12 big ideas set to shine at Enterprise Ireland showcase

12 Nov 2020

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These 12 early-stage research-led start-ups will pitch their ideas to investors and researchers at an online event.

Big Ideas 2020 will be taking place online on 25 November. The annual showcase puts Irish innovation in the spotlight with 12 pitches made to an audience made up of the country’s research and investment communities.

The investor-ready start-ups below are all rooted in research at higher-education institutes across the country and, each year, the Enterprise Ireland event highlights not only the high quality of Irish research but the accomplishments of Ireland’s national technology transfer system.


Coming out of Dublin City University (DCU), AthenaCX is an adaptive no-code solution for experience sampling. This is an established research methodology used in many scientific, commercial and marketing research projects, and AthenaCX can make real-time and remote data capture easy to implement.

With AthenaCX, a researcher can use pre-configured or customised workflows for research participants to log experiences any time and from any device. Not only is remote experience sampling even more important to keep research going under Covid-19, AthenaCX enables researchers to capture data outside the lab and in the moment for richer, more realistic insights.


Published medical abstracts can number more than 2m per year and cost pharma and biotech companies about $2bn in annual literature monitoring costs, according to Biologit co-founder Nicole Baker. This Trinity College Dublin start-up is developing artificial intelligence to assist in this huge task, which is vital for drug-makers to stay up to date on the latest R&D and any drug safety concerns.

Biologit is already working alongside 20 pilot partners in the pharma industry on real-world tasks, rigorously testing its AI models across a variety of cases. Currently looking for funding to expand the team, Baker expects to launch a validated SaaS commercial product in mid-2021.


Just two months ago, University College Cork and the Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC) announced the launch of BioPixS, a spin-out applying photonics, or light-based technologies, to life sciences and medicine.

Working in this biophotonics space, BioPixS is in the business of developing optical ‘phantoms’ which simulate the properties of human tissues. Phantoms such as these can both accelerate and reduce the cost of developing medical instruments, as well as minimise the need for organic animal tissues in testing.

CEO Dr Sanathana Konugolu Venkata Sekar says this early-stage start-up has already raised €700,000 through grants and sales around the world.


Award-winning University College Dublin start-up BioSimulytics is developing a software platform to bring greater speed, certainty and data quality to the drug development process.

BioSimulytics’ software combines computational chemistry, quantum physics, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to help drug developers to precisely define the structure of their drug molecules. This gives them the certainty needed to bring these drugs to clinical trial, manufacturing and, finally, to market, knowing the defined structure will be stable up to end use. In fact, BioSimulytics claims it only needs the basic 2D structure of a compound to accurately predict the detailed profiles of all its 3D polymorphic forms, ranked by the most stable.


Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular and sometimes rapid heartbeat that can increase the risk of stroke by up to five times. Research shows that many people with AFib go undiagnosed, unknowingly living with this risk, but Galenband has developed a system to dramatically increase detection rates of ‘silent AFib’.

Galenband’s monitoring system is an unobtrusive wrist-worn device that uses pulse oximetry to track the heart’s rhythm continuously for up to 90 days. Results are analysed on the Galenband cloud platform, using AI to identify irregularities.

Currently progressing towards clinical trials, the start-up intends to spin out from NUI Galway in 2021.


Focusing on the future of work, Inclusio is pitched as a next-generation platform combining technology, psychology and AI to transform company culture.

When it comes to measurement, something as ineffable of culture can be hard to quantify, but Inclusio gives organisations the ability monitor diversity data as well as track and report culture metrics linked to business KPIs within a system designed for risk and accountability management.

Led by Sandra Healy, head of diversity and inclusion at Dublin City University, Inclusio has already engaged eight global organisations for beta trials and projects revenue potential of €25m per year on conversion.

Lifelet Medical

Hailing from NUI Galway, Lifelet Medical is developing a novel biomimetic material for heart valve replacements.

Heart valves are made of strong, thin flaps of tissue called leaflets, and any replacement for these needs to be both flexible and strong. Lifelet’s polymeric leaflet material is pitched as “one valve for life”, as the company believes its solution would be long-lasting and durable, decreasing the need for further operations. Lifelet is also thinking sustainably, and aims to reinvent the paradigm of valve manufacturing to be environmentally friendly as well as scalable, time-efficient and cost-effective.


With one in six couples experiencing infertility and only about one-third of IVF treatments resulting in a live birth, the NeoMimix team saw an opportunity to revolutionise fertility care.

NeoMimix aims to tackle infertility by giving embryologists a system to help them select a sperm to inject into the egg. The company’s microfluidics-based selection technology stimulates sperm to swim against a fluid flow within microchannels, mimicking the journey through the female reproductive tract. When compared to current centrifugal methods for sperm selection, NeoMimix says its method is faster and more automated, and selects sperm with higher DNA integrity. Furthermore, in a mouse model, rates of fertilisation and embryo development were increased.

The company, based at University of Limerick, is currently in live beta testing with a fertility clinic group.

Nua Surgical

The flagship product from women’s health start-up Nua Surgical is SteriCision, a self-retaining retractor specifically designed for C-sections. This medical device will give doctors improved access to and visualisation of the uterus during Caesarean delivery, helping them to safely repair tissue, identify bleeds and prevent any prolonged complications. It can also reduce both procedure time and the risk of infection.

Currently working towards its first in-human study next year, so far the functionality and efficacy of the device has been proven through bench tests. Preparing to spin out of NUI Galway, Nua Surgical’s commercialisation strategy is focused on the US with partners already secured for a clinical study on the east coast.

Stokes Microfluidics

Stokes Microfluidics is a spin-out from the University of Limerick, which has developed technology that allows for the development of ultra-small microfluidic devices including micro-pumps, flow meters and latching valves.

Stokes’ uniquely designed pump and control product line hinges on a patented direct-drive electromagnetic system integrated with a magnetic-fluidic coupler enclosed in a precision housing unit.

Founded by Dr Eric Dalton and Dr Valeria Nico to initially solve the problem of cooling photonic lasers, the design principles were quickly identified as being useful to multiple engineering sectors. For the advanced technical requirements of the pharmaceutical, biomedical and aerospace industries, Stokes believe their technology outperforms traditional methods.

SymPhysis Medical

SymPhysis Medical was founded by Dr Michelle Tierney and Tim Jones after a stint on the BioInnovate fellowship. BioInnovate gives medical, engineering, business and technology professionals the opportunity to work closely with doctors and patients to identify unmet clinical needs, and this led to a close collaboration on the design and development of Releaze.

Releaze is a novel catheter-based technology that can relieve ‘fluid on the lung’, the shortness of breath and chest pain that comes as a common complication of late-stage cancers. According to Jones, Releaze can prevent the fluid from reaccumulating after four weeks. The device is also designed for patient independence, allowing them to treat themselves at home.

Currently, the team is based in the Translational Medical Device lab in NUI Galway and aims to spin out from the university in 2021.


Intending to spin out of Trinity College Dublin in 2021, Vertigenius is using technology as an aid for vestibular rehabilitation, an exercise programme to improve balance and manage problems such as dizziness and vertigo.

A wearable sensor is placed behind the ear like a hearing aid and paired via Bluetooth with a smartphone app. The sensor can track head movement and deliver data on how the patient is performing the exercises to a clinician, who can guide them remotely. Led by Dr Dara Meldrum, Vertigenius is currently being trialled at a university teaching hospital in Dublin and has already identified its first customers.

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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.