IT Sligo has linked up with South West College in Northern Ireland, Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre and Dumfries and Galloway College, on the west coast of Scotland, in a €3.5 million cross-border project aimed at helping small green energy firms to commercialise initial concepts into profitable products.
Scores of small-to-medium sized enterprises (SME) across the West and North-West stand to benefit from the new EU-backed Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST) initiative.
The project is supported by the INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by SEUPB, with match funding provided by Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland.
Although knowledge-transfer between industry and colleges is relatively common, CREST is aimed mainly at firms who are new to the concept, particularly those lacking the resources for exploring the feasibility of a concept, product or process.
The project value to IT Sligo is €380,000, which will enable IT Sligo to engage a programme manager and a technician on contract.
The application for funding under the INTERREG Programme, which has supported many trans-frontier European initiatives in the past 20 years, was led by South West College (SWC). Its headquarters are in Omagh, Co Tyrone. The central CREST offices will be located at its campus in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
CREST will provide facilities for industry Research & Development, demonstration and testing for new renewable energy products and sustainable technologies.
Dr John Bartlett, Head of Research at IT Sligo, said “The facilities will be used by small companies who have ideas for new products but who currently do not have the physical and/or technical capacity to develop, test and commercialise these.”
“Each of the five institutions holds a piece of the overall jigsaw that can support SMEs for the good of both the company and the community, and without regard to borders.”
Dr Bartlett is the lead Principal Investigator for the project at IT Sligo, working alongside his Principal Investigator colleagues, Dr David Tormey and Dr Steve Tonry.
He said: “CREST allows IT Sligo to drive forward our regional development agenda in a way that hasn’t been done heretofore. Across all the partners, we are talking about making contact with around 150 companies, many of whom will never have had any similar outreach contact with a third level institution.”
As well as supplying technical engineering, scientific and design-process expertise, CREST hopes to be a facilitator for SMSs and entrepreneurs to network, share ideas and form their own collaborations or joint ventures.
Dr Bartlett said: “CREST is focusing on renewable energy technologies, and individuals and companies with ‘green’ ideas. Each of the partners has expertise and facilities that it can apply as part of our collaborative network.
“IT Sligo, for instance, has a particular capability in testing and prototyping. SWC is the lead partner in the CREST but, without doubt, the project is the product of more than a decade of very close co-operation between IT Sligo and SWC on a range of renewable energy initiatives, such as waste water management.”
South West College InnoTech Centre Manager Dr Jill Cush said: “Many small companies need different innovation support from those currently available and the physical facilities and equipment to carry out R&D. CREST is about granting these firms access to powerful technology and resources to develop, test and commercialise their ideas.”
Pictured above are; Aaron Black (SWC Omagh), Dr. David Tormey (IT Sligo), Dr John Bartlett, Dr. John Moore (SWC Omagh) and Dr Steve Tonry (IT Sligo).
** The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural funds Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IV designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.