AKTS Highlights Strong Performance in Knowledge Transfer in 2020

  • 3681 new engagements with public research - up 39% on previous year
  • Three quarters of R&D agreements are with Irish SMEs
  • Record number of spin-out company acquisitions (9) with a combined value of €7.9m

Knowledge Transfer Ireland has announced the results of their Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey (AKTS) 2020. The AKTS is an annual scorecard for Ireland’s knowledge transfer community and assesses the status of collaboration between industry and publicly funded research in Ireland. 

According to findings in the AKTS, 39 new products or services were launched to market in 2020 through collaboration between industry and publicly funded research. This figure was up 13 from 2019’s figures. The products and services launched in 2020, which provide solutions to real-world problems in  diverse fields such as diagnostics, energy, digitalisation and plant varieties, bring to 247 the number brought to market since Knowledge Transfer Ireland began publishing the AKTS in 2013.  

Research and development activity continues to be a priority for Irish businesses, with a total of 3,681 new engagements with Irish public research in 2020, representing a 39% increase on the previous year. Irish SMEs continue to have a strong appetite for engaging in research, development, and innovation with three quarters of collaboration agreements between industry and publicly funded research originating from Irish SMEs.

Spin-out companies, formed from Irish universities, Institutes of Technology (IoTs) and other publicly funded research bodies, also grew in 2020 with 30 new spin-outs formed. There are a total of 128 Active Spin-outs that are three or more years in existence, and these companies employ 1,112 people. Nine companies that started life as university spin-outs were acquired in 2020, with a combined value of €7.9m, underlining the attractiveness of Irish spin-outs to external investment.

Innovation in practice – Inferneco

Inferneco is an innovative Irish company that identified a new means of sanitising glass neck drinking bottles within the hospitality industry. These bottles are usually visually clean but not sanitised and unless the cap is fully removed. Inferneco identified a novel solution using UV light and worked with the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway, Design+ based at IT Carlow to explore how this might be brought to market.

They developed a new concept that would be able to sanitise a bottle within two seconds and include a safe sealing system so as not to expose the user to UV light. The project worked with other teams in Waterford and Cork to develop device functionality. Last year the product was licenced, and now has eight prototypes. These are being used to approach multiple international breweries to raise funding to bring the research to the next phase.

Alison Campbell, Director Knowledge Transfer Ireland, said:

“Events of the last 18 months have shown how vital an engaged and proactive knowledge transfer community is. With significant increases in live collaboration projects, new products and services launched, and new jobs in spin out companies to name a few, it is clear that Irish enterprise recognises the very real part that working with the third level on R&D can play in helping them innovate their business for the future. The continued engagement of the SME sector is particularly notable as we know that those who collaborate with the third-level on R&D are proven to be more competitive than those who don’t.”

The 2020 Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey is available in full here.