Posted on Wednesday 4 September 2013 by Ulster Business

25k Awards

Philip Mills from Columbus (QUB) in action

Ten innovative hi-tech teams have successfully pitched their product ideas to go forward to the final round of the prestigious 25k Awards, a key part of the NISP CONNECT programme.

Entries range from a hydrogel that pours drugs into wounds and intelligent data gloves for arthritis sufferers, to pollution-eating inks and real-time route planners for in-transit travellers.

The overall 25K Awards winner, as well as category winners for Bio-tech, Clean-Tech, Hi-Tech and Digital Media & Software, will be announced at a Gala Dinner in Belfast on September 26.

The companies who were successful in pitching their product ideas to a respected panel of judges were:

In the Bio-tech category, Jenarron Therapeutics Ltd, from University of Ulster, has developed a novel hydrogel drug delivery product. When applied to an open wound or laceration, it results in painless suturing with improved clinical outcomes and a superior patient experience.

Digitease's (UU/Health and Social Care NI) first product focuses on rheumatoid arthritis care and treatment for the hand through an intelligent wearable data glove system which quantifies finger joint stiffness and range of movement.

The third contender in the category, ProAx-SiS (Queen's University Belfast), is developing a range of novel diagnostic tests which will enable routine monitoring of patients with chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, either within the clinic or at home.

In the Clean-tech category, ADFerTech (QUB) is developing a low-cost, bolt-on device for anaerobic digestion plants whereby nutrients contained within the waste are concentrated and processed to form organic granular fertiliser.

Their competition is Inkintelligent (QUB), which has developed a number of patented inks that change colour rapidly when deposited onto a self-cleaning surface using, say, a marker pen. These are ideal for marketing and quality control of self-cleaning materials.

Columbus (QUB), a contender in the Digital Media & Software category, is a real-time personal travel assistant which provides public transport users with dynamic, up-to-the-minute information about their travel plans using powerful new mathematics and network analysis.

Meanwhile, Liopa (QUB) is aiming to win with a novel new mobile biometric speaker verification solution which can verify user identity by analysing their viseme profile, a unique biometric characteristic which can help prevent theft and identity fraud.

Three innovative companies, two from University of Ulster and one from Queen's, are competing in the Hi Tech category.

A tyre pressure monitoring system which uses a smartphone as an activation tool in response to European legislative changes requiring all cars to be installed with TPMS has been developed by Xpress LF (QUB).

However, one which might catch the judges' eyes comes from Eye-See 3D (UU). This is a high resolution camera designed to picture the back of the eye in 3-Dimensions in order to deliver cost effective imaging and telemedicine for eye disease.

Last, but not least, Nite Rider's (UU) first product is an accessory which will enable motorcyclists to see further at night, with the aim of reducing the number of individuals killed or seriously injured on our roads.

The 25k finalists have exactly the kind of indigenous innovative ideas that could transform the Northern Ireland economy, says Steve Orr, Director of NISP CONNECT.

"It is clear we have the capacity to be one of the leading knowledge economies in Europe by 2030," he said. "There is enormous potential for local companies in the tech sector to compete in the global market while producing high quality, high paid jobs."

Michael Robinson, who looks after Marketing for the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and sits on the programme's steering committee, agrees.

"There are many innovative products out there that no one has heard about," he said. "25K is a good way of getting those ideas into a public forum and for like-minded organisations across Northern Ireland to work together to help commercialise that potential."

It's an area in which AFBI has much experience. AFBI's work on developing a porcine circovirus' vaccine to reduce the incidence of a wasting disease in pigs, has helped create one of the world's largest selling production animal vaccines, generating a multimillion pound royalty stream for the Institute. The team at AFBI is currently actively working to commercialise new Intellectual Property in areas that include diagnostics and potential vaccines for poultry production.

Dr Paul Donachy of QUB and Tim Brundle of University of Ulster are proud not just of their respective teams' ideas, but also of their commercial awareness.

"As a Russell Group university with a huge research portfolio it is important for us to look at where economic impact lies within the research base not just to grow the local economy, but to make the entire region attractive for inward investment," said Paul.

"So while there is still a place for blue sky thinking, it is important to commercialise our high quality research and bring new products and services to market."

The University of Ulster claims the honour of being the most active university on the island in terms of their innovation portfolio and programme of technology transfer into the commercial world.

"We recognise that we need to aggregate our resources in order to invest in the long term success of hi tech start-up businesses and talented young entrepreneurs," said Tim.

"All our assets across NI, from ideas and tech management to leadership skills and professional services, need to be available to create an eco system of open innovation programme."

Dr David Brownlee of HSC Innovations, the technology transfer service for Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, works to seek out and progress innovative ideas in the health sector.

"25K offers an opportunity of raising awareness of what's involved in the process of transforming a good idea into a new product that can help to secure real improvements in healthcare practices locally, nationally and globally," he said.

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