Under the microscope: how Hooke Bio found success

The brilliant 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke proved an unlikely source of inspiration for an ambitious MedTech company in Shannon.

“Robert Hooke was the incredible mind behind Hooke’s Law and early microscopy advances. Despite facing many challenges in his life, he was determined and truly ground-breaking in his fields. We see some of ourselves in him,” beamed COO of Hooke Bio, Dr Finola Cliffe.

Finola has 15 years’ experience in cell culture. In 2014, she joined Hooke Bio, where she now leads a team of scientists and engineers developing technology for 3D microtissues. This technology has the potential to replace the need for animal testing and provide more accurate testing models.

“It’s fantastic being part of a small company with good intentions. But we often wonder where the next segment of funding is coming from,” Finola says.

Forging a new path

The team was initially based at the University of Limerick and it was here they received their first investment under the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund. By August 2016, this additional support allowed Finola to successfully develop a working prototype. Her team now faced a new challenge.

“It took us months to get hold of usable data. Then it dawned on me, ‘this is going somewhere but we don’t have enough runway.’” she says.

While the first fund allowed the team to build a working prototype, a second would allow them to take things further again. In 2017, the team successfully secured a second Commercialisation Fund to build a more robust prototype on a larger scale. Even with new financial support, Finola was still concerned.

“We knew technology. But we were green behind the ears in how to market a product. This was a massive challenge for us to overcome. We needed to understand how to position ourselves – the funding helped with this and was the first stepping stone.”

Leaping into the unknown

Through the Enterprise Ireland mentorship programme, Terry Sullivan, former MD of Clonmel Healthcare, was enlisted to help with the next step – selling the idea. He, along with Prof. Mark Davies, the founder of Hooke Bio, devised a plan around costs and milestones with the team.

The Transfer Technology Offices (TTO) became more involved. They’re responsible for technology transfer and aspects of research commercialisation at universities. Working closely with Enterprise Ireland, TTO contacted experts who could share further insights into larger pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Novartis and AstraZeneca.

“It was a steep learning curve but we learned a lot during this time. We were beginning to understand how to best pitch ideas to research and development units. The Market Research Centre was like gold dust for us,” says Finola.

As part of Enterprise Ireland, the Market Research Centre offered access to free reports that would typically cost thousands of Euros. This provided important knowledge on the competition and proved crucial in seeking investment.

Reaching the masses

The team eventually finished a business plan and began networking with potential investors in Ireland. The media was one way to be heard.

“We got our name out there, did interviews with journalists and told our story. It was something new to us, but our confidence grew,” she says.

Finola noticed that investors were becoming more familiar with the company. Having won the Big Idea Showcase in 2017, even more investors came forward.

“We were getting a lot of traction and that was worth an awful lot to us. We have grown so much since the initial funding.”

Finding a new home

It wasn’t long until the team secured its initial investor funding and spun out of the University of Limerick. However, more funding would be needed to secure new premises and set up labs.

In early 2019, after the team secured disruptive technology and innovation funding, they moved to Shannon. Their new premises contain offices, engineering labs, and workshops, making it an entirely self-sufficient business.

“We don’t need to outsource anything, which is quite unusual for a company of our size,” she says. “We can make all our prototypes in-house – we can mill stainless steel, acrylic, mostly any material we want. A lot of components are needed when testing.”

Believing in yourself

Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund has opened up a world of opportunities for Finola and her team, helping them on a path to success.

The company has just completed its second round of investment and released two new patents. In Jan 2019, Hooke Bio won €1.9m in the first round of funding through the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, in collaboration with The Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis and NUI, Galway.

For anyone thinking of embarking on a new journey with Enterprise Ireland, Finola has some advice: “Communication is everything. If you’re unsure of next steps, just go for it and pick up the phone – if you don’t try, you’ll never know”.

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

Forming unbreakable bonds: how Plasmabound found success

“This goes against science,” marvelled Nick Barry, a tech inventor and founder of PlasmaBound.

It was 2013, and Nick was working for the UCD-based Irish Centre for Composite Research (IComp).

Excitedly, Nick asked his professor, Denis Dowling, to look at the testing sample.

“Okay, I think we have something”, confirmed Prof. Dowling.

Nick had discovered a new process for bonding composite materials like carbon fibre. A solution that could help automotive, aerospace, marine, and electronics manufacturers build even stronger, lighter products.

Finding a solution

Nick quickly realised the significance of his findings and was determined to develop a product for the market.

New design opportunities beckoned. Companies could potentially build significantly cheaper solutions without metal fixings and, importantly, reduce their CO2 footprint globally.

“When I developed the solution, I immediately thought ‘product’. Fortunately, I’d been aware of the Commercialisation Fund since my PhD days, so it was always in the back of my mind,” says Nick.

“I saw a benefit to the human race. So, I went home to my partner (and now wife) and told her repeatedly how exciting it was!” he laughed.

Forging a new path

Hugh Hayden, UCD Case Manager of the Technology Transfer Office (TTO), was on hand to provide support. After viewing the solution and reviewing UCD’s internal Invention Disclosure Forms, he agreed that this would be a perfect project for Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

Things moved quickly from there. The TTO reached out to David Flood, Commercialisation Specialist at Enterprise Ireland.

