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News

During this period of economic uncertainty, it's important for businesses to get all supports available to them. Barrie Dowsett tells us the best way to write a successful grant-funding application.Financial support and incentives for businesses in the Republic of Ireland are substantial and varied. With coronavirus wreaking economic havoc across the country, research and development (R&D) grants are proving to be a lifeline for many Irish businesses looking to innovate.Now, more than ever, the Irish government is keen to support R&D due to its positive impact on economic growth. Some grants are offered specifically by the Irish government, while others are wider EU grants.For many Irish businesses, this process will be entirely new and for those pursuing it, the question they will be asking is: how do I produce a successful grant funding application?What makes a good grant application?A high-quality grant application should clearly describe the R&D project and what benefits it will bring. It should discuss the project’s resulting products, processes, or services and how it will bring about a significant return on investment (ROI). An in-depth understanding of the target markets should also be evidenced, including potentially competing products and your strategies for commercialisation.Second, the application should explain why the business is more likely than its competitors to succeed with this innovation. It should describe why the proposed product, process, or service is radically new and how it will make an impact on both the business and the economy.Factors to consider even before beginning a funding applicationBefore you begin a funding application, I strongly recommend considering the following:Has the right type of grant funding been chosen to support the project/wider business? Some examples of previous EU funded projects may be helpful here.Is there time and the resources within the company to make a successful application?Is match funding available?Are the business plan and projections watertight and would they hold up under scrutiny?Points to cover when writing an R&D grant applicationThere are certain practical elements that are critical for consideration and inclusion when putting a successful R&D grant application together. Applicants should ask themselves:Is my idea unique, or does it at least have a unique edge over any competition?Have I given a logical summary of the key points?Have I included a strong and measurable plan for the implementation of my R&D project?Have I sourced the right people for my R&D project, or do I at least know where to find them?Have I included a strong and measurable plan for post-project commercialisation?Have I made it clear that I’m willing to put my own cash towards the project, and if so, how much?Does my business have access to the operational and technical equipment it needs?These are all vital pieces of information that need to be present in an application to give it any decent chance of success. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t try to go it alone. There are several R&D grant specialists that are available to offer expert advice.Be aware of the different types of grant funding availableThere are several avenues that Irish businesses can go down regarding grant funding for R&D projects. Briefly, they include:Enterprise Ireland grant fundingEnterprise Ireland’s RD&I fund supports Irish businesses in creating new products, processes or services, or appreciably improving existing ones. The focus is on companies with high export potential and whose market share is growing, ultimately creating high-worth jobs. Enterprise Ireland has also put together its guidelines for making a claim which is worth reading through. Further details are also available on the Enterprise Ireland website.Horizon 2020Horizon 2020 is a European programme that offers large scale grant funding over seven years (2014 to the end of 2020). Its aim is to keep Europe ahead of the game in world-class scientific investment, remove barriers to innovation, and encourage the public and private sectors to innovate collaboratively. You can find out more on the Horizon 2020 website (after this year, Horizon 2020 will be replaced by Horizon Europe).EUREKA EurostarsEUREKA Eurostars is a European programme that gives innovative SMEs the chance to work together with partners across Europe on innovative projects. A very popular and generous funding scheme, more information can be found on the EUREKA Eurostars website.Other noteworthy EU funds and programsThere are many other funding options besides these that are well worth considering too. They include:The EIC pilot programme – specifically for SMEs with dynamic, breakthrough ideas.The Connecting Europe Facility – supporting the development of sustainable, high performing and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks across the energy, digital services and transport sector.COST – which offers research funding for cross-border European networks that involve five or more countries.The LIFE program – designed to provide funding for large-scale climate change, sustainability, and environmental projects.Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund – for collaborative enterprise-driven partnerships that will develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies to transform business.With the backdrop of COVID-19 economic uncertainty, now is an excellent time for innovative Irish businesses to put their plans in action via an R&D grant. By getting the application right and answering all the above points, companies could potentially be many thousands of euros better off – as long as all the key elements are included and professional advice is taken where needed.As a final side note, be sure to also check out Techfunding.eu for a full list of funding schemes by industry.Barrie Dowsett is CEO and owner of Myriad Associates. 

