Solopep named the One to Watch among university innovators

20 Jun 2019

From left: Solopep’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Stephen Creaner from Enterprise Ireland. Image: Orla Murray/SON Photo

The best pitch at Big Ideas 2019 came from a University of Limerick spin-out with a world-first medical device.

A medical device claiming to be a world first scored the ‘One to Watch’ Award at the Enterprise Ireland 2019 Big Ideas showcase.

In all, 12 investor-ready ideas from university spin-outs were pitched to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and fellow scientists engaged in research commercialisation at the event in Dublin Castle, but only one could emerge on top.

Solopep is an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund-supported spin-out from the University of Limerick that has developed the first disposable OPEP devices.

OPEP (oscillating positive expiratory pressure) devices are used to clear the airways of patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchiectasis.

The reusable OPEP devices currently available are expensive and require rigorous daily cleaning, whereas Solopep’s patent-protected mechanism delivers the same mechanical performance but in a smaller form factor. This has the added benefit of greater discretion for patients to carry out airway clearance whenever and wherever it is required.

Solopep is intended for use in acute care or at home, as a cost-effective and safe solution for patients, removing the risk of infection from poorly cleaned devices. In two studies approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, Solopep was shown to be as effective as the current market leader in maintaining pulmonary function in patients with cystic fibrosis and COPD, and 100pc of patients participating preferred Solopep to their current device.

The next big thing in innovation

Kevin O’Sullivan from Solopep accepted the award for his outstanding three-minute pitch.

Taking place on 19 June, Big Ideas 2019 marked the 11th showcase of new and novel technology solutions from Enterprise Ireland. Other projects presented at this year’s event included a potentially life-saving wayfinding system developed by a firefighter, a wound closure device combining the advantages of skin stapling and suturing in one, and a novel cyclonic method of mixing air and water to halve the electricity spent on recycling wastewater.

“Disruptive technologies and world-class innovations stemming from research taking place in our academic institutions are often showcased for the very first time on the Big Ideas stage. This is why Enterprise Ireland’s annual Big Ideas event is one of the most popular in our yearly calendar and always guaranteed a full house. For those who are looking for the next big thing, this is a first-hand opportunity to witness Ireland’s latest technologies and business innovations,” said Stephen Creaner, executive director at Enterprise Ireland.

“Collaboration between higher education, State agencies, investors and business creates a pathway to success and Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping start-ups like these to realise their commercial potential and achieve their global ambition, bringing their innovative solutions to the global market.”

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic