UCC spin-out ThinkSmart plans to create 30 jobs

29 Oct 2010

A spin-out firm born out of highly advanced research at UCC is planning to create 30 new jobs. It has invented a system that mixes maths and artificial intelligence to analyse circumstances and speed up decision making.

ThinkSmart Technologies is a new company supported by an entrepreneurial team established by the Technology Transfer Office, including researchers from UCC’s Cork Constraint Computing Centre (4C).

The spin-out invented a system that mixes maths and artificial intelligence to analyse circumstances and speed up decision making for companies in industry sectors, from treasury management through to manufacturing.

The company has already secured a number of customers in the financial services, business process management and energy sectors.

4C is a world-leading research centre which has fostered ThinkSmart Technologies over the last 18 months with support from Enterprise Ireland and UCC’s Office of Technology Transfer.

UCC has licensed its intellectual property to the company. ThinkSmart is one of a steady stream of knowledge intensive start-ups emerging from UCC following from four other spin-outs in 2009. 

The venture’s leaders

Dr Brendan O’Brien and Dr James Little are the leaders of the new venture. O’Brien has 20 years of commercial experience in the international software and consultancy sectors and previously led a start-up to successful takeover.

Little is a leading researcher at 4C, where he has led many applied industry projects over the past eight years, prior to which he worked for several years in a technical capacity for leading-edge decision support software companies in the UK.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring excellent research from a world-leading centre, package it and take it to market worldwide,” Dr Brendan O’Brien, chief executive of ThinkSmart Technologies, explained.

“We now have a world-class technology that enables us to enter new and emerging markets with competitive advantages and a very high barrier to entry. We expect to recruit up to 30 highly skilled software, sales and marketing graduates over the next three years as the company develops. These will be high value, knowledge-based roles requiring specialised industry expertise or a post-graduate qualification, including some PhD’s.

“In the current climate, making better decisions consistently can offer substantial savings and increased competitive advantage. Already we are gaining strong traction in the business process and outsourcing industry, as well as early stage development in financial services. In addition, we are beginning to work in the green energy space with some promising results,” O’Brien said.

ThinkSmart’s new technology is set to revolutionise decision-making capability in business and industry by using high performing optimisation technologies. For companies, this means better decisions all the time that save costs, increase customer satisfaction and improve resource utilisation or productivity.

“UCC is committed to innovation as a key element of the Government’s strategy to develop a ‘smart economy’ in Ireland and as a spur to jobs and wealth creation. In this context, the launch of ThinkSmart is an important and practical example of our policy to create high-quality, knowledge intensive ventures with high growth potential,” Brendan Cremen, director of Technology Transfer at UCC, explained.

“We look forward to working with the ThinkSmart team as they grow and develop their business.”

ThinkSmart Technologies will be based in UCC’s advanced new incubation centre adjacent to the 4C research centre. The close location of research bases to spin-outs and early stage companies is a deliberate part of UCC’s strategy to fully support and resource the growth of high quality, sustainable, knowledge-based companies.

Prof Eugene Freuder, director of 4C, said: “ThinkSmart Technologies provides evidence of how investing in world-class research can improve Ireland’s international competitiveness by supporting and facilitating the formation of Irish technology companies based on UCC’s Intellectual Property.”

Technology for decision-makers

ThinkSmart Technologies provides software solutions for optimisation and enterprise decision making. Optimisation technology helps organisations to choose the best options open to them from available alternatives. It combines methods from mathematics, computer science and artificial intelligence to quickly zoom in on the most likely answers and to efficiently produce solutions to even the hardest of problems.

The ThinkSmart system also operates in real time and that it can update the optimum solution as real time information is fed into it. Optimisation technology can be used for a diverse range of applications, for example, the scheduling of airline crews, routing trucks supplying supermarkets or customising package holidays for individual travellers. It could also be used in different fields, including studies into diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cystic fibrosis.

“We are very pleased to see the conversion of Government-funded research into leading-edge technology that is being exploited by a new Irish start-up company,” said Gearoid Mooney, director of ICT research commercialisation at Enterprise Ireland.

“ThinkSmart Technologies has already created a number of high-value jobs and we look forward to seeing this promising firm grow over the next three years, creating further jobs in Ireland and growing export sales,” Mooney added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years