The best new inventions from Northern Ireland

The Invent Awards recognise the best new inventions emerging from Northern Ireland each year. 
The 2017 Invent Awards winners have been announced. Held at the Waterfront Conference Centre in Belfast, the annual awards recognise Northern Ireland’s latest breakthrough inventions.
The overall winner of Invent 2017 went to Phion Therapeutics developed by Dr. Helen McCarthy (pictured above centre). Dr. McCarthy won a prize package worth £13,000 and one of the sought after spaces on the NI Tech Mission to California in January 2018.
Phion Therapeutics aims to revolutionise how drugs are delivered to parts of the human body.
“Phion has been able to concentrate various anionic drugs into tumours while preventing delivery to normal or healthy tissue and cells. This is potentially revolutionary for the treatment of cancer,” says Professor Helen McCarthy from the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast. “The list of potential applications is almost limitless.”
The other winners on the night
The five category winners, who received £3,000 and a place on the NI Tech Mission were:

KegoMatic, the brainchild of six electrical engineering students from Queen’s University Belfast – Connor McGurk, Connor Carville, Donovan Campbell, Patrick Devlin, Bryan Murphy and Aaron Rath – is an automated beer keg solution.
Evy, a smart tracking bag, was created by Queen’s University Belfast students Niamh Tohill, Andrew Cunningham, Vincent Kearney, Nathan Steenson and Matthew Whiteside.
Seatview, founded by Graham Little, Andrew Murray, and Stuart Ogg and provides customers with a 360-degree virtual reality view from their allocated seats.
Uleska, founded by experienced entrepreneur Gary Robinson builds cybersecurity into web applications while they are being built.
Hug, created by product designer Fiona Bennington, is a wearable heat pack.

For more information on Invent 2017 visit invent2017.co. The awards are sponsored by Bank of Ireland and Connect at Catalyst Inc. 

Related Resource

Ten Irish inventions that changed the world. 

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Three straight-A students build an Edtech business

ExamLearn, which was founded by three secondary school friends, is a fascinating new Irish Edtech startup. Here, one of the founders – Jack Manning – talks about building a business based on a big gap in the market. 

How and why did you start? 
ExamLearn was initially called JC-Learn. Me and two friends, Johnnie Bell and Eamonn Flannery, set it up shortly after getting our Junior Cert results (where we achieved a combined 30 As). We felt there was a lack of technology around the school study process. We also wanted to combat the need for expensive grinds and revision books so that anyone in Ireland could achieve a high grade, regardless of how much money they had to spend on education. We set about outlining all the most important features of an effective study plan: subject notes, A-grade past exam answers and expert study advice.
“Many older Edtech companies are behind the times when it comes to content and user experience”
How long did you spend on your business plan before your launch?
We initially didn’t spend any time on a business plan as we just got straight to work. We were completely inexperienced when it came to planning a  business model. However, after working on ExamLearn for a few weeks we became aware of the Student Enterprise Awards run by the Local Enterprise Offices. When we entered, we had to form a business plan and were given guidelines and workshops on how to do so. This provided some direction for our fledgeling business and allowed us to think about the more long-term business goals.
“We know exactly what students want because we are students ourselves.”
What is Examlearn’s USP?
The Irish ed-tech market is quite open. This has allowed a young startup like us to grasp a serious chunk of the market. Many older Edtech companies are behind the times

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Starting a beauty therapy business in Ireland

April Kerr is the founder of NurseCare, a business that marries two of her passions – nursing and beauty therapy. This is how she started and grew her business. 

In the beginning
When I was filling out my CAO form, I told my mother I wanted to be a beauty therapist, and she convinced me to be a nurse. So, after my four-year degree, four years as a scrub nurse in theatre and, two years doing a HDip in Midwifery, I found a way of marrying my love of beauty and aesthetics and nursing.
I got a job working in The Ailesbury Clinic under Dr Patrick Treacy. This was the beginning. I knew I could offer more of myself if I were out on my own. I knew I had an aesthetic eye and I have an excellent bedside manner. After my wedding, I bit the bullet and put every penny of our wedding present into funding my venture.
“After my wedding, I bit the bullet and put every penny of our wedding present into funding my venture.”
The trials of business planning
My business plan was a giant convoluted mess in which I spent about a month banging my head against a wall. It was full of self-doubt and fear of failure. There was one reason for this; I am a nurse. I had no business background except for an eight-week accounting module in the fourth year in school. I then met with a very sound minded businesswoman in Partas in Tallaght, and she advised me to pare it right back and look at the essentials and what market I was to target.
My USP
I am my USP. That is not meant to sound conceited, but when I am in a room with a client, nothing else matters but my client. I genuinely care about the

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Starting a beauty therapy business in Ireland

April Kavanagh is the founder of NurseCare, a business that marries two of her passions – nursing and beauty therapy. This is how she started and grew her business. 

