Thinking innovation with Gillian Barry

Gillian Barry, Head of Innovation & Enterprise at LIT, talks about paying it forward and how to build an innovation system between industry, higher education, government and the people of Limerick. 
What’s your role?
Head of Innovation and Enterprise at LIT.
What interests you the most?
I have a passion for innovation, design and technology and helping entrepreneurs through the most critical stages of their startup journey or supporting business leaders and their teams through their innovation and business improvement journeys. I’m passionate also about community, social and economic development and I work with numerous organisations to support growth in our regions. I also have a real interest in psychology and sociology.
“For every high-value job created five other jobs are formed in the economy.”
What are your ambitions?
This might sound far-fetched, but my ambition is to help make our region and country one of the best place in the world to live. I know I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can help ambitious, creative, entrepreneurial people to create great companies, impactful products and services and ultimately create jobs which help to improve the lives not just of their direct employees, but they have an impact downstream too. For every high-value job created five other jobs are formed in the economy. I can help a little and appreciating it takes a community to support any ambitious entrepreneur I am delighted to be part of that. I can also help our fantastic youth and social organisations to make an impact in our region. I believe that every little does help and we need to make it a goal and give all these organisations our time – pay it forward – work it into your goals. We all benefit.
What drives you?
I’m a highly positive person and get energy from creative people with ambitions as wild

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A simple GDPR guide for startups and SMEs

There is a lot of noise around GDPR but if you want an easy-to-understand explainer, read on.  
Here are the facts
On the 25 May 2018, the EU’s European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come in to force. As it’s an EU regulation, the GDPR will automatically take effect without the need for it to be locally implemented by member states.
The GDPR applies to businesses who offer goods or services to ‘data subjects’ (people who hand over data in return for services) within the EU as well as those who monitor the behaviour of data subjects in the EU. It applies to data controllers as well as data processors. In short, it’s all about data.
Let’s cut through the noise
Does the GDPR apply to your business? Most likely yes.
If you do any business in the digital economy and if your website ‘profiles’, or ‘tracks’ users, or if you have customer emails, then the GDPR is relevant to you.
What’s the aim of the GDPR?
The GDPR’s purpose is quite noble, namely to put control of personal data back in the hands of the customer.
The GDPR creates a single set of data protection rules, rather than the legal maze built by 28 different EU member state laws.
What is the first thing I should do?
Giving power back to your customers requires you to look at how you collect data, what you collect and how you use it. In other words, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of your data practices.
This sounds complicated
Not really. The heart of the GDPR is about consent.
You must make sure your customers have a good experience if they hand over their data to you.
To make the consumer experience positive, businesses will need to provide a simple and easy-to-use solution that tells the customer what its data practices are. You must tell

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How hotels can make more money

How can hotels make extra money while at the same time offering their guests a much better tourism experience? Irish firm Staypal has built a solution. 

With higher expectations from tourists, social media and the threat from Airbnb, hotels are having to rethink their guest experience. Gerry Hanratty, CEO of Staypal, a travel technology company, wants to put the hotel “at the centre of the tourist’s experience.”
It all started with aeroplanes 
The price of a flight from Milan to Paris was €400 in 1992; it is €25. A large contributor to falling airfares is due to ancillary fees such as baggage and allocated seats allowing basic fares to be reduced. Staypal is developing technology to open up new ancillary revenue opportunities to the hotel sector. “We are not suggesting that hotel staff roam the corridors selling scratch cards but rather connect guests with tours, activities, and services that generate revenue,” says Hanratty.
The old way of doing things is stale
When a guest needs to contact the front desk at a hotel they have two choices; they can go down to the front desk or call on the phone but is this the best experience for a guest? How hotels engage with their guests is changing; communicating with SMS or Facebook messenger will overtake the standard in-room phone when a guest needs something. Staypal is taking this trend and enhancing it by facilitating bookings for activities in and outside the hotel during these guest conversations.
“By focusing on the lasting guest experience, not just the transactional check in and out, you’re responding to the needs of today’s tourist.”
Making money from other things than rooms
Traditionally hotels are busy managing room rates and availability across multiple web channels such as While technology has enabled hotels to manage rooms rates, this has been to the detriment

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How to deal with Brexit risks

In this useful guide, Denis Casey examines Brexit in the context of risk; specifically when it comes to customers, suppliers, and logistics. 

