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Four regional SMEs win top innovation awards

12 Apr 2021

Four companies have been recognised for outstanding innovation by InterTradeIreland, as part of its all-island programme, Innovation Boost.

Innovation Boost is a cross-border initiative that matches third level institutions with SMEs that are seeking to innovate. The programme also funds a graduate to work in the business for the duration of the project.

Together the four businesses awarded “Exemplar” status have reported sales of over a quarter of a million euro and savings of €640,000 as a direct result of their Innovation Boost project. During the next three years, combined sales are projected to grow to upwards of €1.5 million, with predicted savings of over €2 million.

Congratulating the companies, Alan Morrow, Assistant Director at InterTradeIreland said, “The success of the winning SMEs is a great example of what the Innovation Boost programme is about - giving firms the tools to boost their business though innovative collaboration.”

“Innovation is the way to unlock growth. You can also directly address challenges in your business by harnessing programmes like Innovation Boost to solve existing problems. It can even help you to anticipate future obstacles and mitigate them. It will assist you to develop solutions.”

“This year, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation were the key strands to emerge from the winning projects. The successful SMEs were hungry to develop their expertise in these areas, and so applied to work with third level institutions and graduates with knowledge in these fields. Real innovation is not only happening in the cities and in global companies, it’s also happening in SMEs dotted right across the island."

The four winning projects are:

Innovative Total Solutions, based in Middleton Co Cork

This innovative SME has built a new product, which could have a significant impact on production lines globally. The family owned manufacturer, in collaboration with Queen’s University in Belfast, has designed a robot that uses vision to operate. This ability to “see” means the robot can identify random parts within a production line and put them in a known location. This has a wide application for a number of industries globally, including the automotive, plastic moulding and medical device sectors.

KORE from Kilnaleck in Co Cavan

Managing Director Noel Brady said participation in the Innovation Boost programme has made a real difference to the growth of the business, which manufactures insulation for the new build and retrofit market. He said, “We’ve produced two new products as a result of Innovation Boost. Working with South West Regional College has opened so many doors. It’s great to get outside input. This type of collaboration has given us even more confidence to go out, seek more solutions for our clients, and generate more products. We’ve embedded what we’ve learned into the business and we will continue to innovate and more forward.”

Midland Steel in Mountmellick, Co Laois

The family owned manufacturer supplies offsite reinforced steel products to building projects in the UK and Ireland. The firm was matched with graduate Conor Dolan and the academic team from the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s University in Belfast. This collaboration gave Midland Steel access to 3Dprinting and advanced robotics, which has helped them to develop new and innovative processes - cementing its position as an industry leader in its sector.

CBE in Claremorris, Co Mayo

Covid-19 has accelerated the move from cash to card and contactless. CBE in Claremorris was already preparing for this trend, when the pandemic hit. It has now developed new technology, which is among a world first for garage forecourts.

TJ McHugh, the firm’s R&D director says “With Covid-19 we realised that self-service checkouts would be more popular than ever, however, for forecourts no solution existed to purchase fuel in the same transaction as your groceries. We teamed up with InterTradeIreland to develop new technology, in conjunction with Ulster University. Now we’ve designed that solution. It’s already being used in multiple forecourts across the UK and Ireland.”

For the academics who work on the projects in conjunction with the businesses, it is often a very rewarding experience when they see research put into action.

John Spillane from the University of Limerick worked on an Innovation Boost project with a firm across the border in Northern Ireland. He was keen to point out the benefits for businesses when they link up with external partners, “The level of knowledge which is housed in third level education and research institutions up and down the country, is a resource which is largely untapped by industry. These institutions provide a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

“Just reach out to InterTradeIreland and they will link you to suitable academic partners, who have a mutual interest in the areas that you are keen to explore and develop.”

It is a statement that Alan Morrow wholeheartedly agrees with, “As you can see from the geographic span of the winning SMEs, we work with businesses right across the island.”

“We understand that Covid-19 has caused challenges for many firms. If you’re keen to bring cutting-edge innovation to your business but you’re not sure where to start, you should think about the Innovation Boost programme. It is straightforward to apply for and you get funding for specialist help. The 18 month support package is worth up to €67,900. Ultimately it can improve productivity, sales, revenue and increase your businesses potential.”

For further information on InterTradeIreland and the business supports available, please visit

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