Irish startups can capitalise on Europe's sustainability drive

Post-graduate students in Irish colleges are being urged to pitch for EU's €1 trillion sustainable business investment plan
Irish startups can capitalise on Europe's sustainability drive

Liam Fitzgerald outside the MaREI Centre, Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, who is encouraging third-level students across the island to take their first steps into entrepreneurship. Photo: Daniel Brohan

Irish entrepreneurs are ideally placed to seize new opportunities being created by global efforts to improve sustainability within business, says Liam Fitzgerald, marine incubation manager at MaREI and UCC.

As part of its European Green Deal roadmap to make Europe's economy sustainable, the EU is investing €1 trillion in a sustainable investment plan. Irish third-level research-based startups have also been very successful in applying for Horizon Europe research funding.

Mr Fitzgerald says the supports for startups in Ireland give Irish-based entrepreneurs a head start in starting and scaling up new businesses.

“I have been involved in startup projects and mentoring in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The support system for startups in Ireland is among the best,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “My job is to encourage people to take their first steps into business by helping them plug into the ecosystem that exists for entrepreneurs in Ireland, along with further opportunities and supports from the EU.

“We want to encourage more startups to engage with these opportunities, particularly those with a focus on sustainability.” 

The MaREI Centre, the Cork-based marine research institute, is hosting 'Business Ideas for a Resilient and Sustainable Future' a series of virtual masterclasses from March 25 to June 3, along with an all-island €15,000 business ideas competition to promote new green business ventures.

The first of these masterclasses will feature input from startup experts from TCD, UCD, a global energy accelerator programme and a Canadian group driving blue economy supports.

The talks are targeting post-graduate students from all backgrounds to encourage them to develop new businesses with a specific sustainability focus. While MaREI is focused on marine research, these events are open to all new green business ventures.

The March 25 webinar has a particular focus on international startup accelerator programmes focused on energy, climate, digital health, materials, blue economy, agtech and bioeconomy.

Breandán Goss, Tangent in Trinity College Dublin will talk about the EIT - European Institute of Innovation and Technology programmes he manages in Climate, Digital Health and Raw Materials.

Ratna Nelapati, ESB International will talk about innovation opportunities and the Global Energy Accelerator Free Electrons Program.

Antoine Pajot and Niamh Collins from University College Dublin will introduce the AgTech Innovation Centre which is currently in planning.

Finally, Donald Grant of the Ocean Startup Project will give us some insight into the great work being done in Canada to promote Blue Economy Startups through Creative Destruction Lab Oceans Accelerator and other innovative programmes.

“The guest speakers will talk about sustainability and the business ideas gaining traction globally, particularly those supported by the EU's Green Deal,” said Liam Fitzgerald. “The European Green Deal is a roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable. This will happen by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.

“This funding offers great opportunities for Irish startups across all categories. I work with the maritime sector in my role with the MaREI. I am also funded by Enterprise Ireland and working with UCC.

“We can see that Enterprise Ireland has done a lot of promotion around Ireland's 'green' technology sector during St Patrick's Week. In Ireland, we have one of the best support systems in the world for tech entrepreneurship.

“We would like to encourage Ireland's world-class technology startups to see the opportunities within marine and maritime, and to apply their skills to these sectors.

“The series of five masterclasses will encourage third level students, postgraduate researchers and early-stage startups to take that first step into entrepreneurship. We will help them understand how they can build their business idea, and to tap into available support systems.

“Through participation in our online training series, we would like to join forces with interested entrepreneurial minds to explore the application of their ideas to the sustainability space, and to learn how to develop these ideas into workable business models.” 

The competition associated with the series of masterclasses features a €15,000 competition supported by LEO Cork City, LEO South Cork, LEO Cork North and West. Nine substantial cash prizes will be up for grabs across three categories, including Post Graduate Students, PhD Students, Post Doc Researchers and Early Stage Startups.

Participants will attend a video production masterclass with Julie Russell and create a three-minute video. They will receive mentoring on pitching for funding and investment.

The March 25 event already has a large attendance registered. To find out more about the series of masterclasses being hosted by MaREI, visit: www.marei.ie/all-island-competition

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