This year’s Big Ideas included an injectable gel treatment for knee osteoarthritis, AI-powered video summarisation, a medical device to treat dry eyes and a tool to lower carbon emissions.
NanobOx has won this year’s Big Ideas competition for tech start-ups run by Enterprise Ireland. It was one of 12 investor-ready start-ups that pitched their business models at the pitch event today (24 November).
NanobOx was pitched by Dr John Favier, a serial entrepreneur who leads the start-up as CEO. Favier founded NanobOx along with Dr Mohammad Ghaani at Trinity College Dublin.
The duo have developed a highly energy-efficient technology to oxygenate water using nanobubbles. Many commercial bioprocesses require oxygen levels in process waters to be consistently maintained. This can be a significant operating cost for a process that can be critical to productivity.
In aquaculture, or the farming of fish stocks, for example, the energy cost of oxygenation can be the second highest expense after feed. It can represent 60pc to 70pc of operating costs in biological wastewater treatment.
Generating nanobubbles is particularly energy intensive, but with novel, patented technology NanobOx has managed to reduce the energy required to do so. Its nanobubble generators can be solar or battery-powered, and with no moving parts they are easy to clean and maintain. The company claims its technology is highly scalable and can oxygenate water at high flowrates.
Fada Medical wins Viewers’ Choice
Now in its 14th year, Big Ideas held its 2022 pitch event in front of a live audience in Croke Park as well as a virtual audience online.
Big Ideas showcases deep-tech start-up innovation emerging from higher education institutes. It provides founders with direct access to investors and an opportunity to unveil their business idea.
The Big Ideas pitch teams were competing for the One to Watch Award, which was decided by a judging panel. The live and online audiences also selected the winner of the Viewers’ Choice Award.
This year, that award went to Fada Medical, which is on a mission to improve insulin delivery for people living with type 1 diabetes. To do this, Fada Medical has developed a novel diffusion technology that can extend the wear-time of infusion-set cannulas, supporting consistent long-term insulin pump use.
All 12 start-ups competing at the event had three minutes to promote their innovations and business propositions to the invited in-person and online audience made up of the Irish research and investment communities and the wider start-up ecosystem.
Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment Dara Calleary, TD, said that Ireland has one of the “most vibrant and collaborative commercialisation ecosystems in the world”.
He also emphasised the importance of State funding for innovative companies. “As these founders face a more challenging start-up funding environment, it’s important to sustain and support their growth, and instruments such as the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund play a critical role in addressing potential funding gaps for deep-tech start-ups.”
Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy echoed Calleary’s comments on funding support. “Given the severe global headwinds that Irish businesses are facing, it has never been more important to champion the courage and ambition of Irish founders, as their spirit and drive are the cornerstones of our local and national economies.
“Enterprise Ireland is committed to further accelerating entrepreneurship in Ireland and today’s event is an excellent example of this, with the interaction between investors, higher education institutes and our own support teams providing these 12 ambitious founders with an opportunity to take their businesses to the next level.”
Read on for details on the other 10 start-ups pitching their Big Ideas.
Darwin & Goliath
This Trinity College Dublin spin-out from the Adapt research centre provides carbon calculators that categorise transaction data to determine carbon hotspots and provide recommendations to lower carbon emissions. The technology enables companies to calculate and ultimately reduce emissions in procurement by comparing vendors and displaying emissions information to end customers.
An emerging University College Dublin (UCD) start-up, Giyst is using AI and machine learning to create video summaries to tackle the issues of information overload and shortening attention spans. It is targeting this service at the business, education and other markets. The aim is to repurpose content to drive better engagement and discovery.
Infraprint’s technology enables the 3D printing of engineering plastics stronger than any system on the market. This enables the manufacture of high-strength, lightweight, customised parts in a cost and time-efficient way. This technology is particularly useful for manufacturing small batch components, for the aerospace and pharmaceutical industries and beyond.
Following needs-led research conducted during the BioInnovate fellowship programme at University of Galway and a Commercialisation Fund from UCD, Lia Therapeutics has developed Nightleaf, a drug-free, wearable medical device to treat dry and sore eyes.
Dr Conor Lynch, a research fellow and group lead at the Nimbus research centre in Munster Technological University, has developed a tool to automate energy savings. His company, OPEnS has a grid-connected smart network system that, using energy market-tracking tariff prediction technologies, has the capacity to optimise based on energy cost, carbon emissions or both simultaneously.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) spin-out Pumpinheart has prototyped a transcatheter implantable diastolic heart pump, PReduction, to treat advanced stage heart failure. The management team has a mix of clinical, engineering and start-up expertise. Prior to joining RCSI, CMO Dr Aamir Hameed was a cardiothoracic surgeon. CEO Donald Hickey is an experienced edtech and medtech entrepreneur and CTO Dr Andrew Malone is a medical physicist.
Having previously managed projects for large multinationals such as Roche, Boston Scientific and Cook Medical, Dr Alison Liddy, co-Founder of ReleviumBio, has developed an injectable gel treatment to give superior relief and protection from knee osteoarthritis. The company is targeting the knee as a first clinical indication and plans to extend the treatment indications to target other joints affected by osteoarthritis, where the same treatment problems exist.
TiLT (Transformation in Learning and Training)
TiLT has created a training solution to make diverse organisations more inclusive, as one does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with the other. To do this, TiLT focuses not on individual unconscious bias training but on shifting the norms around social interaction within an organisation.
UniDoodle has created a digital tool that addresses the problem of student disengagement in class-based learning. Denise O’Grady, who pitched UniDoodle at Big Ideas, is a serial edtech entrepreneur having founded Way2Pay in 2013. This start-up was recently sold to Evo Payments, a US-based payments technology provider.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a neurodegenerative retinal disease affecting up to 10pc of adults over 65 years. Vzarii has developed gene therapies that target late-stage dry AMD. These gene therapy technologies are the result of pioneering research from the Farrar team at the School of Genetics and Microbiology at Trinity College Dublin.
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Additional reporting by Elaine Burke