Oct 02, 2020
News

With the government still encouraging people to work from home where they can, how do we stay motivated? Nimesh Shah suggests six ways to help boost productivity while working remotely. Autumn is here and you’re still working from home. The novelty of working from home has most certainly started to wear off. Without the re-assuring repetitiveness of your daily commute and the friendly banter from your team, you may be feeling as bleak as the weather.Not everyone finds it easy to work from home, especially if you are distracted by children, your partner (who is also trying to work from home), household chores and the doorbell constantly ringing. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your motivation levels up while continuing to work from home:Create a routineStructure makes our brains happy because the patterns and routines we don’t have to think about will allow our brain to go into autopilot. Establishing a set routine (with some room for flexibility) will give your day some structure. This should make you more efficient, productive and hopefully more at ease in these uncertain times. If you are consistent and the routine loosely mimics the one you had when you were at the office, it should work for you.Get dressedEven if you put on sweatpants and a jumper, putting on your daytime clothes will make a big difference to your mindset. If you work in your pyjamas, you’ll still be in ‘relax mode’ which won’t make you feel motivated to get things done. Designate a workspaceWorking from bed may be comfortable (although not for long as you may develop back issues), but your mind probably won’t be in ‘work mode’. The key thing is to find a space that will take you away from household distractions and get you to focus on the job.Make mobility part of your routineSeeing the same four walls non-stop isn't good for anyone. Exercise will stop you feeling lethargic from sitting at home all day, especially as the days get shorter. So, leave your phone at home and go for a walk or a run early before the start of the day for the amount of time it would take you to commute into the office, if possible.Room lightingIt’s important to have the right level of room lighting. You need comfortable lighting to be able to see all kinds of documents, but these must be ones that will not blind you. Also, the lighting should not be too dim as this will make you feel sleepy and less productive.Stick to your work hoursWe are well aware of how bad screen time can be for your health. Unless you have a particular deadline that you need to hit, you should stick to your structured work hours as much as possible. It’s important to be able to relax after your workday. This is easier to do if you shut the laptop and ignore your emails from the moment your workday ends.Try to organise fun and relaxing things for yourself to do after work.  Pop on an eye mask and have a long warm bath, have a solo disco, a video chat or read a book to help you slip more easily into ‘relax mode’.Nimesh Shah is Marketing Director at Feel Good Contacts. 

