Kim Mackenzie – designing a new dialogue

IDI President Kim Mackenzie talks about the current gender imbalance in the design industry and why design matters. Interview by Lesley Tully.
The design industry prides itself on embracing uncertainty, challenging orthodoxies and using creativity to carve out a better world and yet recent research conducted by the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) surfaces an alarming imbalance in gender diversity with a 25% female to 75% male divide across the Irish design industry.
IDI President Kim Mackenzie-Doyle talks about the purpose behind this movement and how redressing this balance can positively impact society, the economy and the education system.
“I was advised against joining the tech drawing class by teachers as I would have been a distraction being the only girl.”
Tell us a bit about your background and journey to become a designer?
From a young age, you could say that I was creative, the first spark of interest in product design happened when I was six. I took apart the family remote control (one of the first released, it put me out of a job being the youngest of the family, I got to change the channels), I did not trust that this object could control the TV without wires, so I had to find out more – reverse engineering at its finest.
In school I was advised against joining the tech drawing class by teachers as I would have been a distraction being the only girl, so was directed into art. I loved art and over 25 years later my school drawings are still on the wall in the school where I studied. At leaving cert stage, discussing my future with my parents my father stated ‘there is no money in design’ and recommended I take up a career in the sciences. Respecting his advice I started off my college journey studying

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‘Confidence is critical, and you need advocates’

Áine McCleary is the newly appointed director of distribution channels at Bank of Ireland and the incoming President of the Institute of Banking. Here she discusses the realities and myths of ‘balancing it all’, and why enabling customers, colleagues and communities to thrive is the priority in her workplace.
I’ll start with a bit about myself. I am from Dublin; married to Alan, we have four children aged between six and thirteen. In my spare time, I enjoy family time, walking, travelling and GAA.
Following on from my Bachelor of Commerce in UCD I undertook an MBS in International Business through the Michael Smurfit Business School. Since joining Bank of Ireland, I have completed the QFA diploma, and I have obtained the Certified Bank Director designation through the Institute of Banking.
My career to date has been across a variety of roles. I started in Ulster Bank as a foreign exchange dealer before moving to Bank of Ireland Global Markets in 2000. Over the following twelve years, I led sales and service teams engaging with retail, corporate and institutional customers.
After my last maternity leave in 2012, I decided it was time for a change, and I moved to the retail banking division of Bank of Ireland. Since then I have held a number of roles including strategy and planning, head of mortgages and director of direct channels. Earlier this year, I was delighted to be appointed the director of distribution channels.
As you can see, I have moved role many times, and my ethos is to take all opportunities.
“Women can tend to be quite hard on themselves and can suffer self-doubt.”
The stats show that Irish women are more likely to hold a third level qualification than men, yet women fall below the EU average for employment. Why do you think that is?
I believe there

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A Playful City helps communities thrive

A Playful City’s aim is to put people first and nurture communities, thus making Dublin a better place to live, work and grow a business. 
Ireland scores above the European average for rates of entrepreneurship and the ecosystem is considered healthy, but startup culture brings its own unique set of challenges and solutions. Here, two female entrepreneurs talk about social enterprise, the realities of female entrepreneurship in Ireland and how they have dealt with the rapid growth of their business.
“It has been difficult to define ourselves in terms of a business structure,” says Neasa Ní Bhriain, one of four co-founders of A Playful City, a social enterprise intent on making Dublin the most playful city in the world. “We want to continue growing and become more sustainable, but because we are not a charity, it can be difficult to get traditional sponsorship and grants.”
“With over a million users on Facebook and with an international conference under their belt, all in just over a year, it’s fair to say things have changed a lot for the founders.”
To combat this, A Playful City has restructured its organisation to offer services like A Playful Street, an initiative where communities partially close down their street for a day so all ages and abilities can come out to play together.
“Rather than constantly trying to get funding to put these on, we provide A Playful Street as a service for companies looking to meaningfully connect and engage with their local communities or for councils wanting to introduce more play and bring people in communities together,” continues Neasa.
A Playful City has further adapted by offering consultations on play with the community using their unique, mobile, pop up consultation device. The Pow Wow, designed with Sean Harrington Architects, gathers insights from the community which are then analysed and used

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Understanding the secret life of bees

This is the story of an Irish entrepreneur on a mission to save the planet’s bees.
Ireland has long valued the hive and the honey bee – as evidenced in the Bechbretha or ‘Bee Judgements’ texts, recorded under Brehon law, dating back to circa the 6th Century. Today, an Irish startup seeks to write a new page in beekeeping history.
ApisProtect, a business co-founded by Fiona Edwards Murphy is focused on the growing global problem of the stressed honey bee population. Here, Murphy talks about her idea and her journey of discovery into the secret lives of bees.

