Invest NI launches improved european collaboration network

A new service for local businesses offering support and advice on innovation and collaboration opportunities across Europe is now available from Invest Northern Ireland.

The Enterprise Europe Network combines and builds on the services provided by the former Innovation Relay Centre (IRC) and European Information Centre (EIC). It offers an integrated “one-stop shop” for local SMEs, and larger companies, who wish to benefit from technology transfer, experience sharing and business networking opportunities across the EU.

The Enterprise Europe Network also provides practical advice and guidance on matters such as European legislation and help with market research in countries across the region in order to identify potential new export opportunities. The initiative’s Tender Alerts Service has already proved useful in providing targeted commercial leads to almost 300 companies. Last year the service helped companies secure around £264 million worth of contracts.

Although already operational, the network was formally launched in an event this morning in BBC Blackstaff Studios. The event featured a keynote speech from former BBC Dragon’s Den panellist and successful entrepreneur Doug Richard.

Carol Keery, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research and Technology, says: “The new Enterprise Europe Network makes it even easier for local firms to access the services which have been provided for over two decades by the IRC and EIC. A “no wrong door” policy enables businesspeople to enter the network through any contact point, from where they will be directed to the service most suited to their needs.

“The network provides opportunities for companies, especially SMEs, to collaborate with businesses within their sector from right across Europe. Network representatives can talk to companies on-site and help identify EU funding opportunities, offer advice on EU legislation and provide assistance to seek out companies with complementary needs where both parties could benefit from collaboration.”

One local SME which achieved success following help from Invest NI’s IRC is Ballymena-based Ecomesh Ltd.

Ecomesh supplies products and services which help remediate contaminated land and make it suitable for developing. This involves the use of highly sophisticated equipment, including the firm’s own patented Ecomesh product, for the containment and removal of land contaminants.

With support and advice from the local IRC in Invest NI, Ecomesh made contact with Polish firm PRGW, which supplies innovative clay-injecting technology that complements the functions performed by Ecomesh. By combining their knowledge and resources, the two companies were able to offer clients a complete brownfield remediation solution, opening up significant new business opportunities which were not previously available.

Ivan Rowe, Managing Director of Ecomesh, believes that the partnership will continue to flourish: “Waste treatment and disposal is an increasingly pertinent issue for government and businesses across the world and ever-tightening legislation is creating more and more opportunities for remediation services at landfill and brownfield sites.

“Previously, expensive material imported from the USA was used to secure landfill sites but, after consulting with the IRC through Invest NI, we found that PRGW’s products combined with our own would perform these functions not only more effectively, but in a more sustainable way.”

Mr Rowe continued: “Both Ecomesh and PRGW are SMEs but by pooling our resources we have been able to access more lucrative contracts across Europe. We now run a staff exchange programme between Northern Ireland and Poland which helps develop, and build on, the skills of our people.

“Following the mutual success of the partnership, the two firms are in the process of forming a European Economic Interest Group along with other industry partners. This will provide an even wider network of contacts and a forum for the further development of brownfield remediation techniques.”