Two Irish innovators in the running to win Europe’s top inventor award

9 May 2023

Eimear O'Carroll and Rhona Togher. Image: EPO

Rhona Togher and Eimear O’Carroll, co-founders of Dublin-based Lios, have developed an acoustic material that reduces noise pollution.

Two Irish physicists, Rhona Togher and Eimear O’Carroll, are among 12 teams of finalists in the running to win the European Inventor Award 2023.

The annual award presented by the European Patent Office honours promising inventors for their contributions to scientific and technological progress as well as the impact their inventions have on our daily lives.

Togher and O’Carroll, who together founded Dublin-based start-up Lios, have been selected under the competitive SME category from an overall pool of more than 600 applicants.

The duo have developed an advanced acoustic material that has the potential to drastically reduce noise pollution and increase standards of living by integrating it into a range of industries, from household appliances and construction to automotive and aerospace.

An estimated 6.5m people in Europe are highly sleep disturbed because of long-term exposure to noise, according to the European Environment Agency. Overall, more than 100m people in Europe are exposed to harmful levels of noise pollution, according to the agency.

High levels of noise can also lead to hearing problems such as tinnitus – which Togher and O’Carroll have faced themselves.

Founded in 2009 as Restored Hearing, Lios has developed technology that can protect people from avoidable hearing damage by using novel, patented materials for hearing protection.

The former Start-Up of the Week has two core products: Sound Relief tinnitus sound therapy and Sound Bounce hearing protection.

Sound Relief works to reduce the effects of tinnitus and is available worldwide through a mobile app. Sound Bounce, meanwhile, is an “acoustic metamaterial” that reduces the force of low-frequency noise.

In 2020, Lios partnered with the European Space Agency to develop the Sound Bounce material for use in space transportation technology.

Togher and O’Carroll emerged first at the She Loves Tech 2022 awards last November, placing ahead of 5,000 applicants from around the world.

“The innovation shown by this year’s finalists, in the face of the modern world’s many shared challenges, such as sustainability, the energy transition and social inequality, is a source of inspiration,” said António Campinos, president of the European Patent Office.

Winners of the European Inventor Award 2023 will be announced at a hybrid ceremony on 4 July in Valencia, Spain. The ceremony will be broadcast online here.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic