FUSION helps fund a high calibre STEM graduate and partners SMEs with a third level institution on a cross-border (Ireland-Northern Ireland) basis.
Product development and innovation is at the heart of growth and exports.
FUSION creates a partnership between an SME with a specific technology need and a knowledge centre (college or research institution) with the required expertise in the opposite jurisdiction (Ireland or Northern Ireland). This successfully encourages cross border innovation collaboration.
As part of the support FUSION funds a high calibre science, engineering or technology graduate to carry ourt the project over a 12 or 18 month period.
Projects must be in the area of new product / service / process development or process improvement.
FUSION also funds the knowledge centre participation, a postgraduate diploma for the graduate and some project costs.
The company will employ the graduate throughout the project (12 - 18 months) with mentoring from the academic partner and InterTradeIreland FUSION consultant.
On average, each company taking part on the FUSION programme benefits from over £1 million worth of sales and/or efficiency savings in the three years following the project.
The programme is aimed at SMEs with between 5-249 full time employees in manufacturing or tradable services sectors and located on the island of Ireland (North or South). The company must be financially viable, have a 2 year trading history, indigenous to the island of Ireland.
The programme has an annual budget of more than €3.5M
The project is managed by a small team in InterTradeIreland and delivered by a Managing Agent with consultants covering the island of Ireland.
Evidence of success
Over 600 projects completed to date.
Over 75% of graduates are retained by their company following project completion.
The most recent independent evaluation (2018) concluded that on average and after consideration of deadweight each SME reported over £850 000/ €969,000 worth of additional sales and/or efficiency savings.
Return on Expenditure was reported as 17:1.
Great care must be taken in the matching stage to find the right partner and to ensure the SME can provide the necessary support to the graduate during the project.
It is vital to involve both partners in the graduate recruitment.
Progress must be closely monitored ideally face to face.
Potential for learning or transfer
This project may be of interest to other regions as an example of good practice as it has proven to:
1. Support the development of businesses on the island of Ireland by transferring and embedding knowledge on a cross-border basis between industry and academia;
2. Improve the flow of, and access to, knowledge capital across the island of Ireland;
3. Increase process and/or product development within business;
4. Increase industry R&D capability and thereby improve business innovation;
5. Improve industry-academic linkages and thereby improve the knowledge and skills base within SMEs and larger companies; and
6. Improve the graduate skills base and career progression for graduates.
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