News & Events

‘Smart needle’ wins at the Science Foundation Ireland Technology Innovation Development Award Pitch Off

Women leading the way at STEM startup event

Lisa Helen, PhD Researcher from Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork took the top prize at the Science Foundation Ireland Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) Pitch Off last night at the Science Gallery, which took place as part of the Startup Gathering.  The event, which was held in conjunction with the DCU Ryan Academy, showcased some of the talented people and innovative ideas being funded by Science Foundation Ireland across the Irish Higher Education Institutes.  Lisa won first prize for her pitch on her work on a ‘smart needle to determine needle to nerve proximity’.  Using sensors, the device detects when the needle is close to or has hit a nerve, thereby reducing the likelihood of injecting into the nerve, which can cause serious, temporary or permanent nerve injury.

The TIDA programme is run by Science Foundation Ireland in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and aims to realise greater economic impact from state investments in research.  The pitch off competition involved eight TIDA funded researchers pitching their technology or commercialisation ideas for further development support from Science Foundation Ireland. 

Dr. Sharee Basdeo from Trinity College Dublin was the runner up with her pitch on ‘Irish seaweed for transplant tolerance’ which looks at using Irish seaweed as a natural, non-toxic treatment for patients who have received an organ transplant.

Presenting the winners with the Awards last night, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English T.D. said: “The commercialisation of innovative products can be one of the most challenging aspects to the research and development process, but is essential for creating jobs and supporting our economic recovery.  Stimulating an entrepreneurial culture in the Irish research community is a vital process and the SFI TIDA programme supports this goal.  The eight pitches we saw this evening are a testament to the incredible ideas and research work that is being done in Ireland at the moment and I wish all of you continued success.  I would especially like to congratulate the winner, Lisa Helen, on her pitch on the smart needle she and her team at Tyndall are developing.”

Speaking at the event, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “It was particularly encouraging to see that of the eight scientists that took part in the competition, seven were women. There is a challenge to attract women into STEM careers but last night highlighted that change is in the air and a very positive contribution is increasingly being made by women.  I really hope that they serve as an inspiration for more women to consider a career in STEM.

“The SFI TIDA programme is designed to enable researchers to focus on the first steps of an applied research project which may have a commercial benefit if developed further. It provides financial support to research teams to enable them to get from concept to market.  As part of the TIDA process, researchers are primed to demonstrate the viability and robustness of their idea or product so that they are ‘VC ready’.  Today we saw first-hand how competitive the pitch process can be and also how each of our competitors have been able to exhibit the potential of their ideas or products. Congratulations everyone for the outstanding work that has enabled you to compete at this level.” 

The other pitches that competed at The Science Foundation Ireland TIDA Pitch Off were: 

  • Dr      Niamh Mc Cormack, Maynooth University, ‘New drugs to target HIV’.
  • Dr      Antoinette Perry, Trinity College Dublin, ‘epiCaPture: a non-invasive      urine test for early detection of aggressive prostate cancer’.
  • Dr      Sandesh Swamidatta, NUI Galway, ‘Yeast-based feed supplements for Pig      Nutrition’.
  • Dr      Jennifer Mahony, University College Cork, ‘Rapid detection of bacterial      viruses for application in the dairy      industry’.     
  • Dr      Niamh Lynam Lennon, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Improving treatment for      oesophageal cancer patients’.
  • Rachel      Gleeson, University of Limerick, ‘Powering the Internet of Things’.


The pitches from these competitors were assessed by a panel of four judges with backgrounds in entrepreneurship and investment; Dr. Helen McBreen, Investment Director at Atlantic Bridge Capital; Mr. Brian Hayes, former Managing Director and Board Director of Citibank Europe from 2000 – 2013; Dr. John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards and; Mr. Ibraheem Mahmood, who defined the DrugDev vision: to provide technologies and services to clinical trial doctors that allow the pharma industry to conduct trials faster, smarter and cheaper. 

The Science Foundation Ireland TIDA Pitch Off was part of the Startup Gathering which takes place across Ireland this week (5th – 10th October).  The Startup Gathering 2015 will see close to 400 events promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and Ireland’s start-up sector taking place in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.




About Science Foundation Ireland:

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy.  See


For further information:

Science Foundation Ireland

Niamh Bradley or Niamh Lyons

01-6073228/086-0271744 or 087 7745000  or


For Science Foundation Ireland

Morwenna Rice

01-260 5000 / 086-194 0069