Over a cup of coffee, David listened closely to Nick’s story and was blown away by the project’s potential. David then dug deeper into Nick’s solution, working out what would be needed to commercialise a minimum viable product (MVP).

“David was fantastic in reflecting the fund’s requirements. You might say, he gave me the sandbox in which to build my castle,” says Nick.

Removing barriers

With funding secured, Nick began developing an MVP. He went about ensuring the technology could treat a number of complex composite materials at scale.

Barriers to the market had to be removed. Nick and his team contacted industry leaders to communicate the idea. The MVP was a game-changer – Nick needed to show companies how it could reduce the weight of their products and their carbon gains.

Searching for answers

The MVP was demonstrated at three different sites. With potential customers in attendance, demonstrations took place at FiftyOne Bikes in Dublin, Custom Composites in Meath, and ÉireComposites in Galway.

“We needed to show that we could meet required specifications with certain materials. So, that’s exactly what we did,” says Nick.

In the first 12 months, Nick had 11 letters of interest from firms. To drive the project forward, Nick took it upon himself to gather feedback and learn what was needed in the short and long term.

“After a couple of rounds of feedback, we were successful in gaining support. But it was only once we had secured the Commercialisation Fund

Thinking bigger

In 2017, Nick was ready to take the next step by forming a spin-out company.

“It was the logical next step. But I had no idea what it would take to grow a company. Enterprise Ireland helped us understand each step and what was required,” says Nick.

His brother Alan Barry came on board as CEO, a serial entrepreneur, who had followed the project closely from a very early stage. Xavier Montibert joined as Commercial Director in 2018, bringing connections with industry leaders and a proven track record of delivering innovation.

PlasmaBound continued to grow and recognition quickly followed. In 2018, the company reached the final of Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas and featured in The Ones to Watch and SBP’s 100 Hot Start-Ups. Nick and his team aren’t stopping there.

“The start-up journey is going extraordinarily well,” beams Nick. “The team is motivated and everyone’s excited about what the future holds.”

Believing in yourself

Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund helped Nick on his path to success. Subsequently, his confidence grew.

“The project gave me faith that I could actually do this. Having an organisation like Enterprise Ireland demonstrate trust in your idea makes you feel good about yourself. Sometimes science is all about confidence.”

For anyone embarking on their own project, Nick has some advice: “Remember, be positive. Always communicate with those close to you and enjoy the journey.”

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

Output Sports

Meet Output: the smartest team in sport

A passion for sports and data has proved the winning formula for Dr Martin O’Reilly, co-founder and CEO at Output Sports.

Founded in 2018, the company develops technology to test and track the performance of athletes. However, the origins of the team stretch back further.

In 2012, Martin was first exposed to wearable sensors, signal processing, and machine learning during an undergraduate degree in Sports and Exercise Engineering, NUI Galway (NUIG).

“At first, I was just interested in what could be measured in the gym and that led to a PhD in Machine Learning for Signal Processing at UCD”, laughs Martin, as he reflects on his commercialisation journey with Enterprise Ireland.

Getting the ball rolling

Martin discovered a problem during his fieldwork.

He realised that athlete testing and tracking involved the use of cumbersome, bespoke equipment. These tools were unreliable, expensive and time-consuming.

When he looked deeper into the issue, he realised that strength coaches and medics were spending less time doing the things they truly cared about – coaching and rehabilitating others.

Products like Fitbit and Nike’s FuelBand provide macro-level analysis like step and calorie count. But, Martin wanted to go further by measuring performance related attributes like strength, power, balance, speed and mobility.

Martin and his fellow PhD student Dr Darragh Whelan (also now co-founder and CSO at Output Sports) began collecting interdisciplinary research and exploring algorithms. They felt sporting performance could be measured more accurately, and at a lower cost, by developing a single, wearable motion sensor.

Martin and Darragh’s PhD advisor Brian Caulfield, Director of the SFI Insight Centre for Data Analytics at UCD, adopted a leadership role in their project.

“Brain’s involvement was pivotal for us. He surrounded us with anthropologists, statisticians, doctors, and physios. He’s a brilliant creative mind and still sits on the board today as an adviser,” says Martin.

Setting the bar high

The team was about to be given a jolt of confidence. Darragh conducted 80 interviews with sports practitioners who completed quantitative and qualitative surveys.

“Their pain points almost perfectly matched our algorithms and research. That encouraged us to commercialise,” says Martin.

In 2018, the team applied for an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund, allowing them to ramp up and develop a minimum viable product (MVP).

The team gathered extensive feedback from 30 potential users, as they tinkered and iterated the MVP. In 2019, Julian Eberle, the third co-founder and also CTO, came on board and began leading the technical side of things, such as developing mobile applications and implementing the MVP’s algorithms.

“We were beginning to put the meat on the bones,” says Martin. Together with Enterprise Ireland, they created a rigorous project plan with a series of milestones and timelines. Martin and the team regularly met with Enterprise Ireland advisors Gerard Lande and Tom Bannon to help focus the project from a commercial viewpoint.

