TE Laboratories uses collaboration with DCU to cut time-to-market and mitigate risk
TE Laboratories of Tullow, Co. Carlow, sells its products and services in both domestic and export markets. Its customers include manufacturers, environmental consultants and fuel distributors as well as national and local government agencies. In recent years it has expanded its business from lab-based testing into the autonomous sensing market. In doing so, it has focused on developing simple, reliable and cost-effective sensors rather than replicating more complicated and expensive laboratory-based approaches in the field. One of these is a portable, easy-to-use monitor for surface water and industrial waste water. This device measures pH, nitrate and nitrite simultaneously, in real-time, with wireless remote monitoring.
The initial technology for this was obtained under licence from Dublin City University and TE Laboratories has subsequently collaborated with a research team there led by Prof. Dermot Diamond to develop a range of water monitors. The collaboration was funded trough an Enterprise Ireland innovation partnership award and the team subsequently won a further €938,000 in EU funding for further development. TE Labs Managing Director Mark Bowkett says the ongoing collaborative relationship with DCU accelerates the R&D process and speeds up time-to-market. "It means we're able to expand the product development funnel because we're not starting from scratch every time," he says.
The university's technology transfer company, Invent DCU, made the initial licensing experience "pretty painless," says Bowkett. "We felt they were looking out for us and protecting our interests, just as much as they were looking out for the university's, and that gave us great confidence." DCU's Director of Innovation, Richard Stokes says that Invent tries to set reasonable objectives and deliverables for both sides. It helps, he says, that his team members have industry background as well as knowledge transfer expertise.
TE Labs has adopted the partnership approach to offset the exposure inherent in longer term, higher risk research projects. While short-term/low risk research is mainly undertaken within the company, medium risk research is best done in co-operation with outside bodies, such as universities. It says this provides access to new knowledge and technology and facilitates the leveraging of funding from external agencies such as Enterprise Ireland.