Green inventor Professor Kevin O’Connor wins NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award

Posted September 07, 2016

  • UCD academic honoured for quality of technological developments in bio-based products
  • Professor O'Connor's firm Bioplastech raising funding to produce adhesives

Leading green technologies researcher and innovator, Professor Kevin O’Connor, has won the NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award.

UCD President, Professor Andrew J. Deeks presented the award to Professor O’Connor, a professor at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and a principal investigator at the UCD Earth Institute.

Professor O’Connor’s interests include research into the development of biodegradable polymers and methods of improving the recycling of plastic and other materials.

His expertise includes areas such as the bioeconomy, environmental technology, bioprocessing, protein engineering and biocatalysis – the use of natural substances to speed up chemical reactions.

Professor Deeks said he was presenting the award to Professor O’Connor “in recognition of the quality and impact of his peer-reviewed research and his technological developments for the production of bio-based products”.

Pictured: UCD President, Professor Andrew J. Deeks, Professor Kevin O'Connor with his NovaUCD 2016 innovation Award and Professor Orla Feely, Vice President at UCD for Research, Innovation and Impact

He also said the award recognised Professor O’Connor’s “successes in the commercialisation of the intellectual property arising from his research at the University”.

Professor O’Connor is also the co-founder and CEO of Bioplastech, a UCD spin-out company that he established in 2009 with Dr Ramesh Babu, from Trinity College Dublin and Italian entrepreneur, Enrico Altieri.

Bioplastech uses a patented manufacturing technology process to convert waste materials into high value-added, environmentally friendly (i.e. biodegradable) polymers.

The firm has developed a number of adhesive products based on its biodegradable polymers and is currently testing these with several international adhesive companies.  

“The award recognises the huge effort, commitment and intellect of the current and past researchers and students in my research lab in UCD and in Bioplastech to develop and commercialise our technologies,” said Professor O’Connor after he received the award.

He said that Bioplastech is currently raising external funding over the next six months to enable it to build a demonstration facility to produce adhesive products.

Professor O’Connor, who has already secured over €16 million in research funding, is the lead principal investigator in the UCD Biocatalysis Group.

The group is focused on the synthesis of biodegradable polymers, as well as small bioactive molecules. It also investigates the ability of bacteria and their enzymes to convert waste or inexpensive starting materials into value-added products.

Professor O’Connor is also a funded investigator with AMBER, the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre and the Dairy Processing Technology Centre.

Internationally, he and his UCD research team are part of a pan-European research consortium that has secured €7.6 million in European Union Horizon 2020 funding for a five-year project called P4SB.

This project aims to propel the sustainable production of new biopolymers from waste plastic. It also seeks to establish a platform that increases biopolymer production efficiency through the use of synthetic biology and bacteria fermentation.

Professor O’Connor’s research output to date includes the publication of over 85 international peer review articles and 150 international conference papers. 

His intellectual property portfolio currently consists of 11 invention disclosures; the filing of nine priority patent applications and six licence agreements. 

The NovaUCD Innovation Award was established in 2004 to highlight University College Dublin’s commitment to innovation.

The award is presented annually to an individual, company or organisation or group in recognition of excellence in innovation or of success achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity.

By Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, University Relations