Co Antrim couple wins INVENT 2014 Award
After battling it out against almost 100 other innovations, and embarking upon an intensive six month business programme, the winner of the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT 2014 search has finally been revealed.
In a tightly contested competition run by NISP CONNECT, sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, Plotbox was announced as the most promising innovation with world class potential at a prestigious Gala Dinner in Titanic Belfast on Thursday [2 October].
Plotbox, owned by husband and wife team Sean and Leona McAllister from Portglenone in County Antrim, is a cloud platform for cemeteries and crematoria to manage all their operations in one place.
The software has been likened to ‘Google Maps for cemeteries’ and has huge global potential, with the death industry estimated at $20 billion annually in the US alone.
After being whittled down from the Top 24 in May, the 12 finalists made their final, and most important, pitch in front of judges including Rob Hardemen of Seagate and Alex van Someren from Amadeus Capital, and over 500 prominent guests from the local business scene.
The finalists included private sector firms, university-based researchers and even a 16-year-old school student.
In addition to Plotbox lifting the overall prize, the category winners on the night were named as:
• Enterprise Software: Plotbox
• Creative Media and Consumer Internet- Inlifesize
Inlifesize is leveraging their expertise in Hollywood grade visual effects and AAA gaming to stake their claim in the emerging Consumer Virtual Reality market.
• Engineering – Green Sword
Green Sword has created a cleaning product that uses natural microorganisms to break down the tough hydrocarbon bonds that constitute oil and its products.
• Electronics- See.Sense
The See.Sense power meter conducts real-time pedal stroke analysis while the cyclist is on the road, allowing them to identify which muscle groups to train – something not possible with existing power meters.
• Life and Health- Vaccine Tabs
Vaccine Tabs has developed a vaccine nasal delivery system that is needle and pain-free, more stable and more effective than the familiar vaccine jabs.
• Agri-Food- Microbial Nematicides
Microbial Nematicides has developed a new family of safe and effective pesticides to control plant parasitic nematodes (microscopic roundworms which infect and destroy crop plants, inflicting £100 billion in losses across global agriculture.)
All six winners win a slice of the £33,000 prize fund and will now take part in Northern Ireland’s most exciting tech mission this year- a week-long visit to San Diego and San Francisco on 1-5 December 2014.
The winners join 14 other businesses from NI who will visit some of the world’s top companies within the science and technology industries.
NISP CONNECT Director, Steve Orr, said: “Since we launched INVENT 2014 back in February, the sheer enthusiasm and interest in the competition has been unprecedented. To have 92 entries this year, tripling the number in 2013, demonstrates that our hunger for innovation here is rife. Right from the beginning we were enormously impressed with the ideas, concepts and inventions, all with great potential to become successful commercial businesses.
“The last six months have seen the Top 12 receive bespoke mentoring to refine and challenge their businesses proposals, all really gearing towards the climax of the competition last night [2 October], and ultimately towards a commercial launch.
“The judges were overwhelmed by the talent and remarked that any one of the 12 could have won, but it was the huge potential of Plotbox that really made them stand out. It’s true when they say ‘there are only two certainties in life- death and taxes.’
“It started out as simply as Sean and Leona’s local cemetery asking them to help them with a cemetery map. They discovered that if people want to find a grave, often they have to trawl through reams and reams of information from many different places and really, it just wasn’t effectual or indeed, cost effective. It just goes to show that innovation can happen in any sector and in any industry.”
26-year-old Karishma Kusurkar from Belfast was voted as the winner of the inaugural NISP CONNECT INVENT Student Award, open to all those attending Queen’s University Belfast, University of Ulster and Further Education Colleges. The University of Ulster student’s company One Square is a print and accessories design business specialising in innovative products that feature Digital Print and Lasercutting.
Julie Ann O’Hare, Director of Business Banking at Bank of Ireland UK, said:“Our ambition is to grow Bank of Ireland’s business in Northern Ireland. We will continue to do this through supporting Northern Ireland’s businesses in achieving their growth ambitions. Innovation fuels growth.
“INVENT 2014 is a great example of how by harnessing and directing the energy of innovation, commercial benefit becomes a reality. Bank of Ireland UK congratulates Sean and Leona on their success to date and as great ambassadors for both the programme and the Northern Ireland economy in the future.”
The Gala Dinner was addressed by William Wright CBE, founder of Wrightbus, who, as part of the INVENT competition, was named as the 2014 Innovation Founder, an award celebrating the achievements of some of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs.
For more information please visit wwww.invent2014.co