Wayflyer, Pearlabs and TestReach among NovaUCD 2022 award winners

NovaUCD presented eight prizes at its annual Innovation Awards, with Prof Dominic Zerulla taking the top honour.

High-resolution imaging, financing platforms and energy efficiency systems were some of the fields recognised at NovaUCD’s 2022 Innovation Awards, the winners of which were announced today (30 March).

The awards highlight successes made by members of the University College Dublin (UCD) research and start-up community, in areas such as knowledge transfer, consultancy, entrepreneurship and the promotion of an innovation culture.

The event’s top honour – the Innovation Award – was granted this year to Prof Dominic Zerulla from UCD’s School of Physics, who founded imaging technology company Pearlabs in 2018.

UCD spin-out Pearlabs is using super resolution imaging technology with the aim of transforming our understanding of processes such as cell signalling and cell proliferation in cancer. The company hopes that further development of its photonic chip will see its imaging tech used in diagnostic applications such as endoscopies or consumer devices.

“We are highly motivated to develop the best imaging methodology which will enable improved diagnostics and hence tailored therapies for highly relevant diseases to people,” Zerulla said.

Pearlabs also won the Viewers’ Choice Award in the Big Ideas showcase hosted by Enterprise Ireland last November.

Wayflyer co-founder Aidan Corbett received this year’s NovaUCD Outstanding Achievement Award, as the financing and growth platform became Ireland’s latest unicorn last month after a $150m Series B funding round.

Wayflyer was founded in 2019 by Corbett and Jack Pierse as a spin-out from Conjura, a NexusUCD-headquartered company that was co-founded by Corbett.

“It’s a great honour to receive this award,” Corbett said. “In the early days of my start-up journey, NexusUCD was the perfect place for us to work, especially being surrounded by fellow entrepreneurs who learned a lot from each other.

“I highly recommend it to start-ups that are beginning their journey today,” he added.

Founder, spin-out and invention awards

The Founder of the Year was awarded to Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton, co-founders of online assessment software start-up TestReach. Over the last year, TestReach said it sustained revenue growth of 60pc, bagged 40 new clients and grew its staff numbers to more than 100 people.

Morton said the award recognises the achievements of everyone at TestReach “who worked tirelessly in very exceptional circumstances”.

“There is huge momentum within the company and we look forward to continued growth throughout 2022 and beyond,” Morton added.

Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton holding a NovaUCD award.

Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton. Image: Nick Bradshaw/Fotonic

BioSimulytics, which is developing AI-based software to aid in drug development, was granted the Spin-out of the Year Award. The company was founded in 2019 by Prof Niall English, Dr Christian Burnham and Peter Doyle out of work done in the UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering.

Over the last year, the spin-out secured its first commercial contract with a major pharma company in Europe and signed evaluation agreements with several other companies around the world. BioSimulyics also secured €595,000 in seed funding from angel investors and Enterprise Ireland.

The Invention of the Year Award was given to Dr John McCallig of the UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. McCallig’s invention uses privacy-preserving analytics to collect and share commercially sensitive information about VAT obligations and payments.

Novogrid co-founder Prof Andrew Keane received the Licence of the Year Award for a patent granted to the start-up in 2015. This has helped the company automate and remove inefficiencies in renewable generators and electrical grid operations. A windfarm in Wexford saved more than 300,000kWh of energy over two years with the help of NovoGrid’s technology.

Other winners at the NovaUCD awards included Dr Sarah Cotterill for Consultancy of the Year and Prof Ronan Cahill for Innovation Champion of the Year.

Acting UCD registrar and deputy president Prof Barbara Dooley said: “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have received awards today and I wish them ongoing successes in the years ahead.”

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