Waterford News

Shop Ireland Logodmg media Ireland, publisher of some of Ireland’s most popular media brands, is today (Monday 27th April 2020) announcing a €1 million advertising fund for small businesses hit by the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through this support fund, 200 small businesses will be given a tailored advertising package worth €5,000 each.  The ads will run across dmg media Ireland’s titles including the Irish Daily Mail, the Irish Mail on Sunday, Extra.ie, EVOKE, RollerCoaster.ie and MailOnline and will reach a minimum of 500,000 people.

dmg media’s “Shop Ireland” is the largest support package from the private sector aimed specifically at small businesses since the Covid-19 restrictions began. The free advertising campaigns will encourage people across the nation to support their local small businesses - those that are still operating and those who are hoping to open safely once restrictions are eased.

CEO of dmg media Ireland, Paul Henderson said: “This is a very challenging time for most businesses and we at dmg media Ireland are supporting small businesses, who are the backbone of the economy in this country.  This free advertising campaign will showcase local small businesses in national newspapers as well as across our very popular digital platforms which reach 3.3 million people every month.”

The fund will be open to small businesses on a first come, first served basis, subject to certain criteria.

dmg media’s “Shop Ireland” is also being supported by Ibec’s Small Firms Association (SFA), which represents small and family run businesses with less than 50 employees. The SFA assisted dmg media Ireland with deciding on the criteria for the fund and which firms would benefit the most.

Sven Spollen-Behrens, Director SFA said: “As well as being open to businesses that are still operating during the lock-down period, we are also keen that other businesses, such as health and beauty, small hospitality, retailers and gyms, would be able to avail of this “Shop Ireland” support. These are the companies that are hurting most right now but when they can open again, they will have this advertising boost across dmg media Ireland platforms.” 

CEO of Ibec, Danny McCoy said: “IBEC fully supports this great initiative.” 

Small businesses who wish to apply for the dmg media “Shop Ireland” advertising fund can do so via www.dmgmedia.ie/shopireland. Successful firms will be contacted by dmg media Ireland to customise their ads and decide on geo-targeting if it is beneficial. Each ad campaign is expected to reach at least 500,000 Irish adults via dmg media Ireland’s newspapers and digital platforms.

WIT Research annual report 2018 2019Research funding at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) increased by more than 50% in one year according to the newly launched annual report for 2018/2019 from the Office of Research, Innovation & Graduate Studies released this week.

Research funding jumped from €13.6m in the previous year to €21.6m.

As the 2019/2020 academic year draws to a close, Dr Mark White, Vice President of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies and the research support team in WIT are reflecting on the success of the previous year with the release of their annual report.

The institute welcomed a strong end to 2019 with the news that they are the best performing Institute of Technology in Ireland in Horizon 2020 European research funding for Q4. This was one of the many ‘firsts’ the team of researchers welcomed in 2019 as outlined in the recently launched Research Innovation and Graduate Studies annual Report.

 “It gives me great pleasure to present the 2018/2019 annual report. It demonstrates our continued commitment to the highest standards of research and enabling research activities in the Institute,” Dr White says. “The report highlights the achievements of our researchers and Technology Transfer Office and outlines the impact our team has on research both on a national and an international scale,” he continues.

The 2018/2019 academic year was one of the best for competitively won research funding having been awarded €21.6m from various funding bodies and partners, positioning WIT as one of the top performers in the sector. The breakdown of funding sources is as follows: National 40.41%, European/International 52.03, and Industry 7.56%. The largest single funding institution is the European Commission (52%) followed by Enterprise Ireland (16%) and Science Foundation Ireland (13%).

€12.2m was brought in by Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG), with €7m accounted for by the academic schools.

Susie Cullinane, Project Manager of the Research Support Unit praises the tenacity of researchers across the Institute. “This is a superb achievement for our growing team of researchers. The level of work that goes into preparing and writing a funding proposal is incredible and we are delighted to see this work being recognised nationally and internationally,” she says.

