.

If you are reluctant to innovate remember that,

“Innovation does not always mean developing new products. More often it means enhancing offerings with incremental tweaks.”

– Joe Madden (In-Company Research, Development and Innovation Supports Manager at Enterprise Ireland)

Further information

Company profile: Cootehill Precision Engineering in partnership with PEM Technology Gateway

3D scanning for precision engineering applications

Cootehill Precision Engineering Ltd carries out work for companies ranging from component manufacturing for heavy industries (e.g. agricultural sector) through to the machining of very small components (e.g. the electronics industry).

They have heat treatment and 3D printing facilities on site and a basic 3D scanning device. Their experience to date, with their current 3D scanning technology, is that it is not suitable for the work they undertake.

The primary output from this project undertaken by PEM Technology Gateway was to identify a suitable scanner and to explore the added benefit such a device will have to Cootehill’s operations. Specifically to consider were:

  • Most suitable scanning technology
  • Identify the uses, pros and cons of this technology
  • Identify suitable scan processing and 3D modelling software
  • Consider potential business opportunities from 3D scanning

Project results

A number of 3D scanning technologies and devices were considered and the most suited technology and device were identified for the applications Cootehill Precision would require. As a proof of concept, a typical component that Cootehill manufactures was scanned using the identified device/technology. The results were analysed with scan processing and 3D modelling software to determine its efficacy.

A report containing information on scanning technologies and their uses, potential business opportunities for Cootehill from this technology (based on a case studies analysis) and further developmental work in respect of quality control and standard operating procedures (SOP), that would enhance a 3D scanning service offered by Cootehill Precision to clients, was delivered as the final project output.

Meet the Team… Tim Yeomans

In our ‘Meet the Team’ series, we bring you a range of interviews from across the Technology Gateway Network.

Next up is Tim Yeomans – Shannon ABC Technology Gateway Manager, one of 15 Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways.

  1. Tell us a bit about Shannon ABC

Shannon ABC was established in 2008. We are a collaboration between Limerick IT and IT Tralee, and we work with companies in the biotech, food, and life science sectors. We have scientists and business development staff based in both locations, all with their own areas of expertise. We believe we provide a great opportunity for companies to access capabilities across two colleges through one access point.

  1. Describe your role

My role, together with the Shannon ABC Technology Gateway team, is to devise and deliver projects that will ultimately benefit a company’s bottom line. I am responsible for business development activities, scientific and strategic development of Shannon ABC, and financial reporting.

  1. What’s unique about this Gateway?

Shannon ABC is the only co-located Gateway in the Technology Gateway network and we have delivered a range of projects across both locations that would have been very difficult to deliver individually due to the expertise required. We work in the area of bioresources, and helping companies to get more value from bioresources. This means we work with a wide range of sectors – nutraceutical, cosmetics, food, pharma, healthcare, textile, biopharma, environmental, biotechnology, etc. The benefit to our clients is the opportunities we can uncover; for example, when we are looking for added-value from food waste, we are not just looking for an application in food but also in cosmetics, healthcare, biotechnology, etc. This opens up more opportunities for Irish industry.

  1. What type of companies do you work with?

We work with companies based in the biotech, food and life science sectors – that’s anything from cosmetics to healthcare, from food to pharmaceutical. We work with companies ranging in size from micro-enterprises and sole traders to multi-national corporations. The smallest project we did recently was €85, the largest was €4.2 million!

  1. What are the main benefits for a company collaborating with Shannon ABC?

We are a commercially focussed centre, so our focus is on what will make an impact for the company. The more that we understand the company and their business model, the better we can help. We have a wide network in the sectors that we work in and so we often find that we are introducing companies to each other in order to help them address commercialisation or route to market challenges.

  1. How can you help a company prepare for an innovation project?

We sit down with the company and work out why they are doing the project. We would always approach this from the perspective of how this project will ultimately help the company sell their product or service. Once we’ve determined what the project is, we help to identify the most appropriate funding mechanism and provide as much help as we can in terms of the application process.

