Successfully Applying for Research & Innovation Funding

Research cannot move forward without funding and while there are a number of sources available to Irish higher education institutions and research performing organisations (RPOs), the process is highly competitive and the prizes hard fought for.

Getting your funding application right is imperative. When applying for awards such as the Enterprise Ireland (EI) Innovation Partnership Programme, you need to keep descriptions brief, describe your research project with clarity, be succinct yet engaging and identify a need or market demand for your project output.

The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership Programme supports research that has the potential to commercialise new innovations through the establishment of new start-up ventures or license agreements, both of which improve the competitiveness of Irish companies.

Dr. Robert Ross, a Lecturer in the School of Computing in DIT and a member of the Applied Intelligence Research Centre (AIRC), is no stranger to funding applications having previously worked in research within a number of other top universities and institutes before joining DIT. However while Robert was new to innovation funding, within 12 months of working with the team at DIT Hothouse, he achieved outstanding success in this area.

Over the course of 12 months, Dr. Ross and his team are en route to funding three separate agri-industry based analytics projects. “We developed an Analytics for Agriculture Research Group that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the inspiration and input of DIT Hothouse,” he said.

In addition to three highly promising funding applications, the Analytics for Agriculture Research Group has achieved funding for a post-doctoral researcher over a three-year time frame. Dr. Ross confirmed that the three innovation partnerships under development are with indigenous SMEs, in the areas of herd health, poultry production, and pasture management using drone technology.

Dr. Ross believes that the development of analytics in the agri-sector is critically important for Ireland’s future economy. “Precision farming is key to the improved sustainability of food sources into the future,” he said.

The agri-food sector is one of Ireland’s most important industries, employing around 50,000 people directly, dispersed throughout all regions of Ireland. The sector accounts for half of all Irish goods and services purchased by the manufacturing industry and just over half of indigenous manufacturing exports. “Precision farming is all about getting more from less through the deployment of information technology solutions,” said Dr. Ross.

His research team is working closely with Teagasc, the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to agriculture and the food industry. “Kieran O’Connell, DIT Hothouse Food & Life Science Licensing Executive, introduced us to Teagasc. He went on to act as a bridge between the academics and industry people involved in each of the three ongoing agri research projects.”

Another research area in which Dr. Ross is engaged is data analytics. The DIT School of Computing and specifically the AIRC is acknowledged for its expertise in this field. “We are members of CeADAR, the national Centre for Applied Data Analytics Research, which is tri-located at UCC, UCD and DIT, funded by Enterprise Ireland as part of a five-year programme.

CeADAR is industry-driven and its initial focus is on research into technology challenges that have been identified by industry representatives,” said Dr. Ross. CeADAR funding is being used to enable DIT researchers to work with a group of companies to accelerate the development, deployment and adoption of data analytics technology. For example, Dr. Ross and his team are working with Irish SME, Nathean Technologies, in what is already a successful partnership.

“Very often when academics and industry representatives are put in a room together they simply don’t align. When we have a representative from DIT Hothouse with us the communication is clear and it flows. It makes a huge difference,” said Dr. Ross.

“In my experience no other technology transfer centre is as engaged and as positive as DIT Hothouse. The team members consistently push the innovation agenda, and do so in a way that is sympathetic and understanding of the day-to-day life and priorities of academic staff,” he said.

“While they take cognisance of the various pressures we have to deal with, a factor that in itself is refreshing, they also understand our research and our passion for innovation. They are very helpful and positive and put themselves at our disposal, providing advice and inspiration. They really excel when it comes to forging contacts. They are able to put us in touch with the right people in suitable companies and they help fast track the relationship-building process.”

In the research collaboration with Nathean Technologies, DIT Hothouse is playing its part by supporting and advising Dr. Ross and his team on licensing and providing IP (Intellectual Property) support to help move projects towards commercialisation phase. “The fact that Dublin Institute of TechnologyNathean Technologies is the first innovation partnership to come out of CeADAR across all three participating bodies marks a great achievement,” said Dr. Ross.

“It reflects not only the work of the researchers but also the behind-thescenes hard work and dedication of the DIT Hothouse team in helping us push the project from research to commercialisation. In my mind the supports and resources provided by Hothouse to the research community at DIT cannot be underestimated. Their energy, enthusiasm and knowhow provide the key to converting research projects into real market-ready innovations.”

Guidelines for Applying for Funding

Researchers seeking to maximise their chances of success when applying for funding are invited to consider the following guidelines: 1. Seek the advice of DIT Hothouse from the outset. 2. Identify the end-user need or market demand that you are seeking to address. 3. Keep your project descriptions brief and to the point. 4. Describe your research project with clarity. 5. Be succinct yet engaging.