Archive for the ‘25k Award’ Tag

We Do Need More Heroes

I beg to differ with the sentiment of the Tina Turner classic – We Don’t Need Another Hero – especially when it comes to the Northern Ireland innovation scene. The problem is we don’t have enough of them, and believe me it is not because we don’t produce enough innovation entrepreneurs who deserve hero status.

The reality is for too long we have not celebrated the success of local innovators who have trailblazed the way, established industry and created wealth here, based on their enterprising and innovative spirit and talents. I accept that this is partly to do with the inbred Northern Ireland modesty and the tendency to hide our light under a bushel, but that is not the whole story. As a society we have not done enough to recognise these people and to celebrate their achievements and contributions.

At this year’s NISP CONNECT 25K Awards we are setting out to change this, with the inaugural Innovation Founder Awards designed to honour Northern Ireland’s most successful science and technology entrepreneurs who have founded successful companies here and helped put NI innovation on the map.

We are currently looking for nominations of people who have acted on their innovations, taken the calculated risk to set up companies and succeeded. People who can become heroes to the next generation. People like Professor John Anderson. At last year’s awards we decided to honour this leading local medical engineering entrepreneur for his contribution and dedication to the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation in Northern Ireland and he delivered an inspiring keynote address at the awards. Professor Anderson was a key member of the team at the Royal Victoria Hospital that created the world’s first defibrillators and recognising the commercial potential he took this life saving technology to market. Today, John is best known as founder and Chief Technology Officer of HeartSine® Technologies Inc., a world leader in life-saving defibrillation therapy. He is also a founder of Intelesens, the manufacturer of world-leading body-worn vital sign monitoring devices based here in Belfast.

The positive feedback we received about this award showed us the value of recognizing and celebrating such innovation founders and we decided to launch a more formal award to do just that. As well as receiving the award this year’s recipient will be a keynote speaker at the 25k Awards gala dinner in September where he or she will address a gathering of over 250 members of the local business and research communities. We also intend to promote them via our website and use them in our various programmes to encourage and inspire. We know there are plenty of worthy recipients out there and we are keen to encourage nominations through http://www.nisp.co.uk/innovationfounders before the end of July.
Interestingly when you look at the Top 10 shortlist for this year’s 25K awards, which is designed to identify, qualify, prepare and present the best knowledge-based ideas with the most commercial potential from the publicly funded research base in Northern Ireland, we have a strong leaning towards the life-sciences and bio-technology in particular. There are range of companies featured which are involved in biomedical industries including animal vaccines, cancer diagnostics and heart disease treatment, as well as a number of other health related innovations . See http://www.nisp.co.uk/Connect/25k-award_174.aspx Perhaps we can attribute this surge in life-sciences innovation in some way to the recognition given to John Anderson last year, proving the importance of celebrating our unsung heroes. What we do know is that it is critical that we inspire the next generation of innovators to step forward and realise their dreams and what better way than to showcase those who have gone before…or to borrow another Tina Turner classic – to recognise Simply the Best !

If You’re Not in You Can’t Win

You will have all heard the phrase   “If you’re not in you can’t win,” which stands to basic logic.  I can point to the NISP Connect 25K Awards which goes one step further. Here simply participating means you will win or at the very least gain something extremely valuable in the process. Just ask any of the previous participants and finalists about their experiences and  typically they will talk as much about the value of the rigorous assessment process itself, as they do about who won the category or overall awards.

In a nutshell these awards, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, QUB, University of Ulster and AFBI,  are designed to unearth ‘The Next Big thing’ – or the best innovations emerging from NI’s research base which have the most commercial potential on a global stage. That could mean they have the potential to be spun out into a full blown company, be licensed or used to form strategic business partnerships.

Year after year, these awards bring forward technology from across all categories – Hitech, CleanTech, Biotech and Digital Media/Software –  and their potential commercial application is very often as good as anywhere else in the world.  Winners have included Sophia Search www.sophiasearch.com  which has developed revolutionary search engine technology which makes it easier to find information within organisations – providing a more efficient means of organisational information to be accessed especially where unstructured in nature across word, pdf, email etc.   Four years on from winning the 25K Awards this company has chalked up Northern Ireland’s largest ever business angel investment of £800,000 through Halo, the NI Business Angel network, opened an office in Silicon Valley and are now partnering with a number of technology companies across the US to integrate their software.

Last year’s winner Lenis Aer has since formed a company and is moving steadily forward on its innovative patent protected process for the manufacture of lip skins, the leading edge of an aeroplane engine surround structure.  In a market estimated to be worth £115million per annum Lenis Aer’s unique forming method achieves considerable operational savings through improved efficiency and reduced emissions, both key drivers for the airline industry. Even at this early stage they have attracted interest from a number of the world’s largest airplane manufacturers.

Just two examples of the possibilities when good ideas are given a helpful start. The good news is there are plenty more where these came from and we now just need more local innovators to step forward before the deadline of 22nd April. The £25K’s process offers an invaluable experience to all participants where they will more fully understand the complexities inherent in successful transition from technological development to commercial realisation. Throughout the Awards process applicants have the unique opportunity to connect and engage with established science and technology corporations, entrepreneurs, service providers and investors who are interested in promising technology. The programme connects the inventors with relevant stakeholders to increase the propensity of commercialisation and turning breakthrough ideas into reality.

In this context it would seem almost criminal for researchers who are developing innovative ideas here to miss out on this fantastic opportunity to test their ideas. With the deadline of 22nd April looming, all it takes is the completion of a simple initial 2 page application form available on www.nispconnect.org/25k to start the ball rolling. Those that do can be assured that this is one of the rare occasions when everyone who enters this competition truly is a winner.