How big ideas from Irish research are flourishing commercially

LaNua Medical and Plio Surgical are the latest in a line of research-backed companies that Enterprise Ireland is helping with a head start on the world stage.

“Around 13 years ago, we spun out of the School of Chemical Engineering in University College Dublin with a view of trying to take the science from the bench and impact people’s lives all over the world,” Dr Mark Barrett, group CEO and co-founder of APC, which helps biopharma companies speed up drug development significantly, told recently.

Today, Barrett humbly admits he and his team may have been “somewhat successful” in realising that goal. Thanks to experienced leadership, sustained demand for its research-intensive services and supports from state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, APC is a thriving group of 300 people.

“We just announced a €100m capital expansion plan at the start of January with Enterprise Ireland,” he said in an interview at the Big Ideas pitching competition hosted last week by the agency responsible for helping Irish business grow and scale in foreign markets.

“I guess I’m here today to maybe give people a sense of the journey that we went through from the battle at the bench with the science to becoming a business, all the different challenges you have to go through to take your ambition global.”

APC is a good example of research ideas that became successful companies thanks to Government supports, but it is far from the only one. The winner of this year’s Big Ideas pitch, LaNua Medical, could well be on its way to becoming the next Irish research success story.

Where it is most certainly on its way to in the short term is San Francisco: where LaNua will represent Ireland the Pegasus Startup World Cup later this year. Also joining from Ireland will be Plio Surgical, which bagged the runner-up position at Enterprise Ireland’s Start-up Day event.

“It’s amazing – looking at the other pitches up there I really did not think there was a chance, so it was a great surprise when our name went up,” Dr Cormac Farrelly, founder and chief medical officer of LaNua Medical, told after winning.

“It’s great, it helps build the profile of the company and legitimises what we’re doing and gives us confidence going forward and it would be great to go to San Francisco as well.”

Big Ideas spinning out of Irish research

Last week, Enterprise Ireland published a report on its investments last year, which showed €24m invested in 156 Irish start-ups at various stages of development (pre-seed and high-potential), across a wide range of locations (55pc based outside Dublin) and coming from a wide range of sectors including medtech, cybersecurity, fintech, sustainability and, of course, AI.

Of the 156 start-ups Enterprise Ireland invested in last year, CEO Leo Clancy told that a very high concentration was in technology and life sciences, particularly in medtech.

“I’m really heartened to see the communities flourish in this room and how people are coming together,” said Clancy. “Today is especially about the founders, the start-up teams, the potential entrepreneurs working in third-level institutions, in early-stage start-ups and in those companies with potential to lead into the future.”

Marina Donohoe, head of research and innovation at Enterprise Ireland, said that it was “fantastic” to see the 10 competing projects go up on stage and pitch to a 600-strong audience of potential investors and partners.

“These are examples of brilliant ideas that are emerging from the research ecosystem building on the excellent research and science that’s underway within the Irish university system. Within Enterprise Ireland we have a team of people that are dedicated to supporting those ideas transition from the lab to the marketplace,” Donohoe said.

“So the 10 today are super projects that we have worked closely with, and it was great to partner with the initiative in terms of Startup World Cup and to bring those to California because I think for Silicon Valley the global centre for start-ups these are start-ups that we’ve huge confidence and huge ambition in.”

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