Design Thinking is the heart of innovation

Denis Hayes is the MD of IRDG (Industry Research & Development Group). Ahead of the Design Thinking Ireland annual conference, he describes why Design Thinking is used by all of the world’s top firms to drive innovation.
What is the IRDG? 
The IRDG acts as the voice of industry RD&I in Ireland, it supports members to avail of relevant funding opportunities for innovation, brings companies together to share learning and experiences, promotes collaboration between industry partners and the third level sector and facilitates best practice learning and innovation capability in organisations. This is where the likes of Lean Product Development and Design Thinking fit in.
“It made me realise that design thinking could be used as a strategic means to stimulate innovation.”
Design Thinking has been a fundamental part of your agenda for many years, why are you ‘believers’?
My own awareness of Design Thinking really grew about five years ago when in Sydney attending the annual conference of the Hargraves Institute. Design Thinking was a dominant theme at that conference among manufacturers, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, all speaking about how they have integrated design thinking into their innovative approach. In particular, I met Darrell Mann who had been bringing this Design Thinking approach to many leading international companies. That experience made me realise that design thinking could be used as a strategic means to stimulate innovation. It was about using the approach and mindset of designers in the innovation process and how it could deliver powerful results.
Over 300 executives have been trained on the IRDG Design Thinking Programme / Masterclass which has been run twice per annum in partnership with Design Innovation Maynooth.
A special interest group (SIG) has been running for companies who are practising Design Thinking with visits to appropriate venues such as Airbnb, Dog Patch Labs, SAP, Fidelity Investments and later

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Revenues of Irish tech firms to grow to €3.5bn

Lending to the Irish tech sector to increase as Bank of Ireland bolsters its technology sector team.
The Irish technology sector is one of the most dynamic areas of the economy. At a recent event hosted by Bank of Ireland and supported by Technology Ireland and Gartner, Adrian Mullett, head of the technology sector at Bank of Ireland said lending to the sector in 2017 grew by 150% supporting the growth of software and services companies, including, Propylon, vStream and Storm Technology.
“Projected revenues of indigenous tech firms are set to grow by 20% in 2018 to €3.5bn,” says Mullett.
A dedicated technology team
“Given this growth, we are expanding our dedicated technology team, with two key appointments, so we can continue to provide the right guidance to our customers,” says Mullett. “A larger technology team will help us to serve technology companies better and capitalise on the growth in lending we have delivered.”
The technology sector team in Bank of Ireland has a strong relationship with Gartner to glean deep regional and global insights into every significant business function of the market.
At the event, the keynote speaker Sandra Notardonato, research vice president with Gartner, gave a global market overview that included the paths for Irish firms that want to break into other markets.
“For the first time in nearly a decade we see worldwide end-user IT spending in the technology sector increasing,” says Notardonato.
“Our annual CIO survey shows an increase in IT budgets in 2018, of which 25% is dedicated to digital initiatives.”
The spend on IT services is showing healthy growth, especially in Europe with Ireland, Switzerland and Germany leading the way, followed by southern Europe where countries are playing catch up after years of underinvestment.
“Automation is the most meaningful change to the IT services business model since off-shoring,” explains Notardonato.
IT outsourcing is also showing

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Voinext helps online firms talk to customers

Brendan Farrell, the chairman of the board at Voinext, discusses the changing face on online customer service, growing a global business from Gorey and the importance of starting lean. 
My background
I come from a design and innovation background but have been involved in building new businesses for the last 35 years.
The idea and the service
Voinext CEO Jim Tracey came up with the original concept for Voinext. A simple way for online customers to connect to a ‘real salesperson’ who could make sure you got the right advice, the right product, the right deal and then close the sale.
So the rules for Jim were simple. Firstly contacting your online supplier should be for free. When you go to their store, they should be able to tell if you are a new or existing customer and serve you better. It all about the customer experience. Unlike the impersonal world of internet shopping that exists today. Jim wanted his online business to be customer-centric.
“The service allows your online customers call you for free, directly from your website to your phone.”
The value proposition 
We seem to have hit on a service that fits with just about any business with an online presence. Hotels, car hire, software, manufacturing, plant hire, property and finance companies, the list is endless and growing fast.
I suppose that it proves that, globally businesses still need to talk with their customers, and even in an online world voice is still the best for customer experiences for closing a sale.
“Who would have imagined that a Gorey based SaaS Company with its software team based in Minsk would be supplying free call service to a premier restaurant in Bali?”
The toughest part of starting a business
You need a ‘launch’ product. Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that the most important thing is to prove that your

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How young farmers can grow their farms

We are entering an era where real farm expansion can be secured without the need to buy land. This is good news for young farmers. 