  1. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a company considering an innovation project?

Make sure that what you are doing will benefit your company, that you’re not doing the project just because it is interesting (and work with Shannon ABC!).

  1. What do you love most about your job?

I really enjoy my job – identifying the companies to work with, developing the project to help them, and then seeing the impact of this project. A key part is making connections for Irish companies; I get to work with a really wide range of companies, at all stages of development and it’s great to be in a position where you can pass along useful information to these companies in terms of their development. Whether this is in the delivery of a successful project or just in putting them in connection with other companies who they may be able to work with.

More information

Surprising results in gait analysis research

The ExerScout Gait Analysis application is a non-marker-based motion tracking system that automatically gathers data of an individual’s gait while they are on a treadmill. This research began as a 12-month Innovation Partnership and R&D project with Elite Sports Performance. The Irish company is involved in appraising fitness and agility by evaluating fundamental movement patterns using the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) approach.

ExerScout Gait Analysis

Elite Sports Performance came to the TSSG Gateway with an interest in developing an automated way in which FMS could be used by evaluating subjects whereby they would perform the tests, be assessed by software, and have sets of corrective exercises prescribed to them to allow them to improve their mobility, stability and flexibility and to reduce their risk of injury.

The GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Human Performance Lab, a close partner of Elite Sports Performance, was intrigued by the application of ExerScout and tasked Elite Sports Performance to develop a feature that allowed the analysis of a person’s gait using the Microsoft Kinect V2.  This new feature would then be compared to a state of the art 24 sensor treadmill that is available in GSK.

How did TSSG help?

TSSG developed this feature on the existing ExerScout platform along with further requests of assessing standing analysis, balance analysis and sitting analysis.

A complete Windows 10 application was developed in conjunction with the Microsoft Kinect V2 that can evaluate the 7 FMS tests, score each test, identify weaknesses and provide corrective exercises that will improve the scores given. The application also has a media section that contains footage on each of the seven tests and all the corrective exercises that are associated with each test.

A series of algorithms have been developed which includes methods for calculating a user’s step width, step length and stride length. Not only does the application gather data on a person’s gait, but it will also gather data on other gestures including stance, balance, and other movements while performing the exercise on the treadmill.

The Windows 10 application gathers data from the Microsoft Kinect V2 sensor while a person is walking on the treadmill. The Kinect V2 is a motion sensor that can measure three-dimensional motions of a person. The data generated by the Kinect V2 is a frame-by-frame algorithmic calculation of various gestures. A readout is displayed in the application of the calculations for each gesture that is being generated and they are also being stored in the cloud. A skeleton representation of the person on the treadmill is also displayed within the application. For further analysis, the data can be exported to a CSV file and analysed by an expert to identified trends, etc.

Impact on the company

The client has received a new product, which opens up a wide range of new customers, target markets, and the geographical locations it can reach. The product is completely flexible and can be adapted for other exercises.

The platform was updated and contains a series of new tests and features that can be used in conjunction with research, development, and testing within the GSK Human Performance Lab. This has increased the strength of the relationship between GSK, Elite Sports Performance, and the TSSG Gateway. Future work is in the pipeline for more features to be developed on the ExerScout Platform.

Future applications

Following on from the development completed under the ExerScout project, other areas of interest could be assisting in the early diagnosis of Neurodegenerative Diseases. With the algorithms that have been developed, there is an opportunity for collaborations with neurorehabilitation, WIT Biomechanics, or Alzheimer’s Association of Ireland.

Gateway Profile: CAPPA Technology Gateway

CAPPA is a research centre of Cork Institute of Technology, conducting both applied and fundamental research on photonics for applications in areas as diverse as telecommunications, medical devices, food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing. CAPPA works in the area of photonics generation and manipulation of light, and a major strand of CAPPA’s activities focuses on bringing the benefits of photonics technology to a diverse range of industry partners.

