12 transformative big ideas that will have their time to shine at Innovation Showcase

4 Dec 2015

Check out these incredibly innovative ideas in healthcare, energy and education that will be seeking investment at the Innovation Showcase next week.

On Tuesday, 8 December, the Convention Centre Dublin will become a hive of pioneering technology as the Innovation Showcase brings together bright ideas from across the country.

One of the highlights of the event will be the Big Ideas session where 12 investor-ready start-ups will have two minutes to pitch their innovative products to investors.

Most of these projects are award winners, with backing from Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, and many stem from the remarkable BioInnovate programme, which embeds teams in clinical settings to identify innovations that can benefit patients.

1. A device to make urinary catheterisation safer

University of Limerick spin-out Class Medical is a medical device company hoping to tackle an age-old problem with the Trans-Urethral Catheterisation Safety Syringe (TUCSS) valve.

This innovative medical device was built to improve patient safety and comfort when a urinary catheter is being put in place – a notoriously uncomfortable procedure that brings with it the risk of urethral injury.

With the pressure-sensitive TUCSS valve providing a visual cue, medical practitioners can ensure correct positioning of the catheter before inflating the anchoring balloon.

According to Class Medical CEO and co-founder Rory Mooney, there are over 300,000 injuries per year from improper urinary catheterisation. Using the TUCSS valve could help prevent these injuries, saving patients discomfort and saving the hospital from the cost of extended stays and potential litigation.

2. A platform to help public bodies deal with data

With a list of clients and projects including the National Open Data Portal, the Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Derilinx can confidently stake its claim as Ireland’s leading linked and open data company.

A spin-out from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, Derilinx has developed a platform to help public sector bodies make effective use of and gain valuable insights from their data. Derilinx helps these organisations identify, catalogue and enrich high-quality ‘clean’ data that can then be used for visualisation, modelling and analytics.

Internationally, there’s a big push for public bodies to publish open data for innovation and transparency reasons, and also to better use and govern internal data. This gives Derilinx the potential to go global and, in Ireland and the UK alone, its target market comprises 74 government departments, 650 public agencies and 490 local authorities.

3. A better look at financial modelling for renewable energy projects

Financial modelling for renewable energy projects can be costly and, according to Exceedence CEO Ray Alcorn, no current solution gives all of the key players a proper ‘big picture’ view.

That’s why his company has purpose-built software to provide a ‘helicopter view’ for these projects, helping to assess whether they will make or lose money, and to identify and manage risks effectively.

Exceedence’s software gives everyone involved in the project the ability to work off the same transparent, integrated view of the plan. The software works in 21 different currencies, enabling comparisons between projects around the world, whether for wind, wave or tidal energy, while future development will also bring photovoltaic projects into the mix.

Currently, €200bn is spent per year on renewable energy projects globally and, according to Exceedence, at least 4,000 companies around the world could make use of this software.

4. Painless screening for urinary reflux in children

When Kite Medical CEO Sarah Loughney spent time with clinicians working with kids with urinary reflux, she witnessed first-hand the difficulties young patients have during the procedure to diagnose this condition.

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) requires a radiologist and the insertion of a urethral catheter in order to fill and then empty the bladder while observing the urination process via an X-ray.

Kite Medical’s device is an easier, non-invasive and less traumatic method of diagnosis. It is worn as a belt during urination to screen for reflux, while follow-up care can also be monitored using this device.

Up to 1m children should be referred for VCUG but, according to Kite Medical CTO Chris Nelson, there is only 40pc compliance due to the invasiveness of the procedure. Thus, the condition is often missed or diagnosed late when the child is at risk of permanent kidney damage.

5. Cybersecurity assurance for medical devices

Homeland famously presented the world with the scenario of malicious hackers tapping into pacemakers and, though an attack of this nature has never been recorded, controlled hacks carried out on implantable devices have demonstrated vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

Like anything connected via technology, medical devices need to be secure. In fact, last October, the US Food and Drug Administration published cybersecurity requirements medical device manufacturers would have to meet prior to placing a product on the market.

This has led to the development of SelectEvidence from Nova Leah.

SelectEvidence is intelligent software that helps medical device manufacturers implement FDA and EU cybersecurity requirements in a traceable, manageable and auditable way. Using SelectEvidence, manufacturers can accelerate risk analysis and reduce the time to market for new products.

6. More efficient wind energy transfer

While renewables – particularly wind – are increasingly contributing to our national grid, the system simply was not built to integrate energy from these sources. This means that transferring wind energy to the grid is inefficient, resulting in energy losses as well as lost revenue for energy providers.

Constructing new infrastructure to accommodate the transfer of renewable energy can be expensive, but NovoGrid has an alternative software-based solution

NovoGrid’s software works with existing infrastructure to improve the efficiency of local energy integration. Using an algorithm to analyse local network conditions, NovoGrid autonomously chooses the appropriate operating set point for efficient transfer, so there’s no need for central control or communications.

