Innovations in technology for the agricultural and defence sectors are being explored by the newly announced TechInnovate fellows at NUI Galway. The names of the entrepreneurial individuals who have been accepted onto the fellowship programme have been released.
Taking cues from the successful BioInnovate programme for the medtech sector, TechInnovate’s aim is to enable technology innovators and innovations in new sectors, initially agriculture and defence.
The first cohort of six fellows have been split into two teams, who will immerse themselves within the sectors. Over the course of the 10-month programme, the Fellowship teams will carry out a thorough needs analysis with end users, identify a pressing technological need, and then develop a solution.
The programme is being led by NUI Galway academic Dr John Breslin, who is himself an entrepreneur as co-founder of boards.ie, adverts.ie, and more recently the start-up hub PorterShed. Dr Breslin says: “Understand your users, that’s the key’ is a saying from serial entrepreneur and investor, Paul Graham. It captures the essence of what this programme is about, because through the immersion phase, the Fellows get direct experience of the needs of a farmer or soldier in the field. They then go on to filter and prioritise these needs and develop a solution wherein the key market opportunity lies.”
Each team consists of an interdisciplinary grouping of engineer, businessperson and designer. All members are industry professionals with extensive expertise from different sectors.
The defence team is made up of Ronan Boyle, an electronic engineer with significant industry experience in the medical devices industry, Greg Payne, with expertise in financial services, compliance and sales with a background in sports science, and Leon Butler, an accomplished visual narrative designer who recently completed a residency in LA.
On the agriculture team are Niamh Lynch, an expert in quality and risk management for the medtech and pharma industries, Ciara Shields, a results-focused marketing and international business development executive with a passion for startups, and Paul Flynn, design thinking and learning environments specialist with an education and engineering background.
Dr John Breslin explains the origins of TechInnovate: “The impetus for the development of this Fellowship Programme emerged from the Government’s Innovation Taskforce Report. It made recommendations on how to embed product design teaching and research in Ireland’s engineering schools and how to shift design education in Ireland to a model where creativity and innovation in product design are encouraged. The BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme was created as a result of these recommendations, which in turn inspired the development of TechInnovate.”
TechInnovate also has an experienced team of advisors with entrepreneurial and investment backgrounds, including: Gerard Barry, Galway-based investor and entrepreneur, founder of Privity Pay and formerly Fintrax; Patrick Dawson, investor and adtech entrepreneur (ex-MediaMath, Adobe ) who has built businesses in Asia, Europe and the US; Dr Helen McBreen, Investment Director with Atlantic Bridge Ventures and formerly of NDRC and Celtrak; Barry O’Sullivan, Silicon Valley-based investor, entrepreneur, CEO of Altocloud, former SVP at Cisco, and dragon on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den; and Dr Gareth Keane, Senior Investment Manager at Qualcomm Ventures in California.
The programme is supported by NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation, and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland and the Western Development Commission. A Continuing Professional Development series of workshops in the TechInnovate process is also being offered to supporting companies, and new sectors and immersion opportunities for teams are also being sought for future years.