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Internet security firm wins top innovation prize

CSIT at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter

A COMPANY from Northern Ireland which has developed an application to make using the internet for everyday tasks more secure was won a major innovation award.

PicoPUF, a spinout from Queen's University Belfast's Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) took first price at the latest INVENT awards.

The Northern Ireland Science Park competition, run in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK recognised the firm in the electronic category and gave it the overall prize.

PicoPUF invented a tiny semiconductor IP core that provides strong, unique authentication for even the cheapest microchip.

It was deemed by judges to have the most innovative product with the biggest global commercial potential.

PicoPUF founder Neil Hanley said the product was developed in the midst of a "perfect storm" that he said was happening in IT security.

“The huge number of devices on the market, combined with the low-cost nature of these devices, makes it impossible to use heavily-computationally-resourced security solutions," he said.

"Lightweight security will be a game-changer and we are set to capitalize on that. This INVENT competition has been a massive step towards that goal, and we thank the science park for the chance to get involved. We can’t believe we won.”

The award was presented to the trio of Queen’s researchers who invented PicoPuf, Neil Hanley, Maire O’Neill, and ChongyanGu.

Their invention means that any grade of device can have the highest level of security. They took home a prize package of £13,000, a fast-track to NISP’s Springboard programme, and a space on the NI TechMission to California in January 2016.

The other five category winners, who received £3,000 and a place on the TechMission were:

:: NextGenBiopesticides: Insect parasitic nematodes selectively bred to be a safe, effective biopesticide for the control of crop pest insects;

:: Cognition Video: A processing framework that enables the effective understanding of media content using intelligent automated algorithms;

:: Re-Vana: A new drug delivery system that provides long-term benefits for patients suffering from eye diseases that lead to blindness. The solution also saves the NHS considerable cost on treatment.

:: Creative Media and Consumer Internet: A platform for goal setting that provides motivation via rewards that are either crowd-funded or self-funded;

:: Skunkworks Surfboard Company: Robust soft (learner) surfboards that are 100 per cent recyclable and unbreakable.

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