University College Dublin has racked up a number of firsts, including creating Ireland’s first spinout unicorn, Wayflyer. Tom Flanagan, director of enterprise and commercialisation at the university’s innovation office NovaUCD gives us the insider view on how the ecommerce company was born.
UCD also established the first Irish quantum spinout, Equal1 (read our in-depth profile here), and was one of the founding limited partners — together with Trinity College Dublin and Atlantic Bridge — of the University Bridge Fund in 2016. And it continues to set the pace: earlier this year, Tom’s team welcomed an expert in international innovation through a French embassy programme that looks to increase collaboration across borders — this, too, is a first in Ireland.
UCD is also leaning into a unique advantage in agtech: it’s the only university in Ireland — and one of only a few in Europe — that owns a farm, where it runs a programme for pre-seed startups to develop their products. I asked Tom what prompted him to create the programme and what he’s learned from it thus far.