Light bulb moment
From my studies, I had gained some insight into the world of beekeeping. Annual hive losses run up to a startling 50%, for some of the 81 million hives. Around that time, I had won an international IEEE/IBM award and was invited to speak on Morning Ireland about the award and the sensor possibilities that could benefit beekeeping. Post interview, I was inundated with phone calls from beekeepers, at home and abroad, saying, ‘I would love to have these sensors in my beehive’.
“Worldwide there are 91 million beehives and roughly 45 million beekeepers.”
The sting in the tail
There is a tremendous amount of beekeeping research taking place all over the world; unfortunately, it’s failing to translate into solutions to save the bees.
I set out to design a technological solution with a commercial application for beekeepers. Since then, we have developed a sophisticated platform with temperature, humidity, (Co2) and accelerometer sensors within it. The information produced is collected, and machine learning is then used to interpret the data.
“Your hives are too hot or too cold.”
What are beekeepers’ main concerns?
Beekeepers are not concerned about the data or the technology but are interested in solving their beehive problems. Such as, ‘Are my bees healthy – am I

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Letterkenny saves its local economy

Letterkenny Chamber created the ShopLK initiative in 2004 to keep people shopping in the town. It has been so successful, other towns should take note. 
ShopLK, ‘Love Shopping Letterkenny’, an initiative to promote local shopping by using gift cards brought €1.5m in sales into the town in just three months. 
“Christmas 2017 sales increased by 16% with over 9,300 cards sold between November and January which led to €1,553,574 going into the local economy.”
ShopLK gift cards are now accepted in over 190 outlets across Letterkenny with more to follow. 

Letterkenny as a retail destination
The ShopLK idea came about to promote Letterkenny as a retail destination, rather than just the commercial hub of the county. The initiative has been able to grow thanks to financial support from Donegal County Council.
Letterkenny Chamber says it makes no money from the sale or redemption of gift cards so every cent brought in through ShopLK is invested back into the promotion of the service. 
“This is by far the most successful town scheme in the country and we are also outstripping shopping centres with similar gift cards,” says Leonard Watson, president of the Letterkenny Chamber. “We are always thankful all the outlets that support us. We know from our customers that they love the variety. The can get grocery shopping, petrol for the family car or spend the money on a treat, the choice is endless.”
“One-third of customers using the card almost always spend more than the value of the card itself.”
“The cards can only be spent in Letterkenny and we know that at least one-third of customers using the card almost always spend more than the value of the card itself. This is a huge amount of money to be circulating in Letterkenny. It not only puts money directly into the hands of local businesses but in turn plays

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A new age of cattle monitoring

This AgTech firm aims to save farmers money and time. 

AgVis, based in Oranmore, Co. Galway is developing and commercialising a smart connected cattle monitoring solution, for total herd insights, to bring value to the farm on a 24/7 basis. It’s a significant advance in precision livestock monitoring, using diagnostic sensors in an IoT device, allied with embedded artificial intelligence. AgVis founder and engineer, Denis Healy provides some background behind this exciting Agtech startup.
Innovation experience
I have over 15 years of innovation and problem-solving experience with my existing company OSTC. Most of our work is within the medical devices sector, working with some of the leading global brands. We offer a full-service engineering approach with product design, 3D printing, production, quality control equipment and services.
“A typical Irish dairy farm with 100 cows, is incurring associated opportunity losses, in the region of €30,000 per year.”
Why transition from Medtech to Agtech?
As a team we have powerful, hands-on experience and background in livestock farming – as well as real understanding and expertise of the myriad of technologies available today. We also believe that our track-record and domain knowledge will allow us to overcome any challenges that we may face along the way.
What problem are you solving on the farm?
Our focus is to assist livestock farmers within the calf, beef and dairy sub-sectors. The problem to be solved is opportunity loss, which is currently being absorbed by all farms today. In an Irish context, a typical Irish dairy farm with 100 cows, is incurring associated opportunity losses, in the region of €30,000 per year. The improvements we offer enhance animal welfare, food quality, sector sustainability, operational efficiency and profitability for all stakeholders, within the farm to fork value-chain.
The principal behind AgVis is the provision of a miniature multifunctional sensor in one piece, which is unique in

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Digital Cork and the global digital economy

Kieran O’Hea, the founder of Digital Cork, says all towns in Ireland need to engage more with the digital economy.
Can you tell us about your background and how Digital Cork came about?
I’m from Cork but spent most of my career elsewhere, working in multimedia, web and digital strategy. I had some great experiences, managing Ireland’s first Apple Mac design agency, co-founding its first DVD authoring studio and being appointed the first chief digital officer of Brisbane.
I returned to Cork two years ago from Brisbane and saw opportunities to create a Cork digital strategy, promote the digital sector and develop the local digital economy. I created Digital Cork to encourage digital engagement at a strategic level both in business and in local government.
“Every region in Ireland needs more people who are driving the digital agenda.”
What are your passions? What drives you?
My passion is to develop Ireland’s digital economy across cities and towns, with Cork as the pacesetter. Digital Cork has given me a platform to voice this passion and is succeeding in building awareness. A suite of projects is ready to implement, once resources become available.
What drives me is the desire to see Cork taking its digital economy more seriously. I’ve invested a lot of my own time into Digital Cork, identifying initiatives like the need for a Cork digital strategy and am driven by the belief that one day these initiatives will be approved and funded.
“More effort is needed to engage SMEs in the digital economy, with as few as 14% currently trading online.”
What would you like to see more of in Cork?
With new developments planned across the city, Cork’s physical landscape will undergo dramatic change, but more emphasis needs to be put on its digital landscape. Vision and planning are needed to secure Cork’s share of the global digital