What is CAPPA Technology Gateway?

In September 2006, the Photonic Device Dynamics Group was established. The group’s research was based on Principal Investigator funding from Science Foundation Ireland, with a strong track record in the understanding of semiconductor laser physics and photonic devices.

In 2007, the group was awarded funding from Enterprise Ireland to establish an Applied Research Enhancement centre, with a specific remit to provide photonics solutions to regional and national industry. The centre was given the name Centre for Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis (CAPPA).

On 23rd October 2008, CAPPA was officially opened by Dr Jimmy Devins, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation. Over the next 10 years, both the industry-targeted activities and the academic research of the group continued to strengthen and expand, developing links with over 100 national and international companies, publishing over 90 journal papers, working with 11 of the top 100 universities internationally and achieving over €8 million  in funding, including a number of European FP7 and Horizon 2020 projects. In 2013, the group was awarded funding for a CAPPA Technology Gateway.

In 2014, the CAPPA name was rebranded as the umbrella title for all the group’s activities, combining both the fundamental science and industry-focused research strands of the group, as well as consolidating activities based on the main CIT campus and within the Tyndall National Institute. In May 2014, CAPPA moved into the state-of-the-art CREATE building on CIT campus which was funded by the Higher Education Authority. From 2014 to 2018, CAPPA continued to grow on both a national and international level. During this period, CAPPA began working on additional academic and industry-led projects.

In 2018, CAPPA received additional funding from the Technology Gateways for the period 2018-2022 and is one of seven gateways involved the Irish Food Tech cluster.

What technology is used in CAPPA?

The centre focus on optics and photonics, including light and light-based systems with the addition of automation and data analysis.

What type of facilities are provided?

A wide range of facilities is provided onsite, including a Femtosecond Physics Laboratory, a Laser Dynamics Laboratory, a Photoluminescence Spectroscopy Laboratory and a Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory. We use a variety of techniques including Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS), Microscopy – including FT-IR and Raman imaging, Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) and Hyperspectral Imaging, to name a few.

How many companies have CAPPA worked with over the past 5 years?

CAPPA has worked with over 100 companies including start-ups, SMEs and MNCs in sectors such as food and beverages, medical, pharmaceutical, consumer electronics, telecommunications and photonics.

What regions does CAPPA work in ?

CAPPA works with companies from all over Ireland and collaborates with academic partners worldwide.

To find out more about CAPPA, check out their page and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest news and events!

Company Profile: Fresh Graze in partnership with COMAND

An automated moving fence using robots to allocate fresh grass to livestock

Fresh Graze is an automated moving fence using robots to allocate fresh grass to livestock. Developed by the Drumm family and the COMAND Technology Gateway it was Ag-tech Startup winner and overall winner of the Alfie Cox perpetual cup at the NPA Innovation arena.

Problem

Fresh Graze requires grazebot, an automated moving fence system which allocates fresh grass to grazing animals on a continual basis at a rate that ensures the entire sward is consumed before the fence moves again. Based on a feeding plan, size of paddock and feeding rate, a cloud-based system is required to:

  • output when the fence should move; and
  • be able to communicate with the grazebot in the paddock and visualise the feeding rate to the user.

Partnership

With this in mind, Fresh Graze conducted Innovation Voucher work and contract design for the grazebot in partnership with the COMAND Technology Gateway based at the Software Research Institute in the Athlone IT. A feasibility study, in collaboration with Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID (IMaR Technology Gateway) in the Tralee IT was also carried out to develop the integration between the grazebot in the paddock.

Solution

The cloud-based system is developed using a highly scalable architecture. It includes a user interface that takes input data per paddock per user via a web application. The user chooses the paddock to be grazed. A feeding rate for the grazebot is output to an API which is accessed by the grazebot in the paddock. Using the API, further communication between the system and the grazebot are in the pipeline.

