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Cover Photo: Co-labelling of Interstitial Cells of Cajal (ICC) and smooth muscle cells (SMC). Nucelii are shown in blue. Smooth Muscle Research Centre

regional development centre

the link issue two summer 2008

inside: Creating the Entrepreneurial Graduate, Research the Key to Success and more . . .



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Welcome to our second issue of LINK the newsletter of the Regional Development Centre (RDC) based at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT).

Foreword by Irene McCausland

The last few months have been a busy time with several new programme proposals successfully attracting significant additional funding to DkIT and the RDC, from major sources at home and internationally.

News in Brief

The RDC has now secured major Irene McCausland, RDC Manager funding from the Strategic Innovation Fund from the Higher Education Authority, with match funding from a number of Institutes, for a three year Campus Entrepreneurship programme. This aims to create a more entrepreneurial culture amongst students and academics.

Creating the

Entrepreneurial Graduate

The programme will be led by DkIT. It will involve a joint collaboration with four other key academic institutions across Ireland, the three Institutes of Technology at Blanchardstown, Cork and Sligo and the National University of Ireland in Galway.

Research - The Key to Success

Research continues to play a crucial role in the life of the RDC. We house some of the most important research centres in Ireland, including the Smooth Muscle Research Centre, the Centre for Renewable Energy (CREDIT) and the Netwell Centre.

A Fusion of Minds

Links between the faculties and the research centres at DkIT are helping to create a pool of talented scientists in the North East region. This can only improve the economic prospects of the region and put DkIT firmly on the map as a centre of research excellence.

Smooth Muscle Research Centre

Collaboration between companies and the third level academic sector is internationally recognised as the proven path to successful innovation in business.

The Regional Development Centre (RDC) is a centre to promote innovation, technology transfer and enterprise in the wider region and is based on the DkIT Campus. The centre receives generous funding from the following organisations

We have helped client companies to access funding for applied research projects from partner organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and Intertrade Ireland, which has allowed them to work with the academic knowledge and specialisms of DkIT itself.

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Our Novation Enterprise Platform Programme (NEPP) continues to support business start-ups and a number of new local companies are growing fast with this support.

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For existing local companies, a new pilot Novation Business Growth Programme funded by FÁS, the Training and Employment Authority has started for businesses to innovate and overcome obstacles to their growth. Nine regional companies have joined the pilot ‘One Step Up’, which offers specialist in-house help over a six month period. We hope that you continue to enjoy this and future editions of the LINK. If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the magazine, or if you would like to be included on the mailing list, please email


News in Brief The research based Nestling Project at the Netwell Centre in the RDC in Dundalk, has two new staff ‘Cúltaca,’ which means ‘shared supporter’ or advocate.

New project mentors (Cúltaca) Pat Kerins and Ann Marron.who have joined the Nestling Project at the Netwell Centre in the RDC

Pat Kerins and Ann Marron have new advocacy roles within the project, which aims to improve care and services for our increasingly elderly population.

Innovation help for local SME’s

“We will be listening to the views of Dundalk seniors and working with other statutory and voluntary bodies and service providers, to share their views and needs for care provision,” said Ann.

Spotlight on Border Region Multimedia Production

Senator Dominic Hannigan with directors Fiona Ashe & Peter Sheridan at “Crossing Borders” in Drogheda

The RDC is piloting a new Novation Business Growth Programme for local SME’s where nine companies receive assistance over a six months period, to help them remove barriers to their growth. Each company receives a total of 16 days of specialist help inhouse, to find practical ways to

improve and innovate. The Programme has received funding from FÁS, through its One Step Up Initiative. The RDC would be happy to hear from any companies interested in joining future Programmes.

The growth in film, TV and multimedia production in the Border Region was highlighted by a recent film showcase in Drogheda. ‘Crossing Borders’ at the Droichead Arts Centre, featured short films by local film

Directors. It was organised by Fiona Ashe of Ashe Productions, a New Media Factory graduate from The Bright Room, DkIT and one of the new film production companies based in the RDC.

New funding for water resources in Uganda DkIT’s National Centre for Freshwater Studies together with the Department of Nursing and the Centre for Renewable Energy at DkIT (CREDIT), have secured €1.5million of funding from the HEA and Irish Aid Programme for Strategic Co-operation between Irish Aid and Higher Education and Research Institutes. The programme will be led from DkIT by Dr. Suzanne Linnane,

Director of the National Centre for Freshwater Studies. It will develop collaborative research in a partnership with a number of academic institutions across Ireland and the world, into the development of sustainable water resource management in Uganda, as a catalyst for sustainable economic and social development.

