A celebration of bright ideas

‘The Irish Times’ InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards aim to recognise the best ideas within organisations of all sectors and…

‘The Irish Times’ InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards aim to recognise the best ideas within organisations of all sectors and all sizes across the island

THE SEARCH FOR the most innovative organisations across the island of Ireland has begun with the launch of the fourth annual Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards.

The awards aim to recognise and promote the best innovations within organisations of all sectors and all sizes across the island.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, said: “Central to the Government’s plan for growth and jobs is to support the transition from the old, failed economy based on property and banking to a new, sustainable economy based on enterprise and innovation.

“We need more innovative companies starting up, expanding, succeeding and creating jobs, and by proper implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs I am confident we can achieve that. The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards have identified some excellent innovative businesses over recent years, and I commend all involved and wish them every success for the fourth instalment.”

Companies can enter in one of six categories in the 2013 Innovation Awards:

* Agri-food innovation

* Life sciences innovation

* Greentech innovation

* Business services innovation

* Social innovation

* Creative industries innovation

Winners in each category will be chosen from a shortlist of three finalists. Each category winner will secure a €10,000 media deal with The Irish Times and compete to win the overall title of Innovation of the Year, which awards the winner with a communications and advertising package from The Irish Times worth €150,000.

In addition, a UCD scholarship for an Executive Education programme commencing in 2014, and a consultancy package will also be provided.

Aidan Gough, strategy and policy director, InterTradeIreland, said: “These awards are rightly considered the most illustrious innovation awards across the island of Ireland, identifying and highlighting the pioneering innovation work of organisations North and South. I would encourage organisations from across the island to enter these awards and promote their innovative practices.”

In his keynote address at the 2012 awards ceremony last March, President Michael D Higgins said: “Now, more than ever, innovation matters. And at the heart of innovation is creativity – creative people being fully alive to the opportunities and possibilities which surround them and having the vision and the drive to convert them into tangible outcomes. For me, the concept of a creative society, creative in every aspect, is at the heart of the real Republic to which I aspire.”

The winners of the 2012 Innovation Awards were: X-Bolt Orthopaedics for Product Innovation; Waste Systems Ltd for Green-Tech Innovation; AMATECH for Organisational System/Process Innovation; Mayo County Council/Greenway for Public Service Innovation; Tweak.comfor Service Innovation; and Gabriel Scientific for Product Innovation.

Gabriel Scientific also won the overall Innovation of the Year award.The Dublin-based firm invented a pillow aimed at reducing the risk of infection from bedding.

“The interior of a pillow or a mattress or a duvet is almost like a Petri dish for bacteria – if you wanted to grow bacterial cultures you could do it very successfully in a warm piece of foam that was moist and in a hospital environment,” said David Woolfson, co-founder and chief executive of Gabriel Scientific.

The pillow is a particular flashpoint because of its position. “A pillow is at a point of high vulnerability; your nose, your mouth, your ears, your eyes are points of ingress into the body,” he said.

Gabriel Scientific’s patented technology that evolved, PneumaPure, uses a microporous membrane laminate on pillows, duvets, mattresses and cushions.

The textile itself is based on a material used in medical devices called stents that are implanted into blood vessels, but the company has adapted the material so that it keeps bugs from getting into the interior of the pillow.

“We devised a way of sealing it onto cushioning devices, which were hermetically sealed,” explained Woolfson.

“The only way air can pass in and out is through a filter, and the textile itself is vapour permeable; it’s akin to typical outdoor performance textiles. And once you have the technology locked down, you can apply it to pretty much any cushioning device.”

The resulting pillows save on laundry and replacement, and have stacked up well in microbiological tests, according to Woolfson.

Previous winners of the overall Innovation award include Sigmoid Pharma and InTune Networks.

This year’s award applications will be scrutinised by an independent panel of judges from the world of academia, media and business. The judging panel includes: Liam Kavanagh, managing director, The Irish Times; Thomas Hunter McGowan, CEO, InterTradeIreland; Dr Ivan Coulter, CEO and founder of biotech firm Sigmoid Pharma and previous winner; Dr David Dobbin, CBE, group chief executive, United Dairy Farmers; Helen Kirkpatrick, non-executive director with UTV Media, Kingspan Group and corporate finance executive with Invest Northern Ireland; and Dr Chris Horn, co-founder of Iona Technologies.

Sponsors for the 2013 All Island Innovation Awards include: Teagasc (Agri-food); Byrne Wallace (Greentech); Accenture (Business Services); UCD (Social innovation/Creative Services); Science Foundation Ireland (Life Sciences).

The closing date for applications is Monday, December 3rd. For more information, see irishtimes.com/innovation

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times