A company from Queen's University which has developed a range of medical diagnostic test kits has scooped a share of a £25,000 prize in a Dragon's Den-style competition.
The tests being developed by ProAx-SiS will enable routine monitoring of patients with chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, either within a clinic or at home, and the product scooped the top prize at the Northern Ireland Science Park's £25k Awards at Titanic Belfast last night.
The Queen's team came out on top after 20 teams gave a 'quick pitch' back in May to a panel of 16 experts and entrepreneurs from science, law and banking.
The annual competition, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, is designed to showcase the innovative research, ideas and inventions with the most commercial potential from our universities.
Whittled down from 20, each of the 10 finalists in the 25k Award receives £500 and each category award winner receives £2,500.
All the 20 finalists receive continuing mentoring, support or advice even if they do not make it through to the next round.
The prize culminated with last night's ceremony, where ProAx-SiS scooped the main £10,000 prize.
The winning team was led by Ballymena woman Dr Lorraine Martin who said she hopes the testing kit could be expanded to help diagnose cancers and infectious diseases and could be of use to developing nations.
Last year's winner MOF Technologies recently landed its first sale to a US chemicals company.
Based at Queen's University Belfast, the company is manufacturing a revolutionary new class of porous materials – metal organic frameworks – that store, separate and capture specific gases.
Among the other products which made the finals this year were a putty which can deliver anaesthetic straight to a wound site, a night-vision motorcycle helmet, invisible ink pens and a device which can convert waste like slurry to a safe powder substance.
Steve Orr, director of NISP Connect, said that the winning idea shows great commercial potential: "The £25k Awards offer a showcase for regional research talent to display world-class innovations, as well as providing a valuable training and development process as they move beyond the initial stages.
"NISP Connect programmes are designed to inspire, encourage and nurture local technology entrepreneurs during conception, growth and improvement stages, and to continue that process to help them reach their goals."
Ciaran McGivern, head of business banking in Northern Ireland for Bank of Ireland UK, said: "Developing innovative ideas with market potential is at the core of Northern Ireland's mission to create a vibrant private sector.
"If we are to make this mission a reality we not only need academia and industry to collaborate but we need commerciality to be part of the equation – to ensure that ideas with real potential can be developed into success stories.
"Bank of Ireland UK is proud and delighted to support the NISP Connect 25k Awards again this year. We wish this year's winner, ProAx-SiS and all the finalists every success in the future and look forward to working with them all closely."
Clean Tech: ADFerTech (QUB), sponsored by Dow
ADFertech is developing a product whereby nutrients contained within anaerobic digestor liquor are concentrated and processed to form granular fertiliser.
This fertiliser is much easier to store and transport than traditional liquid fertiliser and will mean firms do not have to spend millions on waste water treatment.
Software/Digital Media: Liopa (QUB), sponsored by Intel
Liopa is a mobile biometric authentication and speaker verification application.
The technology can identify people by assessing the unique biometric characteristics of the user's lips and speech.
The firm says passwords are 'a busted flush' and the application provides higher security.
Hi-Tech: Eye-C-3D (UU), sponsored by IBM
Eye-See 3D wants to help optometrists diagnose eye conditions using their 3D camera system for eye imaging. The firm's bosses claim their product is cheaper and more easy to use than existing cameras.
THE OTHER FINALISTS
Jenarron Therapeutics Ltd (UU) has developed anputty, that when applied to an open wound or laceration, can deliver pain relief or other drugs without the need for a syringe.
Digitease (UU) has made an intelligent glove for rheumatoid arthritis care which quantifies finger joint stiffness and range of movement. There could be follow-up applications for sport and music.
Inkintelligent (QUB) has developed a number of patented inks that change colour rapidly when deposited onto a self-cleaning surface using, say, a marker pen. These are ideal for marketing and quality control of self-cleaning materials.
Digital Media & Software
Columbus (QUB) is a real-time personal travel assistant which provides public transport users with dynamic, up-to-the-minute information about their travel plans using powerful new mathematics and network analysis.
Xpress LF (QUB) is producing a tyre pressure monitoring system which uses a smartphone as an activation tool in response to European legislative changes requiring all cars to be installed with a tyre pressure monitor.
Nite Rider's (UU) first product is an accessory which will enable motorcyclists to see further at night, with the aim of reducing the number of individuals killed or seriously injured on our roads.