Solutions & Support (panel session)
MELANIE DAWSON: So, we're going to go on to the third and final piece for today. So, I'm going to invite up onto the stage next, Daniel Purdy, Energy and Resource Manager at Invest NI, John McClune, Operational Excellence Manager and Richard Pelan, R&D Innovation Manager. So, if you'd like to take a seat, we're going to put them all in the hot seats here. I've asked each one of them, so they each have one slide and I've asked them to explain in as simple terms as possible, really, what their role is, and indeed how they can potentially help the people who are in the audience. I have some questions lined up then to ask them straight after that,
but if you want to start thinking of your own questions as well, I will pass it out to you afterwards then as well. So, you're very welcome on stage. So, first up, we'll have Daniel. So, Daniel, if you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself and indeed the work that you do. DANIEL PURDY: Hi, I'm Daniel Purdy. So, I manage the Energy and Resource Efficiency Team within Invest NI. So, our team, as you can see there, the role of it is to help businesses save on costs and on carbon. We do this by helping them to
identify solutions, you know, to use materials and energy much more efficiently, thus helping that business become more environmentally sustainable. So, we've, we've a team which provides advice and guidance to all businesses. We also provide signposts, and some of the signposting will be to some of our schemes here. First up is our technical consultancy. So, this is a free service to all businesses in Northern Ireland. The only criteria we ask is that their
combined spend on materials, energy, water, waste is greater than £30,000. In fairness, £30,000 today doesn't buy you an awful that. So, that allows us to work with an enormous amount of companies in, in, in various different sectors, you know, across Northern Ireland. So, the consultancy, effectively, the way that works is we will send a consultant into your business. There may be a specific project that you're wishing to look at or
there may be just a general, sort of, inquiry. How can we reduce our energy costs? They're the experts, so they'll do the digging. They'll come up with the solutions. They'll provide you with recommendations
with a report at the end. Essentially, what that does is it provides you with the information that you can then make an informed decision. Should you pursue the project? You know, is it worthwhile for your business? You know, and we cover, you know, an enormous amount of, sort of, different areas. We could be looking at energy, looking at light and compressed air,
heating, that type of thing. In terms of materials, we could be looking at waste streams, you know, embedding circular economy principles within your business. We could look at water efficiency and even bore well feasibility on your sites. The next scheme then is resource matching. So, I, I, I suppose this is open to all businesses in Northern Ireland, and I suppose the ethos here is one man's waste is another man's gold. So, when a company produces waste, we would like to classify it as a, a redundant material. We want that redundant material to be passed on to
another business where they can use it within their product or within their process. We have a, a company that carry this service out for us. Ben, if he wants to maybe stand up and, and, and wave if he's still here, yep, there he is. So, if anybody wants more information and would like to, to speak to him further about it, you know, you can chat to Ben afterwards, but essentially those guys have databases full of companies that would have redundant materials, and then they'll have another database full of companies that have wants. So, they, they're the companies that are looking for this other material. The aim then is that the match is made up and it should be mutually
beneficial for both, both businesses, you know, financially, but also environmentally, because effectively what we're doing is we're stopping material going to landfill much sooner than it should. We're getting an extra use out of it and again, this is, sort of, the circular economy principles which we're embedding into businesses. Lastly, then we have our resource efficiency capital grant. So, it's quite timely that we're having this event today, because this grant closes on 16th of May. So, this is for Invest NI clients only. So, if, if anybody is interested, contact
our client advisor and then we can, sort of, take forward an application with them, but the aim of this grant is to support you to buy capital equipment that will allow you to reduce the amount of materials that you're using within your business. Typical projects could be CNC plasmas, CNC saws with nesting software, paint booths. We could look at water efficiency, that type of thing. We've done carrot peelers, we've done onion peelers, so there's no right or wrong answer, answer to this. You
know, anything goes. The acid test would effectively be if this new piece of kit helps you save material and you're bringing less material in through your front gates, you know, then, then, then you should, you know, this could be an eligible project for you. In terms of grant size, it's a £50,000, it's capped at £50,000.
