New innovator: Hydrolight
Cork-based start-up’s water testing technology set to make a splash this year
Hydrolight chief executive Fin Murray: “At the moment water analysis at the cellular level has to be done in a lab. Three to four days, and a big chunk of money later, you’re told what’s in the water. In the mean time a contamination event has become bigger, more dangerous and more expensive to clean up.”
Nobody likes the idea of drinking or using contaminated water. However bugs such as E. Coli don’t discriminate when it comes to choosing a place to colonise. Testing water for contaminants is costly and takes time.
However, a breakthrough technology from Cork-based start-up, Hydrolight, looks set to change that. It has developed a fast, super sensitive test that can detect even tiny single cells that shouldn’t be present in clean water.
The company uses a combination of photonics, microfluidics and vibrational spectroscopy to find the cells and its real time process can also identify intruders in other fluids, such as mastitis in milk and malaria in blood.
In addition, it can root out other substances that can cause problems including chemicals and antibiotics.
The company’s chief executive and co-founder is Fin Murray, who has a long career in the utilities sector behind him.
He is also the founder of the peer network for SMEs, smallbusinesscan.com. Murray has previous experience of commercialising research projects and was one of the first chief executives to take part in the Enterprise Ireland Leadership4Growth programme at Stanford University.
Murray’s co-founder is environmental scientist Helena Domo. She is a water specialist and former researcher at El Instituto Universitario del Agua in Granada, Spain.
“Water is one of our most precious resources and needs to be looked after. Our innovative technology has the potential to do this in a global context,” she says.
Hydrolight’s initial focus is on water analysis and its aim is to mop up a slice of the world water testing market which is estimated to be worth about €3 billion a year.
FundedCambridge UniversityCork Institute of Technology
“At the moment water analysis at the cellular level has to be done in a lab,” Murray says.
“Three to four days, and a big chunk of money later, you’re told what’s in the water. In the mean time a contamination event has become bigger, more dangerous and more expensive to clean up.”
“Having access to the world class skills and state-of-the-art research facilities available in Cork has been very important in helping get this business off the ground,” he says.
“I would urge people with bright ideas to approach these research facilities for expert help in developing them.”
Hydrolight employs eight people and will launch its first product later this year to specific customers.
A mobile version will go on sale in 2015 followed by a remotely deployed unit in 2017. To date, about €250,000 has been spent on the project with a further €500,000 to be invested in research and development over the next 24 months.
Murray tells a colourful tale about how the business came about. “One day two Irish physicists, a Spanish environmental scientist and an old and battered CEO (me) were having a pint in Cambridge,” he says.
“We ran the idea by various people including potential funders and having received a positive reaction invested heavily in extensive market and technical research and proof of concept.”
Hydrolight currently has the market to itself and Murray says it is not planning to position its solution as disruptive.
“Rather it will be offered to labs to supplement existing equipment and to existing equipment suppliers under license for them to manufacture and add to their ranges.
“It will also be of interest to software suppliers that help manage big water networks,” he says.