Innovators across Ireland lauded at Invention of the Year Awards

21 Sep 2018

From left: Prof Cian Ó Mathúna, Kieran Meade and Dr Aleksandra Augustyniak. Image: Cathal Noonan

A plethora of fascinating projects received accolades at the Invention of the Year Awards, from a neonatal bovine vaccine to a ‘Photoshop for audio’.

Innovators and researchers from across Ireland were recognised at the Invention of the Year Awards, which took place at University College Cork (UCC) on 19 September.

Sponsored by the Bridge Network, the awards showcase some of the most exciting research and inventions in science and technology across agritech, life sciences, biotechnology and ICT.

Cork played host to big ideas

The UCC Life Sciences Invention of the Year was presented to Dr Mark Tangney, College of Medicine and Health at UCC, and his team, Dr Ian Curtin and Stephen Buckley, for their BioBind custom imaging solution. It uses a novel smart biosensor that has numerous applications, particularly on cancer diagnostics and life sciences research. The team plans to launch a spin-out company.

Prof Cian Ó Mathúna and the Tyndall Magnetics on Silicon team (Paul McCloskey, Willie Lawton, Dr Zoran Pavlovic, Dr Graeme Maxwell, Dr Joe O’Brien, Dr Santosh Kulkarni and Hugh Smiddy) scooped up the UCC ICT Invention of Year for their magnetics technology. The researchers say that the technology will help improve battery life of mobile devices. It has already been licensed to three major multinationals and is being employed in a number of active industry engagements with Tyndall.

Dr Derry Fitzgerald’s spin-out, AudiosourceRE, based at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) Rubicon, won the CIT ICT Invention of the Year for its sound-separating technology. It has been used to remaster global hit music such as the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations as ‘Photoshop for audio’ software. AudiosourceRE is currently entering an investment round to raise additional funds.

The IT Tralee Invention of the Year was awarded to Dr Helena McMahon and Dr Aleksandra Augustyniak for their NutraECM solution, which they say has the potential to change how we treat skin ageing in the future. It is an oral and topical treatment addressing intrinsic or extrinsic skin ageing, targeting collagen and elastin production, and boosting dermal fibroblast proliferation and extracellular matrix production. The solution could also be applied in cartilage and bone, where extracellular matrix is required.

Dr Kieran Meade of Teagasc accepted the Teagasc Invention of the Year award on behalf of his team, including joint lead Prof Ed Lavelle (Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Ciarán Harte, for their new neonatal vaccination innovation. Their patent-pending innovation will improve immunity in neonates, particularly in infants and calves. This vaccination solution promotes maturation in antimycobacterial immunity, which the team says provides superior protection against disease where a tailored immune response is required.

Solving problems

UCC’s vice-president for research and innovation, and chair of the Bridge Network Governance Committee, Prof Anita Maguire, said: “The diversity of this year’s submissions for the Invention of the Year 2018 Awards demonstrates how innovators and scientists are natural problem-solvers that seek to find creative and innovative ways to improve our way of life and deliver real impact.

“The calibre of the innovations is notable this year again, and a number of the shortlisted inventions are patented, underpin spin-out companies or are licensed by leading global organisations.”

Updated, 1.20pm, 21 September 2018: This article was updated to clarify that Dr Ciarán Harte was a member of the Teagasc team. An earlier version mistakenly referred to him as Cian.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects