Enterprise Ireland announces €750k Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fund to drive collaboration between SMEs and the public sector

14th October, 2019

Pictured, L-R: Safecility’s Cian O Flaherty; Enterprise Ireland’s Head of Innovation and Competitiveness, Tom Kelly and Enterprise Ireland’s Small Business Innovation Research Manager, Marguerite Bourke.

50,000 users benefitting from Irish SBIR-funded innovations according to survey

A €750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fund was announced by Enterprise Ireland in Dublin today at a conference attended by representatives from 56 public sector bodies. This is SBIR Ireland’s third competitive call to state agencies, county councils and local authorities who are seeking solutions to a diverse range of public Challenges.

SBIR encourages the Irish public sector to partner with innovation-led businesses and explore unique solutions, through competitive SBIR Challenges. The public sector body procures research and development to progress the idea and co-designs the innovative solutions with the awarded companies. Enterprise Ireland co-funds successful Challenges.

A recent survey of 42 SMEs who were awarded funding in previous Challenges shows that 50,000 users are benefiting from SBIR-funded innovations in Ireland. The surveyed companies report 27 new jobs created and a further 88 existing jobs retained. More than four out of five (84%) companies have managed to leverage additional funding as a direct result of the SBIR Challenge. Almost two-thirds (64%) of innovations are still in the pre-commercial phase, so these figures are expected to increase as the companies further develop and scale their product or service.

To date, Enterprise Ireland, through SBIR Ireland, has supported 20 Challenges in collaboration with local authorities, government departments and agencies including; illegal dumping, solutions to rural transport and engaging ‘unheard voices’ in communities.

Speaking at the conference, Enterprise Ireland’s Head of Innovation and Competitiveness Division, Tom Kelly said, “Driving innovation in our client companies is a key priority for Enterprise Ireland. Through programmes like SBIR, SMEs can help tackle societal problems and develop innovative solutions through strategic collaborations with public sector bodies. Since 2014, contracts worth a total of over €1 million have been awarded to 69 companies by public sector bodies, as part of the SBIR programme. The Challenges, identified by the public sector body, are particularly suited to small and medium sized businesses, accelerating their route to commercialisation and providing them with a vital first reference site. I look forward to seeing the solutions harnessed from the Challenges and welcome applications from across the public sector.”

Commenting ahead of the event, Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive, Owen Keegan said, “Through the SBIR mechanism we have been able to engage the market and partner with over 30 SMEs that have collaborated with the city council to help solve Challenges such as flooding, increasing cycling, addressing last mile deliveries and growing smarter mobility solutions. As a direct result of the funding we have been able to co-design solutions and create new market opportunities for the companies that have partnered with us. The impact for us has been a change of culture internally, but it has also helped accelerate the adoption of new technologies. We would highly recommend the SBIR programme for any local authority or public service organisation.”

Safecility was awarded an SBIR by Limerick City and County Council, on the ‘Solutions to deal with fire safety and universal access in historic buildings’ Challenge. Cian O Flaherty of Safecility said, “The SBIR process allows us to develop products to solve Challenges facing the public sector in a collaborative way. It is a fantastic opportunity to work with real problem owners who cannot solve public problems with products currently on the market. In Limerick, we are developing innovative fire safety solutions for historic buildings that will have a global impact and receive payment for the innovation work. This is a win-win for start-ups looking to make a big impact on global problems and has been an excellent experience for our team.”

Co-funded by Enterprise Ireland and the awarded public sector body, each SBIR Challenge will be worth a minimum of €200,000 in funding. The call is open until 4 December 2019. Up to five SBIR Challenges will be awarded and will be announced in early 2020. 

For information on SBIR and the live call see www.sbirireland.ie


Notes to Editor:

In 2017/18 the following Irish SBIR Challenges were approved:

  • Office of Public Works (OPW): Challenge to create a Virtual History of Dublin City. The overall aim of this project is to develop a 3D model of historic buildings and centres in Dublin city.
  • Clare County Council: Challenge to develop solutions for Rural Transport. Ireland has the highest road network length per capita in the EU and the most dispersed pattern of rural dwelling.
  • Dublin City Council: Challenge to reduce Last Mile delivery in the city. The aim is to optimize freight and cargo deliveries in a way that is acceptable for businesses and better for citizens and the environment. Essentially, the aim is to redesign goods delivery in the city.
  • Four local Dublin authorities: Challenge to create a Smart Mobility Hub. The aim is to reduce the number of vehicles in the urban city centre with a vision of a pedestrian friendly, cycle friendly, and liveable city. The solution will replace/reduce single occupancy vehicles, reduce co2 emissions, and stimulate the market to develop new ideas.
  • Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council: Challenge seeks solutions to facilitate connections over an ‘Internet of Things’ frequency mesh network. The aim is to optimize the IOT network to allow connectivity and communications over all networks and infrastructure.
  • Department of Public Expenditure & Reform: Challenge to create an Assisted Digital for Government. DPR is seeking an innovative solution to support the use of the government digital services. Solutions should enable interaction via a variety of means such as telephone, mobile device, multiple languages and be of no cost to end users, futureproof, portable, and user friendly.
  • Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Challenge is to tackle and prevent Diabetes. The diabetes Challenges will specifically target two areas: reducing the risk of women developing Type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes; and screening for diabetic foot disease in all patients with diabetes.
  • Limerick County Council’s Challenge consists of finding innovative solutions to address Fire Safety and Universal Access in Historic Buildings. This aims to target urban regeneration through active and meaningful engagement of key stakeholders.
  • Fingal County Council’s Challenge is to encourage the engagement of Unheard Voices in Local Authority decision-making. This Challenge seeks to support experimentation into low cost innovative technological solutions going beyond the range of conventional consultation mechanisms in the form of products, social technologies, or digital tools to help involve communities in decision-making about the future of their place.



For further information, please contact:

Jean Laura McKitterick

Press Office

Enterprise Ireland

Laura McKitterick

01 727 2935

Brigid Burke

Press Office

Enterprise Ireland

Brigid Burke

01 727 2430