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Recognising excellence in innovation

Strong awards shortlist celebrates exciting innovations

A carbon-free electricity network for an American state, a low cost international money transfer system, faster drug development technologies, and advanced computer systems problem diagnostics. This is just a small sample of the projects which have made the final shortlist for the 2016 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards.

The awards, a joint initiative between the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and Royal Irish Academy (RIA) are aimed at highlighting and rewarding excellence in research innovation that results from US-Ireland business links.

They cover three categories, SMEs working with US multinationals; collaborative projects involving Irish higher education institutes (HEI) and US multinationals based in Ireland; and projects carried out in Ireland by US companies.

The 2015 SME award went to Cork firm Alimentary Health for its patented Irish probiotic which is helping irritable bowel syndrome sufferers to deal with their condition; DCU won the HEI award for its collaboration with Allergan on fundamental research into how nerves control muscle activity; while Xilinx Ireland took the overall award in the multinational category for a new class of programmable microchip which delivers increased computational performance at reduced power levels.


The 2016 crop of entries are no less impressive.

"The standard of the entries this year was superb across all the categories", says Prof Peter Kennedy judging panel chair and RIA international relations secretary. "We had a large number of very strong applications for the multinational award. They are always very strong; they are part of global businesses and they are here because of the quality of people in Ireland. They want to demonstrate that capability not just here at home but to their parent companies as well."

Competition in the HEI category was so intense this year that the judging panel had to expand the shortlist to six from the five originally intended.

Kennedy believes this in part reflects the increased collaboration between the academic sector and industry. “Higher education institutions have traditionally been funded largely by the State but in the last 10 years or so they have been collaborating with industry to a much greater extent.”

The value of the awards in terms of international recognition cannot be overstated, according to American Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mark Redmond.

“When you look at last year’s SME winner you can see this”, he says. “Alimentary Health is a great Irish company based in Cork doing world-leading pharmaceutical research with potential benefits for millions of people around the world. The award sends out a message that they are a world class company doing great work to enhance people’s lives.”

That international recognition is a function of the way the awards were established. “There is a great awareness and appreciation for the awards not just because of the highly quality of the entries but because of the independence and rigour which the RIA brings to the judging process,” says Redmond. “We are also very proud that these are all-island awards and we have Queen’s University Belfast among the shortlisted higher education institutes this year.

"Moshe Savrielov, the global chief executive of Xilinx was delighted that the company's Irish team had been recognised for their research achievements last year", he continues.

"This is an indication of the global recognition for the awards. The Intel chief executive also gave his strong personal approval to the awards."

Looking at this year’s entries Redmond selects the SME category for special mention. “The piece that really made me sit up and take notice was the SME category. I was absolutely blown away by the innovation happening in small Irish-based companies. They are interacting with global companies and they are holding their own.”

Linkages are important to Ulster Bank. "For Ulster Bank, supporting Ireland's links to US business and supporting innovation across the economy is a key aim", says head of corporate banking and markets Stephen Masterson.

“These awards celebrate both these links and the world-class innovations they create, so this is a great partnership for us to be involved in.”

Shaun Murphy, managing partner of KPMG, says: "KPMG works with innovative companies in every sector – from fast growth enterprises to established household names. We see lots of great examples of innovation in our work with clients. We encourage innovation at every opportunity – particularly given its role in helping secure Ireland's long-term economic success."

Research carried out by KPMG shows increasing levels of innovation amongst Irish-based business with over four in five currently innovating or planning to do so.

“The case for innovation is compelling and the benefits can be significant, from developing products and services and securing competitive advantage to reducing costs and accessing incentives and funding,” says Murphy.

“We’re delighted to demonstrate our continued commitment to innovation by supporting the US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards for the second consecutive year.”

The shortlist: 2016 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards


AnaBio Technologies: encapsulation of sensitive materials for human and animal health.

Econiq Ltd: conversation hub listens to business conversations and visually tracks the interaction and combines it with existing information to reduce form-filling. Working with banking clients in the US.

Texthelp: Read & Write for Google Chrome helps schoolchildren who are struggling with English and has 3 million users in elementary schools in Massachusetts.

Transfermate: Reduces the cost of transferring money between countries. Integrated into the world’s top five accounting software providers.


Analog Devices: New switch to replace relays in test equipment with 3 pr cent of the volume and 10 times the reliability.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Global Product Authentication Service, cloud and analytics based brand protection, anti-counterfeit track and trace and supply chain security solution.

IBM: Energy data and analytics platform to support a carbon-free, cost-efficient and reliable electricity network.

Intel: Design of nanoscale relays in collaboration with CRANN in TCD.

Microsoft: cloud-based mechanisms for acquiring, engaging, managing and retaining users for Office 365 everywhere in the world have been built in Dublin.

HEI Maynooth: Innovation Value Institute has produced the IT Capability Maturity Framework which has been adopted by over 400 organisations worldwide.

DCU: Direct Clone Analysis and Selection Technology which is 100 times faster than competing methods and has the potential to reduce the time and cost of drug development, partner with Vaccinogen.

Queens University Belfast: Packet classification algorithms for Software Defined Networking, working with Netronome.

Tyndall: Working with Intel, Tyndall has developed junctionless transistors, semimetal transistors, and novel photonic devices.

UCD: UCD and IBM’s Real-Time Correlation Engine identifies symptoms of present of future problems in large computer systems.

UL: An improved manufacturing technique, now known as the DeSouza process, for recrystallizing Pregabalin in Isopropyl Alcohol increasing yield by 3 per cent.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times