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New ‘Cúltaca’or Mentors for Dundalk Senior Citizens


the Entrepreneurial Gradu

‘Major funding has been secured by the Regional Development Centre for an innovative programme at Dunda (DkIT), which could change the ambitions of graduates to embrace entrepreneurship and generate business op It seems that despite being one of the most entrepreneurial countries in Europe, with over 7.4% of the adult population actively planning or running a business, it is now recognised that graduates and students are a group that don’t always consider setting up their own businesses when they graduate.


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Many lack confidence, some lack the ideas or skills, but most just don’t consider being an employer, instead of an employee at that stage in their lives.


The publication of the Forfàs report ‘Towards Developing an Entrepreneurial Policy for Ireland’ in 2007, called for an even more entrepreneurial society and recognised the opportunities education could provide to increase awareness to students. This followed the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report from 2006, which showed that the higher the level of educational attainment, the higher the ability of people to be entrepreneurial, making the link between an entrepreneurial culture and the adoption of this by academic institutions a real necessity.

The Regional Development Centre (RDC), based at the DkIT campus, had been looking at ways to increase the awareness and skills of the students and graduates for some time. The Centre set up a Student Innovators Club to support students with innovative business ideas and had also put in place during 2007-08 a Student Intern Mary Larkin, who has been very pro-active in encouraging peer students to think about ideas of entrepreneurship and business opportunities. The RDC has now secured major funding from the Strategic Innovation Fund from the Higher Education Authority with match funding from a number of the Institutes, for a three year Campus Entrepreneurship programme aimed at creating a more entrepreneurial culture amongst students and academics. Denis Cummins President of DkIT explained. “The programme will be led by DkIT as a joint collaboration with four other key academic institutions across Ireland, the three Institutes of Technology at Blanchardstown, Cork, Sligo and the National University of Ireland in Galway. We will be working closely

with the RDC and will also have strong support from our Board of Advisers, an impressive group of successful entrepreneurs and academics.” “We will be aiming to embed entrepreneurship across the curriculum, which may eventually lead to a series of modules in entrepreneurship, with possibly a minor additional award alongside the students existing degree,” he added. “DkIT was the first Institute to have an enterprise organisation such as the Regional Development Centre based at its Campus. It has been a driving force in the economic growth of the region and in identifying and creating business opportunities for our students, graduates and academics.” “The Novation Enterprise Platform Programme (NEPP) which runs at the RDC, is a great forum for fledgling companies developing new business ideas and has been very successful over the last six years,” he said. “The new Campus Entrepreneurship Initiative has been led by a consortium of contributing organisations and partner Institutes, but here at DkIT, Irene McCausland

and Sean MacEntee from the RDC, have really taken the lead.” Irene McCausland spoke about how the new programme came about. “When we carried out research with new students at the start of their degree courses, 12½% said that they would like to set up their own business at the end of their study. At graduation, follow-up research showed this figure had dwindled to only 4%, with most graduates at this time expecting to work for someone else.” “We hope that the new programme will help to lift this final figure with significantly more students looking at ways that they can develop their technical and knowledge based skills into new businesses.” “Working with our client’s fledgling businesses through the Incubation Units here at the RDC and through some of the many business support programmes, we recognised that it is possible to learn the entrepreneurial and innovation skills that would help graduates in a future business set-up,” added Irene. “We are also lucky to have so many excellent research programmes

Bright Ideas


Student Intern

Irene McCausland, External Services Manager, Regional Development Centre

Mary Larkin with Ronan Dennedy Louth Enterprise Week


alk Institute of Technology pportunities.’ based at DkIT and the RDC, where graduates can study for Masters Degrees, increasing their specialist skills further and so increasing knowledge that could also lead to new and innovative business ideas.” “The programme is now in the first research phase, where new aspects of the programme will be identified and will start to slot into the student curriculum from September 2009. The faculties of Informatics and Engineering would benefit first from entrepreneurial knowledge and awareness. Over the next year we will be carrying out training at the Institute, linking with the experiences of our joint collaborators across Ireland and encouraging adoption of the new culture of entrepreneurship throughout the Institute.” “Our biggest challenges will be to get ‘buy-in’ from across the Institute. Pressures of academic work in already tight curricula will create some issues to address, but we must set an example of entrepreneurship and be innovative about how we include new topics and materials without detracting from the students own course of study,” she said.