Regarded as a trailblazer in Ireland, WIT was the first in the institute of technology sector to introduce a range of research support schemes and funding to its academic Schools and Departments in an effort to enable researchers achieve their personal and academic research goals.

WIT is also one of the first institutes in the sector to introduce a Research Integrity Policy and to appoint a Research Integrity Officer in 2019 further validating the value of research in the institute.

In tangent with the many research projects, the Technology Transfer Office has again delivered on the challenging performance metrics from Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) as the team maintain some of the best targets for patents, industry engagements and spinout companies in the IOT sector.

According to the KTI metrics (which are based on a calendar year rather than academic year) 2019 was the strongest year in the last five years for Licenses/Options/Assignments – 10 were reported; two spin-out companies were formed and four patents were filed; there were 89 research agreements with industry, up from the previous year.

In no small part of this success was the opening of the Enterprise Ireland funded Arclabs extension in WIT’s West Campus in Carriganore, Waterford. This has doubled the innovation and incubation space in the campus positioning WIT at the centre of the region’s innovation ecosystem. Kathryn Kiely, Industry Services Manager in WIT comments “This was a very proud moment for WIT, Arclabs and the innovation sector in the South-East. The West Campus has quickly become a knowledge and innovation hub for companies to nourish and grow with the support of the co-located research centres Arclabs, TSSG and the NRCI.”

WIT has also released a podcast episode to mark the annual report launch which is available here: https://anchor.fm/the-machine/episodes/Ep-21-Research-at-WIT-ectg0o

The report is available here: https://www.wit.ie/images/uploads/News_PDF/WIT_Research_RIGS_20182019_AnnualReport.pdf

WIT VisionAryExperts in tech and nutrition at one of the country’s leading research centres are pooling their skills and resources improve the quality of eye testing and the time it takes to be thoroughly examined.

The Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) and Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) within Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) are partnering on the revolutionary, €300,000 project funded under the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund.

VisionAry sees experts in software development from TSSG and a team with a wealth of ocular knowledge from NRCI working together to revolutionise vision testing solutions. Their aim is to create disruptive new technology in the eye testing space using a software defined vision testing approach and bring a whole new and wider range of test solutions to the market.

Frances Cleary, Principal Investigator of VisionAry and Research Unit Manager in TSSG said: “We are delighted to get the green light for this commercialisation fund from Enterprise Ireland. It is the culmination of months of hard work conducting feasibility tests and discussing the need for such an innovative approach with industry experts, including optometrists and ophthalmologists,” she said.

The landmark project challenges the conventional eye test, which has been proven not to accurately predict visual performance. VisionAry brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts from academia and industry to realise the potential of a technology focused test. This test aims to be more cost and time effective for both the optometrist and the end user, while providing superior testing of vision quality overall through a range of methods.

Currently eye vision testing relies on a methodology derived in the late 19th century. While it has proved to be a good test of visual acuity it does not represent the full range of vision capabilities, according to Prof John Nolan, Director of NRCI.

“This innovative approach to eye testing is significant to the South East as, not only is there the potential to create a successful company, this approach to eye-testing hasn’t been done anywhere else and could result in job creation and investment in the region,” he said.

Commenting on the project, Dr Mark White, VP Research, Innovation & Graduate Studies, WIT said: “Our researchers are encouraged to nurture and utilise the talent of their colleagues to create something radical and this is a prime example of the success fostering strong relationships within can bring. TSSG and NRCI have the added benefit of being co-located in WIT’s West Campus in Carriganore which is increasingly becoming the knowledge hub of the South East.”

Ian Mills, Tech Lead in TSSG said: “The next 16 months will be exciting yet challenging as we aim to incorporate our ICT expertise into the labs of NCRI. We will be creating a product with the potential to drastically improve the time efficiency and quality of an eye test which will effectively change the market.” 

WIT Tom Boyle mature studentAdults considering a return to full-time education will be able to explore their options from the comfort of home on the morning of Wednesday, 22 April 2020.

As part of its week-long festival of open days (20-24 April), Waterford Institute of Technology is holding a virtual open day especially for mature students of the future.

