Teen who developed antimicrobial case for face masks wins student prize

17 May 2021

Matthew McVicar from St Macartan’s College in Monaghan. Image: Local Enterprise Office

Nearly 30,000 students took part in this year’s Student Enterprise Programme, which saw teen entrepreneur Matthew McVicar take the top prize.

A 16-year-old from Monaghan has received a top student entrepreneurship award for his antimicrobial copper case designed to store face masks.

Matthew McVicar, a student at St Macartan’s College in Monaghan, took the top prize at this year’s Student Enterprise Programme national finals, which were held virtually on Friday (14 May).

McVicar was recognised for his work developing CopperCase, which he said can help ensure a face mask is free from Covid-19 and other viruses and bacteria in “just three minutes”.

“Hundreds of studies have proven the antimicrobial effects of copper and CopperCase is one of only seven companies in Europe who have this authorisation to place copper on the market as a biocide,” McVicar added.

He developed the case after noticing the excessive amount of face masks being disposed of in his community. The product is now being sold in pharmacies in Ireland and the UK.

A blue case is open, showing a sheet of copper on one side and a face mask on the other.

The CopperCase. Image: Local Enterprise Office

The Student Enterprise Programme is an initiative funded by the Government through Enterprise Ireland and delivered by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices around the country. More than 250,000 students have taken part since the programme began in 2003.

This year’s programme saw 29,000 students from nearly 500 secondary schools in Ireland take part. Each student enterprise was challenged with creating, setting up and running their own business, delivering sales of a service or product.

Students competed across junior, intermediate and senior categories, and 72 student enterprises were judged in the finals by a panel of business owners and representatives from enterprise agencies.

Behind McVicar, the runner-up in the senior category was Amy’s Y2K Vintage Shop, an online store for sourcing and selling vintage clothes, from Lough Allen College in Leitrim.

The top prize in the intermediate category was awarded to students from Summerhill College in Sligo who developed a snap-on tea towel to address kitchen mishaps. Meanwhile, the winner in the junior category was Go Green Now, a pack developed by students from Salerno Secondary School in Galway that included a tree kit with Coillte-sourced acorns.

“The ability to create an idea, turn it into a business and to run that business is a skill that will be invaluable later in life,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, who took part in the virtual awards ceremony.

“Ireland has a proud history of entrepreneurship and no doubt those here today will all go on to achieve great things.”

Michael Nevin, chair of the Local Enterprise Office’s Enterprise Education Committee, added that the annual programme is a “stepping stone” for many young entrepreneurs.

“It’s no surprise to see the challenges thrown up by the pandemic featuring in many of the businesses and the ongoing willingness for students to create businesses that not only sell services or products, but that help address ongoing issues in society.”

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic