Finalists named for Invent 2021 innovation competition

Pictured at Catalyst in Belfast are Elaine Smyth, director of innovation community at Catalyst, JP McCorley, co-founder of Ecko, one of the finalists in the Invent 2021 competition, and Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland UK. Picture: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye

TEN innovative, future focused start-ups have been named as finalists for the 2021 Invent competition for entrepreneurial early-stage businesses.

Organised by science and technology hub Catalyst with headline partner Bank of Ireland, Invent is a celebration of the brightest new business ideas in the region, which supports, showcases and rewards the local innovations and proof of concept ideas that have the greatest commercial potential.

The finalists will have the chance to take home a share of an increased prize fund of £47,000, with a £25,000 first prize for the overall winner.

The short-listed start-ups are drawn from five different categories, which were refreshed for this year’s awards to reflect global trends and help to capture great ideas from across the full spectrum of innovation in Northern Ireland, while also aligning with the clusters Catalyst believes will drive the local economy in future.

The finalists selected (more details here) are:

  • Greentech - BODtech; Tankcube
  • Health & wellbeing - Informed Minds; Stim Oxygen
  • Product - Excavator Forklift; Safewater Technologies
  • Consumer Software - Ecko; Stable Manager
  • Business software - Anneal; Defensive Thinking

The 10 were chosen after two days of live, in-person semi-final pitches to a highly experienced judging panel which included Edward Stevenson from SFC Capital; Juliette Souliman from MMC Ventures; Sam Fennell from ACF Investors; Nico Albanese of Ascension; Michael Shaw from RPS; and Niall Devlin from Bank of Ireland.

Kerry McGarvey, programme manager for Invent 2021, said: “This competition is designed to shine a light on the ingenuity and creativity of local entrepreneurs, which has been in greater need than ever over the past 18 months.

“We have been really encouraged by the high standard of applicants for Invent and amazed by the quality and disruptive potential of their innovations and products, many of which have been developed during the pandemic.

“This bodes well for the future of the local innovation economy and we wish all of finalists the best of luck for the night of the Invent Awards on September 30.”

Each Invent category winner will receive £5,000 and the overall winner will take home an additional £20,000, giving a top prize of £25,000. Additional prizes of £1,000 will be awarded to the best student application and the best elevator pitch delivered on finals night, which will take place in person but will also be streamed live from the ICC Belfast.

Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “Success in business doesn’t just happen but is created by people with great vision, who innovate and take risks in order to deliver enhanced outcomes for their customers and/or communities.

“As Invent continues to amplify the excellent standard of innovative talent and potential we have in Northern Ireland, we congratulate the finalists, who demonstrated passion, impressive knowledge and commercial potential to disrupt the marketplace.

“Bank of Ireland is delighted to play its part in nurturing the mind-set and creativity of innovation as part of an essential community of support which is invaluable for the Northern Ireland economy.”

About the finalists:

  • BODtech has created purpose-built hydropower turbines can be incredibly expensive. This simple technology makes clean, sustainable and clean energy available to communities across the country.
  • Tankcube uses low-carbon technology for domestic hot water, helping achieve your NetZero.
  • Informed Minds is an app that shares peer and professional support through short real-life vlogs to tackle the stigma around mental health wellbeing issues head on together, letting us know that we are not alone, people care and giving us the hope to try again tomorrow.
  • Stim Oxygen enhances the effects of cancer treatment by overcoming hypoxia in solid tumours.
  • Excavator Forklift is a mini-digger lifting attachment which allows digger users to treble the lifting capacity of their 1.0-3.5 tonne excavator and lift pallets or bagged loads in excess of 1.0 tonne.
  • Safewater Technologies provides a simple to use IoT portable device for determining faecal contamination of drinking water for use in rural communities without access to labs.
  • Ecko is an online audio-based collaboration platform that connects people from all around the globe, providing an experience that rivals being in the room with your collaborators.
  • Stable Manager is the equestrian world's new hub. Quantify performance, simplify horse care & streamline your equine business with our purpose-built mobile app. Built by an equestrian for equestrians.
  • Anneal is an engineering collaboration and knowledge management platform for high-performing engineering teams, designed to help accelerate and improve the engineering development process.
  • Defensive Thinking provides a 360 data-to-intelligence solution by providing UN Peacekeepers with the ability to transform geospatial data into action.

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