Linking scientific research to commercial success

Tyndall National Institute is at the heart of an ecosystem of co-operation that connects science, technology and business

9th June, 2020
Linking scientific research to commercial success
Brad Wrigley (centre) of Varadis, with Peter Smyth (left) and William Scanlon of Tyndall

In Ireland, government policy connects a rich landscape of research to enterprise success through government departments and agencies such as the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation (DBEI), Enterprise Ireland (EI), IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.

Peter Smyth, commercial director with Tyndall National Institute, says this creates an ecosystem where early-stage research, conducted over many years, drives activity across many sectors of our economy, including energy and cleantech, medical technologies, information and communications, and agri-food, to name a few.

“Working closely with key government agencies, Tyndall is at the heart of an ecosystem which drives the societal impact of deep-tech research,” said Smyth.

“As our fundamental science leads to technology advances, Tyndall’s commercial teams work closely with our researchers, industry partners and with agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to maximise the broad impact of our research.”

One of the most impactful outcomes is in the creation of new enterprises through spin-outs. This combines research licensing (in partnership with UCC Innovation) with the best entrepreneurial talent drawn both from our own research and the wider entrepreneurship communities.

Tyndall’s most recent start-up, Varadis, emerged from many years of intensive research into radiation detection devices (which have been deployed on the International Space Station and used at CERN, one of the global centres of deep scientific research).

And emerging from that core research, Varadis is now bringing these radiation detectors to new commercial applications in healthcare and security.

Similarly, Tyndall's photonics research into the fundamental science of materials and device structures for micro-LED light sources spawned three spin-outs – and dynamic SMEs – in Firecomms, Infiniled and SensL, all of whom went on to become global technology platforms through acquisition.

“And post-acquisition,” said Smyth, “these and other technologies continue to grow their economic footprint in Ireland and Tyndall continues to provide research talent and supports in some of the most disruptive global technologies.”

It is no surprise, therefore, that when it comes to government initiatives such as the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), Tyndall play a central role in bringing 25 indigenous SMEs and multinational companies together to disrupt the status quo in energy, health, manufacturing and quantum computing.

Recent DTIF successes are providing similar potential for in-bound international partnerships based on Tyndall’s global reputation. And it is becoming common for international companies to establish their first Irish activity in close proximity to Tyndall’s extensive research talent and infrastructure. Rockley photonics, the British-headquartered high-speed comms company established Rockley Photonics Ireland at Tyndall and announced a joint investment with Science Foundation Ireland of €3.4 million to advance data transport rates toward the 400GB for the €6 billion datacomms market.

As a result, a close collaborative network of SMEs and multinationals generates broad societal impact from Tyndall’s critical research infrastructure investment which underpins all their research. DBEI’s National Space Strategy for Enterprise will also see Tyndall substantially scale up its space industry supports, while also leading the ESA BIC consortium in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the European Space Agency.

Smyth also explained that much of the organisation’s seemingly overnight success has actually been the result of many years of fundamental research. And its global reputation for integrated magnetics – a core technology used to reduce energy consumption in electronics systems – resulted in multiple multi-million-euro technology transfers to global partners in two short years, but was actually the result of a decade of essential research at Tyndall.

“As research evolves, we collaborate to identify the commercial pathways to bring a technology to market,” he said. “An excellent example is SmartProbe, a medical device which will identify the presence of cancer tissue in real time during biopsy examination, delivering a step-change reduction in healthcare costs and improvements in patient care. This project is led by Dr Eric Moore at Tyndall, in collaboration with the UCC School of Chemistry and Cork University Hospital.”

It is projects like this which lead Smyth and the Tyndall commercial teams to believe that the important role of a strong commercialisation agenda complements core research outcomes and leads to societal impact through enterprise development.

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