Student Intern Mary Larkin helps students to think positively about starting a business. Masters student Mary Larkin is flying the flag for entrepreneurship at DkIT since taking on her new role as Student Enterprise Intern at the start of the academic year 2007. Helping fellow students to think about business and self-employment as an option when they leave the Institute, Mary has played a very important role in

a day and creating a concept marketing task.

The ‘Rookie Challenge’ attracted similar attention. 32 teams entered the apprentice style competition with the aim of winning the grand prize of €4,000 and a trip to the International Student Enterprise Summit held in Dundee. The competition ran over a four day period with the teams facing different tasks each day, ranging from a hard sell, creating an advertising campaign for a never before seen product, starting and operating a business for

A second Student Enterprise Intern, Ronan Lynch a Creative Multimedia Student, has been appointed for the start of term in September 2008. With two interns on board DkIT hopes to reach an even greater number of students to promote and increase awareness of entrepreneurship.

Mary talked about her new role. ‘My whole family are quite entrepreneurial running amongst other businesses a family shop in Greenore. I suppose that I have grown up with the idea that one day I would start a business of my own. I haven’t yet decided what this will be but I’m certain that this is the way that I want to go in the future,’ she added.

DkIT’s Student Enterprise Intern Programme is supported by the Louth County Enterprise Board.

Students Start Innovative Business

James & Rob - Neuralcore

DkIT student entrepreneurs, James Moran and Rob Mullen have set up an innovative business, Neuralcore Technologies, making custom built computers for the specialist high end users market. Electronic Engineering and Product Design graduates James and Rob set up their niche business whilst still students. They developed their idea after being asked to build a new computer for a friend who couldn’t find the specialist system that he was looking for elsewhere.

Rob and James had joined the DkIT Innovators Club as students, where they met Sean MacEntee, Novation Manager at the RDC and signed up for a 12 week preincubation enterprise summer programme called BIG, Border Innovation Gateway. This gave them training and also advice from their BIG mentor, Aidan Devenney on all the issues that they needed to turn their hobby and knowledge of computer technology into a realistic business, from marketing and finance, to legislation and patent issues. “Although we had specialist skills and a love of computers, we were still students and not very business minded. The BIG programme made us take the time to look at what running a business meant for us and think in an entrepreneurial way,” explained James.

“We also got access to BIG workspace here at the RDC, which we needed as we were running out of space building computers at home,” he added. Aidan Devenney explained, “They spotted a niche market in a technology based sector and then the programme gave them the tools they needed to manage the development of their innovative ideas.” The BIG programme is running a Summer Boot Camp for entrepreneurs seeking to develop their business idea. For more information contact one of the BIG centres: - Regional Development Centre DkIT, Dundalk, 042 933 1161 - Greenshoots Newry Ltd +44(0)28 3026 5402 - Southern Regional College (Portadown Campus) +44(0)28 3839 7778

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Denis Cummins President of DkIT

raising awareness about what makes an entrepreneur. During her first year in the role, Mary has helped to organise competitions, speakers to talk about topics such as ‘Making Hobbies Work for you’, and some fun student challenges. One highly successful challenge was the ’€10 Challenge’, where students had to invest €10 in a business of their choice and see who could generate the most money at the end of the challenge.

Voucher for Research – Eurolec Instrumentation The Enterprise Ireland Voucher Scheme funds smaller shortterm research projects with a maximum funding of €5000 to research solutions to very individual problems.

Research - The The Regional Development Centre is helping innovation projects linking with the specialist institutions, through three schemes funded by

An Innovation Partnership Collaboration between companies and the third level academic sector is internationally recognised as the proven path to successful innovation in business. Tom Mears from Eurolec and Marie-Louise Lambon from Stem

Dundalk company Eurolec Instrumentation Ltd has taken part in Enterprise Ireland Voucher Scheme to research software solutions for the business, after being introduced to the scheme by the team at the RDC. Tom Mears of Eurolec explained, “We manufacture ranges of pressure and temperature instrumentation, including temperature probes using infra-red technology used for example in laboratories and the food processing industry.” “Most of the instrumentation is used in sectors which require annual calibration certification. We were suffering from ‘growing pains’ and needed a computer based monitoring system that would track when each instrument required re-certification and remind customers about this.” “Through the Voucher Scheme, the RDC helped us organise the project and locate the best researcher for our needs. Peter Gosling from DkIT, developed software that perfectly met our needs. We received the Voucher for the project directly from Enterprise Ireland and the scheme was very easy to use”.


