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NI’s 10 most innovative concepts are revealed: £25k Awards

Following a tough six weeks of intensive assessment, the identities of the 10 most innovative business concepts to come out of the publicly funded research base have been revealed by judges for NISP CONNECT’s £25K Awards.

Sponsored by the Bank of Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland, QUB and the University of Ulster Business School, NISP CONNECT’s £25K Awards have been designed to flush out Northern Ireland’s hottest intellectual property concepts.

And now the judging panel – which included the leaders of local trade associations Momentum, Biobusiness, Actions Renewables and the IET – has narrowed the competition from 66 teams down to 10 teams across four different categories. Each team will receive £500 for making the shortlist, but all involved will now have their eyes on scooping the £10,000 top prize.

For the next phase of the competition, the teams will be introduced to a range of domain experts, entrepreneurs and investors who can provide the assistance necessary to help bring these cutting-edge concepts to market.

The top 10 teams are:

• Beatbearing Designs ( an engaging and intuitive musical experience that allows you to create rhythms by arranging ball bearings on a grid.
• D-Stone: designed to prevent damage to harvesting machinery by using millimetre wave radar to detect stones and metal that might otherwise enter the machinery. The technology also has potential military applications in mine sweeping.
• SDW: has developed a patented and award-winning digital watermarking technique to enhance security eg. the team are currently applying their techniques in enhanced biometric secure ID cards.

• AstroDiagnostics: has developed a convenient and sensitive molecular diagnostic test for chicken astrovirus (so helping to prevent what is a major source of financial loss for poultry farmers).
• Invas Tech: developing a standardized, easy to use and relatively inexpensive assay suitable for cancer researchers to determine cell invasiveness and motility.
• FASTREE: has developed a novel air-pruning system that grows specific trees for seed production which in turn produces trees that produce seed earlier, can reduce the cycle time from seed to saleable product from 30 years to six years.

• TrapCOP: has developed a standalone system that allows steam traps to be monitored non-intrusively while also reducing maintenance/monitoring and fuel costs. This could potentially cut costs in large organisations heating large buildings such as the NHS.
• Tactility Factory: has developed patented technology to design textiles specifically for integration into concrete ie. the textiles remain on the surface and are neither subsumed by the concrete nor able to be peeled away. This overcomes the material’s widely perceived negative acoustic or aesthetical qualities.

Digital Media
• PiGIS™: is an online benchmarking tool that benefits both pig producers and pig abattoirs by quantifying pig carcase quality thus assisting the pig industry to improve quality.
• RediscOvery: is a range of location-based multimedia rich content that will deliver a unique interactive 21st century visitor experience at cultural heritage sites throughout Ireland. RediscOvery operates on iPhone/iPod Touch devices and utilises existing 3G, mobile, and wireless networks both as a means for distribution and a conduit for information.

The overall winners of the £25K Awards will be announced at a gala awards dinner on September 24. Between now and then the teams must undergo further assessment, including their submission of a 25-page business plan and the delivery of a final ‘big pitch’ to judges.

NISP CONNECT Director Steve Orr said: “We aim to spread the word far and wide about the quality coming through in the £25k Awards and Northern Ireland’s research base. There is a vast network of well-connected and experienced professionals to be found among our ex-pat communities overseas. We want to see that international network rally behind start ups here and unlock the tremendous potential that resides within our local knowledge base. Most of the concepts in the 25K are at an embryonic stage and most have not incorporated a company. We need the community to help to convert these opportunities.

“The awards are bigger and better this year with research centres at AFBI, QUESTOR, and CAFRE coming on board for the first time. The result of this broad input has been a distinct step up in quality once again, so we’re confident of achieving this year’s objective of producing more new business starts than ever before.”

Mark O'Brien, Bank of Ireland Business Development Manager, said: 'Small businesses play an important role in the growth of Northern Ireland economy. Bank of Ireland are here to support them in different ways, whether through sponsoring £25k awards, funding through Essentials for Business package or offering expert advice. Business start ups rate is still relatively healthy. Through our Essentials for Business package launched last year, we have helped over 100 businesses each month to start up and grow in recent times. We have been encouraged by the resilience of this sector and the ambition of many of our small businesses. Within Bank of Ireland our priority is to stay close to our customers, understand their business, the challenges that they face and create the financial solutions which will support businesses and encourage innovation in NI.'

Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship, said: “It is vital that cutting-edge concepts, developed through R&D activity in Northern Ireland, are supported appropriately so they can be successfully commercialised and sold internationally. The growth of knowledge intensive businesses is crucial for the future success of the Northern Ireland economy, and this competition provides an ideal platform for participants to develop such technologically-advanced companies.

“By combining their entrepreneurial skills with their innovations, the participants in this year’s competition have the potential to turn their ideas into highly profitable enterprises.”

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