Winners of NovaUCD’s 2022 Innovation Awards Announced

Prof. Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact; Prof. Barbara Dooley, Acting UCD Registrar and Deputy President and Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation with the 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Awardees

Winners of NovaUCD’s 2022 Innovation Awards Announced

 - Physicist and PEARlabs Founder Professor Dominic Zerulla receives 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award

  - Founders of BioSimulytics, NovoGrid, TestReach and Wayflyer also among awardees

NovaUCD has today announced the recipients of its annual innovation awards which highlight successes made in areas of knowledge transfer, consultancy, entrepreneurship and the promotion of an innovation culture, by members of the UCD research, innovation and start-up community.

A total of 8 Awards, including the main 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award, were presented by Professor Barbara Dooley, Acting UCD Registrar and Deputy President during an event held in the UCD University Club.

Among this year’s awardees are the founders of BioSimulytics, NovoGrid, PEARlabs, TestReach and Wayflyer.

Professor Barbara Dooley, Acting UCD Registrar and Deputy President said, “The NovaUCD Innovation Awards which have become a key annual event at UCD, were established to recognise and highlight the successes being made by members of our research, innovation and entrepreneurial communities across the University. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have received Awards today and I wish them ongoing successes in the years ahead as they continue to deliver impact for the economy and society through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.”

The 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award, which recognises excellence in innovation or of successes achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity over a number of years, was awarded to Professor Dominic Zerulla, UCD School of Physics.

Since he joined UCD in 2014 Professor Zerulla has disclosed 11 inventions to NovaUCD, 5 of which have been patented, and founded PEARlabs, a UCD spin-out company.

PEARlabs has developed a novel photonic chip which enables ultra-high spatial resolution at video rates in optical microscopy, far beyond the diffraction limit of visible light. The PEARlabs technology aims to transform the understanding of processes such as cell signalling and cell proliferation in cancer and other life-threatening diseases and has the potential to aid early diagnostics, precision medicine and the delivery of improved drug treatments.

Professor Zerulla has been awarded over €700k in funding through the SFI Future Innovator Prize programme to further develop the PEARlabs technology.

Prof. Dominic Zerulla

On receiving the 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award, Professor Dominic Zerulla, said, “On behalf of myself and the wider PEARlabs team at UCD I am very pleased to receive this important Innovation Award. We are highly motivated to develop the best imaging methodology which will enable improved diagnostics and hence tailored therapies for highly relevant diseases to people.”

He added, “I would like to thank the NovaUCD team for all their continuing support over the last number of years.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award is Dr John McCallig, UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

Dr McCallig’s invention is to use privacy preserving analytics to collect and share commercially sensitive information about VAT obligations and payments. This innovation can confirm that the proper VAT payments have been made, in real-time and without breaching the privacy of the individuals or firms. The potential impact of this invention is to provide a system that can interact natively with the digital economy and build a modern and fair tax system. 

Dr John McCallig

Dr John McCallig said, “I am delighted and deeply honoured to receive the 2022 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award. I appreciate the recognition being given to innovative ways of ensuring privacy and data integrity in critical social systems, like the VAT payment system. I am looking forward to seeing how this innovation can help develop a modern and fair tax system.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Spin-out of the Year Award is BioSimulytics, a UCD spin-out focused on using artificial intelligence (AI) to digitise key steps in how new drug molecules are designed and developed. The company was founded in 2019 by Professor Niall English, Dr Christian Burnham, and Peter Doyle as a spin-out from the UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering.

In the last year BioSimulytics secured its first commercial contract with a major pharma company in Europe and signed evaluation agreements with several other leading biopharma companies in UK, EU and US. In addition it established a partnership with Amazon for global scaling of its technology platform using AWS cloud services and secured €595k in initial seed funding from angel investors and Enterprise Ireland. The company also located to NovaUCD and has grown to a team of 6 people.

BioSimulytics team members (l-r) Dr Christian Burnham, Professor Niall English, Peter Doyle and Paul Kilroy-Glynn

Peter Doyle, CEO and co-founder, BioSimulytics said, “It’s a lovely honour to be selected for this Award amongst all of the exciting new spin-outs coming out of UCD. We’re very pleased with the progress that we’ve made as a team and a company since we established our spin-out at the end of 2019.”

