Knowledge Transfer Ireland announce winners of 6th annual Impact Awards

26th November 2021

Knowledge Transfer Ireland, the Irish body that makes it simpler for businesses to boost their competitiveness through innovation with third level research, has announced the winners of their 6th 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 a new category for 2021, the Future Forward Award. This award seeks to recognise activities which have strong potential for future impact but may still be at the early stages of development or roll out. 

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and LocateBio scooped the Commercialisation Impact Award. RCSI licensed three bone and cartilage regenerative technologies to Locate Bio, an innovative orthobiologics company. These are substances that orthopaedic surgeons use to help injuries heal more quickly, often using the body’s own cells and healing capabilities to reverse damage. The technologies have been granted FDA breakthrough device designation, a key milestone for Locate Bio as it validates the technology and will simplify its regulatory pathway.

The judges were particularly impressed by the level of support provided from the Innovation Office at RCSI in what was an unusual transfer of intellectual property (IP) - which had previously been licensed to a company that went into liquidation so had been relicensed back into the college. Locate Bio’s use of the IP has been pivotal to recent success.

University College Cork (UCC), the Irish Photonic Integration Centre and Rockley Photonics secured the Industry Engagement Award, for an enduring research partnership that has delivered value to the company, university and wider community through job creation. This ongoing collaboration, active since 2017, has been one of UCC’s most successful collaborative partnerships. On the back of this, Rockley established Rockley Photonics Ireland in Cork in 2020 which grew to 10 employees in 2021. The company focuses on the use of apps and data chips for use in healthcare, machines and wearable devices.

Rockley continues to collaborate extensively with researchers at Tyndall National Institute in Cork, where the Irish Photonic Integration Centre is based. The judging panel was impressed by the significant investment by the company and other parties into the collaboration so far, including a joint investment of €3.4 million by Rockley and Science Foundation Ireland.

Dublin City University (DCU) and Inclusio won the inaugural Future Forward Award. Inclusio is a new spinout founded in December 2020 from DCU that is focused on transforming workplace culture through an AI engine which enables companies to take a data driven approach to culture and diversity. It drives personalised, bite-sized learning and engagement, empowering employees to influence workplace culture.

The judging panel were particularly impressed with Inclusio’s focus on the area o diversity and inclusion and the commercial potential of the company, having already secured strong levels of financial backing and boasting an impressive client base.

TU Dublin and Ocumetra received the People’s Choice award, an accolade bestowed upon the project by those in attendance at the virtual awards event.  Ocumetra spun out of TU Dublin in June 2020 to commercialise world leading research on myopia control and has successfully raised significant levels of investment, achieved Enterprise Ireland HPSU status and secured global clients. 

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar said:

“Congratulations to this year’s winners. It’s an incredible achievement and I’ve no doubt all three initiatives will make a big difference to the healthcare and workplace of many in the future. These awards are an excellent opportunity to showcase what can be achieved when industry and our Higher Education Institutions come together to solve problems and improve outcomes for people. Data show that companies which collaborate with our universities have double the turnover of those that don’t so there are some real opportunities. Congratulations again to those being awarded today, but also to all the teams that took part and were in the running. I look forward to following your success in the months and years ahead.”

KTI Director and Chair of the Judging Panel, Dr Alison Campbell said:

“Our 2021 winners all represent significant impact from research and exemplify what a vibrant knowledge transfer community looks like.  Across diversity and inclusion, health technology and cutting-edge photonics our winners today are delivering  economic and societal benefit. I applaud the hard work and dedication in the Innovation Offices in our Higher Education Institute, who are driven by the desire to make a difference and see research translated for public good. I congratulate everyone involved in the submission process and give my thanks to the judges who had a particularly difficult task this year such was the quality of entries.”

The shortlisted entries were evaluated by a panel of international experts that included: Relika Alisaar Williams, Enterprise Estonia; Christophe Haunold, Head of Partnerships, Knowledge and Technology Transfer at University of Luxembourg; Fintan O’Malley, Director of Research, Development and Innovation at Fidelity Investments; Vivienne Williams, CEO and Co-Founder of Cellix Ltd; James Zanewicz, Chief Business Officer at the Office of Research Business Development in Tulane University School of Medicine, USA;  

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. Since KTI’s launch in 2014 over 240 new products and services have been brought to market as a result of companies accessing technology and ideas from research.