New opportunities for start-ups at NovaUCD

Earlier this month we profiled one of Ireland’s incubator facilities for tech start-up, NovaUCD. They run many accelerator programmes to help early-stage start-ups to fine tune their ideas and grow into viable companies.

Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation at NovaUCD, gave us a run through of a couple of the exciting new developments happening at NovaUCD this year.

Last year they ran an accelerator program together with comms giants Vodafone and Ericsson.

“That was looking at companies and seeing how they could apply 5G to develop new business models and different application areas,” says Flanagan. “We put together a 12-week program and supported companies over that period to develop out their propositions for 5G.”

“That was interesting to see the applications for internet of things, virtual reality and augmented reality being applied in different areas.”

In March of this year NovaUCD joined the ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland consortium, which incorporates the ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Ireland.

ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland, a consortium which is led by Tyndall at UCC, and funded by ESA and Enterprise Ireland, is focused on supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups with innovative technology in sectors as diverse as agri-tech, data analytics, bee husbandry, architecture and planning, and med-tech, in addition to the space sector.

“We’re able to offer 50k to companies to come into our incubator and be supported as they develop their propositions and provide them with lots of supports around developing their team and putting them in front of investors. All the usual things,” explains Flanagan.

“It’s for aerospace type companies, or for companies that use data that’s derived from satellites. So, we have companies like ProvEye for example, and they take their satellite data and analyse it in a way to help farmers with precision farming.”

Photographed at NovaUCD is Tom Flanagan, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation. (Nick Bradshaw, Fotonic)

“We can offer 40k to companies who are already in the aerospace business and are applying their technology to a different application. We are on the lookout for projects like those.”

Speaking of farmers, University College Dublin have their very own farm just to the West of Dublin in the county of Kildare. And it’s getting an upgrade to help those in the Agri sector research and develop their products in a working environment without disturbing the day to day running of Irish farms.

“We got funding to build an innovation centre with a view to attracting in entrepreneurs and start-up companies, and supporting start-up companies on the farm,” explains Flanagan.

“For companies who are developing a new product and doing it in an office someplace, that works very well until they need to bring it to a farm and test it. It’s challenging to get access to farms to test because they are potentially dangerous locations, and they can’t have too much interference from other people coming in with projects, and so on, so we’re set up to be able to do that.”

“That’s what we’re offering, we’re just beginning to make that available. And we’re also beginning to complete the design and go for planning permission for the building that we’ll build there.”

It’s a €4million project and as part of that project they are developing some programs to go along with the building and the access to the farm.

“We’re developing innovation challenges, identifying different areas where there’s a need for new products and new services. We are putting out a call for companies and start-up projects in that area that can come up with something interesting or innovative,” says Flanagan.

“Then in the second half of the year, we will be running a pre seed accelerator program for companies who might have a minimum viable product, but they really need support to develop it further, test it on the farm and attract additional funding to scale up their operation and recruit more people,” he adds.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.