Finalists have vision for success

Social innovation is one of the most competitive categories in The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards

Social innovation is one of the most competitive categories in The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards

SilverCloud Health

Mental health disorders are among the greatest social and economic challenges today. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 25 per cent of the global population will have some form of mental illness in any given year.

At present there are two main non-pharmacology based treatment methods for mental health disorders; traditional face-to-face therapy methods and computer-based treatment programmes. Traditional therapy methods have a number of barriers that limit their effectiveness, including cost of service provision, shortage of qualified therapists, stigma, and lack of access.


Computer-based treatment programmes have been developed to address these barriers but these treatments suffer from low levels of client engagement and high client drop-out rates resulting in poor patient outcomes where there is little or no patient clinical improvement.

SilverCloud Health has designed an innovative online health and wellness e-therapy platform in collaboration with the National Digital Research Centre, Mater University Hospital and Trinity College Dublin which addresses these issues. The platform enables healthcare organisations to deliver a broad range of highly engaging and interactive online healthcare programmes and support to their clients and patients, and it is in use by a number of organisations including one of the largest health insurance providers in the US.

“SilverCloud is proven to dramatically reduce the cost of therapy delivery whilst increasing service capacity and reach,” says chief executive Ken Cahill. “The platform delivers support and programmes that cover a wide range of disorders, conditions and issues including behavioural health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to chronic and long-term illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, and dementia.”

Advances through technology

The SilverCloud platform is built on over a decade of clinical and academic research into advancing therapy delivery through innovative technology, according to Cahill. “Clinical trials have shown that SilverCloud delivers a three-fold increase in client engagement rates when compared to other leading computer-based treatment programmes,” he says. “Recent clinical trials have also demonstrated that it can deliver results in line with traditional therapy methods and that it is almost twice as effective as other online systems in reducing depression scores.”

This has clear implications for improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs but this is not the only motivator for Cahill. “We are actually doing something that improves people’s health and helping with their wellbeing. There’s not a lot of businesses that can say that. We are now exploring further areas, such as chronic and long-term illness and disease care that this innovative, engaging and supportive platform can be used to help with.”

Fast Engineering

Possibly the most critical need of victims of disasters around the world is clean drinking water. Getting supplies to victims efficiently and hygienically is easier said than done, however. In the initial 72 hours water provision is generally provided using portable water tanks and distribution tapstands but these have severe drawbacks in terms of ease of use, size, and weight.

Northern Ireland firm Fast Engineering has developed water supply solutions for aid agencies for decades and turned its attention to this problem in 2011. The issues it identified with existing systems included hygiene – disease is spread by hand contact with the water source and by mosquitoes; logistics – transportation costs during an emergency can be up to 80 per cent of the costs of the aid agency; leaking tapstands and spillage – spillage often occurs during the transfer of the water from tap to container or by leaking taps; long set-up times – current tapstands require assembly and plumbing on site; and long queuing times for those in need of the water.

Lightbulb moment

“We spoke to the aid agencies about the problems and that’s when the lightbulb lit up,” says Fast Engineering managing director Seamus Connolly. “We realised that a tripod design would be far better and more efficient. Musicians use them as music stands and aid agencies already use them for lighting.”

The central pole of the new Fastap tripod tapstand is a pipe connected to a portable water tank. The stand has six outlets to which retractable hoses are attached. Instead of traditional taps the hoses are fitted with petrol pump style taps and this allows the user take the tap to the container rather than the other way around, thereby minimising wastage, and doesn’t have to touch the end of the tap at any stage thus reducing contamination risk considerably.

The units are pre-assembled in Ireland, shipped out in a single piece and set up in less than one minute on site. They are more than 60 per cent lighter than their forerunners and less than one-sixth their size resulting in transport savings of some 80 per cent. Most importantly, the Fastap distributes water up to 90 per cent faster than other systems currently in use.

The system has already been deployed in Ethiopia and another shipment has just been sent to east Africa. “We have established new, important relationships with water and sanitation engineers in major aid agencies such as UNHCR and NGOs such as Oxfam, Concern Worldwide and Médecins Sans Frontières,” says Connolly. “Our aim now is to make Fastap the tapstand of choice for those agencies.”

Clubs to Hire

Low cost air travel isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for golfers who have to pay anything between €60 and €100 to get their clubs to and from their holiday destination when they want to go for a quick golf break.

In many cases that can be almost as much as the airfare and they still have the inconvenience of queuing at the outsize luggage belt and then lugging their clubs and other baggage for what seems like several kilometres through a strange airport in the search for the hire car or bus.

The solution to the extra costs and headaches has been developed by Irish firm Clubs to Hire. The company offers travelling golfers the facility to book sets of golf clubs online and pick them up in the arrivals hall at 14 international airports across Europe for as little as €39 per set.

Given the popularity of golf and the need it is meeting, it is hardly surprising that the company is already profitable after just two years in business with a database of 20,000 customers and projected turnover of well over €1 million for the current financial year.

“The idea came to us in early 2010 when I was talking to my friend and co-founder of the company Gerry McKernan about a break he had just taken in the Algarve,” says Clubs to Hire co-founder Tony Judge.

“Gerry noticed lots of people going through the airport with golf clubs and we got to talking about the cost and hassle of that. I went off and did some research with airports and on the basis of what I learned we decided there was potential to start a clubs hire business. The statistics in relation to golf tourism which Faro Airport in Portugal gave us were very good and we agreed a deal with them to set up our first outlet there in 2010.”

Simple concept

The business concept is simple. Clubs to Hire stocks sets of leading brand clubs such as Titleist, Wilson, Callaway, Taylor Made, and Ping at its shops in airports in leading golf destinations such as Faro, Malaga, Alicante, Murcia, Palma, Edinburgh, and Lisbon with golfers booking and paying for the hire of the clubs online ( in advance. The shops also hire shoes and other golfing paraphernalia. The golfers pick up their clubs at the start of their holiday and drop them off at the end saving money and time in the process.

The business has been backed by Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley from the start and is targeting expansion for the year ahead. “We have just launched our new website and we are about to open three new outlets in Girona, Barcelona and Cadiz. Our aim is to have the outlets in the best locations with the best equipment at the best prices,” says Judge.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times