Submission to the AKTS is from Ireland’s Higher Education Institutes (eight universities, one Technological University, eleven Institutes of Technology and two Colleges). Teagasc and the Marine Institute also contribute.
Insight Statistical Consulting were commissioned to capture the data, validate and produce the outputs from which the published report is generated.
Data this year suggest a steady state has been achieved in national performance in knowledge transfer. This is across new commercial opportunities disclosed, licensing activity and spin-out company formation. There are a couple of areas that have seen an increase in volume: the number of ongoing research collaboration projects between industry and RPOs and the number of new patent applications filed. These may be due to the increasing State support for collaboration, through programmes from Enterprise Ireland and SFI, including the EI Technology Centres and SFI Centres for which company involvement is integral.
Indeed, it appears that 14% of the annual research expenditure within RPOs in 2019 was dependant on research collaboration with industry (where funding is derived from companies and the State). The increase in patent activity may, in part, be due to an increased strategic patent budget for some HEIs under the Enterprise Ireland Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative (TTSI3 programme) which commenced in 2017. Research projects between companies and RPOs are significant pillars of RD&I activity. Over 1,200 new agreements were signed for R&D projects (Research Collaborations and Innovation Voucher projects). When access to expertise through consultancy agreements is included the total figure for new contracts entered into between companies and RPOs increases to over 2,000.
The new R&D engagements were with over 900 individual companies, with some companies engaging with more than one RPO and on more than one R&D contract. 84% of these engagements were with Irish companies and 73% were with Irish SMEs. There were 2,642 ongoing research collaboration projects (fully or part-funded by the company collaborator) live at 31 December 2019 which represents an increase of 19% on 2018. Companies access new intellectual property through licensing and assignment and may also be granted a time limited option to decide whether to take a licence. In 2019, there were 210 licence, option and assignment agreements (LOA) signed with companies which is in line with five-year averages. Of these, 77% were with Irish companies, which is consistent with 2018, and 50% of all LOAs were signed with Irish SMEs.
The majority of LOAs were to patented IP and software, at 34% and 17% respectively. 2019 saw 26 new product and service launches on the market by companies as a result of a licence from an RPO. Spin-out companies provide a significant route to innovate, developing cutting edge technology and intellectual property and creating new high-value jobs. The 26 new spin-outs formed in 2019 is in line with five-year trends. Considering those “Active Spin-out” companies from RPOs that are three years or more post-formation and that employ staff and have investment and/or turnover, there were 123 at the end of 2019.
Together they are estimated to employ (a conservative) 1,000 people. The majority of Active Spin-outs (79%) have been in existence for over 5 years, with one of these older than 10 years. One university spin-out was acquired in 2019.