InterTradeIreland making £16.5m available to technology projects

Economy minister Simon Hamilton, centre, visits Tyrone Fabrication to launch Fusion with Margaret Hearty, InterTradeIreland and Aaron McDermott, Tyrone Fabrication
Economy minister Simon Hamilton, centre, visits Tyrone Fabrication to launch Fusion with Margaret Hearty, InterTradeIreland and Aaron McDermott, Tyrone Fabrication

BUSINESS agency InterTradeIreland has pledged to invest more than £16 million in so-called 'technology transfer' projects over the next five years.

It said the initiative could benefit around 300 projects at small and medium enterprises across Ireland.

The money will be channelled through the agency's Fusion programme.

It enables companies to employ science, engineering and technology graduates for a 12-18 month period to create and develop technologically innovative and commercially viable projects and services.

Margaret Hearty, director of business programmes and services at InterTradeIreland said the scheme would help firms "improve their productivity, increase their revenue potential and to create real jobs for graduates.

“Our further investment in 300 cross border technology transfer projects is testament to the strength of this programme which delivers tangible outputs for SMEs.

"Through creating an innovation eco-system in Northern Ireland and Ireland, we can offer SMEs the potential to externally source and connect with a wider variety of relevant expertise, while collaborating with graduates and universities to deliver product and service innovations."

Among previous Fusion participants is Tyrone Fabrication which produces a range of advanced steel equipment enclosures for the transportation, communications and power supply industries.

The Ballygawley based company took part in Fusion to develop a new hybrid power unit for the telecoms industry.

The firm's general manager Michael Montague said: “The Fusion programme has enabled Tyrone Fabrication to develop a renewable energy based power solution for control panels for the telecommunications market.

"This new hybrid power unit integrates solar PV, wind turbine, diesel generator and battery storage capabilities to ensure a constant supply to telecoms base stations.

“Without the assistance from the Fusion project, Tyrone Fabrication would not have had the time or resources to be able to dedicate a full time member of staff to R&D and successfully bring this project to market. In addition, we simply didn’t have the necessary skills or in-house expertise to turn the initial idea into reality."

Economy minister Simon Hamilton added: "This is a significant investment designed to assist small to medium-sized businesses across Northern Ireland to innovate and grow, enabling them to take advantage of funding and expertise that could make a significant difference to their business.

“The potential for SMEs to explore new products, services and markets through access to expertise from universities and skills from talented graduates is helping to promote a dynamic innovative economy.

"On average each company taking part in the Fusion programme benefits from approximately £1 million worth of sales or efficiency savings in the three years following their participation.

"Of the 550 graduates who successfully completed the Fusion programme, 80 per cent of them have been offered full-time employment at the end of the project, with the initiative providing our talented graduates with vital industry experience helping them to develop the skills needed to succeed.”

InterTradeIreland is offering up to £31,000 for a 12-month project (typically in the area of process improvement) and up to £44,250 for an 18-month project (typically in the area of new product or service development).