Reflection: A year in review

Jim Prendergast, Business Development Executive at the TSSG Technology Gateway at Walton Institute reflects on the past year, what it has been like joining the team during a pandemic, and the potential changes companies will need to make in a post-Covid environment.

Tell us a bit about the TSSG Technology Gateway in The Walton Institute
TSSG Technology Gateway is the commercial interface of Walton Institute, dedicated to research in specific areas such as Networks & Cloud Computing, VR/AR, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Mining and Software System Architecture and Engineering. We supports start-ups, micro SME’s and scaling SME’s by delivering technology solutions through collaboration on projects which are close to the market needs of the Irish industry. In the past 2 years, the technology gateway in Walton Institute secured funding from Enterprise Ireland to establish labs and testbeds in the areas of mixed reality, e-Textiles and satellite communications with a direct goal of supporting industry interested in enhancing their product and service offering in these areas.

Describe your role?
It is my job to facilitate the collaboration between cutting edge research and disruptive industry at the Walton Institute in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland. I bring clients and companies from concept to reality through Walton’s expertise in ICT & IoT innovation. I enable businesses to avail of our expertise through funding mechanisms such as Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers. Through an ever-increasing networking and engagement strategy, I also connect with established companies for contract R&D programmes, which are ever present in Walton.

How did you find starting a new job during a pandemic/working remotely?
For many, working remotely was something new. It was a strange feeling coming from a position where I was on the road and face to face with clients each day, straight into remote digital interaction. I noticed pretty quickly how businesses adapted to the “new normal”. I took the approach that everyone was in the same boat and working together, so it didn’t faze me. I do look forward to meeting my colleagues in the office when we reopen and welcoming future companies into the Walton Institute labs.

Has your role changed over the past 12 months?
One aspect that has changed from an external viewpoint is that companies and processes have become much more focused. Platforms such as MS Teams and Zoom have allowed for in depth discussions with Q&A workshops allowing projects to move forward.

Our relationship with our clients and partners is more important than ever. In our role we work with so many different moving parts, and whether it is with industry or internal research divisions, the mantra remains the same, strong relationships and partnerships create collaborative cutting edge projects.

How do you think your role will change when we are no longer working remotely?
It will be a surreal feeling when we do eventually return to normality. I don’t believe remote working will go away and many organisations will have to incorporate this going forward. It is up to employees and employers to make sure it can work. It could be the transformation that changes the work/life balance on a global scale.

There will also be a great sense of achievement at events, and this can foster great work and projects for the remainder of the decade and into the 2030’s.

What’s unique about the gateway and its presence in the south east?
I can’t emphasise enough how together is better. Industry collaborating with our in-house expert researchers and the resources available at Walton offers many benefits. You can use funding through Walton to leverage value to your business.

Our relationship with WIT has grown from strength to strength over the years. Our presence is ever felt, and our aim is to contribute to the south east becoming a leader in the Digital Transformation world. With over 700 project partners, Walton researchers have their finger on the pulse with new and cutting-edge technologies in the areas of Future Health, Precision Agriculture, Smart Energy, Intelligent Transport Systems & Molecular Communications and Computing. Almost half of the projects currently active in the research centre are direct industry projects working to improve Ireland’s status as a leader in tech start-ups. Walton delivers innovative ICT solutions to our clients across multiple industries, including Agritech, HealthTech, Smart Cities, Communications and Energy Sectors.

How are/will companies adapt to the post Covid world?
One of the most important aspects for companies to understand is how will they remain competitive in a post-Covid world. They will have to digitally transform, but that does not necessarily mean an immediate overhaul. Companies will have to use research and development to understand what best serves their needs.

I would have to say businesses need to understand their niche. A client understanding the market will work in tandem with our experts who possess high technical skills. This is a key component when developing the product. The more knowledge a business has, the more innovation takes place.

How can the technology gateway help companies evolve and prepare themselves?
We are transforming how companies operate and compete through our scientifically proven R&D knowledge and expertise. That has a direct impact on improving our clients’ bottom line.

At the Walton we offer clients valuable experience when it comes to ICT projects. We identify a roadmap through our Innovation Sprint, and this outlines the key technical strategy needed for the project ahead. A good start is half the battle & knowing where we need to be at key stages gives the client and Walton’s team perspective and a positive outlook.

Every company must innovate to survive, especially in a post-Covid world. If you do not have a Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) focus, Walton can help you create that focus. If you have an established RD&I function, create an extension of this function with Walton and we will help you push the boundaries to ensure you stay ahead of the competition and disrupt the marketplace.

Now that you have been working in Walton Institute for a year, what do you love most about your job?
I get to meet with so many companies from a wide spectrum. The satisfaction of guiding clients from concept to application is a great feeling. Knowing that I have helped an entrepreneur who will play a significant role in the economy gives me great joy.  Networking and facilitating relationships between industry and research is a huge reward.

Contact me on LinkedIn or email me at  to arrange a meeting or have an informal virtual coffee.

What piece of advice would you give yourself 12 months ago?
When the then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, announced the closure of schools, I was very naive to think that we would be back in the office by the end of March. I began working in the kitchen and then eventually turned one of the small spare rooms into an acceptable office. If I had one piece of advice to say to myself now, I would say purchase a good webcam and a good set of headphones with built in mic, be it wired or wireless, coinciding with a good office setup. While not everyone can have a good office setup at home, I believe working from home will be incorporated into our lives going forward 1 or 2 days a week. If you can set up a decent desk, a good portable work station with a large screen, a good lumbar chair and desk space you are onto a winner.

This article was first published on the Walton Institute website.