In a very successful year for innovation during 2018, NUI Galway start-ups secured €35 million between private equity investment and research funding while the 36 companies based at the university’s Business Innovation Centre now employ 173 people, which represents an increase of 20 per cent over 2017.
The year also saw NUI Galway sign more than 60 project agreements with industry (Irish SMEs and multinationals) contributing across a wide range of areas including: advanced healthcare diagnostics and device, additive manufacturing, food nutrition, energy optimisation, and Internet of Things enabled solutions.
More than 2,200 staff and students were actively engaged through the university’s entrepreneurship experiential learning and mentorship programmes to produce projects ranging from storybook development and publishing to apps designed to aid people with disabilities find more accessible parking facilities close to their location.
‘A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem’
David Murphy, director of NUI Galway’s Business Innovation Centre, said: “We have a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem among our students and staff which we support through a range of commercialisation, experiential learning, and support programmes.
“There are significant benefits to society and the economy from the innovations that are seeded, researched, developed and implemented right here on campus.
“The number of start-ups and industry collaborations based on high-quality research is a very good indication of the level of entrepreneurism at the university and in the region.”
Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund
The recent government announcement on the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), part of Project Ireland 2040, saw NUI Galway participate on eight projects. Five NUI Galway startups were supported through DTIF with a total of €16 million in funding. These companies were AuriGen Medical, Neurent Medical, Onkimmune, Atrian Medical, and Signum Surgical.
Three of the companies had come through the BioInnovate Ireland programme which is based at NUI Galway and is creating a wave of new companies finding solutions for unmet medical needs. NUI Galway won a special recognition award in the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards in May 2018 for its work with BioInnovate Ireland.
This past year also saw the first cohort of six companies complete the BioExel MedTech Accelerator programme in June while a new cohort of eight companies started in December.
BioExel is a partnership funded by Enterprise Ireland, Galway University Foundation, the Western Development Commission and Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund, originated and delivered by an experienced MedTech team at NUI Galway.
The first cohort of companies in BioExel were: BioProbe Diagnostics, Bluedrop Medical, Giant Leap Biotechnology, Hidramed Solutions, Immunogrow and CompanionQMS.
Supporting students and staff
Among NUI Galway staff, students and alumni, new ideas and entrepreneurship is encouraged and supported at every level.
The EXPLORE programme is where staff and students collaborate on innovative ideas. In 2018 it supported 15 new projects, involving 61 staff and 42 students. Current projects focus on a variety of topics including Frankenstein, bat boxes, modernist studies and ‘fake news’ surrounding cancer and its risk factors.
NUI Galway’s Blackstone LaunchPad supports entrepreneurship across campus. Last April, in partnership with BioInnovate Ireland, BioExel, Health Innovation Hub and the Translational Medical Device Lab, Blackstone LaunchPad held its annual MedTech start-up competition (MIDAS).
This one-day multidisciplinary competition brought together undergraduate and postgraduate students to work on an unmet clinical need and present potential solutions to a panel of judges in the MedTech space. The day was hugely successful with a team of students mentored by Barry McCann, a BioInnovate Ireland fellow, taking home first prize.
In November, two NUI Galway startup companies travelled to the US to take part in a TechStars Bootcamp programme. NUI Galway was represented by BioInnovate Ireland spin- out Nua Surgical with their project SteriCision and BladeComp, a spinout project of the SFI MaREI centre based in the College of Engineering and Informatics.
Jacinta Thornton, associate director of NUI Galway’s Innovation Office, said: “Our university puts a strong focus on knowledge transfer, entrepreneurship, and enterprise collaboration to maximise the impact of our research and our expertise for the region.”
For more information about NUI Galway’s Business Innovation Centre, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/innovation/business-innovation-centre/
Some 2018 highlights for NUI Galway startups:
1.) €5.9 million was allocated to AuriGen Medical from the DTIF to finalise the development move to commercialisation of a cardiac implant to treat risks associated with longstanding atrial fibrillation. Earlier in the year, AuriGen Medical had secured €2.5 million in Horizon 2020 SME Instrument funding.
2.) €2.8 million was announced for Neurent Medical by the DTIF, to develop a new therapy for patients suffering from the common nasal condition, rhinitis. The company secured €9.3 million in private investment in May of this year.
3.) A €4.3 million DTIF project for Onkimmune in conjunction with Janssen and
NUI Galway, will develop a disruptive, optimised, off-the-shelf Natural Killer (NK) Cell therapeutic platform for the treatment of multiple cancers.
4.) €1.9 million was allocated from the DTIF to Signum Surgical for a project using the BioHealx device (a bioabsorbable implant) to treat anal fistula and reduce surgical complexity.
5.) The DTIF also allocated €1.1 million to Atrian Medical to develop a medical device for treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF) that will lead to substantially improved outcomes over current treatments.
6.) Kite Medical raised €1.5 million funding to develop a pain-free test to detect kidney reflux in children. The NUI Galway BioInnovate Ireland programme spin-out’s round comprised of a mix of private investment and Enterprise Ireland high-potential start-up (HPSU) funding.
7.) Loci Orthopaedics closed €2.75 million seed round investment to commercialise a new orthopaedic joint implant for a common but crippling joint condition. Loci Orthopaedics has been awarded a Fastrack to Innovation (FTI) grant from the European Commission and also won the overall 2018 InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Investor Readiness competition, taking home a cash prize of €100,000.
8.) Bioprobe Diagnostics emanates from NUI Galway’s discipline of microbiology and has been established to commercialise novel nucleic acid diagnostic technologies for the detection and identification of microbial contaminants associated with the environmental and industrial sectors. As well as completing the BioExcel programme, the company secured Phase One funding, under Horizon 2020, of €50,000.