The cream of start-ups, college spin-offs and smooth operators

The 18 entrants go forward to make a presentation before a final judging panel next month, with the winner to be announced in April

 

The 18 finalists in this year’s Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation awards comprise a varied mix of start-ups, third-level spin-offs, and well-established operators. Across the six varied categories are several products and services with the potential to disrupt the status-quo on the world stage.

The finalists were chosen by a panel of five judges: Aidan Gough of InterTradeIreland, Prof Frank Roche of the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School, Marion Boran of Science Foundation Ireland, Declan Troy and Pat Daly of Teagasc, and Timothy Brundle of the University of Ulster.

The 18 entrants now go forward to present before a final judging panel next month. The winner is announced in April at an awards ceremony in Dublin.


Energy
Longford-based Airsynergy has engineered a “shroud” for wind turbines to increase their potential use in areas where wind speed currently doesn’t make economic sense. The device improves the wind speed at the turbines in both low and high wind conditions, thereby increasing the potential of smaller wind turbines and the number of locations where they can be sited. It claims the shroud can double the efficiency of any wind turbine, as it funnels the air to make the turbine spin faster, generating, they say, twice as much electricity at high speeds. It adds 20 per cent to the capital cost, but they claim the electricity is half the unit cost. It plans to license the technology, which has a global patent, to turbine manufacturers in Germany, the US and the UK. It recently won the Engineers Ireland Technology of the Year award.

The Irish Aviation Authority has created a new air traffic management technique that offers real benefits to airlines in terms of fuel burn, reduces delays to passengers and ultimately cuts down the CO2 emissions from air travel. Known as Point Merge, it differs significantly from the traditional air traffic control techniques in use at other airports around the world, promising fuel savings.

UCD spin-out Oxymem claims to be a breakthrough technology for wastewater aeration. Up to now this has been a very energy intensive process which has relied on forced, or “bubble aeration” to deliver oxygen to the bacteria that breakdown. Pumping and treating wastewater typically accounts for up to 2.5 per cent of all electrical power produced in a developed country. The Aeration process comprises of 60 per cent of this energy, on average. OxyMem’s solution does not rely on a bubble to transfer oxygen, but instead uses gas permeable membranes, which allow oxygen to be transferred directly to the micro-organisms.


Creative Industries
Derry-based 360 Productions has set out to build on the success of its TV show James May’s Things you Need to Know, by creating a YouTube channel to communicate science education in a short, visually entertaining and informative way. The end result is Head Squeeze. This short show now has more than 12.5 million views having published nearly 26 hours of content in less than a year with 348 videos, each answering a specific science question. Having picked up numerous accolades to date, it has secured funding from BBC Worldwide and Google, and claims to offer a non-US-centric learning base that lets it stand out in the market.

Belfast start-up Komodomath. com aims to offer an online learning system for teaching children aged five to 11 maths at home. Using a library of 60,000 questions to deliver tailored practice exercises in short regular sessions it claims an impressive conversion rating from its trial to paid version of 93 per cent.

Dublin-based Viddyad aims to revolutionise the ad creation market, particularly for SMEs, particularly in online video advertising. A cloud-based video ad creation tool, with access to more than 10 million videos and images, users can simply select the videos and images, add text, logo, music and special effects, and the Viddyad platform creates a video commercial. Firms can create their own video ads in minutes, preview the ads (albeit with a watermark) and then purchase them. It won the Spark of Genius award at the recent Web Summit for being the most disruptive technology and has been listed as “one to watch” by the Wall Street Journal’s Technology section.


Bioscience
Another UCD spin-out, APC believes it has a workable solution to tackle the so-called “patent-cliff” in the pharma sector by delivering chemical engineering solutions and technologies to enable the streamlined development, optimisation and supply of new and existing chemical and biological firms. These solutions reduce the time, costs and risk associated with the development and supply of pharmaceuticals. It has developed two systems that allow rapid scale-up design for projects, streamlining the development and technological advances required to bring a new product to market or put it into production.