Oct 02, 2020
News

How can companies survive the inevitable recession? It isn't just about cutting costs, argues Darren O'Neill. Businesses need to look at every aspect of their organisation to see where they can become more lean and agile. The coronavirus has had dramatic and sudden impacts on Irish businesses and the Irish economy. Both have experienced significant declines in consumption, investment and exports of goods and services. To survive this time and succeed amid the uncertainty, organisations need to assess and adjust their cost base and reshape themselves to deliver returns that will be sufficient to see them continue to operate.When COVID-19 took hold and started to erode the economy, many business leaders acted quickly to reduce costs and conserve cash. In PwC’s May 2020 CFO Pulse Survey, implementing cost containment measures was the highest priority action that Irish companies were considering as a result of COVID-19. In most cases, rapid cost reduction activities gave them an advantage when facing the economic and organisational impacts of the crisis.While cost-cutting is necessary, it won't be enough in isolation to help a company to emerge with confidence. Costs must be cut in ways that don't harm the business and funds should be redirected to areas that will drive efficiency and growth. COVID-19 has made business leaders rethink their beliefs around costs. Things the business considered not being able to function without, like office space, are now recognised as variable, and things that were on the long-term agenda for businesses, like automation and remote collaboration, have become immediate necessities.With economic uncertainty compounded by factors such as Brexit and changes in international taxation, businesses need to look at every aspect of their organisation to see where they can become more lean and agile. It is not just a case of cost reduction. There needs to be an equivalent strategic reset and reinvestment for future growth. And they need to bring their people with them, and get their engagement and support for the plan for the future. Let's look at those key actions in more detail.Revisiting strategic prioritiesCompanies that thrive after recessions are not those that cut faster and deeper. To emerge stronger, costs need to be redirected to the right growth drivers. Step one in achieving this balance is to answer some simple questions about your current strategy:How has your market changed? What's happened to your customers, suppliers and competitors? What market trends or disruptors have accelerated?What value propositions look promising in a post-COVID-19 world?Can you articulate the few things your organisation needs to do better than anyone else to meet those value propositions? What will your competitive advantage be?Are you investing enough in those few things? Where do you need to spend less so you have the funds to redirect costs to value-creating differentiation?This exercise should help you identify the must haves for your business.Reset your cost structureAt a time of significant cost pressure, corporate vision can become very narrow. Often, a playbook based on belt-tightening and across-the-board cuts gets deployed. Standard actions include cutting from project or functional budgets, reducing vendor spends, and shuttering underperforming locations. Each of these cuts may be necessary, but they should support more than just a cost objective. Instead of just looking at where you can make savings, combine steps to get lean and make it possible to reinvest and grow.Where to take action? How fast to push? Leaders should assign these decisions to teams that can look across the value chain. Work together to identify what's changed for good in your business and how it should respond. You'll need to solve the immediate problems, while keeping the ever-changing future in mind.Bring your people with you Disruption makes people question what they are doing, and it also makes them more willing to change. In the recent crisis, we saw people rally together in real time. They connected more frequently, cutting through bureaucracy to share information, make decisions and get things done. Departments that normally thrive on friction came together naturally with a common purpose: to serve customers and keep the business running. In some cases, rigid rules fell away.Business leaders need to act if these behaviours are to last. Isolate the few behaviours you want to promote and sustain, the ones that have allowed your teams to solve problems quickly. Build them into your new way of operating and promote them rigorously to maintain the level of energy and effort you'll need to make them tentpoles of your operations.The coronavirus crisis resulted in many changed behaviours, including:giving teams autonomy to solve problems;collaborating across the boundaries of hierarchies and functions;showing empathy, express gratitude and place value on learning;taking accountability for decisions and raising the tolerance for imperfection.Darren O'Neill, Partner, Advisory Consulting, PwC Ireland

Oct 02, 2020
Member Profile

Suzie Arbuthnot ACA, the winner of BBC’s Best Home Cook, discusses life as a parent, entrepreneur, and TV presenter.Earlier this year, you were crowned BBC’s Best Home Cook, how did that come about?Back in 2017, I entered the Great British Bake Off. I was first reserve and was devastated when I didn’t get called up. One of my friends told me to enter this other food programme, and so I did. A few days later, I had a phone interview and then a face-to-face meeting in Northern Ireland, where I had to make a savoury and a sweet dish. I was then flown to London to replicate the three stages you see on the show and, as they say, the rest is history!You recorded the show while setting up your own business. What was that experience like?I became self-employed on 1 February 2019 and I flew to London at the very beginning of March to start filming Best Home Cook. I was completely stressed because I wasn’t bringing in an income, but my husband said: “You have worked so hard for this opportunity, you can’t give up now!” So, having won the title and trophy plate, I had to return to normal life and not tell a soul. It was an agonising nine months. I set up my own practice by following the straightforward steps set by Chartered Accountants Ireland. I was extremely fortunate that my old firm (PGR Accountants, Belfast) referred a piece of work to me, and that got me started.What would you describe as your greatest challenge or achievement to date?I used to say: “finally qualifying as Chartered Accountant”, as it took me eight years. I never gave up, and I knew I could do it. I was able to have my family, have my children, and just enjoy life. I don’t regret a moment of it at all. However, I think winning a UK-wide cooking competition and now presenting my own food-focused TV show, Suzie Lee’s Home Cook Heroes, is pretty amazing!What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?Have faith in yourself in whatever you do, as others are quick to knock you down. This has been true in all areas of my life, so be kind to everyone you meet, treat them the way you would like to be treated, and have no regrets.What do we most need in this world?We need to learn how to switch off. I am a huge culprit, but we are too connected these days – attached to our phones, tablets and laptops. The art of social interaction is starting to wane right in front of our eyes, and it’s all down to our devices.How do you recharge?I love keeping busy, but I get my energy from spending time with family, cooking, going to the gym, playing hockey for Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, and singing with Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir.

