Meet the Team … Finola Howe – PEM Technology Gateway

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

Next up is Finola Howe – PEM Technology Gateway Manager, one of 15 Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways.

Finola Howe – PEM Technology Gateway Manager

 

  • Tell us a bit about the PEM Technology Gateway and describe your role within it?

The PEM Technology Gateway was established in 2015 and was initiated from the Precision Engineering, Manufacturing and Materials Strategic Research Centre in IT Sligo. We work primarily with manufacturing companies to provide engineering and process optimisation solutions across their product lifecycle – in product development and design, manufacturing and materials. We deliver this through building on our deep technical expertise and history in Advanced Material Synthesis & characterisation, Precision Engineering & Design, Manufacturing Process Modelling & Simulation and Advanced Process Monitoring & Control.

 

  • Describe your role:

My role in managing the PEM Technology Gateway is developing and implementing a strategy that drives engagement with industry. Working with companies to identify projects that can add value to them e.g. Product R&D, improving processes, reducing waste/cost, solving technical problems. Primarily I’m involved in setting the strategic business direction, business development, day to day management of the centre resources and financials. I spend a lot of time meeting companies and understanding what their pain points are so we can determine the best way to help them.

 

  • What’s unique about Gateway and its presence in the North-West? 

IT Sligo is the National Training Centre for Toolmakers in Ireland and as a result has a rich history and expertise in Precision Engineering which we have built on in the PEM Research Centre and Technology Gateway. We primarily work with manufacturing companies, and we are a focal point for anyone who designs and/or makes products as we help them design and improve their processes throughout their product lifecycle.

 

  • What are the main benefits for a company collaborating with PEM?

We also look at innovation across the product lifecycle and value chain, we work with companies at all stages of innovation, from early startup stage to established product/process optimisation stages. We know that companies, especially SME’s are focussed by necessity on what is right in front of them. We help them to prepare for the future by optimising and bringing technological advancement to engineering, manufacturing and materials processes. We see ourselves as long term partners with companies to help them always stay ahead of their competition.

An obvious benefit is our technical expertise in engineering and manufacturing and more specifically in the areas of Advanced Material Synthesis & characterisation, Precision Engineering & Design, Manufacturing Process Modelling & Simulation and Advanced Process Monitoring & Control.

 

  • How can you help a company prepare for an innovation project

Initially we would sit down with a company and try to understand their ‘Why’ their ‘What’ and their ‘How’ – why do they do what they do and surfacing their pain points in how they do it. That helps us to focus in on the key problems we can help them to solve. We work with them to identify projects that are aligned with our technical expertise, and we help them navigate funding opportunities to help finance the projects. There are so many funding mechanisms out there, it can be a bit daunting for companies to figure out where to start.

 

  • What can they expect working with the Gateway? 

Sometimes innovation ideas are at a really early stage and people are a little afraid of discussing an idea that isn’t fully developed. I think that the PEM Gateway operates firstly on a very human level, we provide a safe sounding board environment to companies and individuals and we are always happy to discuss innovation ideas no matter what stage they are at, we are here to provide help and guidance and we have a great network of sister Gateways that we can connect with depending on the type of expertise needed. As ideas progress into projects, we scope out the deliverables of the project and provide both the technical expertise and project management oversight to ensure the project delivers as per the agreed plan.

 

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

Don’t let it go to the bottom of the list of things to do because you are busy with what is important today. Innovation is a ‘Must Do’ but often gets neglected until it is too late. I’d advise companies to look at all available resources, not just in-house resources, because resources are often a reason companies don’t innovate. Connect with the Technology Gateway early in your innovation journey, we can partner with you to extend your ability to innovate!

 

  • What do you love most about your job?

I really enjoy getting out and meeting companies, understanding what they do, identifying issues they are having and developing projects to solve those issues. I facilitate Innovation Workshops with some companies where I get them to think about potential business scenarios – that always surfaces things that they need to work on across a range of strategic, business model and technical areas. I meet lots of companies and I enjoy sharing the networks and connecting people from the different companies, you never know what new ideas may spark or new partnerships develop from those connections that are of benefit to the companies.

 

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