Wednesday | 8th February 2023

NovaUCD’s Tom Flanagan “When you move your business to Dun Laoghaire you join a top class, county wide innovation ecosystem”

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Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, UCD

NovaUCD are members of our @DigitalDunLaoghaire steering group – https://www.digitaldunlaoghaire.ie/about-activating-our-town-through-digital

At @DigitalDunLaoghaire, we’re the first to say that Dun Laoghaire Town itself is a phenomenal place to live, work, and play.

With UCD right on our doorstep, the town benefits from a wealth of talented innovators  and entrepreneurs. And it’s no accident: it’s the product of NovaUCD.

NovaUCD is part of the UCD Research and Innovation unit. Since its inception, the team has supported well over 400 companies and early-stage ventures which have raised over €775m in equity funding. With a wide range of services ranging from mentoring opportunities to consulting services to co-working spaces and accelerators, NovaUCD provides wrap-around services for entrepreneurs, researchers, high-growth startups, and students.

Tom Flanagan is the Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation at NovaUCD, and he sat down with Digital Dun Laoghaire to talk more about the incredible power of a business ecosystem, the future of business in the South Dublin area, and his advice for Irish entrepreneurs looking for their next opportunity.

NovaUCD as a Key Example of Irish Business Ecosystems

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is best known for its unbeatable amenities, but the secret behind the area’s success extends beyond access to the sea. The ecosystem of entrepreneurs, business supports, and opportunities for growth is the key to understanding Dun Laoghaire’s present, and it will be what unlocks the town’s future.

The value of an ecosystem is also at the heart of NovaUCD’s offer to innovators and entrepreneurs, and it serves as a successful model that both public and private bodies can learn from.

As Flanagan explains, “When new entrepreneurs join NovaUCD, they initially sit in the co-working space, so they get to meet other entrepreneurs and develop their network straightaway. If you’re surrounded by other people who are connected in, then between you all, you have a great handle on what is happening within the ecosystem and what opportunities there are for you.”

While NovaUCD often develops companies and innovations from UCD research, the team also welcomes entrepreneurs with great business ideas from outside of UCD.

Flanagan reiterated, “[UCD] has lots of technologies, so if there are entrepreneurs interested in developing a new startup out of some very deep tech that we already have, then we’d be interested to talk to them. We’d bring them on to our mentor network. We’re always on the lookout for potential CEOs.”

Flanagan also sees huge opportunities in innovation for the Dun Laoghaire going forward.  With 65 companies currently based across the UCD campus, those companies will think of the local area first as they expand their operations.

“They will want to grow in the area, and the costs of moving can be substantial. Staying local or spreading out across Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is a natural choice because they’re scaling up what’s already there. It’s an easy ask for people to move to Dun Laoghaire.”

With such a font of wealth to draw from, it’s important to find ways to help talented, driven entrepreneurs grow. And in that, Flanagan says, Dun Laoghaire is ahead of the curve.

“LEO is already working to support those companies. At NovaUCD, we also connect with other innovation hubs in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. We connect with Digital Dun Laoghaire to offer speakers and office space. We do the same with LEO and Eoin Lafferty. We also run workshops and participate in events. I am one of the judges of the Smart Sandyford awards.”

Where NovaUCD Goes, So Too Will DLR

NovaUCD is a heavy-hitter in Dublin’s research and development community, and it’s status will continue to grow and have an impact not only on UCD but on the greater Dublin area, including our town.

When asked about long-term plans for NovaUCD, Flanagan told us:

“We are in expansion mode. We collaborate with other partners to expand our ecosystem,” Flanagan said. “We ran a 5G accelerator with Ericsson and Vodafone. We’ve done an international accelerator with a university in Paris and Italy to help companies in adaptive manufacturing to develop and scale their businesses and we’re running an AgTech accelerator in the second half of this year.. We’re also connecting with European partners to deliver on European Union innovation challenges.”

NovaUCD has also joined the ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland consortium. It has €50,000 to give to startup companies working in aerospace or with data derived from satellites. There’s also €40,000 in funding for companies already in aerospace who want to extend their tech to another sector.

Flanagan’s Advice for Founders

As the Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation at NovaUCD, Flanagan wears many hats and works across many industries..

When asked what advice he has for entrepreneurs, he gave advice that innovators across the economy could apply:

“First thing, I would say, if you’re thinking about starting a company, think about the customer and the real world problems that they have and that you can solve fully, then assess how big the market opportunity is and how you will approach it. The bigger the problem the more valuable the solution and the more customers you can attract the bigger the business can become. If you then surround yourself with the best team and get some seed funding, the rest is executing your business plan flawlessly. ”

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