Keelvar raises €750k to expand government procurement service

Benjamin Jakobus

April 6, 2022

Keelvar: A great example of how our research investment is delivering high-quality jobs’ – Bruton

CORK based UCC spin-out company Keelvar Systems has announced that it has secured €750k in a funding round led by ACT Venture Capital and with investment from Enterprise Equity and Enterprise Ireland. The funding will be used to increase staff numbers to 18 and expand the company’s innovative procurement optimisation service for large scale government tenders and multi-national companies.The investment was made from seed funds supported by AIB; lead investor ACT investing from its AIB Start-Up Accelerator Fund and Enterprise Equity from the AIB Seed Capital Fund.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton TD said: “A key part of the Government’s plan for jobs and growth is ensuring that we get a better economic return from our investment in scientific research. That is why we have implemented the Research Prioritisation Exercise to ensure that our work is properly focused on areas where there is high potential for jobs and growth, and why we are setting up a one-stop shop to make it easier for to connect researchers with the companies that might commercialise their ideas.“Today’s announcement is an example of the type of business we want to see come out of our research activities. Keelvar is a company which has spun out of Government-supported university research, has now obtained funding from the markets, will shortly have created 18 jobs and undoubtedly has a bright future. I am determined to ensure that we see more companies like this emerge from our research to help create the jobs and growth we need”.

Keelvar CEO Alan Holland says: ‘Our software-as-a-service helps purchasers establish a balanced and cost effective outcome between large and small suppliers, which can be critical to indigenous industry. It is a price gathering mechanism that supports communication of creative ways in which waste can be removed, helping Government departments and multi-national companies reduce costs. The market opportunity is huge, global and timely due to the technology’s ability to help resolve the conflict within government budgets to protect & grow employment while saving significant costs and maintaining service levels. Savings of between 4 and 10% are achievable in most spend categories. Governments across the world are centralising procurement in order to avail of potential efficiencies.

Keelvar is bringing state-of-the-art computer science to procurement with its novel auction technology that brings sophistication to the financial proposal stage of tendering. This is a win-win outcome for both the supplier and the purchaser – Keelvar’s approach helps realise efficiencies while at the same time allowing suppliers improve their margins.Keelvar emerged from the 4C research laboratory in the Dept of Computer Science, UCC. According to Prof Barry O’Sullivan, who is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, and the Director of 4C, “We are very excited by the potential that exists to radically improve cost efficiencies in public procurement. Keelvar is an example of how technology transfer from research in UCC can provide a transformational solution for a sector in which reform is a high priority.”Greg Treston, Enterprise Ireland Head of High Potential Start-Ups and Scaling, added: ‘This is a very promising academic spin-out and Enterprise Ireland is delighted to support Keelvar. The commercialisation of state-funded research is a key priority for the Government and for Enterprise Ireland, and Keelvar’s innovative system shows just how great ideas can be turned into commercial businesses. We look forward to continuing working with them as they grow the business’.

Keelvar’s novel auction technology brings sophistication to the financial proposal stage of government tendering so that cost efficiencies are communicated and realised. Responders to tenders supported by Keelvar are invited to communicate more price data and conditional bids describing cost synergies. Keelvar’s software helps the purchaser to compute the most economically advantageous outcome.Government suppliers encounter a fundamental problem when attempting to secure multiple contracts that offer cost synergies. Typically, they win contracts that are either scattered geographically or offer little scope for cost efficiencies. This adds to suppliers costs and ultimately increases the price for government buyers and tax-payers. Keelvar is bringing state-of-the-art computer science to government procurement to solve this problem and cut waste from the supply network.The key advance is that responders to large scale tenders are invited to offer bids on bundles of their choice with more flexibility to describe cost efficiencies. This removes the exposure problem that suppliers face at present when they win various government contracts that present no synergies (e.g. geographically dispersed contracts or transport contracts with no right of pick-up at delivery locations etc).

KEELVAR Systems is an Enterprise Ireland supported HPSU client company. In the period 2000-2011 Enterprise Ireland supported over 900 high-potential start-up companies which are responsible for employing over 25,000 people directly and indirectly in the wider economy, and have combined sales of over €1.5 billion, 75% of which is exported.About The 4C Research Group (Cork Constraint Computation Centre) at UCCThe Cork Constraint Computation Centre (4C) was established at University College Cork with initial funding from Science Foundation Ireland in the form of a Principal Investigator award. Constraint programming already has wide commercial application, but much remains to be done to fully explore and exploit the technology. The 4C group apply advances in artificial intelligence and other disciplines to make constraint programming easier to use and more useful. KEELVAR Systems has spun-out of research initiated through the 4C group in UCC.

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