“The return to education can be an intimidating prospect for adults,” says Conor Phelan, Student Life and Learning Department at WIT. “Asking questions at an open day can be an important first step,” he says. A prime example is Tom Boyle, who last year graduated from WIT in his early 80s. Boyle had begun his return to education by attending a number of open events before he applied to WIT as a mature student.

 “People who have not yet applied to the CAO can do so up to 1 May 2020 at 5.15pm which is the closing date for late applications. WIT accepts mature applicants (except on restricted courses) up to this date. Each year we are contacted by adults who have missed out on this deadline by a day or two, so we strongly encourage people interested in a return to education to log onto www.wit.ie/virtualopenday on Wednesday, 22 April to find out about life as a mature student.”

The mature-student focused virtual open day running from 10am-12pm on Wednesday, 22 April is for adults (over 23) interested in one of WIT’s 70 CAO courses which start at two-year level 6 Higher Certs.

Prospective students of all ages can ask questions about courses each afternoon that week. Each day is dedicated to an academic School at WIT.

During each virtual open day prospective students or parents of CAO applicants will have the chance to chat live with lecturers from the academic School as well as support staff. They can also take an interactive tour of the WIT campus to get a flavour of what to expect.

Marketing and outreach officer at WIT, John Power says people can join the conversation online and see the questions other prospective students have.

“A big part of each virtual open day is the chance to talk with lecturers who deliver our undergraduate programmes and the support staff from right across the institute. Online each day you can chat with staff from our admissions, schools liaison, outreach, fees and grants, accommodation and student life and learning departments,” he adds.

According to Phelan the trend for adults considering a return to education is they are interested in upskilling, a change of career, or having better options.

The majority of WIT’s mature students are Waterford based or commute daily from nearby counties, Wexford, Tipperary and Kilkenny.

In addition to having a dedicated WIT Students’ Union officer, WIT also has a Mature Student Society, and in recent years a network was also established for students who are parents.

WIT's Virtual Open Days schedule

2pm-4pm Monday, 20 April 2020 School of Business Virtual Open Day: Business, Accounting, Digital Marketing and Retail Management CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Tuesday, 21 April 2020 School of Engineering Virtual Open Day: Engineering, Built Environment, Engineering Technology and Architecture CAO courses.

10am-12pm Wednesday, 22 April 2020 Mature Student and Student Supports Virtual Open Day.

2pm-4pm Wednesday, 22 April 2020 School of Health Sciences Virtual Open Day Nursing, Health Sciences, Sport and Exercise Sciences CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Thursday, 23 April 2020 School of Humanities Virtual Open Day: Arts, Social Science, Law, Psychology, Culinary Arts, Hospitality, Art, Design and Music CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Friday, 24 April 2020 School of Science and Computing Virtual Open Day: Laboratory Science, Land Science and Computing CAO courses.

Helen Barry Simplify HRWhile the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a wave of extraordinary challenges and uncertainty to Irish businesses, Local Enterprise Office Waterford is providing a wide range of business services to SMEs. Free HR, digital and finance advisory clinics are available to any local business, regardless of its scale or sector, which needs assistance in accessing support.

Helen Barry of Simplify HR is an experienced practitioner in HR and has mentored with Local Enterprise Office Waterford since 2016. With a passion for practical, business-lead HR, her experience and background in employment law ensure that the complex worlds of people and change can be safely navigated.

Since the advent of the Covid-19 outbreak, Helen has worked with clients, on a virtual and confidential basis, to advise of ways to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their business and their staff.

“The changing landscape and level of uncertainty about how long this will last is making it difficult for SMEs to plan staffing and finances. Some SMEs have had to close their doors, others are trading in different ways, by operating different hours, changing production schedules, scaling back operations, remote working and online trading. Naturally the focus is on the financial impact and how we can come through this.”

For many business owners there is an immediate focus on ensuring that they themselves and their staff retain a level of income. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection, Citizen’s Information Bureau and the network of Local Enterprise Offices provide information for business owners to access supports such as the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

With many companies grappling with the reality of some or all of their employees working from home, areas that need to be considered are health and safety, having the right equipment to operate with and staying motivated and connected.

