Welcome to our Co-Innovate Newsletter

Welcome to our new bi-annual Co-Innovate newsletter in which we will keep you up to date with the latest news on our Co-Innovate programme, details of upcoming events, as well as latest hints and tips on innovation.   In this edition, we give you an overview of how the Co-Innovate Programme works, hear why innovation can help your business, details re upcoming events and meet our programme team. We hope you will find this newsletter both informative and useful.

Drive your business forward with Co-Innovate

In an ever changing and increasingly competitive marketplace, innovation is integral to business growth and success.  Our new Co-Innovate programme can help you  learn about the beneļ¬ts of innovation, identify opportunities for growth in your business and create a vision to make it happen. Geared towards SMEs in Northern Ireland, the six border counties of Ireland and Western Scotland, Co-Innovate will help you harness ideas to work smarter, equip you for future challenges, add value to your business, help you stand out from the competition and boost your bottom line.


Watch the video below or visit our Co-Innovate website to find out more.


This project is supported by the European Union's Interreg VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Coinnovate Programme Animation 1920x1080


Coinnovate Programme Animation 1920x1080

How the Co-Innovate Programme works

Each company’s needs around innovation development will differ, so every company’s journey through the programme will be unique.


Support provided will range from free workshops tailored to suit each individual business, to innovation audits and one-to- one expert mentoring.  Companies who go on to complete assessments, will be selected to take part in advanced programme supports. These advanced supports are designed to help develop detailed innovation delivery plans: bringing ideas to fruition. 


View the diagram below or visit our Co-Innovate website to find out more.





Co-Innovate Innovation Workshops

The first part of the Co-Innovate support journey is attending an innovation workshop.  The aim of these FREE workshops is to demystify innovation and help you understand how it can drive your business forward. We are running these workshops across the three eligible regions.


What are the benefits?

  • Understand innovation, its importance, and approaches for implementing it successfully within your business.
  • Learn about the main sectoral research opportunities, clarification of what these are and why they are important
  • Engaging in group discussion on individual opportunities
  • Confidentially develop project ideas for how your business may take advantage of these opportunities
  • Identify skills/expertise/technology gaps related to achieving these project opportunities
  • Opportunity to log a company profile in advance, view other attendee profiles and request business-to-business meetings
  • Identify potential project partners via the Co-Innovate team's networks of businesses
  • Learn more about how advanced stages of Co-Innovate support could help your business

View Upcoming Events


If you are interested in attending any of these workshops, you must first Register Your Interest in the Co-Innovate Programme to see if you are eligible – Check out the eligibility criteria here

Neil's nine tips for developing innovation within your business
Written by Neil Ryan, Co-Innovate Programme Director

In a world where markets are becoming increasingly more competitive, studies have shown that innovation is vital for the success and long-term sustainability of any business. Every business is different (size, sector, goals, location, how long they have traded for, etc) and there is no one size fits all approach to implementing innovation due to this uniqueness. What is key is realising that innovation can occur in any part of a business and ensuring that, as a company, you’re open to identifying opportunities for change and continual development.


Our Co-Innovate Programme Director, Neil Ryan, has nine useful tips to help you develop innovation within your business:


In a world where markets are becoming increasingly more competitive, studies have shown that innovation is vital for the success and long-term sustainability of any business. Every business is different (size, sector, goals, location, how long they have traded for, etc) and there is no one size fits all approach to implementing innovation due to this uniqueness. What is key is realising that innovation can occur in any part of a business and ensuring that, as a company, you’re open to identifying opportunities for change and continual development.  


With this in mind, the following are my tips for developing innovation within your business: -


Find time to look beyond your core business.


With existing customers to keep happy or orders to meet, sometimes it is difficult to find the time to step out of the day to day schedule. However, as a business, it is important to find time to look outside the business for opportunities and threats, in order to react to market changes, minimise risks and not fall behind the competition, and stay on top of the latest developments and trends in your industry.


Be creative.


When generating ideas, it is important not to limit yourself or rule out any ideas. You may initially think something is not possible or silly, but once it has been tabled others may be able to provide the knowledge which could make it a reality, or it could even provide the inspiration for them to spin out a related concept. Don’t just think about innovation in terms of product or service provision, but consider all areas of your business for improvements. Innovation can be a giant leap in technology, or a series or incremental developments which grow your business take it to a better level than it was previously.


Make sure its meaningful.