Small businesses get 30%, medium sized 20% and large businesses get 10%. You know, so it's, it's quite worthwhile and, you know, if you look at that, sort of, the benefits coming from it, there's not just material benefits with new equipment, there's a lot of other benefits, energy, labour, that type of thing. So, it's, there's a lot to consider here, you know, with this, in this grant, or sorry, within this grant. That's our offerings now, quite sort of, a brief overview of them, you know, so if anybody has any specific project type questions, you know, I'm, I'm happy to answer the questions or even outside afterwards. Thank you. MELANIE DAWSON: Thank you. Next, then, we have John. So, operational excellence, John, obviously pivotal to making improvements in productivity. Tell us more
about that. JOHN MCCLUNE: Okay, yes, I head up the, the operational excellence team and it's interesting, there's quite a number of companies in here we've either previously engaged with or are currently engaged with, and I suppose our, our main focus is trying to get companies to focus on improving their productivity, which, ultimately, then has an impact on profitability, and if you were looking for an advert in terms of operational excellence, you would look no further than Kevin's presentation, in terms of Mannok and the, the leading excellence. So, if anybody's keen to get on that journey you can-, you can contact, contact me or the team, and we can hopefully help you get on it. The way we, we tend to work, unlike Daniel, I don't have grants. Typically what we will do, we will work with people within your business and build up their capability and a lot of the tools and techniques to drive, drive those continuous improvements in productivity improvements. So, that's a combination of training and then on-site one-to-one
coaching and mentoring in terms of the implementation or adaption of some of those tools and techniques. I suppose the, the main focus there, as it says up on, on the board, is we're, we're trying to come and help you guys, or the companies we engage with, to, to look at the work and how can we make it easier, how can we make it better, and if you get it easier and better well tell you what, you're going to-, you're going to be getting it faster and you're going to get it cheaper. So, that, that's the, sort of, the, the main goals that we try to drive through. You can see that if anybody's interested, my, my number's there. We have an OpEx query
email, so if anybody's interested, follow up. It's just opex query at Invest NI dot com. I would also then just highlight a colleague, I suppose, coming through post-Brexit, EU exit and, and the pandemic. One of the things that we have done is beef up and enhance our supply chain support. So, I would imagine that most companies here have a supply chain and you've probably got issues with it in terms of it's not that resilient. You know, if you look at some of the things that have happened recently, there's a lot of risk in it. So, if you're interested in
and, sort of, identifying and being able to mitigate the risk within, within your supply chains or build in that resilience, there's an-, there's an email address there. My colleague is at the back, Clive, Clive Stewart, but you can reach them if you send a query then to supply chain query at Invest NI dot com. As you can see, we're, we're quite innovative with our email addresses.
MELANIE DAWSON: That's great, okay, and then we have Richard on the end. So, Richard, you look after innovation and research and development, and innovation is probably a word that's been used half a dozen times or more already this morning and has been touched on in lots of the presentations. Can you just share with us what services your team offer as well? RICHARD PELAN: Yeah, sure. As Melanie says, I'm, I'm innovation advisor within the R&D team. So, we cover engineering, construction and transportation, but even more broadly within the advanced manufacturing team we look at materials and energy as well. So,
it's all sort of things that are relevant to the construction sector. I'm usually the first point of contact if you're thinking about an R&D or an innovation project and act as a bit of a gatekeeper for Invest NI. So, kick the tyres on your project and see how it fits. If it doesn't fit, then maybe advise
on how you look at it differently and, you know, maybe approach the problem differently or help make connections to, to improve it and that's, I mean, that's fundamentally-, most of my time is spent engaging with companies, talking through their projects, seeing how it fits. Does it fit with Invest NI funding or is it other funding? And then helping them make the right connections. Chris mentioned earlier, the catapults. So, it's not just the local connections. There's probably a lot of similarity, actually, between what I do locally and what Chris does nationally, but locally I would help companies make those connections locally, but also then reach out to the likes of the KTN network or the catapult network to see where companies could engage with those entities to help develop their projects further, or maybe look at different solutions or where somebody has solved that problem already.