Oct 01, 2020
Personal Development

It's the time of year when the weather turns, heralding darker nights and shorter days. This may affect your mood and, in some instances, trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder. Dr Eddie Murphy explains.Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. It begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you are like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the autumn and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.Around 2-10% of Europeans and North Americans are affected by SAD, three quarters of whom are women (although both genders are affected equally in older age). 60% of those suffering from SAD get it to varying degrees every winter, which is a lot of months feeling gloomy. Given that there is a lot of crossover between SAD and other forms of depression, it is always wise to discuss any feelings of low mood with your GP to help you get the appropriate support and treatment you may require.Where does SAD come from?The specific cause of SAD remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:Your biological clock (circadian rhythm): the reduced level of sunlight in autumn and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.Serotonin levels: a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a decrease in serotonin, which may trigger depression.Melatonin levels: the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and SAD occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults. Factors that may increase your risk of SAD include:Family history: people with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.Having major depression or bipolar disorder: symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.Living far from the equator: SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.TreatmentsTreatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).PhototherapyWe know that a lack of light causes SAD and that people with SAD need much more light to function normally than others do. It is not surprising, therefore, that the primary treatment for SAD is bright light. It has been proven to be effective in up to 85% of people diagnosed with SAD.Lightboxes are devices that come in all different sizes and designs. The user sits in front of the lightbox, so that bright light enters the eyes. Light treatment has to be used every day in winter to enable people with SAD to lead a normal life. When treatment starts, it usually takes three to four days to work, but the effect wears off if it is not used for three to four days.Treatment should start in early autumn, ideally before symptoms start, and continue until spring. It can also be used on dull, cloudy days in summer. Light levels in Ireland are very changeable, and some people can be affected by a prolonged downturn in the weather. Although the worst time is inevitably mid-winter, a wet June can sometimes be worse than a sunny February, so be adaptable.Light therapy is a mainstay treatment for SAD at the moment, and a really useful website is www.sada.org.uk. If you cannot access light therapy, try to make your days as bright as possible. Work next to a window, have lights and lamps on at home and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Beware that people with macular degeneration, retinal disease, or photosensitive skin conditions or medications should not use light therapy. Seek advice from your doctor if you are unsure.MedicationDrug treatments for SAD can be used in combination with light therapy. They can also be used alone, which is particularly useful for those who do not respond to light treatment. Your GP prescribes all drug treatments.Cognitive behavioural therapyCBT allows people to talk about the impact of SAD and can assist people with SAD to make positive, constructive changes to their daily winter routines. It may help them to feel better about the fact that they need to adapt to winter, rather than attempt to carry on regardless. They may begin to feel less guilty or frustrated if things are not the same as they are at other times of the year.Finally, embrace ‘hygge’ Learn about hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’), which originated in Scandinavian countries where they barely see daylight for weeks. SAD is a significant problem in such regions, but inhabitants tackle this by embracing the concept of hygge. In essence, it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with family and friends. Rather than resisting, it is sometimes easier to go with the flow. So embrace the winter, the lights, fires,  and wrapping up warm.Symptoms of SADMood changes: low mood, feelings of hopelessness (especially on the topic of winter, saying things like “I can’t stand this” or “I hate winter”), withdrawing or avoiding social events, irritability, and decreased enjoyment from life or hobbies.Sleep changes: usually oversleeping, extreme tiredness and napping, although some people may also get insomnia or sleep disturbances.Appetite changes: overeating is common and, in particular, an intense craving for carbohydrates or sugary foods. You may find yourself putting on weight over winter. Some people may, however, get a decreased appetite.Concentration: trouble focusing, forgetting things, and difficulty finishing tasks.Physical symptoms: low energy, muscle tension or pain, decreased sexual drive, stomach aches and headaches, and a sensation that your body is heavier or harder to move than usual, and sluggishness.Members and students can contact CA Support on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294, by email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or online at www.charteredaccountants.ie/ca-supportDr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, mental health expert and author.