Further considerations

Grazebot is at the early stage of development. It has been suggested that particular care should be given to the following aspects:

  • Continued further investment is planned for a production-ready system;
  • Potential new features documented during the development of the demo; and
  • Data analytics is likely to play an important role in the future of this project to provide paddock feeding rate prediction.
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Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers

Are you an Irish SME looking for help with research and innovation? Have you a product or service that requires expertise currently outside of your existing R&D capacity? The Technology Gateway Network, in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers, can help!

Who we are

There are 15 Technology Gateways in the network, situated within 11 Institutes of Technology around Ireland. We focus on key technology areas which are aligned to industry needs in areas such as polymers, photonics, mobile, coatings, industrial design, mechatronics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, wireless technologies and precision engineering. Each centre works in conjunction with industry to aid the research and development of innovative products and services through a dedicated team of specialised engineers.

Technology Gateway Clusters

To boost the power and knowledge of the Gateways, three unique gateway clusters have been developed to enhance the delivery of research and innovation for Irish SMEs. These clusters are in the areas of Applied Internet of Things (A-IoT), Engineering, Materials and Design (EMD Ireland), and Food and Beverages. Each cluster consists of relevant specialised gateways and a dedicated support office, which can assist you with any questions you may have about the Technology Gateway Network or the upcoming Innovation Voucher call.

What is an Innovation Voucher call?

The Innovation Voucher scheme is run by Enterprise Ireland and opens approximately three/four times a year. Small and medium-sized companies can apply for a €5,000 voucher for the purpose of gaining academic support in research or innovation from a listed knowledge provider. Vouchers are valid for 12 months from the date of issue and can be used throughout the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway network. However, you must apply for a voucher during one of the open calls. For more information about the vouchers, you can see the FAQs on the Enterprise Ireland site, or contact either the A-IoT or EMD Ireland support offices.

How can the Gateways and an Innovation Voucher help your company?

We strive to have a close connection with industry and this shows in our results. Since 2013, we have provided support to over 500 Innovation Voucher projects throughout the network. Last year alone we supported over 210 projects. We view each project as unique and as a result the assistance we provide is tailored to its specific needs. Our specialist gateway teams ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget, and provide a wide variety of support and assistance ranging from prototype production, business model development, process optimisation, customer interface, technical specification, new service development and technology audits. We can even help with the voucher application process itself.

But don’t just take our word for it! Irish companies such as Incereb, Bustard Heating and Kilkenny Cooling Systems have all collaborated with various gateways through the Innovation Vouchers scheme and experienced the benefits of the network.

Case studies

Incereb has developed a novel EEG electrode scaffold, known as the butterfly device. This device will enable technicians to apply in minutes the internationally recognised montage for optimal neonatal EEG brain monitoring and seizure detection. Incereb collaborated with the MiCRA Gateway through a series of Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers, as well as 100% Incereb funded, projects to co-develop the electrode which will be incorporated into the butterfly device scaffold. The prototype arising from this investigation is a fully functional device suitable to be scaled up for production.

“We have prototypes which work, and are very close to what we think will be the final product. The documentation and final report on the project was top class, and slotted immediately into our technical and design history file. We have absolutely no hesitation in recommending MiCRA to any interested party.”

Jim Roche – CEO, Incereb

Bustard Heating is an SME based in Donegal that provides a range of heating and plumbing services to the domestic and commercial building markets. As an ancillary to their core heating and plumbing business, the company installs a range of renewable energy and heat saving products. One such product is their Mobile Heat Switch, used to autonomously control heating and hot water systems by SMS phone text activation. Through an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher, the PEM Gateway in IT Sligo undertook an investigation to optimise the existing mobile heat switch device by re-designing the control box interface so that a manual time-clock activation device could be integrated, offering the end user both remote and manual setting functions. This included a 3D printed component to realise the design modifications and to test compatibility with the existing heat switch device.