The upcoming review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will, almost certainly, bring changes to the supports available to farmers across the European Union. More support will be given to farmers who are actively producing food.
This will give Irish farmers real business development opportunities. Adding to this, are the recent tax changes to facilitate the development of long-term, land leasing opportunities in Ireland.
“Young farmers may be particularly drawn to the possibility of forging a joint venture agreement with an older landowner.”
As a result, we are now entering an era where real expansion can be secured at individual farm level without the need to actually buy land.
The business options to make this happen are extremely diverse. Young farmers, for example, may be particularly drawn to the possibility of forging a joint venture agreement with an older landowner.
Proper planning is everything and the potential for new and flexible farm development programmes will be encouraged. 
A good farm adviser can work with a farmer to help them come up with the development opportunities that best suit their individual needs.
Having a viable business idea is one thing – actually putting into operation is something else entirely. So if you are committed to growing your own farm business, why not contact your local Bank of Ireland branch and let them help convert your plan into a profitable reality?

Related Resource

Need to expand, invest in new equipment or simply need development funding for your farm? 

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Stori Creative – authentic brand storytelling

The foundations for Stori Creative were laid back in 2016, when Grainne Dwyer, former CEO of Skibbereen’s ‘Ludgate Hub’, saw a niche in the market for a creative production company with a focus on brand storytelling. Grainne’s cousin and co-founder, Fiona Dwyer takes up the story.

My background is in account management and marketing, and after spending two years working in New York, I returned home seeking a new challenge. I was barely off the plane when my cousin Grainne asked me to help out at National Digital Week – the aim of which is to develop entrepreneurship, by making digital tools accessible for all. Starting a business was never something I would have considered up until that point. It was my first time being exposed to the entrepreneurial community that co-existed along-side the Ludgate Hub. At the time it helped open my eyes to the supports, networks and opportunities that exist within the community here in West Cork.
The next week we both sat down together to discuss what was the beginnings of Stori Creative. Our initial interest in video production stemmed from making short videos with our friends when we were growing up. I suppose our passion for creativity was always there – we just never had imagined it could provide a living for us. So we said, ‘why not us’?
Our service 
We focus on authentic brand storytelling. There has been a huge shift in the way consumers purchase these days. People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it – and so we seek to extract those authentic, engaging stories from each brand we work with, to engage their audience. We not only produce compelling brand stories, we then deliver these stories on all of the brand’s social media platforms. This is to ensure that their

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Enter the National Enterprise Town Awards 2018

The National Enterprise Town Awards is open for entries. There is a total prize fund of €157,000. Your town can enter here.
Do you live and work in Ireland’s most enterprising town? Are you helping your community to thrive? The search is on for the most enterprising towns in Ireland. 
The Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards is designed to recognise and reward towns where small businesses and community groups come together to showcase the spirit of enterprise in their local area. For full details of the prize money and award categories, please read this. The total prize fund is €157,000. The overall winner will receive a cash prize totalling €33,000. 
It’s easy to take part. Entries must be online, and your town, village or urban area can enter here.
Can city areas also enter?
Yes. City areas and villages can also participate. Every city has urban areas and villages that operate as a town in their own right and have distinct identities. The definition of a town for these awards includes city villages and urban areas.
The ‘Rising Star’ award
For 2018 there is a new Rising Star category with one prize of €20,000 awarded to the winner. This award is for towns or urban areas with unemployment and social exclusion issues. For example, the towns may have visible derelict or empty buildings or spaces where there are plans to create a place for social, artistic, creative, technological or entrepreneurial activity. This award has a separate judging panel from the main competition. A shortlist of five areas (one from each region and one from the cities) will be drawn up based on the submissions and these five will be visited by judges. Please read the FAQs for more details on the Rising Star award. 
When will judging start?
The judging panel will visit your town and judging starts

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FAQs: National Enterprise Town Awards 2018

Here are the frequently asked questions and answers regarding the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards 2018. 
The search is on for the most enterprising town in Ireland. The National Enterprise Town Awards 2018 are now open for entries. There is a total prize fund of €157,000. Your town can enter here. 
Questions and answers

Purpose of the competition?

The competition aims to promote enterprise by bringing business and community groups together, in each town, to showcase the spirit of enterprise in their local area.

Why is Bank of Ireland launching this competition?

Bank of Ireland is the country’s largest lender and committed to helping customers achieve their business ambitions. Bank of Ireland recognises that SME’s, Startups and Community Organisations are a significant driver of the country’s success and spirit.

Is this just a sales promotion for the bank?

This is not a sales promotion for Bank of Ireland. This competition is the Bank’s way of recognising the efforts being made by local people to promote and grow their towns and communities and to play its role as a business leader.