Oct 01, 2020
Careers

While it might be difficult to find a new job in the current market, it's not impossible. Niamh Collins outlines five key considerations that will put you in the best position to move on in your career. The disruption to employment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. From hiring freezes to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to remote working and the tough decision of making redundancies, 2020 has been a year like no other for almost every industry. At the end of July, CSO data showed the COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate as 16.7% across Ireland – the effects disproportionately spread across younger generations with 41% of 16-25-year-olds out of work compared to 14% for those aged 25-74 years. The employment market is not universally challenged. Despite the economic pressure and instability, there are organisations that need your knowledge, skills and experience. Whatever your reasons for looking for a new role, there are five key considerations which will put you in a better position to get a great job in a challenged market. 1. Be bold with your networking Contacts are invaluable. It’s important to stay in touch with as many people as possible – suppliers, customers, old colleagues and clients. Maintaining these relationships will stand you in good stead because the individuals could provide precious information when it comes to job opportunities, offer useful advice or guidance and even act as a reference when necessary.  Beyond your existing contacts, you can also actively seek out new networking opportunities in your field. Be bold on LinkedIn and connect with plenty of relevant professionals. 2. Be thorough in your research If you have identified a vacancy or a company that you would like to work for, always be thorough in your research. Read up about the business; the values, what they do, who their clients are, and also find out the names of the managers and as much about their careers as you can. Not only will this allow you to address any communications to a specific individual within a department, but it will help you create a better picture of the organisation as a whole.  3. Be flexible about your requirements While you may want the security and stability offered by a permanent job, have you considered pursuing a contract role? The flexibility of hiring a contractor is an attractive prospect for organisations at present. Also, it could be beneficial to weigh-up your salary expectations, especially if (as with many industries) you are able to work remotely. Regularly working from home will save monthly commuting costs and, therefore, lowering your pay demands accordingly (while being sure not to undersell yourself) could increase your attractiveness to employers and might be the difference between being hired or not.  4. Be open to partnering with a recruitment agency Eliciting the assistance of a specialist recruitment agency is a straightforward way to give your job-hunting efforts a boost. It will save you time, give you access to their extensive network of industry contacts, offer a wide range of opportunities that are often not advertised on job search sites and they have the inside line on knowing exactly what hiring organisations are looking for. 5. Be ready to clear your diary and move fast If you are serious about moving jobs, arguably the most important thing to remember is to be ready to act fast as things can change rapidly. Be prepared to clear gaps in your diary so that you can take calls or attend meetings, virtual or otherwise, at short notice.  Clearly explain what your requirements are from the outset and have references ready to go. When markets are difficult and hiring organisations may be looking for its new employee to start at a short turnaround, they will want a quick response if you do get offered a job.  Despite these unusual times, careers are being progressed. Your next role could be a couple of meetings away, but it will require focus, determination and input from you to make it happen. Niamh Collins is Associate Director of Finance & Accounting at Morgan McKinley.

Oct 01, 2020