In the beginning
When I was filling out my CAO form, I told my mother I wanted to be a beauty therapist, and she convinced me to be a nurse. So, after my four-year degree, four years as a scrub nurse in theatre and, two years doing a HDip in Midwifery, I found a way of marrying my love of beauty and aesthetics and nursing.
I got a job working in The Ailesbury Clinic under Dr Patrick Treacy. This was the beginning. I knew I could offer more of myself if I were out on my own. I knew I had an aesthetic eye and I have an excellent bedside manner. After my wedding, I bit the bullet and put every penny of our wedding present into funding my venture.
“After my wedding, I bit the bullet and put every penny of our wedding present into funding my venture.”
The trials of business planning
My business plan was a giant convoluted mess in which I spent about a month banging my head against a wall. It was full of self-doubt and fear of failure. There was one reason for this; I am a nurse. I had no business background except for an eight-week accounting module in the fourth year in school. I then met with a very sound minded businesswoman in Partas in Tallaght, and she advised me to pare it right back and look at the essentials and what market I was to target.
My USP
I am my USP. That is not meant to sound conceited, but when I am in a room with a client, nothing else matters but my client. I genuinely care about the

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‘I would like to see more positivity towards entrepreneurs’

Cronan McNamara is the founder of Creme Global, an Irish firm with most of the biggest food companies in the world as clients. Here he talks about running a global business from Ireland and what more can be done to encourage entrepreneurship.
It’s nearly 20 years ago when I started working within the food safety sector. It’s funny while taking physics in college if someone had forecast the industry that I would be working in – I probably never would have believed it. However, the food sector is an exciting area; lots of data; lots of interesting work from agriculture to the finished product; issues ranging from shelf life; to food safety; to working on areas like the microbiome and DNA sequencing.
I always had an interest in maths, science and building things and so studied physics, because of the mathematical element and the real world nature of it. I also started to enjoy the computing side and followed with an MSc in Computing. After college, I began working in financial risk analysis, writing financial-risk software for derivative options pricing.
“Cash is king. We avoided investors, which I would recommend if you can.”
Later, I met my former professor, who at the time was working on a food-risk analysis project, linked with the Trinity Innovation Centre, which involved working with multiple partners across Europe. I then decided to go back and work on the technology, developing the next generation food-risk analysis system for Europe. It was delivered using web-based software, which was quite innovative at the time. This work became the genesis of Creme Global, which then subsequently evolved as a Trinity spin-out.
“Build your product as lean as possible, get something out onto the market, iterate and build on that.”
What was your first major project?
From a consumer and nutritional perspective, we were involved in an IBEC

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Brewing beer on a hilltop in Clare

Maeve Sheridan of Western Herd talks about brewing beer on a hilltop in Clare, the inspirational Irish food and drink scene and how mistakes make you stronger. Maeve will be the fireside chat guest at Founder Friday Clare in Ennis on Friday, September 22. It’s free to attend but you need to register here.
This is how we started
I was working in Luxembourg for a large American bank in risk and compliance. I lived there for nearly seven years, and with Germany and Belgium twenty minutes away in different directions, I was surrounded by great beer and loved trying new styles and regional varieties.  
Over a few beers at Christmas, my brother Michael suggested converting a haybarn on our family farm into a brewery. Michael, a civil engineer by trade, was managing a busy bar in Dublin after being made redundant from his engineering job during the recession and he could see how craft beers were growing in popularity.   
“There is something unique about brewing beer on a hilltop farm on the West coast of Ireland using fresh farm spring water.”
Our USP?
We noticed that there was no one in Clare brewing beer. Nearly every other county had a brewery in 2014, and with Clare’s growing reputation as a foodie destination and with over a million visitors to the county annually, there was a need for a locally produced beer.  
As well as being the only commercial brewer in Clare, there is something unique about brewing beer on a hilltop farm on the West coast of Ireland using fresh farm spring water as our main ingredient.
“We plan to open a visitor centre and tasting room so we can start running brewery tours and sell directly to the public from the farm.”
Funding the business and our growth plans
After seven years in Luxembourg, we

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A portrait of the artist as a young farmer

This is a tale of survival and revival. The story of an artist who moved to the Golden Vale to breed a herd of native cattle. 
In 2010, professional artist and bronze-caster, Eavaun Carmody, moved to Killenure Castle, Co. Tipperary. Her busy work life in the city included dealing in antiques, as well as restoring old buildings. She left the hassle of the city and moved her family to the heart of the Golden Vale. She renovated a castle and at the same time, ran a series of successful community workshops, one of which was creating a contemporary art trail (Open Art Killenure – OAK), that encompassed the castle’s history, architecture, and woodlands.
The light bulb moment
A chance conversation in the local pub one night, sparked her interest in reviving a cattle breed, called Dexter. It is a native breed of cattle which had historically been reared, just two miles away, on the nearby Dundrum Estate. Eavaun decided there and then that she wanted to create a link to the past and revive the breed.
Her ‘startup farm’ has since been developed into a successful enterprise, producing a range of premium meat, charcuterie, leather and milk products. Eavaun’s is a unique and intriguing story – all told and sold under the Dundrum Dexter Beef (Killenure Castle) brand.
“People need integrity and authenticity in their lives, and that’s the story behind what these products represent – absolute authenticity.”