Just put them in touch with others so they can talk through it. And then it's, it's, it's about then coming back, whenever we get into the process of finding what the right approach is to fund that mechanism, engaging with them throughout that process and helping the companies through that process as well. So, helping with their applications either for Invest NI funding, or externally if it's going for Innovate UK or BEIS funding. I'm always happy to come on as a, a partner on the, the application process so I can comment directly on it and add thoughts to it and help develop it and feedback to them before they actually submit, and then just take me off as a partner before you-, before you put it in. What we then have ourselves are two main mechanisms within the R&D team. We've got
project definition which is support for Invest NI client companies. They help them scope out their R&D project to spend time, support their internal costs of the time they spend scoping out, planning that project, understanding where the issues are, who they need to engage with to help them overcome that, those issues, how long it's going to take, how long-, how much is it going to cost but also on the other side then what's the benefit of, of doing that R&D project as well? So, it's all, all about trying to de-risk the R&D project before you, you spend the big money or start cutting metal on the project. It's all that upfront work to help improve the quality of the R&D project itself as far as the innovation within it but also then help plan it out and de-risk it, know that you understand where the risks are within that and you've considered that within the, the project definition. So, from project definition then we would expect the main deliverable would be an application for the next stage for an R&D project. That could be an R&D project with
ourselves or it could be an application to the likes of BEIS or Innovate UK or DESNZ or whatever BEIS are called now. So, that's, that's an equally good outcome for us. Also, if you've done a project definition and you've realised, like, this, this project isn't for us, we're not at the right time, we didn't realise the complexity of it, the cost of it, or the market doesn't exist for it then all we want is a report to say you're not progressing and again that's all part of the de-risking project that you don't jump into an R&D project too quickly and too soon but hopefully you do and then the next stage of support is our grant for R&D where we can support you to actually develop a product, a process or a service right from first concept through to commercialisation of it. So, again we can
support your internal costs, any external consultancy costs, subcontract and manufacture, any material costs, any travel, accommodation, third party trials and tests and validation. If there's any IP that's generated from the R&D project we can support the cost of that but it's all the cost to get you to the point where you can properly commercialise that R&D project. I'm happy to talk to anybody about any project, you don't have to be an Invest NI client company to engage with me, you have to be an Invest NI client company to, to get the, the grant support but I'm more than happy to figure out what's the best approach for you. If you're going for Innovate UK or BEIS funding you don't have to be an Invest NI client company either but I'm as I say more than happy to engage and help through that process. MELANIE DAWSON: So, I'm going to go back just with a, a, a handful of questions here, so I suppose the first one Daniel perhaps if you can answer this one but from an energy perspective we heard a lot from Liam there just about the, the need for carbon reporting and again businesses will be feeling the pressure to do that going forward. What support can your team potentially give in terms of
carbon reporting or helping organisations with that? Do you have anything available? DANIEL PURDY: Yeah the technical consultancy there which I said is free to-, free to businesses, you know, the consultants can go in and basically look at the energy that you're using and the processes that you're doing and, and where the carbon may be coming from and then they can effectively take a, a measurement there and, sort of, allocate the carbon associated with it. Now scope one and scope two are covered, scope three is which is-, you may appreciate is quite a-, is quite a large type of a project and our, our free consultancy lasts for five days, you know, so we probably couldn't stretch out to scope three but we can get what you're doing within your premises, you know, in terms of carbon. We also have basically listening to what companies need and what they're asking us for and we've modified some of the technical consultancy offerings and we call them sustainability reports and what they do is they pretty much take a snapshot of your business today what you're doing, you know, in terms of energy, material use, water use if you're producing effluent we can look at biodiversity things like that there's several different categories on it and the aim is that, you know, we can allocate carbon to the various different areas. You have that carbon figure then that you can, you know, report on or use for your reports whatever accreditation it is that you're, you know, working towards and the aim will be that you're going to be seeing where you're producing carbon, you're going to be wanting to maybe implement some changes, some recommendations. Next year you do the same exercise, you take the snapshot yet again and you can see hopefully that you have improved so, so that, that's what we can offer there, you know, you know, so it's a-, it's a-, it's a wider business picture that we are taking here as opposed to maybe just even project specific. JOHN MCCLUNE: Maybe just to pick up on that again if, if you have inefficient practices or processes you'll probably find that you're using more energy than, than you need so again we would tend to work quite closely but with, with Daniel's team as well in terms of, 'Okay there's high levels of energy usage, how can we help, help drive that down in terms of the usage?' And I'll maybe just highlight for anybody the, the smart manufacturing data hub University of Ulster offer, it's actually quite a-, they will come in and provide sensors and the data analyst who come in and install the, the sensors, it could be in your, y our feeds and it could be on the machine on the-, on the motors where they can actually capture the data, they will then analyse the data create the the dashboard for you so then you can go and do your action about it. So again if anybody's interested in, in