“Operating in a progressive and fast changing building services market it is important that we act on end user feedback to optimise our products. The R&D input supported by the Innovation Voucher initiative was invaluable in helping us realise necessary and further potential for our heat switch device.”

Trevor Bustard – Bustard Heating

Kilkenny Cooling Systems is a leading manufacturer of refrigerated storage equipment for the dairy, brewing and food processing sectors. A sector where Kilkenny Cooling Systems is particularly prominent is the beverage cooling industry. Through an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher and Partnership Feasibility study, the TEC Gateway undertook a performance assessment of the company’s Kilkenny VS prototype beer cooler and benchmarked it against competitor cooling systems such as a conventional ice bank system and a full glycol system. The Kilkenny VS Beer Cooling System went on to be shortlisted for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland Award for Innovation in 2015 and the 2016 IBEC Environment Award for best new product; winning the latter.

“The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme played a key role in the progress of our VS Beer Cooler R&D project. I would strongly encourage any business considering undertaking their own R&D to avail of an Innovation Voucher. Having expertise on hand such as that provided by Nimbus was extremely helpful and definitely contributed to this project’s successful outcome.”

John Smee – Kilkenny Cooling Systems

Next steps

If you think the Technology Gateways can help your company, get in touch.

Various Innovation Voucher clinics are also being held in regional centres to provide information and assistance with Innovation Voucher applications.

This post was originally published on the New Frontiers website


About the author

Gráinne Foley - EMD Ireland Cluster Marketing Executive

Gráinne Foley

EMD Ireland Cluster Marketing Executive

The future of food

The global population is facing a huge increase in the future, putting an enormous strain on the food industry. Due to the nature of the industry, it is nearly impossible to speed up the process of food production; animals need time to mature, while crops require time to grow.

People are becoming conscious of how their actions ultimately contribute to our global carbon footprint. With both the rise in populations and concern for the environment growing at a rapid pace, there’s no doubt that the food industry is in for unprecedented change in the coming years.

In fact, disruptive technologies are already beginning to emerge in some areas of the industry. This blog covers three major trends that could shape the food industry in the near future.

Vertical farming

Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in a warehouse rather than on farmland. This is done by using stacked shelves indoors with bright, luminous LED lights to replace the sun’s rays. Due to the nature of production, it doesn’t suffer the effects of the changeable Irish weather, which has caused major hardship for farmers in the last few years.

It could also potentially eliminate the risk of pests and diseases, as the plants are grown in an isolated, controlled indoor environment. Vertical farming is likely to prove popular in the future, not only because it increases the crop’s chance of survival, but also because it allows farmers to live in urban areas. This means they can produce food closer to their markets, which cuts transportation costs and reduces CO2 emissions. It also allows farmers to maximise the use of space. While before it was only possible to use the surface area of your land, vertical farming means the sky is, literally, the limit!

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (the method of growing plants without soil). The process begins with two water tanks; one for the plants to grow in and one beneath it for the fish. The water is circulated from one water tank to another. This allows the plants to absorb the nutrients from the fish waste in the tank and the plants to act as a filtration system for the water returning to the fish tank. The system cuts down the consumption of water in farming and can also work with artificial light. It’s an innovative solution that is starting to get a lot of attention.

Cultured meat

Cultured meat is where the meat is produced through tissue culture as an alternative to slaughtering animals. The meat is grown in a lab and is also known as in vitro meat. Due to the huge contribution traditional meat production makes to climate change, and the fact that there will be a larger population to feed in the coming years, cultured meat is believed by many to be the inevitable next-step in meat production – not replacing meat entirely but allowing us to reduce the amount of livestock in the system. Whether people will be willing to eat lab-grown meat is, of course, another question.

Technology is changing the world as we know it. These innovations could cause vast disruptions to the food industry and, if they prove to be successful, help create a sustainable future for our planet.

For more information on available food and beverage technologies, as well as funding and supports, contact us directly at the Irish Food Tech, download our cluster booklet or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for the latest cluster news and events.