Inefficient delivery of energy from wind farms can result in an estimated loss of €2.3bn per year for wind farmers around the world, but NovoGrid claims its software can boost the annual energy production of an individual wind farm by 1-2pc.

7. A new take on tackling hypothermia

Fresh from success at the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Awards, Kieran Normoyle from Limerick start-up Ocean Survivor will be showcasing his hypothermia-fighting marine equipment at the 2015 Innovation Showcase.

Back in 2013, Normoyle was shortlisted for the James Dyson Award for his Hydros invention, which has evolved into Core Degree (stylised as Core°).

This wearable protection system for divers helps to mitigate the effects of hypothermia by transferring heat to the body’s core and vital organs, setting it apart from existing approaches that focus on layering levels of clothing and using the wet/dry suit effects. Core Degree is about replenishing heat rather than reducing heat loss, using a base-layer harness, heat pack and activation mechanism that switches on when submerged in water.

Ocean Survivor’s target customers are those in the oil and gas industry, which has the highest requirment for PPE, but the product also has potential in renewable energy, fishing, defence and leisure.

8. A minimally invasive device to treat BPH

In benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the prostate gland enlarges and compresses the urethra, resulting in frequent urination, weak urinary flow and, in severe cases, kidney failure. The medication to treat this condition has unwanted side effects, while a surgical solution involves general anaesthetic, catheterisation and, typically, three days in hospital.

ProVerum Medical’s eponymous device is built to expand the urethra and can be implanted under local anaesthetic . This unique device is made using a biocompatible material and structure to ensure that it will not migrate or become encrusted.

BPH affects up to 60pc of men over the age of 50 and approximately 1.2m surgeries are performed per year in the US and Europe.

Cadaver studies and a proof-of-concept pre-clinical study have been completed, and a provisional patent application has been filed as ProVerum Medical prepares to spin-out from its research home at Trinity College Dublin in early 2016.

9. A sensored splint to track and measure teeth grinding

According to SelfSense Technologies, at least 20pc of the population grind their teeth at night without even realising it, which can damage teeth and lead to facial pain.

Many patients can wear a night-guard splint or mouthpiece to protect their teeth or facial muscles from further damage, and around 10m of these splints are made in the EU and US every year. SelfSense Technologies has decided to use this as a method of gathering data.

Selfsense’s SmartSplint is a wearable splint device that uses inbuilt sensors to measure the forces being exerted on teeth during grinding and where those forces are being applied. Data from the SmartSplint device is then analysed using SelfSense’s proprietary algorithms.

The information that SmartSplint provides will enable dentists to plan and discuss personalised treatments with patients.

10. Innovating on a 2,000-year old treatment for perianal fistula

Approximately 146,000 perianal fistula procedures are carried out in the US and western Europe each year with costs ranging between $4,800 and $14,500 per patient.

Perianal fistulae can arise following an infection of a gland in the rectum, resulting in an abscess and infection. In this challenging area, the fistula track is inherently difficult to heal and patients are known to suffer recurrent infection.

The ‘seton’ method most commonly used today (in which a rubber band allows the tract to drain and prevents the abscess re-occuring) is similar to a treatment proposed by Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago, so, evidently, this is an area crying out for innovation.

Enter Signum Surgical and its small implant to close the internal opening of the fistula tract, preventing re-infection and promoting healing of the tract, while maintaining the continence of the patient. The implant is also designed to be easy to deliver, with minimal surgical skill required.

11. Improving access for keyhole surgery

Obstructive organs are a common challenge in laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, often overcome by placing patients in a steep, head-down Trendelenburg position, utilising a combination of gravity and forceps to manipulate or retract those organs in the way. This can significantly increase the risk of complications in surgery while existing retraction products are insufficient, requiring invasive insertion.

Sive Medical’s SecuRetract, on the other hand, is a minimally invasive disposable retractor providing more effective and less damaging access for surgeons. This patent-pending technology minimises trauma on entry with a thinner instrument port requirement, eliminating the risk of injury to internal organs.

Suitable for use in as much as one-third of the millions of laparoscopic procedures performed worldwide, SecuRetract has already lined up a cohort of enthusiastic clinicians ready to be early adopters. The company behind it all, Sive Medical, is set to spin out from University College Cork in early 2016.

12. Software to assess children’s reading ability

When Patricia Scanlon was helping her daughter learn to read, she struggled to find satisfactory reading skills technology. So, with a background in speech-recognition technology research and machine learning, she set about developing software to enable better automated reading assessments for children.

Now CEO of Soapbox Labs, Scanlon’s technology ‘listens’ to children reading aloud and analyses their speech. The software can then personalise an online reading lesson to match the child’s ability, while also helping teachers to identify children who could benefit from learning intervention.

This robust speech-recognition technology is built using a unique database of captured reading sounds from young children all over the world in a range of real acoustic environments and using a range of devices. It can be used even in a noisy environment, such as a classroom, and is intelligent enough to address sub-word units such as phonic and blended sounds as well as words.

The software is currently undergoing trials in schools in Ireland and Soapbox Labs is in talks with several SMEs and publishing organisations.

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Good idea image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.