Breakthrough technologies in areas such as customer engagement and market intelligence, big data system performance analysis, and counterfeit detection were celebrated at the 2016 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards earlier this month.
The awards recognise excellence in research innovation that has taken place on the island of Ireland as a result of US business investment. This is the second year of the awards which are a joint initiative between the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).
The awards were presented in three categories – projects involving Irish SMEs working in conjunction with US multinationals; Irish higher education institutes (HEI) and US multinationals based in Ireland working together on collaborative projects; and US companies carrying out research projects in Ireland.
The SME award went to Galway company Econiq Ltd for its "Conversation Hub". Initially developed for contact centres and banks in the US, the Conversation Hub senses and responds to business phone conversations through live analysis of applications used during the call. It uses a colour-coding technique to guide users through the conversations helping them deal with complex issues as they arise. It also produces visual transcripts of every conversation which can be used to coach contact centre agents and other users helping improve performance. The transcripts provide companies with real-time conversation intelligence about customers, markets, competitors and products.
"So much effort and work has gone into this by our customers and all our employees, the award is just great for them," said chief technology officer Stephen Ryan. "I thought there were so many good companies there and so much good research that we didn't stand a chance at all. It's brilliant."
According to American Chamber chief executive Mark Redmond the presence of US companies in Ireland is fostering innovation across the business community including SMEs.
“FDI companies are working closely with Irish businesses to develop new technologies with worldwide application”, he says. “Econiq is a great example of an Irish company, who through their Conversation Hub, is delivering a top quality service to business on both sides of the Atlantic.”
UCD took the award for an Irish higher education institution working with a US company. The award was for UCD's decade-long research collaboration with IBM Dublin Software Lab which resulted in the invention of the 'Real Time Correlation Engine' (RTCE).
Analyse log files
The RTCE uses novel data normalisation, clustering and filtering techniques to analyse log files, from several different sources, to find patterns and symptoms that indicate malfunction and enable rapid response to problems in big data systems.
On receiving the award Professor John Murphy, who leads the Performance Engineering Lab (PEL) in UCD's School of Computer Science, said: "[It] resulted from our long-term research and innovation collaboration between PEL academics and researchers and the IBM Dublin Software Lab, in particular Dr Pat O'Sullivan and his team."
Mark Redmond adds: “The collaborations in Ireland of academia and industry are delivering life changing and lifesaving technologies.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in Galway won the multinational award for its Global Product Authentication Service (GPAS) which addresses issues relating to counterfeiting, brand protection, track and trace systems, and the security of products and the value chain. GPAS offers the ability to create cryptographically secure product serialisation which enables the product to be uniquely marked and tracked throughout the supply chain. Once the product reaches the marketplace the consumer can use a smartphone to verify its authenticity.
“The award tonight in recognition of what we have done is very much appreciated,” said Gary Moloney, business operations manager, HPE Cloud and Analytics Services Innovation Centre.
“The success we’ve had in being the Irish operation of an American multinational company has really allowed us to be credible within Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Our roadmap for the next generation of services has us very strategically aligned with HP’s own goals and new innovative service offerings in areas such as the internet of things and blockchain. What we have done over the last number of years has led us to be able to be involved in the next generation of services.”
Mark Redmond believes this category demonstrates how Ireland is now the location in which companies place their highest value research. “We see this across multiple sectors in ICT, pharmaceuticals, medtech and fintech. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise team in Galway has developed a strong reputation and for its innovative activities and their development of GPAS is a perfect example of the quality of the research being carried out.”
The high standard of entry was noted by Eddie Cullen, head of corporate and institutional banking at award sponsor Ulster Bank. "We were delighted to partner with the American Chamber for this year's awards . . . The calibre of entries was exceptional and testament to the talent, skills and hard work of all involved."
Shaun Murphy, managing partner of fellow sponsor KPMG, pointed to the importance of the awards in promoting innovation. "For Ireland to thrive, we need businesses that are thriving and, amongst other things, that means businesses that are constantly innovating. In our work with clients, we get to see innovative businesses of every type and size and their achievements are enormous. In turn, we are particularly keen to encourage stronger linkages between dynamic, domestically owned business, the multinational sector and the university sector."
“These awards recognise the ambition of these players and it is entirely right that we should highlight their achievements. I would like to pay tribute to all of the entrants in this year’s awards programme and to the winners whose hard work, dedication and commitment to innovation shone throughout the judging process.”
The involvement of the Royal Irish Academy in the awards is critically important, says Redmond. “The independence and rigour which the RIA brings has given the awards is tremendous. The status it gives them both domestically and internationally has meant that even being shortlisted is seen as very valuable by the companies and higher education institutions which enter.”
"This year's award winners also demonstrate how research and innovation carried out in Ireland is having a global impact. It's also lovely to see two of the awards going west as well as to have Northern Ireland represented."
Another honouree on the night was Philip King who received a lifetime achievement award from the American Chamber of Commerce for his ongoing contribution to Ireland's culture and music.
Presenting the award, American Chamber vice-president James O’Connor described Philip King as “a guardian of our cultural and artistic heritage. He is a visionary and explorer who sees where our music and culture has come from and where they are going in future. His vision sees beyond artistic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. He has become a passionate advocate for STEAM – the fusion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with the arts.”