What is important is you are innovating towards a meaningful goal. Is there a need or demand? Does it address a problem or challenge? Is it fit for purpose? Is it cost effective? Is it sustainable? Is it compliant? These are all early questions you can quickly ask to check if your idea has potential to take further. If not, maybe you should consider if there is a better opportunity to try to exploit.


Be ruthless.


Once you have developed a list of ideas or opportunities, you can then begin to review and prioritise them. Your time and resources are limited, so you can only effectively work on a selection (dependant on your company size) at once. Make sure to only invest time, money and energy in concepts that show the greatest likelihood of success, and also use a fail fast/fail cheap approach, so that resources are not wasted, and you can quickly move onto the next priority in your ideas bank.


Mistakes are ok!


Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or of failure. Even the most innovative companies make mistakes or begin working on a concept that ultimately fails. What is important is to learn from those mistakes and use this knowledge for the future to develop those winning ideas.


Employee engagement.


Build a culture of innovation within the organisation at every level. Your employees are bursting at the seams with ideas, so not tapping into this resource is a wasted opportunity. Encourage ownership and give them the time and freedom they need to develop new ideas, and also create opportunities for different types of employees / departments / teams to come together to create ideas and develop solutions.




Your business or the employees within may be quite capable of handling their specific areas of focus. But each will have its own strengths and weaknesses, and as a result products, services, and profits will suffer unless you can identify these weaknesses and address them. One way to do this is though partnering with others (both internal and external to the business) in order to fill skills gaps, connect ideas, reduce the time to market, share resources, and undertake workloads not possible alone in order to maximise the potential of the business. This collective intelligence is also a great opportunity for learning.


Know your customers.


Understanding your customers and fostering meaningful relationships with them is core to innovation. They will tell you what they need or want, which can guide you. Negative and positive feedback is a gift for innovation. Understand your customers and build relationships with them to ensure that you’re aware of what they like or dislike about your offerings and your competitors, and use this when making your plans for development.


What’s next?


Keep going! The world around us is always changing, markets develop, and there are always improvements you can make within your business or to your offerings. So, it is important that you continue your innovation journey in order to remain one step ahead of your competitors and preserve the long-term future of the business. It can be challenging, but it is stimulating and worthwhile.


Meet our programme team

InterTradeIreland acts as the lead partner for the Co-Innovate project, alongside Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Enterprise Northern Ireland, the Local Enterprise offices based within the Border Region of Ireland and East Border Region.


Meet the members of our dedicated Co-Innovate programme teams who are based in Newry and Scotland and are here to help you with any Co-Innovate Programme queries.

Neil Ryan – Co-Innovate Programme Director (InterTradeIreland)



Neil is responsible for leading the development, implementation, delivery, and monitoring of the Co-Innovate Programme on behalf of the six programme partners.  Neil  has extensive experience of developing innovation strategies, managing operations, and leading product / process development activities having spent 17 years working for manufacturing companies within the private sector. Before joining InterTradeIreland, his previous role was as Technical Director of a Japanese owned multi-national business based in Northern Ireland.  He holds a Hons degree in Mechanical Engineering and also a Master of Philosophy in Polymer Science and is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Management Institute. Neil has a black belt in judo and has recently come out of “retirement” after a 13 year break from the sport, although admits to 'feeling the aches a lot more than he did back in the day!'


Carolyne Murphy - Co-Innovate Programme Manager (InterTradeIreland)



Carolyne joined the team as Co-Innovate Programme Manager in early 2017. Carolyne’s career commenced in banking and she has been working within Economic Development for 20 years, specifically focusing upon cross border SME collaborations and networks funded by EU Programmes such as Peace and INTERREG. Carolyne is a native of the border region between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and has a great understanding of the issues that affect businesses trading between the two jurisdictions. Carolyne loves to travel and has recently returned from Cuba.


Esther Baird - Co-Innovate Programme Manager (InterTradeIreland)



Esther took up  the role of Co-Innovate Programme Manager in March 2017. Her main role is to manage and deliver Strands 1 to 3  of the programme with a special focus on finance.  Esther’s background is accountancy and she has over 25 years’ experience working with SMEs from preparation of their accounts to management consultancy.  Esther has successfully managed and delivered numerous economic development programmes aimed at supporting both the business and academic communities to collaborate on a cross-border basis.  Esther is married with two teenagers and loves life.