“While Covid-19 has made it a very challenging time to start a new company, it’s also been a great driver for our technology as biopharma companies are now accelerating their adoption of new digital platforms using AI and machine learning to revolutionise how new drugs are discovered and developed. In many ways, it’s the dawn of a new era in precision medicine to tackle so many currently hard to treat diseases and we are very excited about the future growth opportunities that this is creating for BioSimulytics.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award is Dr Sarah Cotterill, UCD School of Civil Engineering and UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research, for a consultancy study entitled ‘A Framework for Improving Domestic Water Conservation in Ireland’, commissioned by An Fóram Uisce (the Water Forum) through ConsultUCD.

A key finding of the study was that almost a fifth of the energy used in Irish homes is used for heating water, and therefore a relatively small reduction in household water use (of say 20%) in all homes in Ireland, could lead to a significant reduction (hundreds of thousands of tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions a year.  

Dr Sarah Cotterill

Dr Sarah Cotterill said, “I am delighted to receive this Award in recognition of the work carried out for An Fóram Uisce, with support from a collaborator at the University of Exeter, Dr Peter Melville-Shreeve, and with the support of ConsultUCD.”

“Ireland is perceived to be a ‘wet’ country but resource availability varies across the country. I hope the findings from this work can progress to the next level to bring about the behavioural, technological and regulatory change necessary to manage our most vital resource, water, more sustainably.”

The recipients of the 2022 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award are Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton, co-founders, TestReach.

TestReach, headquartered at NexusUCD, provides a cloud-based online assessment solution that enables end-to-end management of exam authoring, test assembly, exam delivery, marking, moderation and reporting. TestReach covers a wide range of question types and delivery options, including live remote invigilation for formal exams.

Covid-19 drove a huge increase in demand for TestReach from around the world, which necessitated the company scaling rapidly in terms of number of employees and operational capacity. In the last year TestReach sustained revenue growth of 60%; added a further 40 new clients, such as the Institute of Banking, the Insurance Institute of Ireland, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and multiple European agencies; grew staff numbers by 50% and now employs a team of over 100 people. 

The company’s expansion is continuing and TestReach plans to add 30 additional employees in the coming year.

Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton

Louella Morton said, “We are absolutely delighted to have won this award, which recognises the great achievement of everyone at TestReach, who worked tirelessly in very exceptional circumstances. There is huge momentum within the company and we look forward to continued growth throughout 2022 and beyond.”

Sheena Bailey added, “It is wonderful to win this award as two female co-founders of a high-growth tech company. I’d like to thank the TestReach team who have been such a key part of the journey, and those at NovaUCD for their support over the last number of years. We have always had great ambitions for TestReach, and it is really fantastic to see those ambitions being realised.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award is Professor Ronan Cahill, Professor of Surgery at UCD School of Medicine and at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital where he is championing digital innovation and innovative solutions in surgery.

Professor Cahill has a major academic interest in surgical innovation and new technologies and is active in forging research partnerships, both nationally and internationally, focused on clinical and medical device development via phase 1, 2 and 3 trials.

At the Mater Hospital, he has led the establishment of a Clinical Anatomy Centre with Professor James Jones, UCD School of Medicine, the only in-hospital Advanced Surgery Training, Research and Development unit in the country which has provided over 1,000 training days for undergraduates and postgraduates through consultant level masterclasses.

Professor Ronan Cahill

Professor Ronan Cahill said, “It’s lovely to receive this award from NovaUCD on behalf of all the great people who through their work are striving for better surgery through innovation at the Mater Hospital and the UCD School of Medicine in partnership with our academic and industry colleagues and of course, most importantly, our patients.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Licence of the Year Award is Professor Andrew Keane, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Director, UCD Energy Institute. Professor Keane is also a co-founder and CTO of NovoGrid, a UCD spin-out and a pioneer in Grid Edge intelligence software that optimises energy delivery.

The patented grid edge intelligence software technology which automates and removes inefficiencies in renewable generators and electrical grid operations was developed by Professor Andrew Keane and his team at UCD and was licensed to NovoGrid in 2015.

This original licence to software, algorithms, datasets and patented technology relating to a method for controlling power distribution, has formed the basis for NovoGrid’s installed customer base increasing three-fold year-on-year and its recent collaborations with a number of leading European utilities and renewable energy developers.

Professor Andrew Keane

Professor Andrew Keane said, “The licensed technology was based on several years of research from my team in the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. It is an excellent example of how investment in basic research can deliver positive impact for the economy and wider society. The NovoGrid team have done a fantastic job further developing the technology, and with several leading European utilities and renewable energy developers as customers looks set to make an important contribution to global efforts to accelerate renewable energy deployment.”

The recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Outstanding Achievement Award is Aidan Corbett, co-founder, Wayflyer, which earlier this year became Ireland’s sixth tech unicorn on securing a $150 million Series B funding round. Wayflyer, a revenue-based financing and growth platform for eCommerce businesses, was co-founded in 2019 by Aidan Corbett and Jack Pierse as a spin-out from Conjura, a NexusUCD-headquartered company which Aidan Corbett had previously co-founded.

Aidan Corbett

Aidan Corbett said, “It's a great honour to receive this award. In the early days of my start-up journey, NexusUCD was the perfect place for us to work, especially being surrounded by fellow entrepreneurs who learned a lot from each other. I highly recommend it to start-ups that are beginning their journey today.”


30 March 2022

For more information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, UCD Research and Innovation, e:

Editors Notes

Additional Information About Awardees

2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award, Professor Dominic Zerulla, UCD School of Physics. Professor Zerulla is the founding member and principal investigator of the UCD Plasmonics and Ultra-fast NanoOptics group at UCD. He has authored four book chapters, more than 120 articles, reports and letters in the fields of Surface Science, Nano Optics, and Plasmonics. He has recently been awarded an Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund for a project entitled ‘PicoGlaze’ which is focused on developing smart windows to control heating in buildings, unlocking a huge energy and CO2 saving potential. He was a key investigator in the SFI Strategic Research Cluster on Solar Energy Conversion and has been PI on a number of additional SFI, Enterprise Ireland and international grants.

2022 NovaUCD Outstanding Achievement Award, Aidan Corbett, co-founder, Wayflyer. Conjura, a NexusUCD-headquartered company, was co-founded by Aidan Corbett and Fran Quilty in 2018. The company has developed a platform which provides customer analytics to drive business performance and growth. In 2019 Aidan established Wayflyer, a revenue-based financing and growth platform for eCommerce businesses, as a spin-out from Conjura with Jack Pierse.

2022 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award, Dr John McCallig, UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. As the digitalization of the economy advances, privacy has become a key concern. Extensive data collection for compliance and regulatory reasons will only be accepted where inventions like Dr McCallig’s can provide assurances that the data will be private and only used for a prescribed purpose.

2022 NovaUCD Spin-out of the Year Award, BioSimulytics. The company has developed a novel software solution, using a powerful combination of AI machine learning, computational chemistry, quantum physics and high-performance computing (HPC), to simulate and predict the most desirable structures of molecules at the fundamental atomic level. The company’s software enables the pharma industry to advance potential molecules to approved drugs quicker and with a much greater probability of success.

Through ConsultUCD, Dr Sarah Cotterill, UCD School of Civil Engineering, recipient of the 2022 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award, was commissioned by An Fóram Uisce (the Water Forum) to carry out a study entitled ‘A Framework for Improving Domestic Water Conservation in Ireland’. Other key findings of the study include; a reduction in domestic water use would also lead to a reduction in the volume of wastewater discharged to the sewer network, helping to mitigate existing capacity issues; domestic water use decreases when users have immediate feedback on their use, metered households use approximately 20% less than unmetered households.

2022 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award, Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton, co-founders, TestReach. Founded in 2014 TestReach provides customers with great technology to deliver high-stakes exams remotely and remove the logistical headaches and administration overhead of running assessments in test centres. As a SaaS solution, TestReach is easy-to-use, quick to roll out and cost effective for any number of exams and offers the flexibility to meet a variety of assessment needs, all within one single application. The company is headquartered at NexusUCD, the Industry Partnership Centre, which is managed through NovaUCD.

2022 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award, Professor Ronan Cahill UCD School of Medicine and Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. Professor Cahill is a co-awardee and clinical lead of a DTIF project entitled "The Future of Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment" which secured €5.7 million in funding.  The project is focused on colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment and aims to transform the diagnosis and surgical treatment of gastro-intestinal diseases, specifically cancer, by allowing decision-support information to be available when needed for faster and more accurate interventions for patients. The other members of this project consortium are, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, IBM Research Ireland and Deciphex.

2022 NovaUCD Licence of the Year Award, Professor Andrew Keane, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Director, UCD Energy Institute, co-founder, NovoGrid. Other recent NovoGrid’s highlights include; patents granted in Canada and China, and winner of ‘Best Technology Innovation Award’ at the European Wind Investment Awards.

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