This business podcast discovers the benefits to entrepreneurs in Ireland of basing themselves out of Innovation Hubs aka Innovation Centres attached to Institutes of Technology.
Clare and Alan interview Maria Staunton who manages iHubs, which is an innovation centre based in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Maria explains that Ireland’s innovation centres were established with funding from Enterprise Ireland and the Institutes of Technology.
Maria says that heaps of people wander into the innovation centres to see what supports are available. The innovation centres are very well connected to other agencies. They provide office space, hot desking space and virtual space. Clients also benefit from networking opportunities and events in these centres.
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Government policy is that the Local Enterprise Offices are the first port of call for all new entrepreneurs. Many of these people will be referred to the innovation centres. When considering potential tenants, innovation centres are looking for companies that can scale and grow; usually companies selling or exporting outside of Ireland. People with export potential should also apply. The innovation centres will consider other businesses too.
Maria tells us that certain colleges have certain expertise such as software, engineering, pharmaceutical or plastics. Innovation vouchers are available. These allow people to work with other colleges. Maria says that potential clients shouldn’t fear sharing their ideas. All State agencies are bound by confidentiality.
Maria says that potential clients shouldn’t fear sharing their ideas. All State agencies are bound by confidentiality.
We ask about the advantages of working from an innovation centre. Maria says that for her, the biggest plus is removing the isolation from being an entrepreneur. Unless entrepreneurs network and make contacts it is very hard to get a business off the ground.
Maria explains the difference between innovation centres and privately backed enterprise spaces (accelerator programmes) or the smaller enterprise centres that are located across Ireland.
Typically businesses may reside in an innovation centre for up to 4 years. Some companies take longer than others to become established and trade effectively. Others move out much quicker while some entrepreneurs accept good jobs with larger organisations.