Manna, Output Sports and Handalysis win at NovaUCD awards

26 Jun 2020

Dr Fergal O'Reilly, who won the overall NovaUCD Innovation Award for 2019. Image: University College Dublin

NovaUCD presented seven awards as part of its annual Innovation Awards, with Dr Fergal O’Reilly taking the top prize.

NovaUCD has given seven prizes at its annual Innovation Awards, which celebrate achievements that start-ups and researchers in the University College Dublin (UCD) community have made in the areas of commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurship and the promotion of an innovation culture.

The event was initially supposed to take place in March 2020, but was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A virtual award ceremony was held today (26 June).

Among the teams recognised at this year’s awards for their work in 2019 were drone delivery start-up Manna and sports technology business Output Sports.

But the main NovaUCD Innovation Award 2019 was presented to Dr Fergal O’Reilly, who has been a researcher in the UCD School of Physics since 2005.

O’Reilly co-founded SiriusXT with Dr Kenneth Fahy, Dr Paul Sheridan and Tony McEnroe, based on the results of research activities on soft x-rays and liquid optics over a near 10-year period.

SiriusXT, a UCD School of Physics spin-out, has created a commercial, laboratory-based, soft x-ray microscope that can produce high-resolution 3D images of cells and tissue that cannot be produced in any other way. It has raised €10m in grant and equity funding and is recognised by Enterprise Ireland as a high-potential start-up.

The microscopes are being marketed primarily to those working in disease research and drug discovery. The technology can be used by disease researchers, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnologists and clinicians to aid the understanding of disease pathways, protein-drug interactions and bio-engineering processes.

O’Reilly commented: “I am delighted and deeply honoured to receive the 2019 NovaUCD Innovation Award. I am extraordinarily lucky to be part of a group of colleagues in the UCD spectroscopy group, UCD School of Physics and in UCD generally, who make our combined efforts in soft x-ray research such a productive pleasure.”

He added that his work with SiriusXT is helping to develop critical imaging tools that could “unpick biological mysteries that impact us all”.

Inventions, spin-outs and consultancy

The Invention of the Year Award 2019 went to Prof Madeleine Lowery from the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Lowery received the award for her Handalysis invention, which is a new approach to rate the decline in motor function for neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

The award for Spin-out of the Year went to Output Sports, which is using advanced signal processing and machine learning techniques to test multiple components of athletic performance and track training programmes using a single wearable sensor. Its prototypes have been used by more than 40 professional teams including international and Premier League football teams, professional rugby organisations and Olympic athletes.

The recipients of the 2019 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award were Francesco Pilla, associate professor at the UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy; David Timoney, associate professor at the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering; and Prof Robert Shorten and Assistant Prof Giovanni Russo from the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

They were presented with the award for a consultancy study commissioned by Toyota Ireland, through ConsultUCD, to investigate the energy behaviour of the Toyota Prius IV hybrid vehicle.

Other award winners

Founder of the Year went to Bobby Healy, CEO of drone delivery start-up Manna. In 2019, the firm raised €4.6m in seed funding after a round led by Dynamo VC.

A man with brown hair and grey stubble stands in a large garden holding an award. He is wearing a white shirt.

Bobby Healy, CEO of Manna. Image: University College Dublin

Healy said: “It is a pleasure to receive this recognition from such an esteemed institution as UCD. Manna is indeed a highly innovative business, and a team-led business, so I graciously accept this recognition on behalf of the whole founding team in Ireland and Wales.”

The NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year award went to Prof Suzi Jarvis, founding director of the UCD Innovation Academy, which was established in 2010 and now works with 1,000 learners each year.

The Licence of the Year award went to Prof Eoin Casey and Dr Eoin Syron from the UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering and Dr Barry Heffernan for the licensing of the Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor technology to UCD spin-out OxyMem. In December 2019, chemical giant DuPont announced plans to acquire OxyMem.

Prof Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact, said: “These awards were established to recognise and highlight the successes being made by members of our research and entrepreneurial community across the university.

“I wish them all continuing success in the years ahead as they continue to deliver impact for the economy and society through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic