UCD spin-out Oxymem wins Innovation of the Year award

Athlone-based firm scoops top prize for creating pioneering system for waste-water facilities


UCD spin-out Oxymem is the overall winner of The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation of the Year award. Presented with the award by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night, the Athlone-based firm has developed a revolutionary new system for waste-water plants that’s up to four times more energy efficient than other best-in-class solutions.

Waste-water treatment is a biological process which uses bacteria to break down waste substances in the water. To do this the bacteria requires oxygen, which in traditional plants is supplied through an energy-intensive forced aeration system, which sends bubbles of compressed air through the bottom of the treatment tank; technology which has been in use since 1914.

Typically less than 30 per cent of the oxygen supplied is transferred to the wastewater, resulting in enormous energy waste. The OxyMem system has no such limitations and is capable of achieving up to 95 per cent transfer efficiency.

The firm estimates the overall global market for waste-water treatment technology to be €4 billion at the moment and to grow to €6 billion by 2020. The original research into the process was carried out by Prof Eoin Casey at UCD.

‘Job creation’
Speaking at the awards event, Mr Kenny said: “The Irish Government wants to support innovation and research to drive job creation and assist in attracting foreign investment. These awards show that companies across the island, North and South, can be leaders in their field and innovators like these award winners will play a major part in the economic recovery.”

This year’s category winners are: Foldeaze in the manufacturing category; Richard Keenan & Co in the Agrifood category; APC Ltd in Bioscience; Viddyad in Creative Industries; Shimmer in the IT and Telecoms category. Along with taking the overall prize, Oxymem also won the energy and environment category. The best North/South collaborative innovation award went to Co Leitrim-based Animal Health Ireland.

Panel of judges
The awards ceremony, held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, was hosted by Matt Cooper and attended by over 200 guests. A 3D printer was also at work during the event, creating the overall award. This is the fifth year of the awards, which attracted 322 registrations this year, from which 18 entries were shortlisted for the final round of judging. These firms then presented their ideas to panel of judges chaired by tech entrepreneur Chris Horn, and comprising Thomas Hunter McGowan of InterTradeIreland, venture capitalist Brian Caulfield, Ivan Coulter, founder of Sigmoid Pharma and winner of the first Innovation award in 2010, Mary McKenna of Learning Pool, Norman Crowley of Crowley Carbon and Mark Nodder of The Wright Group.