12 finalists in Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition announced

1 Apr 2020

Lily Devices founder Aaron Hannon, with Bill McKiernan of the BPC. Image: NDRC

Due to physical distancing measures, the 12 start-ups will participate remotely in a four-week programme of pre-acceleration workshops, receiving mentorship and guidance online.

Despite the unusual circumstances caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, the annual Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition (BPC) is set to go ahead over the coming weeks.

The finalists have now been revealed for the competition, which is a partnership between The Ireland Funds, the NDRC and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS). A total of 12 teams will be competing for a share of the €27,000 prize fund.

For the last three years, the competition has been providing cash to start-ups to help kick-start four new technology ideas. Start-ups funded by the BPC have gone on to raise €5.66m in follow-on funding, according to NDRC.

The shortlisted teams will now participate remotely in a four-week programme of pre-acceleration workshops, bringing their ideas from concept to pitch, as well as receiving vital mentoring and feedback throughout the process. The competition will end with a final pitching event in June.

Last week, NDRC also announced that it will be hosting its next Dublin accelerator remotely.

This year’s finalists

The BPC attracts entrepreneurs from research centres and universities around the country.

This year, there are six start-ups from Trinity College Dublin, including Carbon Capture, InjurySense, MyClinic365, Neurofit, Sensibin and KeepAppy.

There are also two finalists from Queen’s University Belfast: Align and Signal Optimiser. Signal Optimiser, founded by Lewis Loane, won the top prize at the Catalyst Invent Awards last year.

Other finalists include Dublin City University start-up OpinionX; NUI Galway’s Project Grace; Dublin Business School start-up SafetyFreelancer; and Preserve, a start-up based at Maynooth University.

Ben Hurley, CEO of NDRC, said: “I’m delighted to welcome these 12 teams onto the latest BPC. A combination of these great teams coming in from Ireland’s top universities and research institutions, alongside NDRC’s commitment to remotely deliver a world-class competition, will see some truly innovative ideas rewarded in June.

“With the Covid-19 outbreak, this is a hugely challenging time for businesses to proceed. It will be interesting to see how these ideas, through our remote delivery of BPC, develop.”

The prizes

Prizes will be awarded at the final event in June. First place receives a €15,000 cash prize, while second place receives €7,000 and third place receives €2,000.

The competition has also partnered with SPMHS to award a prize of €3,000 for a technology idea focusing on mental health.

Caitriona Fottrell, director of The Ireland Funds, said: “The BPC has a long history of encouraging ambition and creativity among Ireland’s young entrepreneurs. In this time of great change, we are fortunate to be able to adapt and continue to deliver a fantastic programme in 2020, remotely.

“We are inspired by the exciting shortlist of finalists and look forward to working with our partners NDRC and SPMHS to see innovative ideas come to fruition.”

Orla Gogarty, director of digital health at SPMHS, added: “This competition is particularly important at this challenging time when entrepreneurs and start-ups need our support perhaps more than ever.

“We are witnessing a quiet revolution in how the innovative use of technology can play a critical role in helping us all stay connected with our work, health services and social support networks, even when we cannot be together in person.”

Lily Devices, founded by NUI Galway student Aaron Hannon, came first in last year’s BPC. The start-up won the top prize of €15,000 for its product aiming to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy using a unique headband.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic