10 Irish student start-ups worth watching out for

18 Jun 2020

Image: © Robert Kneschke/Stock.adobe.com

We look at the 10 student start-ups and projects that made it to the final of this year’s Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Last week, Enterprise Ireland revealed the winners of the Student Entrepreneur Awards 2020, with University College Cork’s Mark O’Sullivan taking home the top prize for his device to help to detect brain injuries in newborns.

This week, we take a look at the top 10 finalists in the competition, who have developed a wide variety of solutions from medtech devices to assistive technologies. The list includes some familiar faces, as well as students from third-level institutions around the country who are newcomers to the Irish start-up scene.


Founded by Harry Dunne from IT Carlow, Bitherit aims to address problems when it comes to digital inheritance by providing a decentralised solution for the storage and transfer of sensitive digital data.

Digital inheritance refers to the transfer of assets that exist on electronic systems, and can include passwords, usernames, online accounts, contracts and more.

Dunne said that information being bestowed to others should be stored securely and treated confidentially. His decentralised solution aims to give users full autonomy of their data while protecting it against both digital and physical attacks.

Cotter Agritech

Cotter Agritech was set up by brothers Jack and Nick Cotter, who are students at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and University College Cork (UCC). The students have been entrepreneurs for almost a decade, starting a firewood business in 2011 and an organic lamb business in 2019.

Now their main venture is Cotter Agritech, which aims to develop and commercialise smart, innovative and accessible solutions for the sheep farming sector. They say their Cotter Crate makes lamb-handling 50pc faster than conventional methods and helps farmers reduce risk of back pain.

The brothers have also created sheep-weighing app SmartWeight, which can be used to identify lambs that are performing poorly and need treatment. The company won best agri-engineering start-up at the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards last year.


Enabl-Aid is a mobility device developed by Eoghan O’Sullivan, James O’Riordan, Rhiannon Madigan, Jack McDonnell, Ryan Thomas, Michael Cronin, Padraig Dillane, Fionan Leahy and Kieran Velon from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

Enabl-Aid aims to help people with reduced mobility to manoeuvre around their gardens and easily access flowerbeds, reducing the physical effort and strength required to get up and down from ground level. It incorporates a rough ground and terrain stabilisation system to help users lower themselves to the ground.

The development of the device was inspired by a team member’s grandmother who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but was an avid gardener. The start-up aims to make its gardening and mobility assistant widely available for users with mobility difficulties.


Founded by Vinh Truong of TU Dublin, Enso is a guided play toolkit that aims to find new and creative ways of educating young students. The idea behind it is that existing, beneficial methods of learning in the developmental stages of a child can be stunted by current teaching methods and curriculum regime.

The toolkit provides fully 3D-printed collaborative tools that operate alongside materials available within classrooms.

Enso aims to allow children to create experiences by engaging in three design-thinking tasks with their peers, enhancing the skills necessary in the 21st century and preparing them for the changing nature of the workplace and the future.

Equine App

Equine App is a start-up founded by Dublin City University (DCU) student Sean Fradl. Through his app, which aims to simplify equine business processes through science and tech, he developed an application called Project Bellerophon.

This project is looking to simplify the generation of equine nutrition reports, which are used by horse feed manufacturers, stud farm managers and performance horse trainers to manage a horse’s ration intake, body condition and to identify deficiencies or excesses of nutrients in the horse’s diet.

According to Fradl, it allows the user to collect the data on site and input this information offline, right next to the horse. The data input generates graphics depicting the nutrient status of the horse, accounting for its age, life stage, weight and exercise load.


Neurobell, a diagnostic medical device for the early detection and monitoring of brain injuries in newborn infants, won the top prize at this year’s Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Founded by UCC student Mark O’Sullivan, Nuerobell aims to help diagnose newborn brain injury, which results in the death or disability of more than a million infants around the world each year. It typically requires complex electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring equipment and expertise to diagnose.

O’Sullivan’s solution is a pocket-sized, wireless EEG device that can be easily applied within minutes by a wide range of medical staff, offering the ability to provide real-time diagnostic decision support. Neurobell aims to enable medical staff to assess brain injury as soon after birth as possible, in a routine manner, so at-risk babies can quickly be identified for treatment.


Nibblez was founded by St Angela’s College, Sligo student Hannah McEvoy, who has created a range of plant-based party food with a high nutritional value, suitable for vegans and plant-based eaters.

The company’s first two offerings are sweet chilli sauce spring rolls and crispy cauliflower wings with barbecue sauce. McEvoy came up with the idea after realising that vegans have a limited selection of convenience food available in supermarkets.

Nibblez focuses on ensuring that the food is sourced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and plans to expand its range to include more frozen and chilled offerings for the European grocery market.


Founded by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) student Siobhán Ryan, PressiDect is a peri-operative pressure detection system to be used on the surface of an operating theatre table. The device contains tactile pressure sensors that have the ability to actively map a patient’s position during a surgical procedure, measuring pressure changes in real time.

This feature can highlight where a patient could be most at risk of sustaining a pressure injury as a result of prolonged immobilisation. According to Ryan, PressiDect provides currently unavailable knowledge to healthcare providers at a unique micro and individualised level, differing to the current standard that relies on a macro scoring system.

It aims to prevent and reduce hospital-acquired pressure injuries in vulnerable patient populations. The system is adaptable for an array of healthcare departments.


Torann was set up by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) student Lewis Loane. Last year, Loane became the first ever undergraduate student to win the top prize at the 2019 Invent Awards.

Torann has developed a product called the Signal Optimiser, which aims to solve the problem of loss of sound quality that is encountered by millions of musicians around the globe who play amplified instruments. Signal Optimiser is a plug-and-play device that is designed to provide full-quality sound between any instrument and amplifier.

Loane plans to launch Signal Optimiser globally in 2021 to help musicians improve the sound quality of their instruments.


Developed by Simon Dring from CIT, TraumAlert is a smart device that aids the identification and diagnosis of concussions in real time. The start-up has created a sensor that can be placed in a player’s mouthguard to measure the acceleration of their head during a match, and identifies if the acceleration exceeds a defined, dangerous threshold which could result in a concussion.

Dring developed the solution because concussions have been a serious issue in both amateur and professional sports, with more awareness raised in recent years. The injury is caused by severe impact to the head or body, which causes an acceleration of the brain inside the skull, resulting in the brain being impacted.

The TraumAlert device has been designed to instantly pick up on signs that a concussion may have been sustained, with the aim of avoiding the short and long-term effects that can occur when concussions are ignored or incorrectly diagnosed.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic