Tech Humans Of Dublin # 40: Frank Smyth, CONNECT

I’m the Executive Director of CONNECT, one of Science Foundation Ireland’s research centres based here in Trinity College. I’m also the CEO of a spinout company, Pilot Photonics, we’re currently developing a new laser technology.

CONNECT is based in Dunlop Oriel House, on the corner of Westland Row and Fenian Street; it’s a building with a great history, it played a part in The Rising, I believe there are still bullet holes in the walls outside, and Michael Collins had a base here at one stage. It was also where the Dunlop Rubber Company wrote a very early patent around pneumatic tires, back in the 1890s, so the building has a long history of innovation.

We started in January of this year, with partners from 10 of the higher education institutes in Ireland, and so far we’ve got around forty industry partners committed to the centre, from home-grown companies like Benetel and Aeronet Global to multinationals like Google, UTRC and Ericsson. The first research projects that have direct interaction with industry are taking off now, and we’re excited to see where it all goes.

Basically a company contributes cash, SFI matches it, and that goes to two different places: some goes towards early-stage platform research, and the rest towards targeted research projects defined by the industry partner. We’d love to create business for the startups by being a catalyst for partnerships with the multinationals, and we’re already seeing synergies there. It’s exciting from a research commercialisation point of view, but it’s also exciting for those businesses. They get a lot of opportunities. There’s a lot of energy, and a lot of creativity at play here. You can sense the potential.

I’m passionate about the commercialization of research for economic gain. It’s what I love. That’s why I started my own company, and now in CONNECT I’m helping other people to do the same thing. You can be doing brilliant research, and writing publications and giving talks, and that’s all great, but from the taxpayer’s perspective, they want to see social and economic impact coming back into the country. My role in CONNECT is to make sure that happens. We’re turning research into real-world applications, and getting it out there.


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