Background
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Equilume, the University College Dublin (UCD) equine technology spin-out company, has announced that it has secured €550,000 in seed funding.

The innovative technology was profiled in The Science Squad Series 3, Episode 4 which aired on RTE One on Monday 17th November. You can view the programme on the RTE Player by clicking here:  http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10345569/

Equilume, which is based in Co. Kildare, has secured the funding from Enterprise Ireland and a number of angel investors based in Ireland, the UK and in the USA. The company intends to use the investment to accelerate sales of its innovative Equilume Light Mask technology within the global Thoroughbred industry to assist breeders to maximise the reproductive efficiency and performance in their horses.

The Equilume Light Mask, which is manufactured entirely in Ireland, is a novel automated mobile lighting device that fits comfortably under a horse’s head collar. The Light Mask has been scientifically proven to provide the optimum level of blue light to a single eye of a mare to successfully advance her breeding season, prevent long gestations and ensure reproductive activity in early foaling mares.

Thoroughbred breeders around the world are currently using the Equilume Light Mask to eliminate the requirement to maintain their non-pregnant mares indoors under artificial lighting and thereby save at least €1,000 per mare per season while at the same meeting crucial industry timelines. The technology is also being successfully used globally to help pregnant mares foal on time.

Dr Barbara Murphy, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and the founder of Equilume said, “The Equilume Light Mask has already gained considerable traction within the global Thoroughbred market and this summer we doubled our sales in the key Australian market. This seed funding will help us accelerate our marketing efforts, expand our reach into new market segments and continue to break new boundaries in advancing equine reproductive health technologies with our ongoing new product development.”

She added, “Equilume currently employs 7 people and we plan to increase staff numbers to 11 by end of 2016.”

The Equilume Light Mask has been developed as a result of ground breaking research carried out by Dr Barbara Murphy from UCD’s School of Agriculture and Food Science, in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, an optoelectronics researcher in UCD’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering.

Dr Brian O’Neill, Manager, High Potential Start-Ups, Lifesciences, Enterprise Ireland said, “This is an amazing success story and a world’s first. We are delighted to have supported this company from a research concept stage right through to commercialisation and global roll-out. I believe Equilume has enormous potential and is a real game changer for the equine industry. It really adds to Ireland’s reputation as a global centre of excellence for equine technology.”

Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “Equilume is an excellent example of a UCD spin-out company, established with the support of our technology transfer and enterprise development team at NovaUCD, which has translated an innovative idea arising from world-class UCD research into a commercial entity which in generating global sales and impact in the Thoroughbred industry.”

Equilume has already won a number awards including Enterprise Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ Award (2012); overall winner Newbridge 200 Business Start-Up Competition (2012) and a NovaUCD Start-Up Award (2011).

For more information click here

 

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Scientific hat-trick winners Sophie Healy-Thow 17 yrs, 16-year-olds Ciara Judge and Emer Hickey have been chosen Cork Persons of the Month.  Their names now also go forward, with the other Persons of Month chosen this year, for possible selection as Cork Persons of the Year at a gala awards lunch on January 16th next.

The Kinsale Community School pupils won this year’s BT Young Scientist, EU Young Scientist and the top prize at the Google Science Fair in San Francisco, beating thousands of entries from around the world.

The trio investigated how natural bacteria could be used as a growth aid for crops as part of their project “Natural Bacteria Combating World Hunger”.

Working from home over the last three years, the girls did an extensive study on how the bacteria “diazotroph” affects germination rates and found that it increased crop growth by up to 50% and barley yields by as much as 74%. These results have significant potential for increasing crop yield, providing a possible solution to food shortages in developing countries.  It could also reduce the footprint agriculture has on the environment by reducing fertiliser needs.

Kinsale Community School Deputy Principal Kathleen O’Brien said that the three girls were inspirational to women, the science community and the country, and their work has the potential to solve the global food crisis.

“They are also highlighting the education system and raising the profile of Ireland as a country with a high skill base in science” added Ms O’Brien.

Time Magazine has named the girls as three of the top 25 influential teenagers in the world, along with people like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzal who was shot by Taliban gunmen for promoting girls education.

“The trio from Kinsale Community School are now working on commercializing their discovery of using Diazotroph, a bacteria that sucks nitrogen from the atmosphere into soil, speeding up the germination of cereal crops and – more importantly – increasing their yield,” said Time Magazine.

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Athlone, 3rd November – Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, this evening announced Prof Barry Smyth as the Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year 2014 at the SFI Science Summit, to an audience of 300 researchers in attendance.  Prof Smyth, an international expert on personalization technologies and recommender systems, was recognised by his peers for his exceptional research accomplishments and contribution to the Irish scientific community over the past year.

Prof Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s Scho­­­ol of Computer Science and Informatics. He is also a co-founder of ChangingWorlds, which was acquired by Amdocs Inc, and is Chief Scientist and co-founder of HeyStaks, an Irish collaborative search analytics company.

Presenting the award to Prof Smyth, Minister English, said: “Professor Smyth exemplifies the theme of this year’s SFI Science Summit 2014 – ‘Illustrating Impact.’  An experienced entrepreneur, he has been able to translate his research into the commercial world.  Barry is adept at straddling the worlds of research and commerce, and was one of the the driving forces behind INSIGHT – Ireland’s Data Analytics Research Centre established in 2013 through the SFI Research Centres Programme. INSIGHT is developing innovative new technologies of critical importance to Ireland’s future economic success.  His experience and expertise has brought about a highly successful collaboration between academia and industry, ultimately delivering a commercial impact and generating job creation opportunities in Ireland.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, added: “We are delighted to recognise Professor Smyth’s achievements with this award.  He is working at the cutting edge, putting Ireland at the forefront of the big data analytics and the sensor web revolution.  His research illustrates the positive benefits that investment in the Irish scientific community can unlock.  We wish him continued success into the future and are glad to be able to honour him with this prestigious award.

Accepting his award, Professor Barry Smyth, said: “I am delighted to be receiving this award. The journey to here has been an unusual and exciting one because I have been able to combine my research interests with commercial opportunities. It is hugely fulfilling to see the product of research make an impact in the real-world. It has been possible only because of the support of UCD, SFI and the Irish government, as well as the hard work of dozens of students and collaborators, and for this I am very grateful.

Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics. Barry has published more than 400 scientific papers. He has received more than 20 best paper awards, the inaugural Irish Software Association Outstanding Academic Achievement of the Year Award (2012) and an Honorary Doctor of Technology degree from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Barry’s research has found broad application across markets such as web services, social networking and mobile internet, leading to a number of successful patents and licences and to the foundation of two companies: ChangingWorlds (1998) and HeyStaks Technologies (2008). Barry played a leading role (as CTO and/or CSO) in these companies, which have created more than 150 jobs in Ireland. ChangingWorlds was acquired by Amdocs in 2008 for more than $60m. As the Director of the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, Barry helped to grow CLARITY from seed funding of €12m to more than €35m in just 4 years, with approximately 30% from industry. More recently, the INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics was established under his leadership in 2013 with the largest ever single SFI Research Centre award of €58 million, combined with €30 million from over 30 industry collaborators.