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Peter has also carried out another piece of research for the company, funded by a second Enterprise Ireland Voucher. This additional software application has created a pre-sales order system for quote preparation, which raises the purchase order and integrates with the first system developed by Peter.


Eurolec have recently applied for a 3rd Innovation Voucher to develop an innovative, modular concept, microprocessor driven range of instruments. Pat O’Brien of Enterprise Ireland said, “We have issued 600 vouchers since June 2007, which has allowed a lot more companies to innovate change . The funding of €5000 is a small sum, but very useful to businesses to identify smaller but important short-term projects”. Involvement in the Innovation Voucher Scheme paved the way for Eurolec Instrumentation Ltd. to join in the Novation Business Growth Programme which is funded and promoted by FÁS and the RDC with specialist consultants Targeting Innovation Ltd. Eurolec plan to continue their development programme to introduce new innovative instruments for niche market applications.

Peter Roe of BBE Healthcare, with researcher Margita Douderova and Sean MacEntee from the RDC

Today’s open markets demand new cutting edge products and services. Recognising that innovation is the key to achieving this, Enterprise Ireland established the Innovation Partnerships Initiative, to enable technology based companies to undertake high level applied research to develop innovative new products, or processes. Three Partners in the research initiative, the participating company, the academic institute and Enterprise Ireland each play a distinct role and are brought together in the Dundalk area by the Regional Development Centre, (RDC) based at DkIT. Enterprise Ireland provides funding towards the costs of employing a researcher, some additional costs and the costs of the academic institute up to a maximum of €500,000. The company invests the remaining portion of the salary for the researcher. The third level academic institute, such as DkIT provides the Academic Partner and facilitates the partnership process.


A Fusion of Minds

businesses to tackle applied research and expertise from Ireland’s academic Enteprise Ireland and Intertrade Ireland.

– BBE Healthcare One company in the final stages of an 18 month Innovation Partnership research project is BBE Healthcare, a specialist manufacturer of rehabilitation and support appliances for conditions such as curvature of the spine, or scoliosis. The Dundalk based company focuses on orthotic and prosthetic appliances supplying directly to hospitals and medical centres, including the world renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Managing Director, Peter Roe spoke about the research. “We are looking for new thermo-plastic composite materials and polymers to use in our range of spinal braces to make them lighter, thinner and breathe more easily. For the children who wear these during their teenage years, the more comfortable and less obvious they are under clothing, the more the spinal braces will be worn. This results in a better success rate for the child at the end of their treatment.” “Already we are beginning to see some materials showing the real advantages that we were hoping for,” he added. “These will now have to undergo special material testing and checked for suitability to the manufacturing processes. Then there will be clinical trials, before we can go into full production with the new braces.”

Colum Surginor, (researcher, SK Electrical) with Eoin Clancey (CREDIT) and Simon Poland, (Fusion Manager, SK Electrical)

FUSION is InterTrade Ireland’s all-island technology transfer initiative that gives companies access to the wealth of expertise and facilities in academic facilities across the island of Ireland, allowing them to make strategic advances in innovation and capability. SK Electrical, in Newcastle, Co Down are six months into an eighteen month Fusion project. The company is an electrical safety testing specialist, providing a testing service for fixed installation and portable appliances, to meet health and safety obligations. The cross-border Fusion project, has linked the company with the academic research facilities at DkIT, where the Centre for Renewable Energy (CREDIT) is providing specialist advice and technical knowledge. Project Manager Paul MacArtain and Eoin Clancy from CREDIT, are supervising the research. Researcher Colum Surginor has been working at SK Electrical on the project to enable standards and benchmarks to be established for the use of infra-red thermal imaging in the built environment. Colum’s own background in architecture and work with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for over 12 years, has meant that he was ideally placed to undertake this project.

“It has been fantastic working with the research and development capacity of DkIT. As a small company, we couldn’t have carried out this level of research, or afforded the specialist assistance without all the help and funding we have received.”

The research will pay particular attention to heat loss and energy flux through building materials using thermal imaging to determine insulation characteristics, instead of relying on the absolute surface temperature as found thermographically.

“The RDC have made the whole process very straightforward. They organised the planning and submission process for the funding, advertised for the researcher, carried out interviews and have maintained overall administration for the Partnership throughout.”

Simon Poland, SK Electrical, talked about how the need for the research came about. “We had used thermal imaging to identify hot spots in circuitry for some years, but it became apparent that the technology can also be used to give a much truer picture of energy loss in buildings. The unique part of the Fusion research programme is to quantify this to provide a value for the loss.”

