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Knowledge Transfer Ireland announce winners of 9th annual Impact Awards

Trinity College Dublin and SilverCloud Health; Teagasc, Independent Milk Laboratories, FBA Laboratories and Kerry Group; and University College Dublin and PlasmaBound take home knowledge transfer accolades

Awards celebrate knowledge transfer success from across Ireland’s Higher Education Institutes and Research Performing Organisations

Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI), the Irish body that helps connect businesses of all sizes to publicly funded research opportunities, has announced the winners of their 9th annual Impact Awards. The KTI Impact Awards celebrate the work of the Higher Education Innovation Offices around the country, and their role in helping transform academic research into commercial impact.

Three prestigious awards were up for grabs across Commercialisation Impact, Industry Engagement, and the Future Forward Award. The Future Forward category, introduced in 2021, seeks to recognise activities that have strong potential for future impact but may still be at the early stages of development or roll out.

Trinity College Dublin and SilverCloud Health scooped the Commercialisation Impact Award, for success achieved by a spin-out company from the university. SilverCloud Health Ltd spun out from Trinity College Dublin in 2012 having developed a system that helps patients suffering with mental health conditions. The company went on to build a unique team of researchers and entrepreneurs and raised $26.2 million in finance. In 2021, SilverCloud Health Ltd was acquired by US telehealth firm Amwell who made up the larger share of a combined deal valued at $320 million. SilverCloud now employs more than 175 people worldwide, almost half of whom are based in Ireland and the company is positioned for significant further growth, with plans to launch 15 new apps this year.

Teagasc, Independent Milk Laboratories, FBA Laboratories and Kerry Group secured the Industry Engagement Award, for an enduring research partnership through which industry consulted with Teagasc in relation to specialist expertise and testing for chlorate residues.

These residues present potential health concerns for infants, that could have a negative bearing on Irish infant formula exports currently worth €1 billion annually. As the sole Irish provider of accredited chlorate testing, Teagasc worked with the companies to establish new analytical laboratories and provided bespoke training to staff in operation of equipment, test methods and data analysis. This has resulted in significant increased testing capacity for Kerry Group, FBA and IML with the two latter companies having collectively tested 80,000 samples and exceeded €1 million revenue.

University College Dublin and PlasmaBound won this year’s Future Forward Award. PlasmaBound has developed a ground-breaking, environmentally friendly, lightweight composite bonding technology that poses real potential as a key solution in advanced manufacturing.

The material is set to bring about a step-change in manufacturing as it not only protects the environment, reduces waste and reduces energy consumption but also eliminates the need for manual interventions and is virtually waste free. Since spinning out from University College Dublin in 2017, the company has raised nearly €3.5 million in two investment rounds, most recently €2.35 million in investment led by Act Venture Capital supported by the Atlantic Bridge University Fund, Enterprise Ireland and a number of private investors in early 2022. PlasmaBound has grown from 3 to 15 employees, become an approved supplier for the European Space Agency and is currently undertaking validation trials with 30 Tier 1 global companies across different industry sectors.

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD said:

“Congratulations to all the winners on what is further evidence of a thriving ecosystem of collaboration between industry and publicly funded research. With solutions to address immediate health, social and environmental concerns it is very welcome to see both revenue and job creation as a result of public-funded research commercialisation and collaboration. Companies that are active in research, development and innovation are shown to perform better than their peers, and I would encourage businesses to consider collaboration with public research as a means to enhance their offering.”

Imelda Lambkin, Manager – Disruptive Technologies, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer at Enterprise Ireland and Chair of the judging panel, said:

“Firstly, it was most welcome to be back to an in-person event following virtual ceremonies in 2021 and 2020. The quality of collaboration between businesses and publicly-funded research continues to improve year on year and the calibre of award entries reflect this, making 2022 a challenging one for the judging panel. It is important to pay particular credit to the work of the technology transfer offices around the country who provide the vital link and support structure so knowledge transfer can deliver meaningful outcomes to society. The teams in these offices around the country are key to the successes being celebrated by the KTI Impact Awards.”

On the night, Trinity College Dublin and ProVerum were voted by attendees as the winners for the People’s Choice Award. ProVerum is developing a medical device to assist older men with benign prostatic hyperplasia, a common bladder condition in men over 50. The company employs 25 people and announced Series A funding of €30 million in January this year, positioning itself for significant future growth.

The shortlisted entries were evaluated by a panel of international experts that included: Declan O’Mahoney, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Tyndall National Institute; Elaine Berkery, Director at Eastway Tech; Almesha Campbell, Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University; Tim Conlon, Head of Policy and Strategic Planning, International Programmes & Gender Equality at the Higher Education Authority; Christophe Haunold, Head of Partnership, Knowledge and Technology Transfer Office at the University of Luxembourg; and Sue Sundstrom, Director of the Praxis Auril Fundamentals of Technology Transfer program in the UK.

 KTI is the national office that makes it simpler for businesses and research performing organisations to work together, maximising the extent to which State-funded technology, ideas and expertise get into the hands of business to drive innovation, economic growth and job creation. According to KTI figures Irish research performing organisations (universities, institutes of technology and other publicly funded research institutions which are primarily publicly funded), are spending upwards of half a billion Euro on research expenditure. 2021’s figure of €672 million is the highest on record, and an increase of over one-third since KTI began collating research expenditure in 2013.