The Innovation Exchange for Sport, a collaboration between Sport Ireland and Skillnet Innovation Exchange, was launched at the Technology and Innovation Summit on the Sport Ireland Campus yesterday.

The initiative is aimed at supporting the digital transformation of Irish sporting bodies by fostering new partnerships with indigenous Irish SME companies.

The future of Irish sport is one where digital technology will be embedded in all sports organisations. Improved digital solutions across the Irish sports ecosystem will streamline administrative processes, optimise data management and communications, and improve the understanding of participant and athlete performance and experience.

The new Sports focused exchange is based on the Skillnet Innovation Exchange established by Skillnet to help large corporations to source digital innovations from a wide range of indigenous technology solutions providers.

The new Digital for Sport model will create a dedicated ‘sport vertical’, a body of work that will support the digital transformation of sports organisations in Ireland through indigenous Irish enterprise.

This will see the initiation and development of collaborative projects between Irish sporting organisations and indigenous tech SMEs.

In practice this will involve Sport Ireland and Skillnet Innovation Exchange working together with the national governing bodies and local sports partnerships to define the innovation challenges they face, curate a range of SMEs who can deliver solutions, and work with the SMEs and the Sporting Bodies to guide them through the ‘challenge’ and procurement process.

This will be delivered through the existing Innovation Challenge structure that has been successfully implemented over 30 innovation challenges for large corporations in the past two years.

Skillnet Ireland has committed €5 million over four years to fund the Skillnet Innovation Exchange which is designed to address the barriers that exist for scaling companies when selling to large companies and multinationals. The programme will support over 1,000 companies between 2022-2025.

“Innovation and collaboration are core values of the Government’s National Sports Policy, so I am delighted to see this new partnership taking place between the Innovation Exchange and Sport Ireland, which will support the digital transformation of the Irish sports sector,” said Minister of State for Sport Thomas Byrne.

“Technology has an impact on most aspects of our lives and so I want to commend all of the sports organisations, researchers and enterprises who came together today at the Sport Innovation and Technology Summit, to explore what role technology will play in shaping the future of sport in Ireland.”

“The recently launched Sport Ireland strategy aims to drive innovation through creative collaborations across the sports sector and the promotion of a digital first approach,” added Benny Cullen, Director of Research anmd Innovation at Sport Ireland.

“This new partnership with Skillnet Innovation Exchange will help Irish sport to deliver on these ambitions. This initiative will provide tailored supports to the Irish sport sector and Irish enterprise to help foster new partnerships and develop innovative digital solutions in sport.”

This will be additional to the range of services created internationally which may still be a better fit for some of the organisations looking to get a bespoke offering in areas of their operation and prefer the perhaps tried and tested sporting solutions already in place across their international federations.

That said, this is a great opportunity to build capacity here and to work closer together in collaborative fashion.