Nicola Whyte, Co-Innovate Programme Executive (InterTradeIreland)



Nicola has worked with the Co-Innovate Team since July 2017.  She is involved with all strands of the programme but will focus mainly on Strand 4 with Carolyne.  Nicola has a background in marketing and training, working with SMEs in the private sector. She is also a part time lecturer in the business school of the Southern Regional College in Newry.  Nicola is originally from Longford but has lived in Warrenpoint for the past 20 years with her husband Jay and puppy Memphis.  Nicola enjoys travel, dinner parties, cooking for her friends and tasting wine from around the world. 


Carrie Gribben - Co-Innovate Programme Executive (InterTradeIreland)


Carrie joined the Co-Innovate team in March 2018 and her responsibilities include assisting the Programme Director and Managers on all aspects of programme delivery but with a special focus on finances.  Carrie has over 16 years’ experience in successfully delivering and managing a wide-range of Science, Technology, R&D & Innovation Programmes aimed at supporting both the business and academic communities to collaborate on a cross-border basis.  Apart from her husband and two children, Carrie’s biggest love in life is music.  Anything but Irish Country music that is!


Donald Murray - Co-Innovate Programme Manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise


Donald is an Isle of Lewis native and is Co-Innovate Programme Manager for the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye.  His duties include client recruitment and liaison, presenting Strand 1 workshops, processing financial claims and is also a member of various panels and assessment boards.   Donald worked in the IT and technology sector for over 12 years, including over 8 years in Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell EMC.  He has degrees in Human Biology & Psychology (Bsc hons) and e-Business (Masters - Msc). Donald enjoys playing football and golf when possible. He is married with one daughter, Erin, aged 20 months and another due in late May.  Donald climbed the Great Wall of China over 10 years ago!


Abbé Cusack - Co-Innovate Programme Manager, Dumfries and Galloway (Scottish Enterprise)



Abbé is responsible for Management and Delivery of the Co-Innovate Programme in Dumfries and Galloway.  With a MEng in Manufacturing Sciences and Engineering, a Diploma in Management and an MSc in Environmental Studies, Abbé has enjoyed a wide and varied career, from manufacturing tumble dryers and hostess trollies to cell culture media, a short spell in construction, regulating chicken farms and petrol stations,  advising companies on electric vehicle technologies, energy efficiency, renewable technologies and waste reduction and management. With a passion for helping companies to successfully turn their ideas into an invoice, Abbé’s wide experience helps her to quickly understand a company's needs and identify the most appropriate support. She is an enthusiastic amateur musician, playing the viola in local orchestras, she loves good food and drink and is partial to some fair-weather walking!


Fiona Fraser - Co-Innovate Innovation Programme Manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise



Fiona Fraser is an innovation and business strategist.  She has 20 years business and brand development experience working with SMEs and in energy, food and drink, tourism and heritage, textiles and fashion and renewables; governments; local and international development agencies; local communities and charities.  She is passionate about innovation, internationalisation and ‘social business’, and has developed a reputation for delivering creative strategy and exciting international collaborations, as well as writing about Scottish luxury culture, marketing and international trade.

Her own Scottish luxury brand, established from the Scottish Highlands, sold collections to international retailers such as Saks 5th Avenue in New York, and was featured in Vogue, Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Financial Times ‘How to Spend It’.


Stacey Neville - Innovation Specialist, Scottish Enterprise



Stacey is our Innovation Specialist covering the Ayrshire area, she is responsible for delivering the new Co-Innovate programme in Ayrshire  with the aim of encouraging more small and medium sized businesses to innovate and collaborate. Stacey’s experience includes working within Business Gateway for the last 7 years where she worked with small to medium size enterprises helping them with all their business needs whilst delivering a number of workshops including Marketing, Finance and Business Planning. She has a wide and varied background including several years within the hospitality industry and working within the family business who owned a textile manufacturing company where 90% of the sales were export.  In her spare time (as well as raising her 2 young children), Stacey likes to box to keep fit, has a full motorcycle licence and has been diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa.


Renewable Energy Sectoral Workshop, 16th May, Strabane
Generic Innovation workshop, 17th May, Stornoway
Renewable Energy Sectoral Workshop, 29th May, Troon
Generic Innovation Workshop, 6th June, Dundalk
ORTUS Workshop, 12th June, Belfast
Agri & Food Sectoral Workshop, 13th June, Dumfries and Galloway
Generic Innovation Workshop, 14th June, Coleraine
Agri & Food Sector workshop, 19th June, Cavan
Agri & Food Sectoral Workshop, 21st June, Derry/L'Derry
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