New competition will reward Irish businesses for resilience during Covid-19

Do you know someone who should win?


2020 has been a tough year for businesses across the island of Ireland. Now, one competition wants to reward those hard-working companies for their grit and determination.

The Irish Business Design Challenge, has been launched to recognise and reward the resilience and innovation of Irish businesses in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition is open to MSMEs (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises).

Design & Craft Council Ireland (DCCI) has teamed up with Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland to launch the Irish Business Design Challenge. The competition, supported by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, invites Irish businesses of all sectors to share the challenges they are experiencing as a result of Covid-19, and the solutions they’ve designed to resolve these challenges.

Speaking about why DCCI – the national agency for the commercial development of Irish designers and makers – decided to get involved, DCCI CEO Rosemary Steen, says, “The challenges that the designers and makers in the DCCI community have faced as a result of Covid-19 are the same challenges faced by many small and medium businesses across Ireland.”

“We, as an organisation, have had to shift our way of working. We increased our digital offering to clients; including webinars offering expert advice in areas such as Government supports, creating social media and digital content, ecommerce, how to pitch your brand to media and more – 50 webinars have taken place since March 2020 with over 2,000 attendees, a Covid-19 Hub and our Made Local campaign - a nationwide initiative to boost sales and drive revenue for both makers and retailers.”

Through the Made Local campaign, DCCI partnered with over 100 retail outlets to promote Irish design and craft, with the aim of encouraging consumers to buy Irish-made products during the summer of the ‘staycation’.

“We’ve seen how our own clients have had to innovate and we want to recognise that innovation,” says Rosemary. “In the creative industries, where DCCI is rooted, design isn’t just about how something looks. It’s a process that challenges assumptions, redefines problems and creates innovative solutions. What Covid-19 has done is to embed design-thinking like never before in the heart of businesses across the SME sector.”

Rosemary says the partnership between DCCI, Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices allows them to promote the Irish Business Design Challenge widely to all of their client groups. “It ensures that those businesses, who have demonstrated resilience, attuned to new ways of working and impacted on communities, get the opportunity to have their efforts recognised and act as positive role models for others.”

Highlighting innovation
The Irish Business Design Challenge is open to three categories: micro (1 - 10 employees), small (11 - 50 employees) and medium-sized (51 - 250 employees) Irish businesses – and there are attractive prizes.

There is an overall prize fund in excess of €50,000, with a €15,000 first prize for the winner of each category and €2,000 for the runner-up in each category.

The expert judging panel consists of Tommy Murray from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Paul McKeown, Executive Director at Enterprise Ireland; Breda Fox (Head of Local Enterprise Office Galway, representative for LEOs nationally on DCCI Board) and Charlotte Barker (CEO Institute of Designers in Ireland). The panel is chaired by Dearbhail McDonald, Author, TV and Radio Broadcaster.

Oisín Geoghegan, Chair of Local Enterprise Offices, says, “In the Local Enterprise Offices, we are in the privileged position to work with some of the most innovative small businesses from across the country and for many of them, intelligent design is at the core of what they do.”

“In recent months, we have seen this come to the fore, with companies having to adapt or die. Many have had to redesign their existing products, or pivot to new ones linked to their supply chain. The Irish Business Design Challenge is a fantastic way to recognise these businesses and highlight some of the innovative and brilliant design that is out there across the country.”

Paul McKeown, Executive Director at Enterprise Ireland, adds, “This year has proven to be a difficult year for Irish business, but for many, it has consequently become an opportunity to develop and re-invent.”

“We are recognising the resilience and innovation of SMEs nationwide and supporting emerging projects, products or services with the potential to provide solutions for a range of enterprises. We are keen to hear from SMEs about their new approaches to operation and I am encouraging all those who are interested to apply today.”

‘Hero Businesses’
So what exactly is the judging panel looking for?

Rosemary Steen says, “We are calling on micro, small and medium Irish businesses that have reinvented their overall working model in order to adapt and diversify quickly to meet the challenges they are facing in the current economic environment. Or, have developed or redesigned their products or services to meet current and future needs.”

“Through the Irish Business Design Challenge, we want to harness the ingenuity of the SME sector, to help other businesses and communities across Ireland.”

The panel is looking for projects, products and services that are actionable in a short timeframe and respond to a direct need or challenge that is faced by enterprises, due to Covid-19.

The Irish Business Design Challenge will profile Ireland’s ‘hero businesses’ over a number of weeks. The expert panel and members of the public will have the chance to vote for their ‘hero business’.

As well as the judging panel shortlisting entries, businesses that receive the most votes will be shortlisted as finalists. They will be invited to share their stories and solutions in detail, which will be published in national media.

The SMEs will be asked to describe the steps they took to design new products or services, shift their business model or develop new systems of management.

The judges also want to hear about the impact of those changes on their business in areas such as innovation, consumer experience, job retention or creation, and potential for future growth – along with what benefit these business changes can have for other businesses, communities and wider society.

Rosemary adds, “I am delighted to launch the Irish Business Design Challenge alongside Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices. Small businesses are of central importance to Ireland’s economy and we want to celebrate those businesses that have overcome so much over the past few months due to Covid-19.”

Full details are available online and entries can be made through the IBDC website.



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