“Keeping the connection with your team is crucial. Now that most of us are working apart and in a very different environment, daily check-in calls will help keep the team focused and better prepared to work through their documented list of priorities.”

Helen advises reaching out to relevant advisors to talk through your individual situation and get the right information about the options available to you.

“It may be difficult but try and depersonalise the situation. Focus on where the business is at and where it needs to go and be practical. Once you have your arms around the business and what it can or cannot support, then you move to communicate with your employees. Understand what you will be saying to them and what options are open to them.”

“Keep talking to your customers and suppliers, where possible, to understand what their requirements might be and when. Use this information to develop a simple plan for your business going forward.”

“And don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all human and all ultimately have the same concerns!”

If your business has been affected by Covid-19 and you need HR advice call the LEO Waterford office and a dedicated specialist will get back to you to discuss your business issue. This is a confidential service and is open to all businesses. LEO Waterford will also endeavour to signpost you towards further Government and State agency business supports.

Businesses can also avail of the Business Continuity Voucher, which is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to help business owners make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales.

To book your free virtual consultation, via Skype or phone, call 0761 102905 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and a dedicated mentor will get in touch with you.

For further information about any of the above measures visit https://sbci.gov.ie/ or https://www.localenterprise.ie/Waterford/

Aisling ONeill ArcLabsInventors, innovators and developers from across Ireland are being urged to join forces with some of the world’s top mentors, industry experts and partners over a 54-hour, online marathon weekend organised to help in the global fight against COVID-19.

For the first time, Techstars, the global platform for investment and innovation, is hosting a Global Online Startup Weekend series, “Unite to Fight Covid-19.” Ireland needs anyone with an idea or solutions to join the free, 54-hour weekend event on Friday, April 24 to Sunday, April 26.

Participants will work together from their homes to tackle the challenges presented by the pandemic, the organisers say.  Areas which are expected to be covered include health, wellness, engineering, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and more.

Local community leaders, in partnership with Techstars, are volunteering to host this event, which will focus on developing COVID-19-related solutions unique to Ireland. During the live, online event, innovators, developers, inventors and anyone with a passion to help will pool their efforts and help develop prototypes that could help solve some of the biggest challenges posed by the pandemic. Registration is free and is open now on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/techstars-online-startup-weekend-ireland-unite-to-fight-covid-19-tickets-101991730010

Aisling O’Neill, Manager of ArcLabs, WIT’s Business Incubator is part of the organising team and says: “Having postponed Start Up Weekend Waterford 2020 because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we are delighted to be part of Team Ireland for this Global online Start Up Weekend and work with the Irish community to develop meaningful innovations to solve the most significant challenges presented by the biggest global crisis of our time.

“The 54-hour online event is designed to provide participants from all professional and skilled backgrounds an opportunity to work with like-minded individuals in building solutions to COVID-19 related issues. Participants will connect with amazing mentors, industry experts, founders and partners who are ready to help get people started.

“Ireland isn't on its own. A series of these events is being organised by +70 countries over the next three weekends as a global effort to unite against COVID-19 as a Techstars Startup Weekend initiative. It’s an opportunity for everyone interested in the topic to inspire and be inspired and to work together on developing inclusive solutions.”

Ireland is one of more than 70 countries around the world participating in the event. The top 20 teams from around the world will go on to participate in a Techstars Innovation Bootcamp experience.

For regular updates and event details visit http://communities.techstars.com/ireland/ireland-ireland/startup-weekend/16183.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began to affect communities around the world, Techstars has made a variety of changes to programming and community engagement to keep people safe and to continue to support startups and innovators in this time of great need. Learn more about Techstars’ efforts and find resources and perspectives at techstars.com/covid.

WIT Schools Open DayWaterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is to run a week of virtual open days this April to help prospective undergraduate students in the south east and beyond with their going to college questions.

