Belfast Telegraph

The brilliant minds who are delivering the best inventions at Northern Ireland Science Park's Connect Invent contest

Whittled down to 12 finalists, the Northern Ireland Science Park's Connect Invent contest 2014 showcases some of our top entrepreneurial talent. Clare Weir finds out more...

Meet the Belfast 'boy wonder' who is hoping his mobile app for dyslexic people will join the ejector seat, the pneumatic tyre and the portable defibrillator as one of Northern Ireland's best inventions.

Gareth Reid's Write to Read app enables smartphone users to take a picture of text, which is then converted into a font which makes it easier for a person with dyslexia to read.

The 16-year-old Castlereagh student, currently sitting his GCSEs at Grosvenor Grammar, is one of 12 finalists in the Northern Ireland Science Park's Connect Invent 2014 contest.

The competition was originally known as the 25k awards, when it was only open to research institutions.

But it has now been widened to include any private sector company or individual with an invention – resulting in a tripling of entries, to over 90.

That number was whittled down to the 24 hopefuls who took part in the 'QuickPitch' event in front of a panel in W5 last week.

Gareth has already picked up a number of awards and has received interest from the PSNI, Disability Action and Northern Ireland firm, Core Systems, which makes software for use in prisons, where many inmates have literacy problems.

Gareth said: "I started to look into the problems that dyslexic people faced and found out that some fonts were much easier for them to read than others.

"Common problems include rotation of letters, where a 'p' might turn into a 'd' and confusion between letters like 'i' and 'j' or 'h' and 'n'.

"I experimented with making some letters bold, or tipping them to change their height and width to differentiate them from other letters.

"In research, there were much fewer errors when the text was converted into the new font."

So impressed was panel member Andy Hopper from Cambridge University, that he said he hoped Gareth would study at Cambridge soon.

"It's nice to get feedback like that. It was a real surprise – and since appearing at Invent 2014, the comments on Twitter and Facebook have been brilliant," said Gareth.

"My parents and my granny are really proud of me, but my teachers are telling me to keep focused on my GCSEs."

Other inventions which made it through the QuickPitch were an interactive horse shoe, a WiFi-powered hearing aid and a clean pesticide which hijacks parasites.

Panel members also included Dr Hugh Cormican, a co-founder of Andor Technology and Tom Eakin, who founded TG Eakin Ltd in 1974 as a medical device manufacturer and recently saw his family named third wealthiest in Northern Ireland on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Alan Watts, director of the Halo Angel Funding Network, Clive Black of Shore Capital Stockbrokers, Siggi Saevarsson from Intel Belfast and Julie-Ann O'Hare from sponsors Bank of Ireland made up the rest of the panel at the event. The ideas cover six categories, with each category winner declared at a ceremony in Titanic Belfast in October.

They will then jet off to California to pitch their idea.

The overall winner will receive £10,000 and last year, that honour went to Queen's University project – ProAx-SiS – which is developing a test kit to diagnose and monitor patients with chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

 

The 12 inventive winning pitches...

Enterprise software:

PlotBox

PlotBox, which has already done well through Invest NI’s Propel programme, uses cloud computing to manage operations for cemeteries and crematoria.

Husband and wife team Sean and Leona McAllister use drones to map cemeteries in a fraction of the time it takes using traditional methods and hope their software will replace old maps and spreadsheets.

Sixty-5

Sixty-5 uses GPS technology to make farming more efficient.

John Arrell is hoping that he can convince farmers to take up their tablets to monitor, guide and control agricultural field operations.

His vision is that Sixty-5 will become an integral part of every farm in the world.

 

Creative media and consumer internet:

Inlifesize Deep Paper

Greg Maguire, Professor of Animation at the University of Ulster, has worked on the Harry Potter films and Avatar.

He is the man behind Inlifesize comics, which has developed Deep Paper, a digital comic platform which uses an array of 3D covers and interactive interiors.

The technology has already attracted the interest of Microsoft and Marvel comics.

Write to Read

Created by 16-year-old schoolboy Gareth Reid, Write to Read is a mobile application to photograph text and display it on screen in a font which is proven to improve the comprehension and retention of people with dyslexia.

The font helps make letters more distinct from each other.

 

Engineering:

Green Sword

Made from microbes found in Irish peat bogs, Green Sword is a natural water-based product which can clean oil from soil, metal and concrete.

Inventor David Moorhead is supplying the product to companies in Northern Ireland to break down oil spills in scrapyards and clean a local council’s vehicle fleet.

The oil degrader has been successfully trialled by a large oil service company operating in the Middle East.

CoolSafe360

Jerry Kochanski flew back to Northern Ireland from China to show off CoolSafe360, a super-bright, long life LED bulb that is identical in size and shape to old incandescent bulb and with a full 360 degree beam angle.

LED bulbs up until now have only been able to produce very limited light output with a very poor beam angle.

 

Life & Health:

WiFiEAR

WiFiEar is a new form of ‘induction loop’ which helps the hearing impaired using their smart phone's WiFi connections.

Bosheng Zhou said the product can significantly improve users’ hearing experience and will save businesses thousands of pounds.

Vaccine Tabs

This new way of delivering vaccines is easy and cheap to manufacture. A tablet is painlessly administered nasally, which sticks to mucus, forms a gel and releases the liposomes to induce an immune response.

 

Agri-Food:

SenShoe

Julie Hart-Thompson has combined the skills of a Master’s student, academics at the University of Ulster and an equine vet to develop the first deformable composite horseshoe, which will include technology that can analyse and record equine behaviour.

Microbial Nematicides

Dr Johnathan Dalzell from the QUB Parasitology team has developed a new method of protecting crop plants from damaging pests by delivering safe pesticides into the soil.

He has already received backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Royal Society.

 

Electronics:

Photonic Measurements

Photonic Measurements is a chemical analyser which tests water purity.

The new device avoids many of the expensive consumables that previous generation of analyser required, while reducing the skill level to operate the device.

See.Sense.

Having already tasted success with his intelligent bicycle lights, Philip McAleese is using the same sensor technology to power a lower cost cycling power meter for cyclists.

The devices are used by all professional racing teams and are the must-have accessory for a cyclist wishing to measure and improve their individual performance.

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