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New angels to help Irish tech firms enter America

Are you an early stage Irish tech firm, media business or fintech startup that wants to break into the U.S. market?
The New York-based Digital Irish Angels (DIA) Syndicate, a group of angel investors, says it wants to invest $150,000 to $250,000 in four to five Irish digital companies each year.
The DIA is now an official partner of HBAN (the Halo Business Angel Network), an organisation responsible for the promotion of angel investment, and a joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland.
“There is an affinity with, and appetite for, investing in high-potential, Irish companies.”
According to the DIA, the angels will not only provide funding but also access to their networks, to help Irish startups grow their businesses in the US and on a global scale. To date, the digital Irish group has invested in a number of Irish startups including Sytorus, Video Elephant, Brightflag, Deposify and ProVerum Medical.
“The lead angels of our New York syndicate are successful entrepreneurs who have the knowledge, contacts and expertise to help Irish companies enter the US market and grow into international success stories,” says John Phelan, national director of HBAN.
“There is an affinity with, and appetite for, investing in high-potential, Irish companies among Irish-American business angels in the US,” says Feargall Kenny, of the DIA syndicate.
The partnership between HBAN and the Digital Irish Angels was launched at an event at the residence of the Consul General in New York City. Pictured at the event are (l-r) John Phelan, national director, HBAN; Feargall Kenny, Digital Irish Angels Syndicate; and Ciarán Madden, Consul General of Ireland in New York.
About the Digital Irish Angels
The Digital Irish Angels group was formed in 2015 by David Beatty, Feargall Kenny and Shane Naughton. It is an angel syndicate that invests in Irish startups, for accredited investors. The group was formed out

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The student invention that’s changing hurling

Started by three transition year students, ROC Protection can prevent contact injuries in hurling and camogie. Co-founder Carl Cullen talks about creating this innovative sportswear.
How did the idea for ROC Protection come about?
We had to start a mini-company in transition year and it was our teacher who encouraged us to enter the Student Enterprise Awards which we were lucky enough to win. ROC Protection is what we came up with and since then we’ve grown from strength to strength. The function of ROC is to reduce the impact of oncoming sliotars and hurls, and we’ve done this by placing padding on areas such as the collarbones, chest, abdominal area and rib cage as these are the most threatened areas to be hit.
How did you fund and start the business?
We initially got five sample jerseys in which only cost about €100 so we all pitched in. We then sent the jerseys to stores to use as samples. When those stores placed an order they paid a deposit and we ordered more jerseys in with that. We kept doing that until we got to the stage where we could have our own stock of jerseys.

“The function of ROC is to reduce the impact of oncoming sliotars and hurls.”

Do you have plans to roll out your product in other sports?
Yes. We’d love to branch out into more globally recognisable sports. This will of course help our company grow. It’s something we’ll look to work on in the future.

How have you marketed it?
Just a lot of Facebook and Instagram. You can’t get any better than targeted Facebook ads or Instagram influencers. We have also made a promo video which you can see on our website and our social media channels @ROCProtection. We also featured on the Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy

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Thinking business with John Cleere, Red Lemonade

What a great name for a design company – Red Lemonade Creative. Here John Cleere, the founder, talks about starting a business in the South East and the rise of Kilkenny as a major hub for the design, creative and tech industries.
Tell us about your background and what you are working on at the moment?
I am a native of Kilkenny and returned to the city 15 years ago, after a spell working in Dublin, to set up the design agency Red Lemonade Creative. Kilkenny is the perfect location for a healthy work-life balance.
At Red Lemonade we help clients design better products and services. Currently, we are finding opportunities to develop beyond our design and production services to including the growing need for business design strategy. We are now working with client teams on Design Sprints, a process of design that rapidly tests new business ideas and features, and finds problems and solutions, creating real, constant progress.
The projects we work on are always varied, engaging with new industries on a continuous basis. Right now, for example, we are designing websites for a new Kilkenny festival and a biotech company. We are also midway through a corporate brand and digital strategy for a new business innovating in off-site construction.
“Design is one of the largest growing industries creating value in the economy.”
What are your passions? What drives you?
Design is obviously my passion, and I see tremendous possibilities here for industry, communities and employment. This inspired me to set up ‘Tech Thursday Kilkenny’ which has now been running for two years. It’s a monthly meetup of business people and curious locals interested in the new industries of tech, design and innovation. The meetups have more than 200 people attending and are growing in strength.
Can you tell us more about ‘Tech Thursday Kilkenny’?
Tech Thursday Kilkenny

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