WIT's Virtual Open Days will take place completely online at www.wit.ie/virtualopenday between Monday, 20 April and Friday, 24 April 2020.

Each afternoon that week will be given over exclusively to one of the academic schools (business, engineering, health sciences, humanities, and science and computing). And on Wednesday there is an additional morning event for adult learners with specific queries around returning to college as a mature applicant.

WIT's Virtual Open Days schedule

2pm-4pm Monday, 20 April 2020 School of Business Virtual Open Day: Business, Accounting, Digital Marketing and Retail Management CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Tuesday, 21 April 2020 School of Engineering Virtual Open Day: Engineering, Built Environment, Engineering Technology and Architecture CAO courses.

10am-12pm Wednesday, 22 April 2020 Mature Student and Student Supports Virtual Open Day.

2pm-4pm Wednesday, 22 April 2020 School of Health Sciences Virtual Open Day Nursing, Health Sciences, Sport and Exercise Sciences CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Thursday, 23 April 2020 School of Humanities Virtual Open Day: Arts, Social Science, Law, Psychology, Culinary Arts, Hospitality, Art, Design and Music CAO courses.

2pm-4pm Friday, 24 April 2020 School of Science and Computing Virtual Open Day: Laboratory Science, Land Science and Computing CAO courses.

During each virtual open day prospective students or parents of CAO applicants will have the chance to chat live with lecturers from that academic School as well as support staff. They can also take an interactive tour of the WIT campus to get a flavour of what to expect.

Marketing and outreach officer at WIT, John Power explains how it works. “Each day lecturers and support staff from the academic school scheduled for that day will be online to answer questions which will help CAO applicants choose the college course that's right for them. What's really interesting is people can join the conversation online and see the questions other prospective students have.”

“A big part of each virtual open day is the chance to talk with lecturers who deliver our undergraduate programmes and the support staff from right across the institute. Online each day you can chat with staff from our admissions, schools liaison, outreach, fees and grants, accommodation and student life and learning departments,” he adds.

The timing of the virtual open days are crucial for CAO applicants or anybody considering a full-time undergraduate course this year. At midday on Tuesday, 5 May 2020 the CAO Online Change of Mind facility becomes available, allowing applicants to amend their choices for free. Friday, 1 May is the final application date for late applicants, including mature applicants to WIT, school leavers who have been exploring other options, students on further educations courses and those who have completed their Leaving Cert and are under 23 who are interested in a return to education.

“The interactive virtual campus tour gives students the option of touring the main Cork Road campus where they can see what classrooms and lecture halls look like. They can also explore the facilities at the WIT Arena virtually.”

Power adds that when it is safe to do so, WIT would like to run future students free guided one-hour campus tours with WIT’s graduate ambassadors.

Ronan ClearyWhile the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a wave of extraordinary challenges and uncertainty to Irish businesses, Local Enterprise Office Waterford is providing a wide range of business services to SMEs. Free HR, digital and finance advisory clinics are available to any local business, regardless of its scale or sector, which needs assistance in accessing support.

Ronan Cleary of Eagle Dreams Digital Media has mentored with Local Enterprise Office Waterford since 2010. As a digital mentor, Ronan works closely with businesses, in all sectors, in guiding them through the maze of the digital world to help them grow their businesses. Sometimes something very simple or a different digital approach can have a dramatic and positive effect on their business.

More recently, Ronan has been working with clients, on a virtual and confidential basis, to advise of digital means to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

“The digital world is really only an extension of the real world. Through this Covid-19 crisis we have seen how important digital tools are to keep us connected with family, friends, colleagues and of course, customers. Since this crisis began, the innovation of businesses to use new digital tools has been amazing. These tools are there for everyone to benefit from, the important thing is how we use them.”

Online shopping has now become an option for customers who would never have considered it before this crisis. An online presence and a digital footprint are now more important than ever. The Local Enterprise Office provides many supports for businesses intending to enter the digital realm. The Trading Online Voucher is available to businesses to develop an ecommerce website. The TOV takes the form of matched funding where you can now claim up to 90% (maximum amount payable €2,500) of qualifying spend on developing an ecommerce website for your business. If your business has availed of a Trading Online Voucher, you can now reapply for a second voucher to upgrade your site.

