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From robots to replica hearts – what makes these innovative businesses stand out?

21 Feb 2020

InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme has awarded “Exemplar” status to five businesses across the island.

At first glance, this small group of SMEs has very little in common, however dig a little deeper and you’ll discover they’re all bound by the thread of outstanding innovation, assisted by InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme.

This initiative supports business development by partnering companies with a research institution and a graduate project manager, that InterTradeIreland helps to fund. The graduate works directly with the business to deliver new products or improved processes over 12 to 18 months.

“All of these FUSION projects were in very different areas. We had everything from tech firms working in 3D printing and advanced robotics to construction firms and textile manufacturers.

“However, all of the SMEs involved were open to new products and processes. This is what the FUSION programme is about - giving firms the tools to boost their business through innovative collaboration,” says Alan Morrow, Operations Manager at InterTradeIreland.

Between them, the five businesses have reported sales of more than £2.2 million and savings of over £150K during their FUSION projects. Combined, they have anticipated sales of upwards of £14 million and savings of £400K over the next three years.

“Participating in FUSION has made a real difference to each of the firms in terms of developing and delivering new opportunities, new revenue streams and new efficiencies,” comments Alan.

Belfast’s Axial3D started its FUSION project to improve its capability to print paediatric cardiac anatomy in 3D. It was partnered with Professor Kathleen Curran in UCD and paired up with graduate James Fitzpatrick. As a result of this cutting-edge collaboration, the firm has developed new technology, entered a new market and won new sales. This has led to its staff numbers growing from 14 to 24.

Reamda makes smart robots for the defence sector. Based in Kerry in Ireland, it joined forces with North West Regional College and graduate Thomas Coleman. This partnership helped Reamda increase its sales, develop its product range and win new work.

Hawthorn Heights in Eglinton in Northern Ireland specialises in the design and installation of play parks. It worked with Sligo Institute of Technology and graduate Ciaran Farren. This innovative injection, helped the SME to double its turnover. It has now had to move to bigger premises.

Building firm, O’Reilly Concrete in Cavan, working with graduate Gurupad Guruprassad Bhat and Southern Regional College developed a new type of modular style wall panel for domestic homes, that improves insulation performance.

Hanna Hats is a third generation firm in Donegal that has been in business for nearly 100 years. The SME was partnered with North West Regional College and graduate Rachel Blackensee. The trio introduced new technology and a new product range, which has helped to re-assert Hanna Hats as an exclusive manufacturer in international markets.

Margaret Hearty, Director of Operations at InterTradeIreland concludes,

"It’s important that we celebrate the success of these SMEs. We are delighted to support ambitious companies across the island that are committed to innovation. All of these companies have showcased the success and commercial benefits that come from collaboration. The results speak for themselves and we would encourage other SMEs who want to build innovation into their business to apply for our FUSION programme."

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