How did it all start?
It was an emotional response, the need to resurrect a dormant history that had flatlined, like a sleeping beauty, one that needed a kiss of life. 
I decided to see if I could buy some Dexter cattle, but they couldn’t be found anywhere. Following an extensive search, I tracked down and brought home nine animals and placed them on the land, around the curtilage of the castle.

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Dublin to host global Startup Boost

Startup Boost is a global pre accelerator with a simple mission – to steer tech startups to financial success.

Launching in Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, London, Toronto and Dublin in October 2017, Startup Boost will bring together over 100 startups in six global chapters for a six-week program.
“The idea is simple,” says Gene Murphy, co-founder. “The teams selected for Startup Boost will be there to increase their success ratio for the next stages of their business. This could be joining an accelerator program or raising seed funding. The focus will be on their business model and how they will generate revenue.”
The startups that make the program will receive weekly advice from experts in the areas of customer development, venture funding and market sizing while also having access to key local mentors with weekly one-on-one sessions to clarify their value propositions.
It’s about making money
“The focus is on revenue and preparing startups for accelerators,” says Murphy. “Startup Boost is for businesses that have made the first step and now want to scale. As a startup, you are often expected to go from first to fifth gear without ever having got up to speed in third. Our aim is to get startups up to speed before they try and hit fifth gear.”
Startup Boost takes no equity from startups on the program. After the program the businesses will have access to continued support.
“Support will come from their chapter directors as well as the growing community of community leaders within the Startup Boost network. The aim is to help them expand into new markets in Europe, Canada and the United States,” says Murphy.
Applications are now open at startupboost.org in Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto, London and Dublin for the October cohort with interest now being accepted for chapters launching in 2018 in Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco,

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Eight of the best business podcasts

Podcasts are an easy way to consume information. Here are eight great podcasts for the time-poor business owner.
The word podcast is a compound word that was first coined by BBC journalist Ben Hammersley in 2004. 
When Apple launched the iPod in 2001, it meant consumers were no longer confined to their radio or desktop to access content. Ben Hammersley combined the iPod and broadcasting to create the term ‘podcast.’ 
Business podcasts are rapidly becoming one of the most popular genres on the market. Here are just a few top business podcasts (Irish and international) for your delectation. 
Inside Business 
The Irish Times’ weekly business podcast is presented by The Irish Times’s finance correspondent Ciaran Hancock. Hancock invites experts and special guests into his Dublin studio to discuss relevant business topics. An episode can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Topics include the most up to date information on Brexit, banking and Irish business interests at home and abroad.
Start-up 
A Podcast run by Gimlet Media it focuses on what it’s like to start a podcast company. Gimlet Media was founded in 2014 by former ‘This American Life’ host Alex Bloomberg. In the first series of Start-up, it focused on every aspect from coming up with the name of the company, to how the company was founded, and how its’ co-founder came on board to grow it into the goliath it is today.

Masters of Scale 
Former LinkedIn co-founder Matt Hoffman interviews some of the world’s most influential business people about what it was like to start a company, and then scale the company to global success. In weekly episodes from the now venture capitalist, Hoffman interviews the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Ireland’s Patrick Collison about their journey from scrappy entrepreneurs to business giants. 
Ready Business 
Ready Business is the Irish Independent’s business podcast

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Is this Irish invention a weight loss miracle?

An Irish invention, Modius, says it can help people lose weight without them exercising. Is this the Holy Grail of weight loss products the world has been waiting for? 
Created by Irish doctor Jason McKeown and his Scottish colleague Dr Paul McGeoch, Modius may prove to be one of the greatest inventions of all time. It could also help solve the obesity epidemic in Western societies, thus saving governments billions of euro in healthcare costs.
Modius says it can help millions of people achieve leaner bodies by reducing body fat, and it’s all thanks to neuroscience.
The device, which is the first product from the Northern Irish neuro-technology company Neurovalens, sends a signal to the part of the brain that controls fat storage. The signal then naturally causes a shift in a body’s metabolism to burn more fat, resulting in weight loss.
“A year ago we received confirmation from the FDA that we could sell the Modius device in the USA.”
The headset is available to pre-order for $449 on crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo, and it has so far raised over $1 million.
Its co-inventor Dr Jason McKeown says the headset reduced his body fat by 44 per cent. He spoke to ThinkBusiness to discuss his invention.

How did you come up with the idea for Modius?
I always wanted to be a doctor as I enjoy helping people. Parallel to that, I love technology. So I was delighted to combine both of these passions when I was invited to the University of California, San Diego to study neuro stimulation. The purpose of our research was to explore the neurological causes of weight gain and figure out a way to use technology to help people when they try to reduce their body fat.
It’s absolute scientific fact that metabolism, appetite and fat storage are controlled by an area of the

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