finding out about that I would imagine if you talk to Richard, Richard and myself we can point you in the right direction up to Ulster University. MELANIE DAWSON: Great thank you. John one for you then so indeed in the room we have lots of successful businesses here but I, I suppose from that perspective, you know, should successful businesses also be considering adopting operational excellence or lean or is this just for those who are behind the curve? JOHN MCCLUNE: Oh absolutely, I mean, if you look at the title of the-, of the conference that you've all-, you've all signed up to, you know, go digital, improve productivity, achieve net zero it's, it's all tied, tied together again, I mean, if you-, if you all think about how you do business you all do businesses, you know, three processes. If you look at your process is the question I would ask how efficient are you in delivering those, those processes? You know, there's a lot of inefficiency in terms of how we actually do the work whether we're big companies, small companies, service companies, manufacturing companies, whether we're in the construction sector, whether we're, we're managing projects. Again if you think about your processes typically you will have people and people are coordinating, I don't know, information, materials, equipment, other people and that's where you tend to get the inefficiency so it's trying to be able to understand what's happening in your processes and then how do we drive out those inefficiencies. MELANIE DAWSON: Great thank you. And then Richard I suppose a lot of people find R&D
and the application process and everything can be complicated and I suppose to further complicate things we hear about R&D tax credits and, and different things like that as well. So I suppose can you just give us a bit of insight really on how some of the grants that you mentioned of project definition for example, some of that, sort, of R&D funding compares to the likes of R&D tax credits or indeed can you do both? RICHARD PELAN: Yeah absolutely. There was an issue before where the SME scheme was very attractive and it competed with our grant for R&D scheme. To be honest it was-, it was really up to companies. There was-, there was not a lot of difference between the R&D tax credits and our grant for R&D scheme. At that stage
you couldn't do the SME scheme and you couldn't do our grant for R&D scheme at the same time because they're both notified state aids. So, it was either or and but from April this year the R&D tax credits have changed so the rate of support for the small company scheme has dropped off but what it means, the large company scheme which is not a notified state aid, the rate of support has increased on that there so it's now actually probably beneficial to look at the grant for R&D as your notified state aid and then supporting the same costs using the large company scheme support and then whenever you look at that it is actually much more beneficial than it was previously to do the both together. And much more beneficial look at the grant for R&D plus the large company scheme, the RDEC scheme rather than just doing the, the small company scheme. But if-, it's, it's still there, there's still a, a, a fair bit of work to do in that and understand to know what is the right fit for you and I, I mean, I'm more than happy to help as far as possible help you understand that but I'm by no means an expert in that area. So, I advise to either talk to your accountant or an R&D
tax credit specialist but certainly with the changes in the R&D tax credits it is now really beneficial to look at doing an R&D project and then use-, supporting at same costs with the large company scheme in combination with that. MELANIE DAWSON: That's great thank you. So, maybe go back to Daniel then. I suppose just a quick one, hopefully an easy one but do businesses need an in-house energy or sustainability expert to work with your team to have those conversations or what, what do those conversations normally look like between the organisations and yourselves? DANIEL PURDY: Yeah that's totally dependent on the business. Some businesses are, you know, they may have that ability to have a resource there, you know, that will function on it or, or focus on energy. We hopefully provide the expertise, all we really need is an engaging person within the business, you know, and I assume it's the same for, for Richard and John that they, sort of, provide the expertise, you know, so if there's somebody there that willing to engage to provide, you know, the site visit that's needed or to be there for the, the, the site visit to provide the relevant data to either ourselves or to the consultants, you know, we hopefully take the, the other pain out of it, you know. We appreciate that businesses, they're experts in making widgets or whatever their product or service is, you know, we don't expect them to be experts in energy in our case, you know, so hopefully we can-, we can be the people that step in and, and, and, and take that pain away from them so, you know, just be willing to engage with us and I'm assuming if you have contacted us, you know, you see the importance of it so you, you, you should be willing to engage, yeah.
MELANIE DAWSON: That's great thank you. And then just a final one for John then. So, John in terms of the operational excellence pace, so if one of the companies in the room here today were to engage with you and to start this process what does that actually look like? Is there a lot of paperwork to fill in or can you walk us through what the journey would look like and indeed the time commitment from the organisation to be able to secure the support from, from your team? JOHN MCCLUNE: No, we, we, we try to make it as painless as possible. There's no real paperwork involved, all you do is you contact us and we'll come out and visit you and what we try to do typically is understand your business understand the issues, I mean, you, you probably think back, back to base you probably have bottlenecks, you probably have constraints to the business, you probably have recurring issues that you need to address and it's really about scoping out where do we start and then we, we have-, I have a team of ten. I like to say we used to have real jobs once, you know, we, we, we did work out in industry so we, we understand, you know, some of the, the pressures that you, you folks are under. So, it's all about trying to, to tailor the support to meet your, your needs, needs and requirements, you know. If you-, if you-, if you want to start out, quite a lot of companies what we'll do is we'll, we'll help them out by that customer to cash loop and then once you've got that, well where are the bottlenecks? Where are the real issues? Where are the things that are really biting you in the behind? And once we have those well then we start. Let's, let's get
a, a team together, we'll train the team up and then we will coach and mentor them through that team to address your issues and to drive some value-added benefit to the business. MELANIE DAWSON: Thank you that's great. So, I'm going to open it up to the audience now so if you have any questions for any of the three on the stage you want to put your hand up we'll get a microphone down to you. CLIVE STEWART: Sorry am I not allowed to ask a question? Sorry, Clive Stewart. One for John, John is there a charge to engage the operational excellence team? JOHN MCCLUNE: No, no there, there's no charge. The, the only cost to your business will be the time that you invest in it, but to give you an indication, we had an independent evaluation, so it says our return on investment is seventeen to one. So, if you think about that, for every one
hour that you guys spend improving things you're going to get-, you're going to get seventeen hours back. So, it gives you the, sort of, an idea of the, the scale of it, but there's no charge other, other than the cost with your time. MELANIE DAWSON: Thank you. Any other questions? Liam? LIAM: It's, it's not really a question, Melanie, it's more of a, I suppose, a personal experience. We launched SustainIQ back in 2018, and Invest NI have been a big supporter of the business since, since we launched. So,
even as we developed the tech, we, we sat down with our client rep and we were able to then access TDI funding to help us with those project-, that, those project works, and Invest NI would provide support up to a certain percentage of the development costs, and then as the business grew we also benefited from, you know, we were bringing new roles and recruiting new people into the business. Again, Invest were able to support us with that scale up. And then, most recently, I just got back last night from the Netherlands where we took part in the Invest NI Going Dutch program. We've got Dutch clients already, and we're interested in scaling up, but, again, speaking with Invest, we recognised that actually it's not so much us out there, it's more to do with partnering. So, Invest took us out and introduced us to a number of Dutch partners so that we could work through them. They know the
market, they, they speak the language, so it makes sense. So, it's been a very successful trip. So, yeah, just wanted to share my own-, my own experience and the support that, that these guys provide companies like ourselves. So, I would just encourage anyone there to definitely reach out and, and make inquiries.
MELANIE DAWSON: Thank you Liam, that's great. So we have any more questions? I'm gonna ask just one quick one and again I'm sure there's a few people in the audience wondering this one but we've talked about Invest NI clients and non Invest NI clients, how do you-, if you're-, if you're not a client how do you become one, because it sounds like there's different avenues open depending if you are or you aren't one so how do you go from being not an Invest, Invest NI client to being one? Any of the three of? I know that I've blind sided you with that one but I think there'll be people here who are not clients and we do have non clients in the room. JOHN MCCLUNE: Just, just testing my knowledge now of the-, of the process Melanie. I was going to say there's, there's Ethna, probably a bit better place in terms of some of the criteria and how to go about inquiring. ETHNA MCNAMEE: Yeah so my name is Ethna McNamee and I'm the regional manager for Invest Northern Ireland based here in the West. So, just to become an Invest NI
client for someone who is interested generally the first port of call would be through Stephen's team and the business support team. So, we have a free phone number that Stephen's team will filter but traditionally what, what we are looking for our businesses who are either actively exporting or interested in exporting. At the moment I suppose we're looking for companies who are, have I suppose up to £250,000 worth which is, kind of, early stage exporting companies interested in creating wealth and creating employment in the region and it's very simply a phone call to the business support team that will be filtered through to the regional teams who pick up in all sectors and if you're significantly bigger than that then there's a chance that we will refer that, that recommendation or that interest in through to our sector team which Gina, I'm sure you're aware of is here today. So, it's a seamless process for someone who's inquiring. We have a new competition called ambition to grow for someone who's
coming to invest in Northern Ireland for the first time and who is of a smaller scale but we can take any of those inquiries through the regional office, either through our competition process or directly, whatever. So, very happy to get any new inquiries and feed them through the appropriate route whatever that is, thank you. MELANIE DAWSON: That's brilliant thank you, Ethna, that's been great. So, to,
kind of, close things off then I'm going to invite Gina up, Gina from Invest NI just to sum up and wrap up today's proceedings. GINA LYTTLE: Afternoon everyone we've had quite a action-packed morning full of tremendous presentations. I'd really like to thank our, our speakers Kevin, Lorraine, Liam, Chris, really appreciate your time and sharing your experiences and your expertise and hopefully we've learned a lot from that today. Covered a lot of various subjects, digital, productivity, innovation, sustainability and I think they're, they're all inextricably linked and that's been referenced several times this morning. I'd like to thank the events team and Natasha for all their work and setting everything up today for us, everything's ran smoothly and I'm very grateful. Huge thank you to Melanie for facilitating today, Melanie works developing digital and productivity capability with a vast number of construction companies across Northern Ireland and we're very, very lucky to have her on the board.
What I would-, I would encourage everyone-, there's lots, lots of subjects, references that it can be daunting, overwhelming. I would encourage you all to think where you are, where you would like to get to and how can the Invest NI team help. The guys here have given an indication of the areas that they could be supportive but we're, we're here, we're willing to work with companies and we want to increase the tremendous capability that NIPLC has to offer. There should be an evaluation form on your tables and I would really be delighted if you could complete that for us before we move next door. So, take the opportunity-, please enjoy, we've, we've lunch coming up next door.
There's an opportunity to network, to mingle with the Invest NI people, all our exhibitors. So, enjoy the rest of the morning, I, I appreciate your participation and engagement and thoroughly enjoyed the Q&A sessions that we had. I think it's valuable we've got a rich amount of expertise in, in the room and, you know, that, that's clear that there's a passion for the areas that we've covered this morning and let's see how we can help you on your journey. So, thank you very much, please enjoy lunch and we're around
for any questions that you might have. Thank you.