Equilume has developed a new therapeutic light mask that adjusts the reproductive cycle of thoroughbred mares, resulting in major cost savings for thoroughbred breeders. The light mask helps mares have foals closer to the January 1st universal birthday for thoroughbred foals. This dating system means that while some yearlings are actually much younger – and less physically mature than others – they are all classed the same. Thoroughbred mares have traditionally been kept under artificial lights for up to 12 weeks every year from December 1st. This light fools their reproductive systems into thinking that it is summer time. However, it also means the mares must be kept indoors and costs in terms of extra labour, bedding and power are higher. The Equilume mask offers breeders the opportunity to keep their mares at grass, while still administering the necessary light to fool the mare’s reproductive system.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are harvested from a number of sources including bone marrow and the umbilical cord and are used in clinical trials for the therapy for nearly 40 diseases ranging from diabetes to liver disease. Tissue is harvested and plated in culture where the MSC stick to the plastic and grows into colonies. The non-MSC cells can then be washed away. However, the isolation of the cells is a significant challenge. Even after using this method only one in 50,000 cells can be a therapeutically active MSC. Galway start-up Orbsen Therapeutics has developed a new method for isolating MSC for use in human therapy that radically improves the purity of the harvest. Currently MSC purity yield can be as low as one in 50,000 cells but using Orbsen’s technique this can improve the ratio to as much as one cell in four.


IT and telecoms
Auxilion provides a virtual IT support service on a global level but expands on this offering with a project support service. The service bridges the gap between pure software-based solutions and traditional on-site support service providers. The firm currently employs 45 staff with an additional 30 jobs due to be created in the coming year.

With claims that one in five consumers do not buy because they don’t get assistance in store, particularly at peak times, DCU-based start-up Gesaky believes it has the answer in the clothing market at least. It has created an interactive mirror for retail outlets, particularly clothing chains. Depending on the clothing they are trying on, customers are then shown matching products on-screen along with stock and product information. There’s also social media interaction through the mirror. When not in use by customers it also works as an advertising platform or a staff training tool. On sale at a fraction of the cost of similar technology, it also offers store owners detailed information on customer interactions and product interest.

Dublin-based start-up Shimmer offers a small wearable open-source wireless sensor aimed at capturing movement and physiological data in real-time. It can measure a person’s movements and joint motions in three dimensions, thereby offering a wide array of real-time tests and monitoring. As an open platform built for medical researchers and computer scientists it does not use any proprietary algorithms and as such can be adjusted to capture the motion of an individual or, using the same device, monitor physiological signals like Electrocardiogram (ECG) information. It can be used to monitor Parkinson’s disease right through to improving fitness. A division of Irish company Realtime Technologies, Shimmer is already in use by hospitals and universities on both sides of the Atlantic.


Agrifood
Animal Health Ireland successfully implemented an industry-led national eradication programme for the bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) throughout the island. An infectious agent in cattle it results in significant losses to farmers due to diarrhoea, pneumonia and the death of calves. Estimated losses to the national herd from BVDV are €102 million a year. The eradication programme over the anticipated six years is €9 million a year. All herds are screened and managed through a central database. In its first year the programme has stopped the movement of 8,000 infected cattle.

Bfree has launched a new range of gluten free wraps, which it claims targets not just those suffering from coeliac disease but also those who seeking a low fat and sodium option. Already on sale in several large retailers in the UK, the brand plans to launch in the US market this year.

Farm machinery firm Richard Keenan & Co clearly knows the best way to use its feed systems most efficiently and profitably. It wanted to be able to ensure its customers made the best use of its systems so it developed a new software system that links the farmer using its feed mixer wagon to real-time information from its food production excellence centre in Kilkenny, where data from the farm is analysed automatically and can be reviewed by the Keenan’s team and the farmer. It claims that by using the system and monitoring process it can improve feed efficiency on farms by 16 per cent. This, it claims, is the equivalent on dairy farms of a milk price increase of 4 cents a litre.


Manufacturing
Serial innovator Andor Technologies has developed a new near-infrared camera, used in biomedical diagnostics such as skin cancer screening and spectroscopy-assisted surgery, that claims a tenfold improvement on the current technology on offer, particularly in terms of challenging low-light scenarios. The market opportunities for this camera stretch from cancer screen to energy and food safety checks.

Foldeaze has created a new plastic clipping system that allows two pieces of material to be joined easily without the use of tools, glue, nails or screws. With clear advantages in the ready-made assembly furniture sector, the BRIAR clipping system is now being developed and marketed in collaboration with German firm Hoffman Machine Company.

Sligo-based Restored Hearing has developed a new Sound Sponge hearing protection product, which claims to allow for hearing protection in noisy environments such as industrial factories, while allowing users to hear each other speak. The patented technology uses thixotropic material to absorb sound. It significantly undercuts the electronic alternatives in terms of price.

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