After many months of hard work, the team launched Output // Capture in February 2020. The product can test multiple aspects of athletic performance with a matchbox-sized wearable sensor that can be fitted to your wrist or upper arm.

With Enterprise Ireland’s support, the team began reaching out to contacts in the world ofsport. They were excited by the names showing interest.

Believing in your team

Soon after launching Output // Capture, the company spun out from UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science. The team made the short move to the university’s innovation hub NovaUCD, where they are now based.

Output Sports now has 200 clients from professional sports teams right down to school and university levels. Among the company’s partners are several professional soccer clubs, this includes Premier League sides including Burnley, Norwich City, and Watford. The team also partner with Leinster Rugby and the England men’s football team.

Having successfully commercialised their product, Martin still works alongside Enterprise Ireland today.

“We received funds from other investors, but the key to that was the backing we received from Enterprise Ireland. They also helped with grants and opened doors for us to make important contacts, so they’ve been fantastic.”

For anyone embarking on their own project, Martin has some advice: “Surround yourself with mentors and listen. Most of all, enjoy yourself. We’ve loved every second of our journey.”

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

CropBiome

Green shoots: how CropBiome gave hope to Irish agriculture

It’s not news that our planet faces unprecedented food shortages, due to growing populations and climate change . But there is hope, in the shape of a new Dublin-based business.

Dr Fiona Doohan, Professor of Plant Health at University College Dublin (UCD), has studied plant diseases for over 20 years. She’s all too familiar with the challenges we face and has worked hard to find a solution. With the support of Enterprise Ireland she is turning that into a cutting-edge response.

“Agriculture is changing dramatically. While we’ve taken an awful lot of the chemicals out of crop growing, we still need to have high yields to feed the population,” says Fiona.

In 2019, she co-founded CropBiome, which creates biological products that can boost crop yields. That means cultivated plants become high in nutritional value and climate-resistant, which is good for the environment and farmers’ pockets.

Planting a seed

It was during Fiona’s collaborative research with Trinity College that she realised there was commercial potential in her work. They discovered that there was more microbial diversity in wild plants compared to cultivated plants. In layman’s terms, microbial diversity covers all the organisms that help life thrive. For crops, it drives growth, yield, and adaptation.

“Microbial diversity has been lost through agricultural practices. So, we wondered what would happen if we put it back in?” says Fiona.

Initial experiments followed, and the team found great potential to improve drought tolerance in cultivated plants.

They wanted to develop a technology that isolated the beneficial microbes from wild plants, which could then be used on cultivated plants. But they needed to build a prototype, which could then be used to produce products like seed coatings and a soil health indicator. This technology would not only improve the sustainability of crops globally, but also enhance the diversification, safety and transparency of Irish food systems.

Fiona was already aware of Enterprise Ireland’s Commercial Fund from previous projects at UCD. And in 2017, she was successful in her application for funding.

Branching out

Fiona now had the resources to wrap up the critical scientific issues and create the prototype. It was a long process, as the prototype could only be tested seasonally, to align with crop planting. However, early signs were positive.

In the meantime, they shifted their focus to the business side of things. With the help of Enterprise Ireland, they conducted market analysis and created a business plan. A timeline and a series of milestones were also built to keep the project on track.

“I’m a scientist and that’s a long way from commercialisation,” says Fiona. “These things were new to me. What I know about start-ups now and what I knew then is very different.”

As work progressed, a significant announcement further validated the project. The EU Green Deal was unveiled – a set of initiatives to move Europe to a cleaner, circular economy by 2050. From an agricultural perspective, it would mean removing chemicals from crops and further reducing pesticides and fertiliser. These requirements aligned with Fiona’s long-term goals.

Growing together

Through Enterprise Ireland’s Business Partners Programme, Fiona met Sean Daly – a pivotal moment for the project.

Initially an Enterprise Ireland adviser, Sean’s enthusiasm for the technology would lead to his appointment as CEO at CropBiome. With over 20 years business development experience in agribusiness and life sciences, he would help the company grow further and secure additional investment.

“Sean brought huge value to us. Without his input, we wouldn’t have a spin-out company today. He brought a level of commercial realisation to the project that wasn’t there before,” she says.

For Fiona, years of hard work was about to pay off as the team successfully launched their new microbe discovery platform. Industry recognition has quickly followed, Fiona took home the main prize at the 2021 NovaUCD Innovation Awards. More recently, CropBiome successfully secured the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) which will be critical for the further development of the technology.

Believing in yourself

In February 2022, CropBiome will spin out from Trinity College into their new home in UCD’s innovation hub, NovaUCD. The move was supported by Enterprise Ireland’s High Performance Start-Up Fund.

“Enterprise Ireland has been supportive the entire way. If we hit any glitches, they were the first to help us find a path to overcome them,” says Fiona.

As she reflects on her commercialisation journey, Fiona has some advice for those embarking on their own project: “There were times of anxiety, but there is a huge amount of support that can help you along the way – you just have to reach out.”

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

Biologit

Hardwired for success: how Biologit is improving clinical safety

Cars beep and lorries rumble past on the busy streets of São Paulo. Nicole Baker, PhD, CEO and co-founder at biologit, is in Brazil on business as she reflects on a familiar problem. “There’s so much medical literature out there. The volume is so high it can be difficult to follow it all,” she says.