What is the local council’s role in the competition?

The competition is held in collaboration with local authorities.        

How are the towns chosen for the competition?

The Towns and Urban Villages/Areas are generally put forward by the relevant local authority.

How many entries are allowed from each county or city council area?

There will be a maximum of four entries per county or city council area.

Why is the competition called Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards when city areas and villages can also participate?

Every city has urban areas and villages that operate as a town in their own right and have distinct identities and local business and residential communities. The definition of a town for the purpose of these awards includes City Villages and Urban areas.

Who are the judges?

The names of the

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Conor O’Loughlin wins IBYE 2018

Conor O’Loughlin, the founder of Glofox, is Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) for 2018.
The winners of the IBYE competition for 2018 have been announced.
The overall winner, Conor O’Loughlin, landed a total investment of €40,000 for his business, Glofox.
Glofox was one of the first startups to secure a place in Bank of Ireland’s startlab New York in 2017.
The business, which allows both gym members and gym owners to access usage, payment and service information, now has over 1,000 customers spread across 23 countries.
O’Loughlin says he is setting up a base in New York as the United States is the company’s primary focus.
“Glofox was one of the first startups to secure a place in Bank of Ireland’s startlab New York in 2017.”
The other IBYE category winners for 2018 are Brendan Boland of Loci Orthopaedics who won Best Business Idea and Alan Hickey of WeBringg who won Best Startup Business.
The IBYE programme is run by the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in Ireland. It received over 1,400 applicants in 2018 with an investment fund of €2 million. 185 entrants to IBYE secured investments of between €3,000 and €15,000 in 2018.
Pictured are (l-r): Conor O’Loughlin and Anthony Kelly, co-founders of Glofox.

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How to grow a dairy farm in a sustainable way

An event is coming to Thurles on April 26 that will be of great interest to dairy farmers.
‘Dairying in Tipperary – opportunities and challenges’ is a free-to-attend event taking place at Mid-Tipp Mart, Thurles on Thursday 26th April at 7:30 pm.
Register now.
There is an optimistic view of dairy farming in Ireland. Many dairy farms are becoming large-scale businesses and need to be treated as such.
This event will examine how to grow a dairy farm in a sustainable way, the finance available to farmers, the opportunities within the sector and the challenges that may arise and how to prepare for them.
Speakers include Patrick Gowing, the specialist dairy advisor with the Teagasc Dairy expansion service; Sean Farrell, head of agriculture with Bank of Ireland; and Jack Kennedy, dairy editor of the Farmer’s Journal.
Optimistic about dairy
“We are seeing more development loan applications from customers looking to grow their dairy farms than from any other farming sector,” says Sean Farrell, head of agriculture, Bank of Ireland.
“Given the relative profitability of dairying, we expect this trend to continue and we want to play a big part in the growth of the sector.
“We see price volatility and weather events as some of the challenges farmers face when they are expanding. We want to encourage farmers to invest time developing a business plan that considers various future scenarios, be that a drop in milk price, or the impact of Brexit. Famers need to know how they can deal with these events.”  
The event is free to attend but registration is required. Register here.
Refreshments will be served.

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Feeding the most expensive beef in the world

Gavin Dunne is a pioneer. He has created a new food from olive ‘waste’ for the Wagyu beef market, the most expensive beef in the world.
Olive oil is a vital component of the Mediterranean diet and perceived by many as a natural health-food product. However, the olive waste stream, produced as a by-product of manufacture, can cause some challenging environmental issues. In 2017, a creative Irish startup devised a way to convert this crop waste into a high-value animal feed, favoured by the €1 billion a year Wagyu beef market. CEO, Gavin Dunne of the Olive Feed Corporation, shares his intriguing, circular economy ambition.
“Waygu beef, supplemented with olive feed is intensely marbled with softer fat.”

Olive-fed beef
I came up with the idea in October 2016, while I was living in Crete, surrounded by millions of olive trees spread across valleys and mountain slopes. However, it was during a business trip to Japan, that I was first introduced to olive-fed beef. It was uniquely being produced in a tiny region, called the Sanuki Region. Some 100 years ago a small number of olive plots were planted there, and one local farmer had been using dried olives, as a supplementary feed for his Sanuki (Waygu) beef cattle. Drying the olives makes it a little more palatable for animal intake, but it’s not the best processing method for optimum digestibility by the animals.
Waygu beef, supplemented with olive feed is intensely marbled with softer fat and higher percentages of monounsaturated fats. In Japan, olive-fed Wagyu beef is now the most expensive beef in the world, and straight away I could see the commercial opportunity. I contacted my business partner and environmental scientist, Brian Dunne who has a farm in Edenderry and we decided to test and assess some of the olive feed out on his

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