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These days, tech giants are spending enough money on research and development each year to solve the world’s problems ten times over. Amazon spend $23 billion on R&D in 2017 alone. Alphabet and Intel spent $16.6 billion and $13.1 billion respectively.

These figures are eye-watering. Flashing the cash on innovation is what all the cool companies are doing. Start-ups often feel that they must establish their own R&D teams in the early days to make sure they are ahead of the curve and coming up with fresh ideas.

What if there was a way to access those fresh ideas without having to set up a billion-dollar department in your company? What if there were already institutions set up all over the world which were a melting pot of ideas and expertise? Researchers and developers working tirelessly to forge new solutions and ask important questions?

Having interviewed a handful of academics during our searching stage with Supernode, there was one question that came up time and time again – “Are you reading the literature?”.

Universities are veritable research factories. They have a tireless, passionate workforce on the constant hunt for funding. UCD alone has published numerous papers on exactly the technology Supernode will require.

The rich IP on offer in colleges and universities is often published and forgotten about. What if there was a mechanism whereby an entrepreneurial spirit could take the ideas from academia and develop them into profitable businesses, or solutions to existing problems?

Let’s take research out of laboratories so it can flourish. Start-ups are just the agile and nimble vehicle for ground-breaking research to grab onto and reach its full potential. Collaboration will streamline the path to success and deliver smarter results.

There is an outdated idea that academia’s sole purpose is the pursuit of knowledge while industry is enslaved to profit. The reality is that academia is an industry in and of itself, and industry cannot generate profit without innovation. The gap between the two serves no purpose other than to ensure that the best and brightest ideas are lost between the pages of academic journals.

How can we make sure our ideas see the light of day?

This blog is written by Maria O’Neill from the SuperNode team and edited by Ellen Le Bas. SuperNode is part of the 2018 UCD Sustainability Launchpad led by UpThink in association with the UCD Energy Institute and sponsored by our Industry Partners Mainstream Renewable Power. If you have any questions about the Launchpad programme email

Mary Cronin
Author: Mary Cronin
January 6, 2019
Mary is an innovation specialist, systems thinker and circular economy facilitator. As the founder of UpThink Innovation Agency, Mary works with SMEs and large organisations as a circular economy/climate change/ESG consultant.