Last night, 5th October, the highly anticipated Invent Awards from Connect at Catalyst Inc, were held at the Waterfront Conference Centre in Belfast. Sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, more than 600 distinguished guests gathered for what has long been considered the foremost ‘Night of Innovation’ to witness the unveiling of Northern Ireland’s next breakthrough inventions.
The overall winner of Invent 2017 went to Phion Therapeutics developed by Dr. Helen McCarthy. Helen was awarded a prize package of £13,000 and one of the sought after spaces on the NI Tech Mission to California in January 2018.
Phion Therapeutics is the result of 11 years of extensive research involving protein fragments called peptides that could have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry and revolutionise how drugs are delivered to parts of the human body.
“Phion has been able to concentrate various anionic drugs into tumours while preventing delivery to normal or healthy tissue and cells. This is potentially revolutionary for the treatment of cancer ” said Professor Helen McCarthy from the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast. Looking to the future, Helen continued, “The list of potential applications is almost limitless. As Phion engages with more pharmaceutical companies, we expect to discover even more drug classes that could be applied to our technology.”
Together with David Tabaczynski (an entrepreneur from Boston) and QUBIS, Helen spun out her drug delivery technology earlier this year.
Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland UK’s Head of Business Banking NI said:
“Many of us dream about making a difference, of having an everlasting positive impact on people whilst making some money along the way. INVENT 2017 winner Helen’s innovation has the potential to do just that. Once again the participants and winners showcased the high calibre talent and commercial potential of Northern Ireland’s ever growing, vibrant entrepreneurial community. Bank of Ireland UK is delighted and proud to continue to support them in their ambition to be the SME’s of the future. “
The Invent competition offers an opportunity for the innovators of Northern Ireland to come forward and be recognised as the next ‘big thing’ -- and this year attracted a record breaking 144 entries across six categories.
“The Invent Awards is the leading night of innovation in Northern Ireland,” said Steve Orr, Director of Connect. “The competition is continuing to grow each year, proving that Northern Ireland is bursting with innovation. It has been incredible to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room tonight.”
At the event, James Leckey, from Leckey Design, received the prestigious 2017 Innovation Founder Award for his healthcare products for children and adults with disabilities. Leckey founded the company in 1983 from his parent’s garden shed in Lisburn and now has sales of over £15 million, exporting to 30 countries worldwide.
The other five category winners, who received £2,500 and a place on the NI Tech Mission were:
KegoMatic is the brainchild of six electrical engineering students from Queen’s University Belfast – Connor McGurk, Connor Carville, Donovan Campbell, Patrick Devlin, Bryan Murphy and Aaron Rath and is an automated beer keg solution
Evy, a smart tracking bag, was created by Queen’s University Belfast students Niamh Tohill, Andrew Cunningham, Vincent Kearney, Nathan Steenson and Matthew Whiteside
Seatview was founded by Graham Little, Andrew Murray and Stuart Ogg and provides customers with a 360 degree virtual reality view from their allocated seats.
Uleska founded by experienced entrepreneur Gary Robinson builds cyber security into web applications while they are being built.
Hug was created by product designer Fiona Bennington and is a wearable heat pack.
Evy also won the Elevator Pitch, voted for by attendees and HurtLockers - an electronic first aid kit - won the Overall Student Invent Award.