9 innovative DCU Alpha start-ups to watch

25 Mar 2021

Image: © Alexa Mat/Stock.adobe.com

Companies coming out of DCU Alpha have seen success in the recent past. Will these nine sci-tech start-ups find the same launchpad to success?

DCU Alpha is a research-intensive innovation campus co-located with Dublin City University (DCU).

The campus based in Glasnevin brings sci-tech companies together in a cluster that has so far produced some notable success stories.

Student start-up Touchtech Payments, which developed biometric technology for payment verification, was acquired by Stripe in 2019 for an undisclosed sum. Touchtech founders Shekinah Adewumi and Niall Horgan are now working on Stripe’s 3D Secure authentication team.

Later the same year, Irish company Taoglas snapped up Firmwave, the two having been frequent collaborators up to then. Both working in the internet of things (IoT) space, Taoglas and Firmwave had both made use of DCU Alpha’s facilities.

Will similar growth and success await these DCU Alpha start-ups?

UrbanVolt

Founded in 2015 by Kevin Maughan, Graham Deane and Declan Barrett, UrbanVolt began life in DCU’s Alpha innovation campus. The energy-saving lighting specialist aims to help its clients to reduce their carbon footprints or even become carbon neutral with its technology.

Clients – which include Pfizer, Heineken and Zimmer Biomet – can use the UrbanVolt app to calculate how much energy they are consuming in warehouse lighting. UrbanVolt then offers ‘lighting as a service’, where customers can pay for energy-efficient LED lighting as a subscription.

Late last year, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund contributed to a €7m funding round for the company.

Ambisense

Founded in 2014 by Stephen McNulty, Fiachra Collins and Dermot Diamond, Ambisense is an IoT start-up making next-generation sensor technologies for environmental monitoring.

Using AI, the company’s Ambilytics platform offers an optimised environmental risk assessment for large infrastructure projects across industrial, oil and gas, and waste verticals. This platform combines information from remotely deployed field devices with contextual data sources – such as weather, satellite, geophysical and operational data – to build machine learning models.

In 2019, the DCU spin-out secured €1.1m in funding from investors including Atlantic Bridge, Suir Valley Ventures and Enterprise Ireland.

Transpoco

Transpoco is a fleet management and vehicle tracking software provider based at DCU Alpha. With its telematics technology, Transpoco helps fleet managers to monitor operations, fuel and maintenance, while locating assets, improving compliance and reducing misuse of vehicles.

Originally set up in 2004, it was 2016 when the company launched the result of an investment in a new internet-based service: SynX. This cloud-based solution integrating data from GPS software and drivers’ fuel cards emerged after several years of R&D supported by Enterprise Ireland, and enabled Transpoco to expand its business across Europe. Now, Transpoco’s tech has been implemented in more than 60 countries.

Mindseed

Mindseed is an ICT consultancy focused on space technology. Founded in Dublin in 2011, the company helps other businesses in securing funding, accessing potential markets, building prototypes and developing full-scale commercial space technology. It also offers long-term scaling and road-mapping support.

Mindseed is led by CEO Mark McCarville and CTO Dr Patricia Moore, who believe that space technology is becoming democratised and accessible, and can now be developed “by anyone, anywhere”.

As well as DCU Alpha, some of Mindseed’s clients and partners include the European Space Agency, Taoglas, Geological Survey Ireland, Davra and Druid Software.

Exergyn

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Exergyn was founded in 2012 by Alan Healy, Barry Cullen and Kevin O’Toole. Three years later, the company secured almost €2.5m in Horizon 2020 funding for its energy-efficient engine, the Exergyn Drive, which could generate electricity from hot water.

Exergyn’s engine uses a shape memory alloy (SMA), a shape-shifting metal that is now at the heart of the company’s evolving innovations in clean energy. The Exergyn SMA core can be added to a range of existing energy products, potentially enabling whole industries to convert low grade wastewater into valuable energy.

Exergyn’s target market includes waste conversion plants, landfill sites, district heating schemes, smart city hubs, geothermal sites and shipping.

Luna

Luna was founded by DCU Alpha executive director Ronan Furlong along with Andrew Fleury and Phil Corrie. The company started life as a project in the 2019 Intel-Movidius Edge AI accelerator in 2019, finding a way to use computer vision technology to make urban electric scooter schemes safer and easier to manage.

Using a camera equipped with AI-driven sensing technology and GPS signal processing, Luna can monitor where an e-scooter is being ridden, how many pedestrians are nearby, if it has been parked correctly, or if the rider is wearing a helmet.

The start-up recently secured €400,000 in seed funding from a consortium including former Irish rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll.

Exit Entry

Led by CEO and founder Lewize Crothers, Exit Entry is a data-led company connecting students with employment opportunities worldwide.

With the competition for recruitment increasing and soft skills proving more and more appealing in the modern workforce, Exit Entry aims to showcase student candidates with more than just academic grades. Soft skills and interests share the spotlight with hard skills, experience and achievements in online profiles, from which employers can identify and connect with talent, and also host real-world events and interactions.

As well as working with third-level students, Exit Entry has introduced an app tailored especially for secondary school students in Ireland.

Bleeper

Bleeper started 2021 with the announcement of €600,000 in funding to support the expansion of its bike fleet and the launch of e-scooters. This brought the company’s total funding to €1.3m, with previous investors including Business Venture Partners, Bartra Capital and Enterprise Ireland.

Formerly known as Bleeperbike, Bleeper currently operates a dockless bike-sharing service in Dublin. It has a licence to deploy up to 1,000 bikes and currently has 800 bikes on the streets.

To add e-scooters to its fleet, though, Bleeper must wait for Government legislation – currently being drafted – to formally legalise their use on Irish roads.

Ubotica

Space-tech start-up Ubotica is building advanced AI vision systems that are quite literally out of this world.

Founded in 2017, many of the company’s senior team emerged from AI start-up Movidius, which was acquired by Intel in 2016. Using the kind of computer vision technology Movidius was famous for, Ubotica is building a smart system that can analyse huge image datasets captured by satellites before beaming the most relevant and useful image data back to Earth, saving on power and bandwidth.

This in-orbit processing of Earth observation data took flight for the first time last year aboard PhiSat-1, which will use Ubotica’s technology for automatic cloud detection.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com