Dr Sarah Bourke up for EU Prize for Women Innovators 2016

17 Dec 2015

An image taken aboard the International Space Station (ISS) which runs Dr Sarah Bourke's and Skytek's software. Image via NASA

Dr Sarah Bourke, one of Ireland’s leading figures in the spacetech industry as Skytek’s co-founder, is in the running to win one of the three top prizes in the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2016.

The inclusion of Dr Sarah Bourke in the list is not too surprising given the Dubliner’s place, quite literally, among the stars, with her list of achievements including writing the software for the International Procedural Viewer, which has been operating aboard the International Space Station since 2005, and she was also featured recently in Siliconrepublic.com’s list of 21 Irish software superstars.

Having founded Skytek with the company’s current CTO Paul Kiernan in 1997, Bourke and the team there have also contributed to other advancements in spacetech, such as its announcement last year that it was to create a new weather division to monitor solar storms.

Back on Earth, she and Skytek has developed tools for aircraft maintenance, security and emergency response industries.

For those unfamiliar with the EU Prize for Women Innovators, the purpose of it is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, whose numbers are sadly still behind those of their male peers.

DrSarah Bourke

64 applications were submitted for the 2016 edition of the prize, across the EU and countries associated with Horizon 2020, with next year’s competition being the third edition, with a top prize of €100,000 to fund the work of the winner, followed by €50,000 and €30,000 for second and third place, respectively.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said of the finalists: “While there can only be three prize winners, the remarkable achievements of all the women who entered the contest deserve great recognition.

“They worked very hard, took risks and may sometimes have faced setbacks, but they got back up again and persevered to fulfil their visions. This is the kind of spirit we need more of in Europe. These outstanding women are an inspiration to other researchers and entrepreneurs, female and male alike.”

Among the other finalists chosen with Dr Bourke include Dr Claudia Gärtner, co-founder of Microfluidic ChipShop in Germany who makes portable analytical systems based on the concepts proposed by the Star Trek ‘Tricorder’.

The seven other finalists

1. Dr Sarah Fredriksson (Sweden), founder of Genovis whose innovative products are used by the global pharmaceutical industry for analysis of complex biological drugs.

2. Prof Pirkko Härkönen (Finland), co-founder of Hormos Medical, who discovered a new hormonally active drug and created test systems for cancer drug development.

3. Prof Sirpa Jalkanen (Finland), co-founder of BioTie Therapies, who discovered unique targets for drug development for harmful inflammations and cancer treatment.

4. Prof Sylviane Muller (France), co-founder of ImmuPharma, who discovered a novel way to treat autoimmune diseases, currently evaluated in a clinical trial for Lupus.

5. Dr Kira Radinsky (Israel), co-founder of SalesPredict, a company that works in predictive data mining algorithms for micro-economic business and sales interactions.

6. Prof Zvia Agur (Israel), founder of Optimata, a leading health company creating pioneering medical software technology for oncology personalisation.

7. Dr Susana Sargento (Portugal), co-founder of Veniam that turns vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots and builds city-scale vehicular networks that collect terabytes of urban data.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic