The Royal Academy of Engineering, the Irish Academy of Engineering and InterTradeIreland have jointly announced new funding to support Ireland-based academic entrepreneurs and to map the all-island engineering economy for the first time.
Two new Enterprise Fellowships will be created to accelerate engineering and technology spinout innovation in Ireland, supported by the International Science Partnership Fund. The two selected academic entrepreneurs from Ireland, along with any successful applicants from Northern Ireland, will join the UK cohort of the Enterprise Fellowship accelerator programme, delivered by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub.
Enterprise Fellows each receive up to £75,000 equity-free funding and access to business training, coaching and mentoring support from the network of Fellows from both Academies, with lifetime membership of the Enterprise Hub upon completion of the programme. The Enterprise Fellowship programme is the third most active accelerator in the UK, with five Enterprise Fellows having completed the programme through Enterprise Hub Northern Ireland to date.
Additionally, the two Academies will embark upon mapping, for the first time, the all-island engineering economy, examining where and how engineering is occurring in every Irish county and analysing the strengths and challenges facing local engineering economies. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Economy & Place analysis of the UK has already identified that the engineering economy comprises over a quarter (25.7%) of all employment in Northern Ireland. This includes non-engineering roles in engineering businesses, as well as engineers. Belfast was revealed to have the 8th highest proportion of engineering employment linked to research and development among all 374 local authorities in the UK. Extending the Engineering Economy & Place research across Ireland aims to uncover the impact that engineering delivers to local communities and the all-island economy and to inform future policy decisions about how to share the benefits of engineering across society.
The new initiatives were announced at the inaugural Engineering Economy CEOs Lunch in Belfast that convened industry leaders in Northern Ireland, and follow the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Irish Academy of Engineering to seek opportunities for all-island engineering collaboration.
Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:
“Engineering across the island of Ireland has the potential to address some of the biggest societal, economic and environmental challenges of our time. We hope to foster disruptive spinout companies pioneering new innovations to solve these challenges and provide a framework for local policymakers to boost engineering-led success.
“By working together, the networks of Fellows, Awardees, business mentors and engineering experts from both Academies, with the support of InterTradeIreland, can help to stimulate collaboration not just north and south but also east and west, to maximise the contribution that engineering can make to economic growth and improve outcomes for everyone across our islands.”
The President of the Irish Academy of Engineering, Seamus McKeague FIAE, who is Northern Ireland-based, echoed Sir Jim's comments:
"We in the Irish Academy of Engineering are very much looking forward to working closely with our colleagues in the Royal Academy of Engineering and with the generous support of InterTradeIreland on these two exciting and valuable projects. We also look forward to further strengthening the relationship between the Academies for the benefit of all of Ireland and of these islands."
In support of this project, Margaret Hearty, Chief Executive of InterTradeIreland said:
“InterTradeIreland is delighted to support this initiative in its quest to enhance cross-border collaboration within the engineering sector, leading to even more growth opportunities for engineering businesses and professionals across the island. This partnership will also enable startups in Ireland to avail of the benefits of the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowships.
“I am very much looking forward to seeing the tangible benefits of this partnership as it actively supports emerging engineering startups and spinouts. What is also pivotal to this collaboration is the delivery of all-island engineering research that has potential to identify critical strategic policy and essential business projects that will deliver real value to the engineering sector and wider economy.’’