Investing in a start-up

Dublin has a thriving start-up ecosystem, with DIT Hothouse being a key player. On our DIT Hothouse New Frontiers programme we work directly with up to 70 innovative start-ups each year.

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Successfully raising the level of investment required to achieve the objectives of the business is one of the key success factors for any start-up. Investment always involves a certain degree of risk for all those involved.

While investing in an early stage business opportunity can involve risk, there are many ways to reduce this level of risk by working with business angel networks such as HBAN (www.hban.org). While it is not the role of DIT Hothouse to advise potential investors on investment in any specific company, we are always eager to facilitate networking between our participants seeking business finance and investors that are interested in early stage investment.

If you are an individual investor, we suggest you read the guide provided by the Halo Business Angel Network with whom we work closely.

At DIT Hothouse, we are committed to helping industry access experienced researchers and excellent research facilities and to providing professional, customer-orientated research support for companies interested in innovation. Companies often know exactly what new technologies and innovations would help improve their business, or what technical innovations would help them compete in a new market – if only they had the technical capability, resources and time to develop them. By collaborating with DIT to provide R&D support, you can improve your company’s cashflow, free up staff, access world-class facilities, and create new, cutting-edge technology that will make your business more efficient and effective.

What is industrial research?

University research will often fall between one of two areas – blue sky research and applied research. DIT spends approximately €20m per annum on new research. In DIT, our research will typically be at the applied end of the research spectrum. Applied research is more likely to have industrial and commercial applications, and the outputs or new technologies developed will therefore be of interest to commercial organisations.

Routes for companies to access industrial research

There are two ways for companies to access DIT industrial research:

  • DIT - Company collaborations to develop a new technology
    For companies that have a specific problem or application which cannot be solved by an existing technology, there is an option for the company to collaborate with DIT to develop a bespoke technology.
  • Licensing of existing DIT technology (In-licensing)
    For research technologies that are specific to a niche market or have a specific application, there is an opportunity for companies to license the use of technology from DIT.

How to collaborate with DIT?

Collaboration with DIT Hothouse is easy. Typically, it involves identifying the technical problem or challenge you would like to solve and then contacting DIT Hothouse who will guide you through the process.

Clarify your problem. Set out in writing the technical challenge or problem you wish  to solve, covering the following questions: What will the final product look like and what should it do? What is missing from your current solution? What have you tried to date to solve the problem? What is the benefit of solving the problem?

Identify the correct research capability. Define what type of skills you think you will need to solve the problem, i.e. software experience, material science expertise, etc. Contact DIT Hothouse and we will discuss the project and skills required and introduce you to the appropriate research group.

Define the project. Work with the research group to define how the technical problem can be solved, what the output will look like, and the programme of work required. This step is critical in the process and helps establish a working relationship with the researchers prior to commencing any collaboration.

Review funding options. The programme of work will require time and resources, often the largest cost being people (e.g. developers or engineers that need to be hired to complete a project). There are a number of different funding models which DIT Hothouse can help you work through.

Agree and commence a collaboration. This will involve kicking off the project. It may take a number of weeks or months to move to this stage of the process. At this point an agreement will also be put in place between the company and DIT Hothouse to cover things like access to the IP that goes into or comes out of the project, project costs and project timelines.

How to license a DIT technology to your new spin-out company

As the owner of the intellectual property upon which the technology is based, DIT grants access rights to the know-how (designs, drawings, secret formula, algorithms, etc.), patents, design rights or other IP to the company under licence, so that the company can use, manufacture or sell the technology. The commercial terms of the agreement are between company management and DIT Hothouse. Key elements include:

  • Field of use – in what sector or application area the technology can be used.
  • Access rights – exclusive (sole licence granted) or non-exclusive (other licences to the same technology can be granted).
  • Royalty terms – this varies depending on the market, margin on the product, readiness of the technology along with other factors, and can be fee- or percentage-based.

Collaboration funding options

Consultancy. The company can pay for the total cost of the project (direct staff costs, materials, overheads, etc) with all the IP developed during the project typically being owned by the company and any background IP required will be licensed to the company.

Innovation Partnership. A source of funding from Enterprise Ireland which can fund up to 80% of the project costs. The IP created in the project will be owned by DIT, but the company will be guaranteed a licence to the technology which is agreed upfront.

Innovation Vouchers. A source of funding for small projects which finances a project to a total of €5,000. The company pays only the VAT on the project (€1,150) and any IP created during the project is owned by the company.

EU FP7. European-funded support which can come in many streams. Typically it involves a number of partners (both companies and academic institutions) from throughout Europe. Projects will usually be large scale and some funding is required from the company.

Directorate of Research & Enterprise

Development of new business ventures and technology transfer that contributes to Ireland’s technological, social and economic development and public benefit is embedded in our teaching and research. Our research is strongly aligned to areas of strategic importance in four interdisciplinary Research Institutes. Further information about the Directorate of Research & Enterprise, the Research Institutes and activities - Research and Enterprise.