Business

Invent 2023 launches with £50,000 prize fund to support new wave of entrepreneurs

Pictured at Catalyst are (from left) Meg Magill, Invent programme manager; Peter Gilleece, overall winner of Invent 2022 and founder of Vikela Armour; Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland; and Elaine Smyth, director of innovation community at Catalyst
Pictured at Catalyst are (from left) Meg Magill, Invent programme manager; Peter Gilleece, overall winner of Invent 2022 and founder of Vikela Armour; Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland; and Elaine Smyth, director of innovation c Pictured at Catalyst are (from left) Meg Magill, Invent programme manager; Peter Gilleece, overall winner of Invent 2022 and founder of Vikela Armour; Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland; and Elaine Smyth, director of innovation community at Catalyst

CATALYST’S Invent competition for aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators has opened for entries, with a top prize of £25,000 for the overall 2023 winner.

Hosted by the technology hub with headline partner Bank of Ireland, the annual competition provides the opportunity for early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs to showcase their innovations and proof-of-concept ideas to a panel of expert judges.

Invent builds up to an awards event held in the ICC Belfast on September 21 which rewards the brightest ideas from across the region that the judges deem to have the greatest potential for impact.

The competition (for more information or to apply visit https://invent23.co/) has the following five categories which seek to address major global matters such as climate change:

• Greentech – Products, solutions and tech that enable a sustainable future.

• Health and wellbeing – Improving the quality of life through pushing the boundaries in life sciences, medtech and health promotion.

• Product – A physical product designed and fabricated to offer the consumer or business a novel innovative solution.

• Business software – Computer software products or solutions used to satisfy the needs of an organisation rather than individual users, including innovations in sectors such as fintech, insurtech and cyber security.

• Consumer software – Consumer software is a class of commercial software that is sold directly to end-users as opposed to businesses.

The awards have a total £50,000 prize fund available, with each category winner taking home £5,000 and the overall winner walking away with an additional £20,000, totalling a £25,000 top prize.

Recognising the increased importance placed on diversity and inclusion, Bank of Ireland is supporting a new award, Inclusive Innovation. Additional prizes for best elevator pitch and Student Invent will also be presented on the awards night.

The overall winner of Invent 2022 was Vikela Armour, set up by Belfast-based engineering graduate Peter Gilleece. The company is developing a new type of body armour that provides better protection and comfort than conventional flak jackets.

Elaine Smyth, director of innovation community at Catalyst, said: “Invent provides a unique opportunity for local entrepreneurs and start-ups to showcase their innovations and set the spotlight on their ideas. Over the decade, we’ve seen some incredible Inventions and we’re excited to see what this year’s entrants have to offer.

“There are talented individuals who are bursting with great ideas and the companies that go furthest in our competition are the ones who create new and innovative ways to address real world problems. Diversity and inclusivity are hot topics across the globe currently, so we are particularly interested in the products and solutions that entrepreneurs come up with to meet the brief.”

Niall Devlin, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland, headline partner for the awards, said: “We are delighted to continue its long-standing partnership with Catalyst and Invent. Our purpose is to enable our communities to thrive, and this is clearly demonstrated in our partnership with Catalyst, helping to develop innovation and entrepreneurship through the Invent programme.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the inspirational innovators that will take part in the competition and to help support and develop their business financial wellbeing.

“During the many years we have supported Invent, the relevance of this innovation focused programme has continued to grow and provide an important platform on which to showcase the great innovation and entrepreneurship that exists locally.”