This issue would inspire Nicole to create her own start-up company, with the support of Enterprise Ireland. Before spinning out, the core technology would be developed at Trinity College.

With over 20 years of experience as an immunologist and pharmacovigilance professional, Nicole understood that searching for the latest information on drugs or side effects can pose a real challenge for pharma companies and researchers. Screening can be laborious and impact patients’ safety.

“I kept thinking ‘how can we do this better at a much bigger level?’” says Nicole.

Seeking out opportunity

With that question in mind, she approached Bruno Ohana, PhD, and now CTO and co-founder at biologit. The pair had known each other for years through different projects.

After some discussion, they concluded that AI could filter out redundant information and provide relevant research in an easily accessible form. They created working models to put their theory into practice and were pleased by the results. Nicole recognised that additional expertise and skills would be needed to develop the technology further – she reached out to Enterprise Ireland.

“We wanted to dedicate ourselves full-time, so funding and support would be critical to creating the product,” she says.

Enterprise Ireland confirmed there was potential in the project. They talked through commercialisation avenues and collaboration possibilities to take the idea forward.

The next step was introducing Nicole and Bruno to Professor Lucy Hederman, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, at Trinity College. While Nicole and Bruno had extensive market intel and knowledge of technical strategy, Lucy had the means to build the technology solution.

Having reviewed the working models and accompanying results, Lucy came on board as scientific lead. Trinity’s lab facilities and Lucy’s work would prove to be the backbone of the project. Now the team had invaluable access to a greater level of information around health informatics and AI.

With this collaboration in place, Nicole successfully applied for Commercialisation Funding in 2020. The team could now begin creating a minimum viable product (MVP). The project was gathering real momentum.

Building something special

A team was assembled at Trinity College, with Lucy and Bruno now working in conjunction with the UCD Adapt Centre. With the world in the grips of a pandemic, meeting people in person proved difficult.

“Unfortunately, this hampered things, everything was virtual. We missed interacting with other researchers over coffee, which is easier for making connections,” says Nicole.

Two engineers were hired, along with a group of pharmacovigilance professionals to share their expert knowledge. With everyone on board, the team got to work.

“Our solution needed to de-duplicate and tag every incoming article with predictions based on AI models in collaboration with subject matter experts. This wasn’t going to be built in a week,” she says.

The team created a more accessible workflow by building a front-end for the MVP to speed things up.

After many hard hours and months, the MVP was taking shape.

Thinking bigger

With Enterprise Ireland’s support, Nicole drew on her vast industry experience to gauge reaction to the product. The team gathered feedback through interviews and testing sessions.

Sandboxing was also key to providing further validation, allowing the team to test the MVP in a safe, isolated environment that mimicked the experiences of end-users.

The results exceeded the team’s expectations. They had already submitted a patent and secured disclosure on the technology in conjunction with the Technology Transfer Office at Trinity College, which owns the intellectual property.

They had successfully created a product that could collect information and data about problems in medications. A database of scientific research that was far easier for users to view.

Nicole and the team began receiving industry recognition. She was a finalist in Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas 2020. Along with the Dublin Business Innovation Centre, the event allowed Nicole to network with industry leaders and establish important contacts. “Those events were invaluable, allowing us to meet investors and decide where we wanted to go next,” says Nicole.

With the help of Neil Gordon, Start-up Development Manager at Trinity College, Nicole opened dialogue with investors and presented the product. After several discussions, Nicole and Bruno secured private funding. This would be the platform to found Biologit in 2021.

Looking ahead

The future looks bright for Nicole and her team. Biologit now works alongside 20 pilot partners in the pharma industry, rigorously testing its AI models across many cases. “This was something we really worked for – it wasn’t just handed to us. Knowing Enterprise Ireland was behind us filled us with great confidence. They have been great partners and we’re still connected with them today,” says Nicole.

For those embarking on their own commercialisation project, Nicole has some advice: “Focus on your product. It’s a lot of hard work, but with a certain belief, you can accomplish what you set out to achieve.”

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

Tech with heart: how CroíValve made a difference to patient safety

A trip to Paris was the catalyst for Dr. Martin Quinn, CMO and co-founder at CroíValve. “I was always interested in new treatments and one dawned on me in France,” he says.

During an interventional cardiology conference, Martin and the other attendees were going over treatments for tricuspid valve regurgitation (TR). A common heart disease that affects over half a million people every year in the US and EU alone. “I thought, ‘there’s a better way of doing this,’” he says.

Diagnosing a problem

Later that evening, Martin began jotting down ideas and sketching models. It was the beginnings of a game-changing device that would eventually be commercialised with the support of Enterprise Ireland.

Having spent 17 years as a Consultant Cardiologist, Martin has witnessed first-hand the harsh realities of TR. A vast majority of these patients are elderly and too frail for open-heart surgery. TR happens when the tricuspid valve doesn’t close properly. This causes blood to flow backwards, which over time can lead to permanent heart damage as well as liver and kidney problems.

