How Enterprise Ireland is supporting UK innovation

By Laura Brocklebank | 23 November 2020

Enterprise Ireland clients can help UK local authorities to leverage cutting edge innovation to deliver value and improve the lives of citizens. Whether digitally transforming the way services are provided or delivering smart city solutions that enhance quality of life, that quest for improvement is constant.

It’s also challenging.

As Ireland’s innovation agency we support, develop and invest in innovative Irish companies that are looking to grow and scale internationally.

The UK, as Ireland’s closest neighbour and main trading partner, has always been a natural first port of call for Irish companies on an international growth path.

For reasons of heritage and familiarity, aided by proximity and language and cemented by generations of social and family ties, the UK will always be Ireland’s primary trading partner.

Through our offices in London and Manchester, Enterprise Ireland partners with UK local authorities to identify the challenges, and opportunities, they face. We then introduce them to those Irish businesses which either already have innovative solutions to help, or have the ability to develop them.

At Enterprise Ireland we have a portfolio of more than 5,000 innovative client companies, spanning a diverse range of sectors. A large part of our role here in the UK is connecting their talents and capabilities with the UK local authorities that can best benefit from them.

For us it’s about building long term partnerships in the UK, a country that will always be a key strategic market for Ireland, despite the uncertainties and challenges of Brexit and COVID-19.

Very many Irish companies are already partnering with UK councils and local authorities, supporting them in their social and economic strategies and helping them to deliver on the objectives that will improve the lives of their citizens.

Enterprise Ireland’s UK teams have developed strong relationships with UK local authorities. This has given us a close understanding of the challenges facing them and the priorities they wish to address.

We understand the particular challenges of public procurement and the difficulties faced in keeping abreast of the very innovations that could improve service delivery, or save time and money.

It’s why we facilitate collaboration between UK councils and our client companies, organising regular networking and knowledge sharing events, as well as one to one meetings, providing local authorities with market insights.

In so doing we have cemented our status as a trusted innovation partner. Enterprise Ireland is now recognised as the ‘go to’ resource for local authorities seeking out new ways to deliver better and more efficient services.

Right now all of these are undergoing a massive digital transformation, the need for which has been accelerated by COVID-19. The ‘smart city’ agenda is also gaining pace, as councils look to it to improve the quality of life for citizens, support businesses and enhance visitor experience.

This is because, when technology is improving services, boosting connectivity and speeding up response times, it is also supporting economic growth.

But COVID has created an unprecedented environment, one in which service providers are required to do more with fewer resources.

Here too Irish companies are helping, such as Archway Roadmaster, working with 80 local authorities to keep roads in good repair so that essential workers and supply chains can keep moving. Or Zipp Mobility, which is piloting environmental e-scooter schemes in city centres.

Irish company CitySwift is optimising bus services, helping to ‘right size’ both vehicles and schedules, to maximise passenger capacity and minimise their impact on the environment. ESB E-Cars is installing electric charge points in cities such as Birmingham and Coventry, helping to deliver carbon reduction goals.

AMCS Group software is helping councils to manage waste efficiently. Smart bins from PEL Waste Reduction Equipmen alert waste teams when bins are full so they can be emptied. Aico’s SmartlInk technology is proactively ensuring tenant safety from fire or carbon monoxide.

Irish innovations are transforming internal systems in councils too, as local authorities seek out new ways to work, they are providing the cyber security, remote working, performance management and analytics tools to support them.

From improving workflow to providing better ways to handle freedom of information requests, Enterprise Ireland’s client companies are helping UK local authorities to do what they do best – but better.

To find out how Enterprise Ireland can help your team, contact: Laura Brocklebank, UK Local Authority Lead, ENTERPRISE IRELAND UK

INTERVIEW: with Steve Trafford National Sales Manager for AICO

While the attention of the world has been drawn to the current crisis and the threat it poses to the economy and public health, other potentially hazardous situations still remain an issue. And companies like AICO, which have been providing solutions for decades, continued to do so throughout the pandemic.

A UK subsidiary of EI Electronics in Shannon, Co. Clare, AICO has been in operation for the past 30 years providing life safety products across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

National Sales Manager, Steve Trafford says, as well as selling to contractors and distributors, from the outset, AICO made the decision to approach local authorities and housing trusts. And thanks to their reliability and excellent quality have become the main supplier to authorities across the UK.

‘There were a lot of changes in the late 1980s and into the 1990s in terms of fire regulations in the UK, driven mainly by the Kings Cross fire disaster, and this was a focus for changing British standards and building regulations,’ he says. ‘So, even at that early stage, AICO could see that the way forward for the company was providing reliable products to big housing providers, which at the time were all the main local authorities.

‘The main advantage we provided to them was exceptional life safety products which were manufactured and tested – at least four times during the process – in Ireland. EI/Aico never have and never will batch test any products.

With a guarantee which lives up to its reputation, AICO products have been tried and tested and continue to be the most sought after among customers across the UK.

‘We sell to around 95% of housing providers in the UK,’ says Steve. “Our quality of products, service and longevity means we are the trusted brand within the housing sector. And although we have a small basket of products – domestic smoke alarms, domestic heat alarms for kitchens and carbon monoxide alarms – we sell an awful lot of them.

An AICO Regional Specification Manager will train up to 800 individuals per region every year to install their products and with 23 regions across the UK, there is never a shortage of trained installers meaning efficient delivery of service is a bonus on top of the quality product.

‘If a local authority needs to look at installing life safety products in a specific building, we have that coverage and can be there immediately,’ Steve says.

AICO did not escape the effects of COVID-19, but they continued working behind the scenes and made sure to be available in case their services were needed.

‘We like many others dropped dramatically as local authorities and housing associations suspended all but emergency repairs,’ says Steve.

‘We made the decision that we had a responsibility to stock up so if someone needed an order, no matter how small, we would be able to provide it – we believed this was essential to protect people.

‘So, we kept the business ticking over and once the factory could safely operate, we kept full production open as we knew we would have to catch up with contracts – and crucially, if alarms needed replacing, we didn’t want occupants to be uncovered in the event of a fire.

Supported over the years by Enterprise Ireland, AICO is developing its product range and the future looks bright.

‘Enterprise Ireland has been consistently great, a revelation to me, in fact,’ says Steve.

‘They are always in regular contact, providing information and support and will always do their very utmost to help.

‘In the last few months, we have completed the acquisition of another company called Homelync – a Bristol based company who have an incredible amount of expertise with regard to the connected home and the IOT.

‘Early in 2020, we launched the AICO gateway allowing our clients to access information on what is going on in every single property in terms of fire and carbon monoxide, but local authorities also really want to know about others issues in their properties such as damp, energy-efficiency, fuel poverty, air quality and any other issues.

‘They want to access all the data from a single portal, they want one solution, where one portal will give every bit of information on the condition of a property. So, technology is the future and we are looking at very exciting times ahead.’

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