Dr Yvonne Carella, from the Centre, explains how the relationship has developed: “We started out by participating in a government funded project aimed at supporting small and medium enterprises.
“Enterprise Europe Network has opened up new areas of opportunity for us in Europe, which we wouldn’t typically target because of the language barrier and also the difficulties of getting in touch with appropriate contacts. The Network’s support has helped us to deal with these issues.”
Launched in 2000, the Thin Film Centre’s expertise in developing thin film technology allows it to offer a unique service to industry in the research and development of deposition processes for thin films, design and fabrication of thin film products, characterisation of thin films and the dissemination of information about the applications of thin films. Its aim is to become recognised as a centre of excellence.
The Centre works with a wide range of industries and applications including ophthalmics, optics, telecoms, flexible displays, bio engineering, energy generation, decorative and barrier coatings for pharmaceutical and food products. It is currently running a Scottish Executive Expertise, Knowledge and Innovation Transfer (SEEKIT) programme to enhance Knowledge Transfer between Scottish based SMEs and the Thin Film Centre.
Extending the boundaries
The Thin Film Centre’s participation in the Aquatech exhibition and conference, held in Amsterdam in October 2008, which was co-organised by Enterprise Europe Network and its Flemish equivalent, IWT, was the catalyst for the company’s relationship with the Network.
Using the Network’s renowned brokerage service at the conference led to the Thin Film Centre identifying a potential partner, Vito, a Flemish Research Centre. Vito’s development of integrated permeate channel technology appeared a good fit with the Thin Film Centre’s hydrophobic (water repellent) innovations.
Charles Bow from Enterprise Europe Network explains the meeting: “The brokerage event was a huge success for UWS. At the conference itself, the Centre attracted a high degree of interest as a result of their on-site presentation. That really got them results.
“The meeting with Vito opened up a completely new market for UWS and really woke them up to the potential of international growth.”
Raising the profile
With brokerage events such as this billed as the ‘speed-dating’ of the business world, the advantages are clear. Networking opportunities are enhanced and the ease of setting up pre-arranged meetings with like-minded companies is a massive bonus for businesses attending network sponsored or organised events.
Dr Carella agrees: “Vito had been looking all over the world for a company that could help them. By attending the event and uploading our company details onto the Network database, we’ve raised our profile. As a result, we’ve spoken to lots of companies. The Network’s interface is excellent and they do a really good job of supporting and promoting enterprises like ours.”