Ronan explains that when this current crisis is over there will be a new normal. “We are beginning to see the start of a trend where consumers’ buying habits are beginning to change dramatically. Due to the closure of all non-essential bricks-and-mortar stores and restrictions in movement, consumers are turning to online. We are becoming more comfortable and confident purchasing online, so now is the time to embrace this digital world and innovate your business to succeed.”

For many SMEs starting out on this digital journey can be overwhelming and daunting, however Ronan advises, “You are not alone. These times are challenging and unprecedented, but there is help available from Local Enterprise Office Waterford. The starting point is simply sending an email or picking up the phone to book a free virtual consultation with a mentor.”

If your business has been affected by Covid-19 and you need advice about starting your digital journey, call the LEO Waterford office and a dedicated specialist will get back to you to discuss your business issue. This is a confidential service and is open to all businesses. LEO Waterford will also endeavour to signpost you towards further Government and State agency business supports.

Businesses can also avail of the Business Continuity Voucher, which is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to help business owners make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales.

To book your free virtual consultation, via Skype or phone, call Local Enterprise Office Waterford on 0761 102905 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and a dedicated mentor will get in touch with you.

For further information about any of the above measures visit https://sbci.gov.ie/ or https://www.localenterprise.ie/Waterford/

LEO Business Continuity VoucherMinister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, has announced a major expansion of supports for businesses impacted by COVID-19, including an expansion of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme and a reduction in the interest rate for Microfinance Ireland loans.

Minister Humphreys announced the expansion of the €2,500 Trading Online Voucher Scheme through Local Enterprise Offices, for businesses employing up to 10 people.

In agreement with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD, an additional €3.3m is being provided to the scheme bringing the total available nationally to €5.6m. Local businesses in Waterford that previously benefitted from the Trading Online Voucher Scheme can, from today, apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500, with co-funding of 10%.  The voucher can be used to help add payment or booking systems to websites, along with subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions.

A substantial reduction in interest rates on Microfinance Ireland loans was also announced, bringing the rate down to 4.5%, where applications are made through Local Enterprise Office Waterford.  

COVID-19 Business Loans of up to €50,000 are available from Microfinance Ireland with no repayments and no interest charged in the first six months, for eligible businesses that employ less than 10 people.

Minister Humphreys said: “This package is a significant step-up in the supports available for all businesses in all sectors at this very difficult time. The measures have been developed to meet the varying needs of Irish enterprise and they are very specifically targeted by size, sector and need. The impact of COVID-19 presents unprecedented difficulties for businesses who have already spent the past three years preparing for the possible consequences of Brexit, but those preparations will stand to us. I want to reiterate to firms that we will continue to use all available tools at our disposal to support them and keep money flowing through the economy in the difficult months ahead.”

Welcoming the expansion of business supports, Richie Walsh, Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Waterford said, “For many Waterford businesses, the options for trading are very limited as a result of COVID-19. However, there are a lot of opportunities in online selling and by accessing this Trading Online Voucher scheme, small businesses can develop a sustainable strategy for increasing sales.”

Richie added, “If your business needs access to finance, applying for microfinance loans through Local Enterprise Office Waterford will secure the lowest available rate and you will get valuable assistance in the application process and free one-to-one mentoring along the way.”

Meanwhile, The Business Continuity Voucher, worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy support, is another new measure available for businesses through Local Enterprise Offices. It is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies. The goal is to help companies make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales.

In addition, Local Enterprise Offices have also moved the majority of training programmes, workshops and networking online, making them as accessible as possible for those working remotely, such as free HR, digital and finance advice consultations with a dedicated mentor.

More details about small business supports available through Local Enterprise Office Waterford can be found at LocalEnterprise.ie/Waterford, call 0761 102905 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A guide to Local Enterprise Office supports can be found at LocalEnterprise.ie/Response, along with details of Enterprise Ireland supports.

