Behind every great invention or groundbreaking piece of research is an army of unsung heroes who have put in countless hours of time and effort to ensure the final result. On Thursday, November 21, at its annual Impact Awards, Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) recognised these individuals shortlisted from this network of technology transfer offices around the country.
KTI is the national office which helps bring business and research together to maximise the economic potential of innovative technologies, ideas and expertise. Its Impact Awards, now in their fifth year, were created to recognise the best-in-class examples of knowledge transfer that benefit our economy and society as a whole.
The evening is an opportunity for the sector to gather as tribute is paid to the on-the-ground technology transfer and industry liaison staff who enable knowledge transfer and ultimately make research commercialisation happen.
More than 150 guests attended the awards, where a keynote speech was delivered by Clare Dillon, former Microsoft executive and tech evangelist, and Dr Orlaigh Quinn, secretary general of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The winning entries were recognised for exceptional achievements in the successful commercialisation of publicly-funded research.
At the very centre of the knowledge-transfer ecosystem in Ireland is the network of technology transfer offices. These offices around the country work with researchers and businesses to maximise opportunities for cooperation and partnership, and guide them through every step of the resulting process.
This work is recognised each year with a distinct category, the Achiever of the Year award, the only category of the night in which individuals are shortlisted as opposed to projects. The shortlist Achievers of 2019 were as follows:
Paddy O’Boyle, director of business development ICT, Dublin City University (DCU)
Nominated for delivering the DCU Spin-in Programme where he looks outside the university for entrepreneurs with good business ideas, brings them into the college, assembles a team, secures funding which ultimately develops the technology and the business concept before spinning the technology out. O‘Boyle has pioneering drive which ensures he delivers on this programme and more widely across his role.
Anu Sahni, lecturer in computing, and technology transfer case manager, National College of Ireland
Sahni was nominated because of her commitment to the development of knowledge transfer in the National College of Ireland, in particular for delivering the Inventathon initiative which captures students’ ideas, acting as a pipeline for invention disclosures from the college. This has helped to build the profile of knowledge transfer within the college, and Sahni is considered an exceptional ambassador for knowledge transfer activity. In light of this, she was awarded a Special Commendation on the night.
Fiona Neary, innovation operations manager and Bioexel accelerator commercial lead, NUI Galway
Neary is nominated for having proposed and delivered two major projects in addition to her day job.
Firstly, she identified the need to create an additional innovation space that would address the lack of wet lab space for life science companies in the region, and she has been responsible for delivering a newly renovated 6,500 square foot building in Galway with potential to house up to 60 life science created jobs.
Secondly, she recognised a lack of acceleration to bridge the gap for investor readiness for companies which resulted in the creation of the first medtech accelerator in the country, Bioexcel, which has already invested in two companies providing €95,000 to each.
Anthony O’Callaghan, operations executive, Trinity College Dublin
O‘Callaghan was nominated for the innovation and support he brings to his role in Trinity, in particular for having built a centralised metrics tracking system for the office, a tool which allows the team to view and pull performance metrics from one location. This means the team no longer have to pull from individual databases but have one point where they can access the information they need, enabling them to focus their energies on delivering their objectives.
Anthony Morrissey, commercialisation case manager, University College Cork (UCC)
Morrissey has been working in technology transfer since its inception in Ireland 12 years ago. His role involves liaising with research teams, managing intellectual property, engaging with industry and more. His level of commitment and dedication is considered to have made a huge contribution to the technology transfer office at UCC with successes to date which include having managed 48 licences and five spin-out companies.
Simon Factor, senior manager, New Ventures at NovaUCD
Factor was nominated for the creative approach he has brought at NovaUCD where he has reimagined and redesigned the Venture Launch and Start-up Stars programme, increasing their effectiveness. In addition, he has designed and delivered a new Business Interns Programme which brings masters students of business from the US and Ireland and places them into research teams focused on commercialising research.
Conor Morris, technology transfer – ICT, University of Limerick
Nominated for having delivered innovative collaboration models relating to large-scale research programmes that involve multiple institutions and industry partners. In particular, Morris facilitated a single consortium group for the Science Foundation Ireland centre Lero which allowed for truly collaborative research.
Such was the standard of the competition this year that the judging panel named two winners – Fiona Neary, of NUI Galway, and Anthony Morrissey, of University College Cork – both of whom were delighted to have been recognised for their efforts.
“I am thrilled to have won the KTI Achiever of the Year award this year on behalf of NUI Galway,” said Neary.
“Not only do I get to do a job that I really love and feel passionate about, but to be acknowledged for my role is just great and gives a real sense of importance at a regional and national level to the work we are doing as knowledge transfer and innovation professionals.”
Morrissey was equally happy with the award. “I consider it a real honour to have won the KTI Achiever of the Year award, not least given the extremely stiff competition in the category this year,” he said.
“The KTI awards are special in the way they pay tribute to the work carried out by those of us across the technology transfer system in Ireland, and to receive recognition at a national level for the job that I have enjoyed doing for the past 12 years means a great deal to me.”
The seven shortlisted Achievers were evaluated by a panel of experts which included international expertise in the form of the chief executive of PraxisAuril, Britain‘s knowledge exchange and commercialisation organisation, the director of AUTM, the US knowledge transfer association.
Dr Alison Campbell, director of KTI, chaired the judging panel and offered high praise for the Achievers. “The Awards recognise the work of those on the ground nationwide in Ireland’s technology transfer offices who actually make innovation happen, acting as a vital link between industry and academia,” she said.
“They provide the information to companies, support and manage the processes that allow commercialisation and collaboration to flourish, freeing up researchers and businesses to get on with the business of innovating.”
Judge Maxine Ficarra, chief executive of PraxisAuril, agreed: “This award is designed to recognise individuals for the specific contribution they are making to the work of their organisation and beyond.
“The judges looked for really excellent examples of impact that individuals had on their team and their organisation and outside their organisation.”
For more information on KTI and the awards, visit knowledgetransferireland.com