NovaUCD awards recognise its breakout founders and inventors

29 Mar 2021

Prof Fiona Doohan. Image: Nick Bradshaw

Zipp Mobility and innovative crop yield research were among the winners that scooped up prizes in this year’s ceremony.

Crop science, e-scooters and quantum computing were just some of the fields recognised at NovaUCD’s 2021 Innovation Awards.

The virtual award ceremony recognised entrepreneurs at University College Dublin (UCD) who have excelled in developing their start-ups from an idea into a commercial business.

The top honour for innovation of the year went to Prof Fiona Doohan, a crop scientist at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, who has co-founded E-Seed Crop Technology Solutions. The start-up is a joint spin-out from UCD and Trinity College Dublin and is developing endophytes, such as fungi and bacteria, that can help improve crop yields.

“The enhanced global consumption of crop-based foods and the move within the EU and globally towards more sustainable agricultural practices mean that now, more than ever, we need innovation in crop science to ensure that the Irish agrifood sector continues to lead in the development of sustainable, traceable, quality foodstuffs,” Doohan said.

Equal1 Labs, a quantum computing start-up, picked up the gong for spin-out of the year. It is developing a type of quantum computer using new semiconductor tech called CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor).

Founder of the year went to Charlie Gleeson, the founder and chief executive of e-scooter start-up Zipp Mobility, which has raised more than €1.1m in funding, launched services in the UK and is currently on a recruitment drive.

“It has been a great year for the Zipp team scaling across the UK. However, it was very much a team effort,” Gleeson said. “I’m extremely proud of the team we’ve built and what we’ve achieved in 2020. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without the support of NovaUCD.”

The award for invention of the year went to Prof Patricia Maguire and Dr Paulina Szklanna of UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and Prof Fionnuala Ní Aínle of the UCD School of Medicine for their new diagnostic test called AI PREMie, which uses AI to identify pregnant women at risk of preeclampsia.

Other winners included Prof Michael Wallace for consultancy of the year, Dr Paul Cuffe for innovation champion of the year, Dr Donal MacKernan for licence of the year.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin