Presenting the awards that aim to help innovative individuals and small companies develop projects into viable businesses, Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development Services in Invest NI, said that the winners made a "much-valued contribution" to Northern Ireland’s increasing industrial competitiveness.
She said: “Evidence suggests that a competitive economy for the 21st century will be founded on top-class research and development teamed with entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. SMART is an ideal vehicle to promote all of these vital components."
The four winning projects ranged from software to plastic products:
- Memsis in Belfast are developing a system which will enhance resource planning using dedicated data and process devices including integrated customer relationship management (CRM) modules
- adaptive communication systems also in Belfast is aiming to build a prototype of software tools and intellectual property cores that help test, verify and debug complex electronic design
- Giltspur Scientific, based in Ballyclare, is developing flexible plastic horseshoes that will expand when the horse’s hoof hits the ground, so reducing the impact
- Westlink Autogas, Belfast, is developing a component which will enable the conversion diesel cars to dual fuel. The company already converts petrol driven cars to dual fuel.
Tracy Meharg underlined the importance that Invest NI places on research and development: “The SMART Programme is just one of the ways that Invest NI is assisting companies to carry out leading-edge research, and develop innovative technologies. We believe that innovation should be at the heart of all business activity. This is reflected in our support for the Research and Technology Development Centres of Excellence, in our focus on strengthening the links between academia and commerce, and in our encouragement of good design and the development of best practice.“
A new element of the SMART suite of products, Micro SMART, has also been announced. This is specifically tailored to help individuals and 'micro-firms' with the development of low-cost prototypes of products and processes involving technical advances.
The programme provides grant assistance of up to £10,000 to develop prototypes.