Third-level institutions are open for business


Guest speaker Minister of State for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen T.D. (on right) with (L-R): Dr. Ann Ledwith, Director, Continuing & Professional Education, UL; Yvonne Delaney, Kemmy Business School, UL; and Dr. Philip O'Regan, Dean of the Kemmy Business School, UL at the recent seminar 'The Role of Education in Supporting Small Business at the University of Limerick.

Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in Ireland are open for business when it comes to supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a seminar at University of Limerick has heard.

Addressing the event for SMEs on The Role of Education in Supporting Small Business, the Minister of State for Employment and Small Business, Deputy Pat Breen stated: “It is well acknowledged that research and development active firms do better in terms of job creation and exports. In fact, what is becoming equally clear is that firms that are not only R&D active but that also collaborate with the Higher Education sector do significantly better again.

“Such collaboration is a win-win outcome in ensuring that SMEs will have the skills to drive their business and employment performance. These skills include entrepreneurial, business, creativity and innovation and the development of a learning culture,” Minister Breen continued.

Jointly hosted by the Kemmy Business School and the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the event brought together small and medium enterprises along with representative bodies, Local Enterprise Offices, Chambers of Commerce, Irish Small and Medium Enterprises association (ISME), Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

The aim of the seminar was to stimulate greater collaboration between third-level institutes and SMEs in relation to research, education and business advice. It presented several cases where SMEs and HEIs have mutually benefited from collaborating.

"Often organisations see third level institutes primarily as place of learning. However, in addition to this, it is a place that readily engages with local businesses offering industry-based research, solutions to problems, specialised equipment and advice that small businesses, can use to increase their expertise and make their organisations more competitive," explained Dr Emma O’Brien, one of the event organisers.

In the Mid West, many SMEs have already availed of the supports offered by UL and Limerick Institute of Technology, such as research expertise, problem solving, supports for new start-ups, innovative skills development and financial business advice.

John Walsh of Shannon Microcoil spoke at the event of his experience collaborating with Dr Mark Southern, Enterprise Research Centre, UL Science and Engineering. Mr Walsh’s company was primarily reliant on the construction sector and through his work with Dr Southern, he has broken into the medical device sector to enable him to grown his company.

Another speaker at the event, Gerry Reynolds, CEO of Takumi spoke of his collaboration with Dr Liam Brown, VP Research, Enterprise and Development at LIT on a number of projects, the most recent of which has assisted the business to grow globally.

According to Mr Reynolds, “Working with the third-level sector has helped to grow our business by 12% in the past couple of years and we will continue to collaborate with LIT”.

Similarly, HEIs benefit from collaborating with local businesses, they gain an awareness of the needs of these organisations, allowing them to adapt their programmes to educate the graduates on the latest skill required to assist them to succeed.

Dr Philip O’Regan, Dean of Kemmy Business School, highlighted to SMEs that “Third-level institutes are open for business for collaboration with SMEs”.

Professor Edmond Magner, Dean of Science and Engineering reinforced this by stating: “To date we have collaborated with more than 70 SMEs and we want this number to continue to grow.”


24 January 2017