Martin wanted to create a device that sealed the gap in the tricuspid valve, thereby restoring valve function without a big operation. On his return from Paris in 2014, Martin set the wheels in motion and filed a patent for a new concept.

Remedying a solution

To build the device, Martin needed a partner who combined both business and technical understanding. Dr Bruce Murphy, an Associate Professor in Biomechanical Engineering, was the perfect fit.

“A colleague of mine told me about a guy in Trinity College, Bruce, who was building a mitral valve for the heart,” he says. “I was astonished that he was building something so sophisticated here in Dublin.”

Martin and Bruce agreed to develop a prototype together. It was Bruce who suggested applying for Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund, and the pair were successful in their application in 2016. “The fact that Enterprise Ireland invested in us showed we were onto something,” says Martin.

With funding secured, the team began to grow. A chance meeting between Bruce and Dr Lucy O’Keefe, now CEO and co-founder at CroíValve, would prove to be a pivotal moment. She was a key hire, bringing extensive experience in start-ups and medical device development to the project.

Caring about safety

As part of the Commercialisation Fund, it was agreed that the team would develop their technology in Trinity College. Martin assigned his intellectual property to the university to develop the idea further.

During gaps in Martin’s busy schedule, he would provide clinical input as the team fine-tuned their designs and built a working prototype. “It was a huge learning curve for me. I’m not from an engineering or business background,” he says.

As the prototype took shape, Martin and the team began a rigorous testing programme. This would be a critical step to ensure the end product was safe and effective. Animal models were chosen to mimic aspects of TR. Early signs were positive, and the results would be crucial in securing additional investment.

The team reached out to industry contacts, with the support of Enterprise Ireland. Having successfully pitched their prototype, the project received €3.2m in funding from HBAN MedTech, Irrus Syndicates, Atlantic Bridge University Fund and SOSV Ventures.

“That was further validation for our solution following a detailed assessment. It was a huge achievement,” says Martin.

Believing in your team

The funding accelerated the development of the technology into first-in-human studies, which took place in St James University Hospital Dublin in March 2020. Carried out by an experienced heart team, the device performed well and was implanted and removed without complications.

“That day, the staff were incredible,” he added. “It was amazing to think how far we’d come.”

CroíValve’s device has been proven safe, simple and effective through extensive pre-clinical testing. But the journey is by no means over for Martin and his team. They spun out from Trinity College and into the Liffey Trust Enterprise, Dublin, where CroíValve is now based. They’re always looking to improve the device and still work with Enterprise Ireland today.

“They continue to provide invaluable advice, financial assistance, and important introductions to key industry contacts,” says Martin.

For anyone embarking on their own project, Martin has some advice: “Focus on the benefit to people. It’s a lot of hard work but incredibly fulfilling.”

 

Discover how to take your idea from lab to market with Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund.

UK Water Sector: Trends and Opportunities 2022-2025 – Webinar

 

In 2020 the UK water sector embarked on AMP 7, its five-year infrastructural spending cycle worth £51 billion. This sum covers a wide array of areas, from decarbonisation to digital, with plenty of opportunities for businesses across the supply chain to get involved in the sector.

This webinar discusses the trends and opportunities in the sector across the regulator’s five key themes, as well as AMP 8.

Topics discussed:

  • Environmental Protection

  • Carbon Reduction and Resilience

  • Digital Agenda

  • Customer Service

  • Collaboration and Innovation

  • Value for Money

  • The Future of the Sector and AMP 8

    Construction in the UK: A Guide to Legal Challenges and the UKCA Mark – Webinar

     

    In this webinar the speakers discuss some of the main legal and regulatory issues currently facing contractors, employers and suppliers in the construction sector across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    This webinar also discusses the UKCA mark, the new UK product marking that will replace the CE mark on 1 January 2023 in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UKCA mark will be required for construction products being placed in the market. We will also discuss the process of how to certify your products with the UKCA marking.

    Speakers Include:

    • Jamie Ritchie, Partner, LK Shields

    • Dominic Jones, Partner, Blake Morgan

    • Lisa Boyd, Construction and Procurement Lawyer, Gateley Tweed LLP and Gateley Legal

    • Robin Byrne, Head of UK Office, NSAI Certification UK

      Terence O'Rourke, Jennifer Melia and Leo Clancy at Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase 2022

      Start-Up Showcase: Demonstrating Ireland’s strength in supporting entrepreneurs

       

      Events over the past few years have made the business environment challenging to navigate but have also presented some unprecedented opportunities for Ireland’s innovative and dynamic entrepreneurs.

       

      Enterprise Ireland’s aim to support start-ups

       

      In a rapidly changing world, innovation is vital, making it so important for Enterprise Ireland to nurture and support promising ideas and those who produce them.

       “We have a hotbed of talent and innovation in Ireland right now, so it’s more imperative than ever that our entrepreneurs are given the time, funding and advice to excel on a global scale,” says Jennifer Melia, Divisional Manager, Technology and Services Division at Enterprise Ireland.

      “At Enterprise Ireland, we aim to support and enable Irish businesses to lead in a changing world – and an integral part of this is those ambitious start-ups with innovative solutions to tackle global problems.”

