7 Irish start-ups with science at their core

15 Nov 2017

Dr Nora Khaldi, founder of Nuritas, speaking about being a scientist and entrepreneur at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

For Science Week, we asked NDRC to tell us about some of their promising start-ups that have a business or product based on science. Here’s who they singled out.

Science Week

NDRC’s portfolio of digital start-ups ranges from agritech to health, fintech to music. However, within a selection of excellent ventures, deep science is at their very core.


Sonarc is a company developing the world’s first commercially viable speaker with no moving parts. Founded by Sorcha O’Brien and Paul Gilligan, Sonarc combines novel methods for creating and controlling atmospheric plasma to build its innovative sound devices.

Sonarc achieves greater sound volume per unit area (up to four times louder) than current speaker technology by controlling air movement around the speaker.

As inventor and CEO, Gilligan started building speakers when he was 12 after inheriting his grand-uncle’s speaker and radio collection. He has now developed a process to replace vibrating cones – standard speaker build – with plasma, which results in smaller speakers with better audio and bass response when compared to traditional designs.


Founded by serial entrepreneur Donal Devery, Enterasense has developed a capsule that can be ingested by patients after surgery and monitor for any subsequent upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

The product includes an ingestible capsule and an external receiver. The capsule contains an optical-based sensor to detect bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The photonic system acquires data from the environment, which is processed by an algorithm to determine if blood is present.

Enterasense holds a worldwide licence for the technology, originally developed by Dr Christopher Thompson, director of developmental endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Devery, along with his lead engineer Chiara Di Carlo, has harnessed the groundbreaking solution and is now pioneering a new age in diagnostic care from his company’s Galway base.


Nuritas was founded by mathematician and bioinformatics expert Dr Nora Khaldi in 2014. Nuritas uses big-data techniques to sift through large amounts of data to discover peptides from food and food by-products, which provide unique solutions for the maintenance of health and wellness.

These benefits include: anti-inflammatory activity, antimicrobial activity, muscle recovery enhancement, anti-ageing solutions, and the potential management of blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics and other glucose transportation related areas.

Nuritas uses proprietary search tools and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, including deep learning, to predict which novel food-derived bioactive peptides deliver specific, pre-determined effects. This cuts out many thousands of hours of trial and error.


Opening.io sits at the very beginning of the recruitment funnel, between sourcing and interviewing, performing pre-screening automation. Using AI to analyse candidate data, Opening.io can identify relevant jobseekers faster and more accurately. Opening.io’s robot recruiters free up time, save money and re-engineer the processes for recruiters, employers and talent platforms alike.

Opening.io has built a significant amount of technology since its creations, with a codebase of more than 400,000 lines of code, including front-end, API and back-end technologies. The company’s science push comes through this machine learning and AI framework, which sees deep learning incorporated into six different neural network models, natural language processing, classic machine learning processes and training sets across tens of thousands of CVs.


Cortechs, which has developed innovative ways to improve the attention of kids with ADHD, was founded by Áine Behan, who achieved a BSc in neuroscience and a PhD in neuropathology en route to start-up success.

Behan worked as a research lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and has more than 10 years’ postdoctoral experience in mood disorders and neurodegenerative disease. Now, Behan and Cortechs pioneer ‘neurofeedback’, a treatment proven to alleviate the core symptoms of ADHD.

Cortechs uses digital tools, such as gameplay, to retrain the brain using brainwaves. The beauty of this is that once the brain learns, it doesn’t tend to forget. Learning, memory and attention are just some of the areas that Cortechs can help with.


Focused on smart and automatic texture generation for 3D environments, Artomatix was founded by Dr Eric Risser, Neal O’Gorman and Barthélémy Kiss. Artomatix’s technology, known as ‘example-based content creation’, relies on Risser’s expertise in machine learning, computer vision and computer graphics, which he spent a decade researching.

Algorithmic developments in texture synthesis and deep learning spearheaded by Artomatix, and a stark increase in computing capabilities allowed by progressively more powerful graphic processing units, enable the company to deliver on this cutting-edge technology.

Fully implemented, this technology will give 3D artists the ability to speed up their workflow, thanks to a set of proprietary features tied to modelling (the ‘shapes’ of 3D models) and texturing (their ‘skins’).


Exergyn was founded in 2012 by Alan Healy, Barry Cullen and Kevin O’Toole to find ways to improve current modes of power generation through harnessing biogas. The company has developed a new energy-efficient engine called Exergyn Drive, which generates electricity from waste hot water, securing €2.5m in Horizon 2020 funding to help bring the product to market.

This technology, according to the company’s journal publication in Energy Procedia, will enable low-grade waste heat to be “recovered cost-effectively for the first time, with attractive returns on investment and rapid payback”.

By using a ‘shape memory alloy’, the team is pioneering a process that could ultimately render the century-old, expensive hydraulic and electric approaches to energy generation obsolete.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic