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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Keystone Column containing business stories and public procurement opportunities that drive the commercial strategy of ambitious companies. This week, we look at the how innovative solutions can unlock massive potential for local communities and the Irish software industry.

Business stories – Work local, reach global

This month saw the opening of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, one of rural Cork’s innovative solutions to the challenge of providing digital employment outside of major urban areas. Its a shared office space with a 1 gigabit (Gbps) internet connection thanks to Siro, a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone. Dovetailing with the National Broadband Plan, Siro is targeting 15 regional population centres outside of Ireland’s big cities. Skibbereen is the first such town to be wired and is calling itself “Ireland’s first Gigatown”.

Housed in a former cinema and bakery, the Ludgate Hub is a shared workspace for up to 75 people. It was established without any government funding – the €1 million needed to get the facility up and running was raised by the community. The hub has 20 permanent tenants and more than 100 members who use it on a part-time basis, and is being held up as a model for other regional centres.

Interesting trends – great potential impeded by low ambition

Fleetmatics, an Irish software company we featured in the Keystone Column, was recently bought for $2.4bn by Verizon. Writing in Silicon Republic, John Kennedy presents an excellent analysis, both of the potential to create Irish software giants, and the of the challenges that need to be overcome. While its true that the small size of the local market means that ambitious Irish start-ups often have to look abroad, the sad truth is that many of the barriers that hinder the development of indigenous SMEs are the result of ambivalence on the part of our own government and public sector.

Even more frustrating is the fact that solving many of these challenges does not require extra spending. For instance, Kennedy notes that the Irish Government rarely buys from indigenous start-ups, presenting reputational problems overseas. He provided the example of a start-up selling medical software to a hospital in America which was asked: “If your own government isn’t buying from you, why should we?”

Unfortunately, this is an experience we too have seen encountered by many of our clients. And the impact is more than reputational: a public contract is a dependable source of income (the government always pays its bills) that can provide a platform for growth and unlock credit for SME’s and start-ups. Consider these three facts:

  1. In excess of €15bn will be spent this year on procuring goods and services by the Irish public sector.
  2. EU Procurement Directives allow public bodies to engage innovative companies and start-ups in order to come up with novel solutions to challenges they face by using ‘Innovation Partnership’ contracts.
  3. 528 public sector tenders are currently open on the eTenders website. Not one of these is for an innovation partnership. Indeed we are not aware of any public agency that has gone to market for an innovation partnership in 2016*.

Without allocating any extra funds into industry support programmes, a willingness by public buyers to consider innovative solutions to the problems their organisations face could transform the growth of indigenous businesses.

We are not ignoring the role of the tax system in Ireland in this either. Kennedy deals with this in his article and we have strong views on the high rates of CGT and personal taxation imposed on business in Ireland. We have chosen to focus on the elements we have highlighted here as ultimately, if the State is not voting confidence in indigenous industry, it makes the challenge for native entrepreneurship much harder.

*Note: Enterprise Ireland brand their scheme that part funds research collaborations under Horizon 2020 (a Lisbon Treaty initiative) between businesses seeking to develop a product and colleges as ‘Innovation Partnerships’. While these collaborations can be worthwhile, they are not commercially driven. The innovation partnership procurement process is a new procurement procedure introduced in the 2014 directives – it is commercially driven and aimed at driving innovative solutions today, not tomorrow. 

Innovation – clinical trials

Innovation is not always about developing a disruptive new technology or way of doing business. More often, it is about re-imagining how something that already exists can be used, and bringing existing tools and concepts together is a novel way. An excellent example is provided by PatientPharma, founded by Bartley O’Connor in 2013. The company allows patients and their medical teams to communicate using video messaging during treatment. Video messaging and blogging is not a new concept. However, by allowing the removal of personally-identifiable information and the use of analytical tools, PatientPharma’s platform provides an useful tool for the management of clinical trials. It works as follows:

  • Participants use the platform to upload video messages that can be accessed instantly by their clinical team, who can reply to the patient.
  • After a delay, the patient’s video is analysed and personally-identifiable information is removed. The information is then made available to the trial sponsor in an analytics module for decision-making.

Looking beyond its deployment in clinical trials, PatientPharma’s platform also has the potential to support the care of those living with chronic conditions.

Note: we are in the sourcing & procurement business. We highlight things we like or that are novel or innovative. Innovators should be encouraged.

New public procurement tenders this week 

Visit the Keystone website to view our take on the 500+ active public procurement opportunities with more than five days until their deadline. There are a vast range of services, supplies and construction related to public procurement opportunities in the following sectors (there are many more sectors than the sample list below):

  • Construction and related trades, 
  • Professional & Advisory Services, 
  • PR, Media, Advertising and related,
  • ICT supplies and services, 
  • Training,
  • Property & facilities management,
  • Vehicle & automotive,
  • Catering and related services,
  • Cleaning and related services,
  • Waste Management,
  • Maintenance and related services,
  • Horticultural supplies & services,
  • Research & environmental monitoring,
  • Printing, office supplies and related services,
  • Trades,
  • Medical and scientific research, supplies and services,
  • A vast range of other services and supplies.

Businesses interested in any of these public procurement opportunities that are unsure of how they can follow-up on these tenders can contact Keystone at any stage. We would be happy to discuss your needs and where they may fit with your business growth plans. These public procurement opportunities are sources of business growth and innovation for companies across the country.

Keystone E-Tenders Report Open YTD as at 1108 (by date of publication)

Keystone E-Tenders Report Open YTD as at 1108 (by sector)

Please note, e-tenders often has public procurement opportunities incorrectly categorised so people relying on e-tender alerts could easily miss out on opportunities if they are dependent on it. E-tenders is only as reliable as the people inputting tenders and mistakes are made very frequently. The Keystone Column includes all live tenders posted on e-tenders since January 4th 2016 that have five or more days until their deadline as at August 11th 2016.