1. Customer risks
Let’s start by looking at customer related risks. When assessing this, you will need to consider risks posed by your customers’ customers and perhaps your customers’ customers’ customers. You need to look for risks as far up the supply chain as is necessary. For instance, if all your direct sales are to Irish based customers, but they in turn export say 50% to the UK, then your business is exposed to risk.
When you have exposure by having customers in the UK, your action plans should include the following:
i) Liaise closely with your customers to understand their Brexit challenges and action plans – then assess how severe an impact their plans will have on your business. Now you can base your risk assessment and action plans on facts rather than speculation. Where possible try to agree on some joint actions to address their challenges. However, in addition to any collective actions agreed, you should develop additional action items focused on your own needs.
ii) If you don’t already know, find out how price sensitive your customers are. It may be possible to pass on some price increases. This will depend on the competitive landscape and whether you have UK based competitors. For instance, if all your competitors are based outside the UK, then you should start to condition your customers to expect price increases. It’s unlikely that the full Brexit cost impact can be passed on to customers, but even small price increases will make the challenge a little smaller.
iii) If your UK customer base is significant, you will need to investigate the costs and feasibility of setting up an operation in the UK. This will help to overcome

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This is how Foreign Exchange works [Video]

Currency fluctuations can be good news or bad news for Irish businesses. These short videos explain what you need to know, especially in light of Brexit. Currency moves are not predictable so it’s important to plan ahead.  

Related Resource

Here’s a template to help you prepare for market changes in uncertain times and you can download this brief guide to creating an FX policy.

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Don’t sit back – prepare for Brexit

In this period of uncertainty, it is tempting to adopt a “wait and see” approach to Brexit. However, now is not the time to sit back. 
If your business is importing from, or exporting to the UK, you must consider the implications Brexit will have on your business, particularly when it comes to fluctuations between the Euro and the Pound.
Have you started planning? What’s your exposure? What level of currency risk can your business tolerate? Have you considered dual invoicing? What about ‘Forward Contracts’, are these the solution? Do you have a foreign currency account and should you have one? Have you spoken to someone who can advise you?
A six-step guide
Download this six-step Brexit guide that explains how your business can reduce currency risk as the repercussions around Brexit continue.
A good example of how currency risk can impact a business:
1. You are a manufacturer selling goods to the UK. The currency exchange rate is €1 =£0.90 (one Euro will purchase 90 pence Sterling.).
2. You purchase £10,000 worth of raw material from the UK at this exchange rate, so will have to pay €11,111.11 for the materials.
3. You sell the finished goods in the UK for €20,000, receiving payment in Euro.
4. Your profit in euro is €8,888.11. In Sterling your profit is €8,888.11 * (0.90) = £7,999.30.
If the Euro falls in value against sterling by 15%, which means that a Euro is now worth only £0.7650, what is the impact on your business profitability?

1. Your costs increase to €13,071.90 in Euro terms (i.e., £10,000/£0.7650) from €11,111.11, an increase of €1,960.79.
2. Your Euro profit falls from €8,888.11 to €6,928.01 a reduction of around 22%.
As you can see, any fluctuations in currency can have serious consequences for your bottom line. 

Related Resource

For a comprehensive list of resources and Brexit advice, visit the Brexit

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Get fit without using a gym

The gym and fitness industry exploded into life in recent years, but there are now new ways to become physically and mentally healthy, without having to go to a gym.
Group training classes
Going to the gym can be tough. Especially if you attend the gym alone and struggle to motivate yourself and fail to push yourself to achieve your desired goals. However, the gym culture is gradually changing. No longer do you have to attend a gym and pay a membership to work out. There are now some gyms that are specifically designed to group training classes. So for a fee, whether it is per class or an up-front fee for a certain amount of time, you can train with a group while a personal trainer coaches the class. To date, these have proven popular among people who haven’t attended gyms in the past and people who struggle for self-motivation when training. These classes often take place in a gym facility, or they can also take place outdoors using equipment such as kettle bells, ropes, etc.

Dance fitness
Dancing has become one of the most popular forms of fitness in recent times. Dancing is and always will be considered an art, and it takes truly accomplished performers to excel at it. However, dance is also the universal language of movement. People want to move in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise. These classes seem more like a party than they do a workout and have proven very successful. A dance workout is a great way to build fitness and lose weight. They are thought by an instructor through some different forms of dancing including Zumba, hip-hop and also Bokwa.
Aqua cycling

Aqua cycling is reasonably new and is still in the growth process, but across the USA and Europe, the numbers participating are on the

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Thinking business with Keith Costello, founder of The Loft

Rural towns in Ireland have a lot to gain from coworking spaces, and Tuam is about to see if one man’s vision can lift its entrepreneurial spirit.

My name is Keith Costello, and I run a business called Irish Wholesale Flags. We are based in the N17 Business Park in Tuam. We have a 2,200 sq. ft. facility and I want to transform the first floor into a coworking space, and a have a local space for local enterprise.
I’m calling it ‘The Loft’. The idea is that local business people become active in designing it and setting it up. I want local business people to be involved from the start and grow it organically. There will be office spaces available for local businesses to rent and The Loft will be a centre point, a meeting place for enterprise events and cultural activities.
The idea came about because I felt Tuam needed a focal point, a central place where business people can meet. When I look at larger towns like Galway, I see how business people band together and support each other. 
“This is where The Loft can come in. It can act as a haven for people who want to talk about the challenges of business with other business people.”
In major towns there are networking and business events nearly every night of the week. The business community and the cultural community in cities meet regularly to share ideas, best practice and contacts. I think all towns should do this and The Loft is designed as a venue for such meetings.
I’m not actively looking for funding. I want The Loft to grow organically. I want to see it as a space used for local events and networking. The idea is simple. Create a space where like-minded people can gather and share ideas and best practice.

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Competitor analysis template

This Competitor Analysis Template gives you the opportunity to conduct a detailed analysis of your business competitors. 
All instructions in brackets and italics – [like this] – are intended to assist you in completing the plan. To help you complete your template, you should refer to the accompanying Marketing Plan Guide for additional information.
The main objectives of a competitor analysis are to understand who your competitors are, what strategies they are using and have planned, how competitors might react to your company’s actions, and how to influence competitor behavior to your advantage.
Every business faces some sort of competition. The key is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, as it is critical to making sure your business survives and grows. Analysing potential competition is also vital because when new businesses enter the marketplace, it leaves existing small businesses at risk.
Using your analysis, learn from your competitor’s strengths and try adopting them to your own strategy, while also taking advantage of their weaknesses.
This template comprises of two main sections:

Competitor profile: This is a detailed overview of who your competitor is, taking into account areas of interest such as:

Summary profile, which includes their social media channels used, the location of the business, the company background, the number of employees, market share, customers and financial information
Pricing, including refund policy, discounts, terms and conditions, and distribution, if relevant
What marketing and communications strategies they use, including key messages, tagline and advertising
What their strengths and weaknesses are


Competitor analysis: This gives you the opportunity to compare your business with that of your competitor in terms of critical success factors (CSFs). You can identify CSFs for the market in which you operate, and then compare your business with that of your competitor in terms of these CSFs, using a scoring system.

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Translating your website to other languages

If your product or service is export focused, it will help if your site ‘translates’ into the languages of the countries you are targeting. Damian Scattergood, MD of STAR Translation Services, gives his advice on proper translation practices. 

If you’re new to translation, it can be a bit daunting the first time around. Where do you start in finding translators and what are the pitfalls?
TIP ONE: Include translation plans at design stage
You should think about translation from day one. Whether it’s a service, software product or website you are creating – include translation as part of the design discussion. 
Before you engage your English web design agency; think about questions to ask them. Here are a couple of design questions to get you started. 
•    Will the new site enable for translation? 
•    What process do you use?
•    If they use plugins – can this plugin work in Japanese?
•    Will we have a single website in five languages or five sites in different languages? What strategy will you take?
•    Did you know German can be 30% longer than English text? So will we have plenty of whitespace in our design, brochures, layouts? How will our brochure or website look when the text gets longer.
Remember, it’s expensive to make changes after the design phase and when the site is live. A good translation company will ask questions about your products and translation during translation. 
TIP TWO: Protect your brand
When you choose a translation agency to work with you are placing your brand in their hands.
Pick the right company for you – one that fits your culture, style and quality. Remember this is a partnership – so you will need to invest time with them.
Cost is not the only factor in translation. You’re effectively giving the translation agency your brand to manage

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