       

      125 start-ups attend Start-Up Showcase 2022

       

      Our strength in innovation was recently demonstrated in Enterprise Ireland’s 2022 Start-Up Showcase, which was held in the Aviva Stadium on Thursday, 7 April.

      Making a welcome return in person – last year’s Start-Up Showcase was wholly virtual – the event was attended by the ‘Class of 2021’. This included 82 new High Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs), 43 approved Competitive Start Fund companies (CSFs) and representatives from each of the 32 New Frontiers programmes we supported during the year.

      This number was on a par with previous years; considering the difficult business environment in 2020 and 2021, this is testament to the resilience of Irish start-ups and entrepreneurs.

      Interestingly, and reflecting Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to supporting diversity in leadership teams, 24 of the 82 HPSUs and 16 of the 43 CSFs were led by female founders.

       

      Learning from other success stories

       

      “Investment and funding is only part of the recipe for success for a start-up,” explains Jennifer. “Learning from peers and those who have been on the starting and scaling journey already plays an important role in future success.

      As a result, this year’s conference element at Start-Up Showcase aimed to tackle two of the most important subjects for start-ups.

      The first panel focused on ‘Disruption and Customer-Led Innovation’. It featured Silvercloud Co-Founder and CEO Ken Cahill, Novus Diagnostics Founder and CEO Elaine Spain, and ACT VC General Partner John O’Sullivan.

      Centaur Fund Services Founding Partner and CEO Karen Malone, Kyte Powertech CEO Stephanie Leonard and Cubic Telecom CEO Barry Napier then shared their experiences on ‘Building a Strong Team and Funding for Scale’.

      The conference then ended with a keynote speech from LearnUpon Co-Founder and CEO Brendan Noud as his company, a HPSU from the Class of 2013, goes from strength to strength.

       

      Returning to an in-person Start-Up Showcase event

       

      Due to the public health measures, last year’s event was wholly virtual due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But this year’s was both live streamed and in person.

      “As the start-ups would have begun their journey during lengthy lockdowns and travel restrictions, this event, in many cases, was one of the first opportunities to meet such an influential group of people – as well as their peers – in person,” says Jennifer. “There was a real buzz in the air.”

      “In total, there were 500 attendees including representatives from the Irish start-up ecosystem, including VCs and other funders, State support agencies, strategic company partners and professional and financial services, Government departments, academics, business mentors and Local Enterprise Offices.”

       

      Innovation and resilience among the Start-Up Showcase Class of 2021

       

      As companies that formed during the second year of the pandemic, the ‘Class of 2021’ have shown innovation and resilience like never before. Proving that Ireland is the “go to” country when it comes to finding global solutions, these companies produced a number of solutions in many sectors, including digital health, fintech, medtech, software, sustainability and more.

      “The ‘Class of 2021’ is really impressive,” says Jennifer. “Take a look at Amnexis Digital Solutions, based in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, a digital health company that records patient data efficiently, therefore reducing the administration workload on hospital, homecare and nursing home staff.”

      And there’s more to come. Although we are only a few months into 2022, already the easing of restrictions has resulted in a renewed energy in Ireland’s start-up community.

      “Next year’s Start-Up Showcase is looking promising even now, with a strong pipeline of promising entrepreneurs with intriguing prospects making waves across Ireland, both first-time and repeat entrepreneurs.”

      The future has never been more exciting for Irish entrepreneurs to Lead in a Changing World.

       

      Find out more about Enterprise Ireland’s supports for High Potential Start-Ups or watch the recording of the Start-Up Showcase 2022 conference.

       

      GA Bringing Irish healthcare innovation to the world - Minister Stephen Donnelly attends Arab Health expo

      Bringing Irish healthcare innovation to the world

       

      There have been many headlines about the strength of the Irish medtech sector, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of our indigenous life sciences companies are making waves in every corner of the world, and big economies such as the US are looking to Ireland for innovative solutions for every aspect of healthcare.

       

      The Arab Health exhibition

       

      This strength was demonstrated at this year’s Arab Health, the leading exhibition in the MENA region for the healthcare industry. The 2022 event took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 24 – 27 January and was followed by an online event from 31 January – 10 February.

      Enterprise Ireland had a significant presence at the event, showcasing the work of 14 companies. An additional six client companies also attended the show.

      The influence of Arab Health cannot be underestimated. For many years, it has been a major event for connecting clinicians, procurement professionals, dealers and distributors from all over the world. This year, more than 3,500 exhibitors took part and over 56,000 healthcare professionals attended, all eager to see the latest innovations.

       

      The changing healthcare landscape

       

      The theme of this year’s event was ‘United by Business, Forging Ahead’, which reflected the importance that new technologies and innovation have in today’s rapidly changing global healthcare industry. According to Eamon Sikafi, Commercial Counsellor – Middle East & North Africa at Enterprise Ireland, this means plenty of opportunity for Irish companies.

      “The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a prosperous region with plenty of opportunities for Irish healthcare innovators,” Eamon explains.

      “For example, digitalisation is very much at a pilot stage in most GCC countries, offering significant opportunities for Irish companies working in this sector.”

      “Another trend is the move to domestic drug production. Currently, over 90% of the market is driven by imported drugs, but a rising number of collaborations between multinational companies and domestic manufacturing looks set to change this.”

