Archive for the ‘Pitchffest’ Tag

Pitch Perfect Entrepreneurs

One of the highlights of my job is the regular contact I have with the next batch of exciting entrepreneurs coming out of Northern Ireland. It never fails to amaze me and my colleagues about the steady flow of innovative and creative ideas that we produce here. For someone of my generation, it is comforting to know that we clearly have not lost those innovative and entrepreneurial genes that we had when Northern Ireland engineering and technology stood proudly on the world stage. For too long we have not developed their commercial potential and we aim to change that.

At the inaugural Pitchfest event held at the NI Science Park last week we saw a veritable feast of entrepreneurial talent representing a variety of sectors including biotechnology, software and green technology. 12 local companies were given three minutes to make their business pitch to a prestigious panel of judges and an audience of over 150 business leaders from within the entrepreneurial community. This was a unique opportunity to get in front of a very influential audience and to test their business model using the wisdom of the crowd.

All twelve offered very strong business proposals at different degrees of maturity and they all grasped the unique opportunity that Pitchfest offered. The prize for such bravery was that each received valuable feedback on their business model and were able to network with experienced and seasoned professionals who had been there and done that. The overall winner on the night, deemed by the judges to offer the most commercial potential, was Jenarron Therapeutics, an early-stage therapeutics company, which is seeking to exploit the novel properties of a patented putty-hydrogel material that can be used to deliver a range of drug substances, such as anaesthetic to wounds, particularly those that pose a significant challenge to modern healthcare.

Theirs is a product that has worldwide application in the medical and veterinary fields and could revolutionise the way wounds are treated. Combining the considerable expertise of its founders, Paul McCarron, Professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Ulster and Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Mark Jenkins Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department they have recognised the potential of their invention. Equally important is the fact that they realise that the current company structure lacks the commercial and business expertise required to manage the company on a full-time basis and they are focused on addressing this as a priority.

In an entirely different field, but nonetheless offering huge potential, was Unitygrids which is developing an innovative smart meter with a suite of supporting software products which will empower customers and allow energy suppliers to deploy, monitor and control the smart meters and offer value-added products and services permitting them to earn additional income from their investment in the smart meter infrastructure. Energy management and efficiency is a key feature of many countries future energy strategies and this type of product and service not only empowers consumers but works equally well for energy suppliers.

These types of platforms are an important staging post for these hungry entrepreneurs who are trying to bridge what is often called the ‘Valley of Death’ – the gap between the ready acceptance of an aspirational research or innovation concept, and the cynical reluctance to accept a difficult business case and the risk needed to make the dream become reality. The good news is they no longer have to stare into this abyss on their own. There is the start of strong innovation eco-system building here in NI where these entrepreneurs can receive invaluable support, advice and guidance on taking their ideas forward. I have no doubt that we will see more of them successful navigate the dreaded valley and come out the other side.

The full shortlist of Pitchfest companies was:

  •  Annagh ltd – Delivering diabetes monitoring and alarm solutions
  •   Deep Clean Infection Control – An advance hand sanitiser station for use in healthcare environments to counter the incidence of Hospital Acquired Infection
  •   Extremogen – Biotech company developing new Biocatalysts using advanced molecular biology and bioprospecting methods
  •   GenSaf – Offering the next generation of veterinary vaccine delivery systems.
  •   JamPot Technologies – Mobile application development company
  •   Jenarron Theraputics – A therapeutics company offering patented putty material for treatment of wounds
  •   Laser Spoke Project – Cycling technology based on power meters
  •   Lettucebid.com – Online auction platform for hospitality & leisure industry for excess inventory
  •   Okotech Ltd – An intelligent heating control system
  •   RegenaGraft – Offering tissue engineered solutions for heart valve replacement
  •   RepKnight- Social media reputation monitoring company
  •   Unitygrids – Energy smart metering and software company

Do check them out via our website!

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