Big ideas on display at Enterprise Ireland’s innovation showcase

Investor-ready companies will be given a chance to ‘wow’ investors in Dublin


Around 2,000 people are expected to attend the Big Ideas and Innovation Showcase events at Dublin’s Convention Centre to find out about State-provided funding for collaborative research, development and innovation.

Big Ideas is an annual event where spin-out companies with academic roots get to meet potential investors. The Enterprise-Ireland backed initiative, which runs on Tuesday is a national platform for the brightest entrepreneurial talent emerging from Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology.

Big Ideas has been running since 2008. What’s different this year is that the participating companies are all investment ripe. Enterprise Ireland is expecting around 100 potential investors to gather and it is up to the companies to “wow” them during a two-minute presentation. Would-be investors, which include VCs, banks and high net worth individuals, then follow up with companies that appeal to them.

“The Big Ideas showcase illustrates the quality of research happening across the country,” says Gearoid Mooney Research & Innovation manager, Enterprise Ireland.

“It also demonstrates the success of Ireland’s national technology transfer system and underlines the high standard of research this country is producing. We have 13 investor-ready companies exhibiting at Big Ideas, but the actual pipeline is around 30 companies a year. “

Kinesis Health Technologies, a spin-out from University College Dublin and the Technology for Research into Independent Living Centre, is one of the companies pitching for cash. It is seeking an investment of €2 million to accelerate international sales. The company’s sensor-based technology, which measures mobility to determine fall risk in older adults, has been in development for the last six years.

“The first version of our product is available so we are already revenue generating,” says chief executive, Seamus Small. “Typically, spin-outs need money for trials and validation. We are well beyond this. For us it’s about seizing and realising the market potential as fast as possible. We want to take advantage of the ageing population in Europe for example while also establishing a presence in Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada and Australia with Asia to follow. We see Big Ideas as an opportunity to let people know we’re here.”

Also pitching is Obeo. The idea for its compostable food waste collection box struck co-founder Kate Cronin when she was studying for a Master’s degree in sustainable design at the National College of Art and Design.

Cronin subsequently teamed up with chartered accountant, Elizabeth Fingleton, and Obeo boxes were officially launched last July following 18 months development.

“At the heart of our innovation is a user-centred design,” says Fingleton.

“You take the flat-pack box, pop it up so it stands on the kitchen counter and it holds mushy, wet foods and teabags without leaking. When it’s full it goes into the brown bin.”

Obeo box

The Obeo box comes in packs of five and is already on sale in Ireland. The estimated cost of use to consumers is around 35c per day. The company is now looking for investment to fund new product development and to help it launch the Obeo box in the UK.

Fingleton and Cronin are hoping to meet not only an investor but also a hands-on expert willing to work with them to develop their business.

“We want someone who could help us diversify our routes to market in Ireland and overseas and who could act on our board and advisory panel,” Fingleton says.

Fermoy-based entrepreneur Tom Brennan is no stranger to start-ups having set up and sold his Freshways sandwich business to Kerry Group in 2002. Brennan’s latest venture with business partner, Paul Simpson, is Dairy Concepts. It was founded in 2012 to produce Fruchee, a new handheld dairy snack for children.

“Fruchee is an all-natural product that combines the texture and goodness of cheese with the fruity taste of fromage frais and the engagement of confectionery,” Brennan says.

“Ours is a disruptive product in that it is creating a brand new category in natural dairy snacks. It falls into neither the cheese nor the fromage frais segments. It straddles both and the international sales potential is huge.”

Fruchee’s patent pending technology platform was developed in conjunction with researchers at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark.

“I have four children under 10 years of age, so I experience first-hand the challenge of satisfying children’s snacking needs at home, in the lunchbox and on the go.”

“I had been looking to start a new food business with truly global potential and identified this opportunity. Fruchee can be manufactured ‘in-market’ without the need for a fresh source of milk, using dairy ingredients exported from Ireland.”

Brennan is hoping that Big Ideas will deliver the investment that Dairy Concepts needs to finalise the development of Fruchee and to fund the establishment of its manufacturing facility.

“We expect to create around 40 jobs when fully operational and would like to find a funding partner to work with us for the next three to five years while we really bed down the business,” Brennan says.

“The Big Ideas event has acted as a launch-pad for a number of spin-outs that were subsequently successful in raising finance,” adds Gearoid Mooney of Enterprise Ireland.

“For example, Embo Medical took part in 2013 and secured seed investment of €3 million in October this year.

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