      “A third area in which Irish companies are particularly strong is medical technologies. The GCC medical technologies market accounts for 2.7% of global revenues, but currently the sector is dominated by imports. Domestic manufacturing is still in its early stages and accounts for less than 20% of market revenues.”

       

      Opportunities for Irish companies in healthcare innovation

       

      Enterprise Ireland market advisors have identified areas in the region that are filled with opportunities for Irish companies between now and 2030.

      Electronic Health Records (EHR), artificial intelligence for radiology, robotic surgeries and patient engagement platforms for pharmaceutical companies are predicted to become a $2 billion market by 2030,” Eamon says.

      “The number of hospitals across the GCC is expected to triple by 2030. Primary care clinics, e-clinics and micro hospitals will represent new areas of investment focus over the next decade.”

      Public Private Partnership (PPP) opportunities will support growth across the region, with at least 40% of private sector healthcare growth driven by PPP. Investment in cancer treatment technologies will surge as early diagnosis of cancer is likely to increase by 10% by 2030.”

      “Collaboration between hospitals and companies to develop corporate wellness programs will become a $2 billion market by 2030. And, medical consumables manufacturing is likely to emerge as a $30 billion market by end of 2030, with Saudi Arabia poised to become a regional hub by 2023.”

       

      Irish success stories in healthcare innovation

       

      AceTech

      Irish company AceTech has built up business in the region worth €10 million, working in the areas of safety, patient care and AI software for several ambulance services in GCC countries and cities.

       

      Aerogen

      Galway-based Aerogen, a leader in aerosol medication delivery systems, opened an office in Dubai in 2018 and has grown significantly in the region since the start of the pandemic. Most recently, the company announced a major deal with Gulf Medical, a market leader in medical device distribution in Saudi Arabia.

       

      Fleming Medical

      Fleming Medical began operating in the region in 2014 and currently services several GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman. This year, the company plans to expand operations into Iraq and North Africa, growing business by 25% by the end of 2023.

       

      Contact Eamon Sikafi to find out how Enterprise Ireland can help you explore healthcare innovation opportunities in the Middle East.

       

      A man and woman wearing headsets for immersive entertainment purposes

      The Irish businesses making waves in the immersive entertainment sector

       

      Irish people have a long and proud history of storytelling. From the ancient seanchaí to poets, musicians and novelists, the Irish ability to tell a story in an unforgettable and imaginative way is famous across the world.

      With storytelling at the core of today’s artificial reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive experiences, combined with Ireland’s reputation for excellence in technological innovation, it should come as no surprise that several Irish companies are making waves in this sector.

       

      Overview of the immersive entertainment sector

       

      “The immersive entertainment sector actually grew during the Covid-19 pandemic,” notes Bartosz Siepracki, Senior ICT Market Advisor, Poland and Baltics, and Global Digital Entertainment Sector Lead at Enterprise Ireland.

      Cinema restrictions resulted in more people looking for immersive entertainment experiences at home. As a result, consumers worldwide spent $9.9 billion on AR and VR during 2020.”

      “During the same period, just $7 billion was spent on cinema attendance. Investors are recognising this growth and responding accordingly. This means there are plenty of opportunities for Irish companies looking to enter the sector.”

      These opportunities become even more significant when the impressive long-term predictions are taken into account.

      A report on Statistica predicts that the global immersive market will grow to almost $300 billion by 2024. This means that immersive media will be as significant to us as mobile apps are today.”

      “There is another piece to this fast growth,” notes Bartosz. “With this being such a rapidly growing and developing industry, companies entering the sector today will play a valuable role in shaping the world of immersive entertainment over the coming decades.”

       

      Opportunities for Irish companies in immersive entertainment

       

      Recognising the massive potential of this growing sector, Enterprise Ireland is supporting Irish companies that wish to enter or increase their presence in the industry.

      As part of this, a new guide, ‘Opportunities in Immersive Media Entertainment’, has been developed by the UK-based Limina Immersive consultancy in partnership with Enterprise Ireland to help Irish entertainment companies recognise, prepare for and take advantage of these opportunities globally.

      Headed by globally recognised expert Catherine Allen, Limina is also currently working with several Irish SMEs branching out into the sector.

      “The guide looks at the current immersive entertainment market and the areas of growth over the coming years, along with the digital technology trends, investment opportunities and advice on getting your immersive entertainment projects off the ground.”

       

      Irish businesses that found success in the sector

       

      Engage XR

      “Many Irish companies are already finding success in the area,” says Bartosz. “For example, Engage XR (previously known as Immersive VR Education) launched a VR documentary in April 2016, ‘Apollo 11’, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s based on NASA’s original material from the first lunar expedition in 1969. It allows the user to fly the command module, operate the lunar lander and carry out experiments on the moon.”

      “Since then, the company has developed its ENGAGE platform, which enables VR education, collaboration and events. This is now used by over 130 commercial customers including Fortune 500 companies Meta and 3M.”

       

      Volograms

      Another area of growth is in volumetric filmmaking, most notably how to make it easy and affordable for both professional headsets and mobile experiences. “Volograms has developed state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms powering 3D reconstruction, multi-view texture mapping and many more important features,” says Bartosz. “Its mobile app allows anyone to capture volumetric video of someone, resize it and place it in a different context.”

       

      Pink Kong Studio

      Ireland’s animation industry has long been admired for its carefully crafted stories for both adults and children. Naturally, this sector is playing a big role in advancing the world of immersive entertainment too. “Most famous of all is Aurora, developed by Pink Kong Studio in 2018,” says Bartosz. “Aurora is an emotional story about a family of three living in a forest and has received multiple accolades around the world. These include the 2018 Monolith Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Immersive VR’ from Infinity Film Festival Beverly Hills.”

       

      Algorithm

      Irish companies are taking the technology to the outdoors too, for everyone to enjoy. “Living Canvas was developed by Algorithm and is noted for bringing technology into the cultural sphere,” explains Bartosz. “It’s one of the world’s first outdoor digital screens used exclusively for artistic and cultural content. It’s currently located in Wilton Park where it operates as an exciting open-air gallery. Anyone living in or visiting Dublin can experience this wonderful new technology for themselves.”

      “People don’t need a complicated entertainment system or even a top-of-the-range phone to experience this new world.”

       

      Contact Bartosz Siepracki to find out how Enterprise Ireland can help you explore opportunities in the immersive entertainment sector.

      Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry - Image of space and galaxies

      How Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry

       

      Ireland may not be the first country to spring to mind when you talk about space travel or exploration, but recently this industry has proved itself to have plenty of opportunities for Irish innovation, both from companies and research bodies.

       

      The James Webb Space Telescope

       

      Many businesses based in Ireland are already working in the area, thanks to our involvement with the European Space Agency (ESA). What’s more, several Irish companies are now playing a pivotal role in some of the most thrilling and high-profile space missions.

      One such mission was the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, or simply Webb), the next great space science observatory following the famous Hubble Telescope.

      The Webb was launched from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Christmas Day 2021. It now resides one-and-a-half million kilometres from Earth, hovering in line with our planet as it orbits the sun.

      Over 25 years in development, the Webb telescope has the ability to look back 13.5 billion years in time to observe the birth of the first galaxies and the lifecycle of stars and exoplanets.

      Webb follows the Hubble Telescope in the line of great space observatories. Both have different scientific capabilities and will operate together, complementing each other, for several years.

      In fact, according to Bryan Rodgers, Senior Development Executive at Enterprise Ireland and a member of the Irish delegation to the ESA, Webb has the capacity to do far more than the Hubble.

      “The Webb has over six times the light-gathering capacity and is a hundred times more sensitive, with the ability to peer through clouds of dust by capturing light in the infrared part of the spectrum.”

      “By looking back to the early universe using infrared detectors, Webb hopes to answer some vital questions about the formation of our universe, the make-up of so-called dark matter, and what the development of galaxies can tell us about the future of the universe.”

       

      How Irish companies contributed to the development and launch of the JWST

       

      Webb is the result of an international project led by NASA with the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Within the ESA’s contribution, two Irish companies and an Irish research institute played significant roles in the development of the Webb’s scientific instruments and in its launch into space.

      “Firstly, there was significant Irish input into the development of the infrared detector technology,” comments Bryan. “Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was Co-Principal Investigator for the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) on Webb, which will produce images and spectra with unprecedented sharpness and sensitivity.”

      “Professor Tom Ray and his team from DIAS also provided MIRI’s infrared filters, which breaks up the light into its various components, and imaging software that will analyse the instrument data sent back to Earth and produce scientific images.”

      An Irish company also played an important role in Webb’s launch into space via an Ariane 5 launcher.

      Réaltra Space Systems Engineering designed and manufactured the video imaging system onboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, which gave us impressive high-definition video images of the separation of the launcher’s fairing and separation of the telescope itself,” says Bryan.

      “The final images of Webb moving into space on Christmas Day in 2021 came from Réaltra’s technology.”

      Interestingly, Réaltra’s system was originally designed for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which is due its first flight in the second half of 2022.

      “In addition, a second Irish company, Nammo Ireland, provided structural supports for the Vulcain engine that powers Ariane 5 – and will be involved in producing components for both the Vulcain and Vinci engines on the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle.”

       

      Opportunities for Irish businesses in the space industry

       

      The involvement of these Irish entities came about as a result of Ireland’s membership of the ESA, which is managed through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

      Enterprise Ireland plays a huge role in enabling this work, by supporting and guiding Irish companies and research institutes in developing technologies through ESA programmes, and in commercialising these technologies in the worldwide space market, with over 100 companies supported to date.

      “The success of the Irish entities involved in the ground-breaking JWST project underlines the growth in opportunities in the commercial space market for innovative Irish companies with exciting technologies that can be used in many different sectors, such as automotive and medical,” notes Bryan.

      “These opportunities will only become more plentiful as our understanding of space grows and develops. We are confident that more Irish companies will be involved in such thrilling projects in the future.”

       

      Contact Bryan Rodgers to find out how Enterprise Ireland can help you successfully bid for European Space Agency contracts or explore other opportunities in the space industry.