Specialist PhD researcher, Margita Douderova from the Czech Republic has been working on this project with BBE since March 2007. Margita graduated from Czech Technical University, Prague with a first degree in Materials Science and has been examining the whole aspect of suitable materials. Sean MacEntee spoke about the role of the RDC in the Partnerships. “We help to match the specialist academic knowledge available to meet the innovation needs of our local companies. We are very lucky to have such a wealth of academic specialists here at DkIT, who can benefit technology based businesses.”

“We have recently launched a new division of the company SK Energy Solutions, or SKES which will be able to take advantage of this new technology to offer the commercial and residential energy assessments,” he added. “This technology will be a very useful tool at the earliest planning and design stages of buildings, to improve energy efficiency and avoid future energy losses,” added Colum. SK Electrical is one of 15 Northern Ireland SMEs who have benefited from DkITs diverse expertise through the Fusion Programme. This number is expected to grow rapidly in the near future.

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– SK Electrical


Key to Success

Single cell research holds the key to future The Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) set up in 2005 is based at the Regional Development Centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology. It currently represents the largest group of researchers studying the physiology and electrophysiology of smooth muscle in Ireland and the UK. The team of senior researchers, who have more than three decades of experience in this area includes four Principal Investigators, Prof McHale, Drs Thornbury, Sergeant and Hollywood, a Senior Research Fellow, a visiting Professor, three Post-Doctoral Fellows, five PhD students and two research technicians. Their research on single smooth muscle cells such as those in the lymphatic, urogenital, erectile, gastric and cardiovascular smooth muscles, is currently concentrating on examining the mechanisms that underlie and modulate contractile activity, or excitability in tissues.

element design


[t] 042 9327943

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Mark Hollywood, Principal Investigator into urethral physiology and novel ion channel modulators talked about the work of the centre. “First we have to study how healthy individual cells work and then look at the way disease alters this process. By understanding this, we can move towards the development of effective ‘magic bullet’ drugs with fewer side-effects, that can target different conditions such as urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, lymphoedema, arthritis and uretic obstruction.”


Noel McHale, Principal Investigator for lymphoedema and arthritis spoke about the benefits of being based at DkIT. “It is very stimulating to be based at an academic institution with such an entrepreneurial culture. This has encouraged us to look at the practical and commercial ideas and innovations that result from our research. It also has changed the way that we make research information available. We would now ensure that we protect the intellectual property of the commercially sensitive information that we have discovered before submitting it for publication.” “Our applied research is leading to the development of better pharmacological solutions for certain medical conditions. We will pass on the research into these beneficial compounds to the biopharma industry to develop and trial new medication which should subsequently benefit patients,” he explained. One other centre in the UK in Oxford is looking at similar smooth muscle research and worldwide the only other centres are based in Japan and the US. Last summer, the SMRC hosted an international meeting of fellow scientists from these centres to discuss current findings and applications.

Dr. Hollywood, Dr. Sergeant and Prof. McHale with the Smooth Muscle Research Team

The Centre has just won additional grant funding to continue to expand their valuable research. This will fund two additional Masters students for two years and will link with graduates from the DkIT first degrees in Bioscience and Pharmaceutical Science. Noel McHale explained, “It is a great opportunity for graduates to be able to continue their studies up to Masters and PhD level, without having to leave the area.”

“We are establishing a strong reputation for the calibre of our research and our graduates and postgraduates here at DkIT.” “There are now plans by the IDA to attract Biopharma companies to the area, because of the knowledge pool here, with new land zoned for new industrial development close to the Institute,” he added. Edel Healy, Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery, Health Studies and Applied Sciences oversees three major research centres at DkIT, the Smooth Muscle Centre, the National Centre for Freshwater Studies and the Netwell Centre which looks at age and health related issues in the community. “All of the research centres based here benefit the academic school because of the links with them for student placements, the opportunities for further academic study up to PhD level and the promotion of a research based and innovation culture.” “DkIT are helping to create a pool of talented scientists in the Dundalk area which can only improve the economic prospects of the region and put DkIT firmly on the map as a centre of research excellence,” she added. Such is the importance of the research at the SMRC, that by 2012 the team will have expanded significantly, with Principals increasing to nine and the additional team will expanding to over 20. The Centre plans to expand their state of the art laboratory facilities later this year to provide additional workspace for their increasing team.

The Link Issue 2  

Enterprise Support and Development, Innovation and Research at the Regional Development Centre.