Trinity and UCC win double at first Knowledge Transfer Ireland awards

27 Jun 2016

Winners celebrate with Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD (centre) at the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards 2016. Photo via Q4PR

The winners of the inaugural Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards have been announced, with both Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork coming out on top.

In the first of what will now become an annual ceremony showcasing successful knowledge transfer in publicly funded research organisations, the Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Impact Awards took place on Thursday 23 June at Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.

Paying tribute to the businesses and research organisations involved in knowledge transfer, KTI director Dr Alison Campbell called it “a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate the research and innovation undertaken in research-performing organisations around the country”.

“[The award] winners combine industry support and the hard work of technology transfer offices to produce some groundbreaking results of real commercial value,” she added.

In her statement on the event, Campbell also pointed to the momentum building in terms of commercial research in Ireland. “Last year, there was a 27pc increase in the new products launched on the market as a result of a licence from an Irish research-performing organisation,” she said.

On the night, awards were presented by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, and winners were selected in seven categories spanning industry engagement and commercialisation of research.

Inspirefest 2016

2016 Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards winners

Trinity College Dublin and Monford Ag Systems: Prof Mike Jones, Dr Jake Byrne, Dr Hitesh Tewari and Dr Matt Saunders

While filming Farmers – A Year on the Land, filmmaker Stephen Lock recognised the opportunity to develop an accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use grass measurement tool for farmers. He met with the technology transfer team at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to find out how to engage with the university to validate his concept and develop a prototype.

In 2011, the project that became Monford AG Systems used an ultrasound device mounted to a farmer’s boot to measure grass height as they walk around the field. These measurements are sent to the farmer’s smartphone using Bluetooth and a supporting app carries out the calculations.

Monford AG Systems launched the GrassOmeter device to market in 2015, offering grassland farmers a mapping, measurement and management system to help cut costs and optimise animal feed. The company has secured €1.4m in funding, registered two patents with Trinity researchers as named inventors, and hired an ex-Apple hardware designer as head of design.

University College Cork and Statistical Solutions: Dr Brian O’Flaherty

Statistical Solutions is a Cork-based SME specialising in the development and sale of statistical analysis software used principally for medical trials. Since 2010, the company has been engaged in a multi-project collaboration with Dr Brian O’Flaherty and his team at the Department of Business Information Systems at University College Cork (UCC).

The research collaboration resulted in the development of a new software product, PX, which would help subscription-based retailers in the publishing industry predict churn. This was licensed to Statistical Solutions in early 2015 and a new company – PX Analytics – was formed to commercialise the product on the basis of the IP created.

Trinity College Dublin: Graphene licences to Thomas Swan

In 2014 and 2015, a number of licence agreements related to graphene and transition metal production were executed between TCD and UK-based fine chemical manufacturing company Thomas Swan. The intellectual property that was licensed was developed during a collaborative research project between the company and the team of Prof Jonathan Coleman, and Thomas Swan has since launched both graphene and boron nitride products on the market. These products are now recognised globally as the best-in-class materials, even featuring as a cover story in Chemical and Engineering News.

AventaMed and Cork Institute of Technology: John Vaughan and Olive O’Driscoll (academic founders)

AventaMed is an award-winning spin-out from the MEDIC Medical Engineering Design and Innovation Centre within Cork Institute of Technology. This emerging medical device company is working to simplify surgical procedures in order to reduce healthcare costs and improve patient safety.

Focusing on the ENT (ear, nose and throat) market, AventaMed’s first product is a medical device used to place grommets in children’s ears in a clinical rather than an operating room setting.

AventaMed has raised funding of €1.3m to develop its sales and distribution channels and it is expected the device will be ready to launch in Europe in early 2017 followed by a US launch in 2018.

Logentries and University College Dublin: Dr Trevor Parsons and Dr Viliam Holub (academic founders)

Logentries’ innovative technology provides a powerful cloud-based solution for searching, visualising and analysing machine data and logs. Built-in tagging, alerting and reporting make it easy for customers to maintain a proactive view of their environment and identify anomalous events.

In October 2015, security analytics giant Rapid7 acquired the University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out for an aggregate purchase price of $68m. Logentries emerged from UCD’s Performance Engineering Lab and, in 2012, secured $1m in seed funding followed by a further $10m funding round in 2013.

Investment in Logentries facilitated the deployment of a cloud-based solution that was more efficient and lower in cost. The company rapidly grew to 70 employees serving more than 3,000 customers in over 65 countries and analysing billions of discrete events per day.

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

In 2014, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) launched its new Office of Research and Innovation incorporating commercialisation and industry engagement functions with the Research Office. A new team was recruited with the goal of building a culture of knowledge transfer at RCSI and they far exceeded the 2015 targets set for knowledge transfer.

Industry income increased more than four-fold from 2014 levels to €1.2m (cash and in-kind). In the same period, licence, option and assignment agreements increased over four-fold, and industry agreements increased seven-fold.

RCSI was also nominated for Consultancy Impact Award and Spin-out Company Impact Award through SurgaColl Technologies.

Derek John, University College Cork

Derek John joined UCC’s Technology Transfer Office in 2014 as a commercialisation case manager in the area of life sciences and food. As such, he is responsible for management of intellectual property and its commercialisation in three of UCC’s biggest research centres: APC Microbiome Institute, Infant Centre and Food for Health Ireland.

To date at UCC, John has negotiated industry contracts worth a combined value of €20m, including a €7.5m collaboration with AbbVie to investigate treatments for Crohn’s disease and a multi-million euro deal with Janssen Pharma for inflammatory bowel disease therapeutics.

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.