  • Dr Sinead OHalloran SEAM 3DStudent participation: Nursing students and Applied Health Care students working in health care, digital marketing students helping businesses get online
  • Frontline support from research centres: 3D printing of masks; provision of chemicals, reagents and PPE
  • Research to help combat Covid-19 includes: looking into new methods to increase the speed of testing for the virus; research into enhancing immunity to the virus with targeted nutrition for the ageing population.
  • Research centre support for companies includes: supporting companies involved in the manufacture of other products, including a local chemical company who are manufacturing hand sanitiser; support for companies with recovery plans; testing, diagnostics, and certification of parts and products for other devices.

Students, staff and researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have been making a significant contribution over the last number of weeks to address some of the many challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prof Willie Donnelly, President of WIT, said “We are immensely proud to make a contribution to this national effort. As well as making very radical changes in our approach to learning, teaching, and assessment, our students and staff have also been working very hard in innovative and creative ways to help in whatever way they can their local communities and the country at this very difficult time.”

At the forefront of the response are WIT’s nursing students. Final year nursing students are playing a vital part in the clinical support of their registered nursing colleagues in University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and across the entire region while student nurses years 1-3, along with Applied Health Care students, have been recruited as health care assistants. Many have been employed in nursing homes, bringing their skills and support for a very vulnerable sector. Prof Donnelly said, “Despite the very difficult circumstances, and despite still being in training, the morale of all nursing students and applied health care students is extremely high and from all the comments coming to me and to staff here they are hugely valued within the health service and by the general public for their contribution at this time.”

WIT’s research groups are also making a practical contribution to dealing with the emergency. Using advanced 3D printing technology, the South East Applied Materials Centre (SEAM) in the School of Engineering has developed a sealed face mask prototype for the clinicians in UHW. They plan to work with a local company on bringing this specialist mask into production very quickly. SEAM has also been involved in manufacturing visors for front-line staff in UHW for the National Ambulance Services. The group is also working actively with a number of bio-medical companies in the region around testing, diagnostics, and certification of parts and products for other devices.

The Department of Science and the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) have provided chemicals, reagents and PPE to UHW laboratory staff and are looking into new methods to increase the speed of testing for the virus. The researchers and staff are also involved in supporting companies involved in the manufacture of other products, including a local chemical company who are manufacturing hand sanitiser.

The Nutrition Research Centre of Ireland (NRCI), in the School of Health Sciences, based in on WIT’s West Campus at Carriganore, Waterford has, amongst other activities, mobilised an international community of researchers to examine ways of enhancing immunity to the virus with targeted nutrition for the ageing population.

Groups within WIT are also directing their efforts towards the challenges for enterprise in this crisis. The RIKON group in the School of Business for instance is an approved supplier for the Enterprise Ireland/IDA and LEO funded Business Continuity Supports for Enterprises and will be working with companies assisting them in crisis management and helping with formulating, planning and execution of recovery plans. Meanwhile, marketing students with digital marketing expertise have come together to form a panel that will offer assistance to businesses that need to rapidly transition to a more ‘online’ focused environment.

Professor Donnelly said, “I want to thank all the staff and students of WIT who have really responded proactively and creatively to the national call. This is WIT’s 50th year. While we certainly did not anticipate this would be how it would be marked, it is truly a demonstration of all that has made WIT a special place to study and work that we see such a fantastic, generous response from students and staff to the needs of local communities and businesses.”

Other initiatives include:

WIT in partnership with UPMC under the direction of the HSE set up a testing facility for Covid-19 at the WIT Arena in late March.

Waterford Institute of Technology’s STEM engagement centre Calmast is delivering online home-learning maths activities for kids and parents to have fun together while learning at home. Read more

The Academic Council at WIT announced that as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic all semester 2 examinations scheduled for May are to be replaced by alternative assessment. Read more

WIT Libraries are committed to maintaining critical services and providing resources virtually for its community of users. Read more.

A portal with FAQs and information on Covid-19 can be found at www.wit.ie/coronavirus.

 

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