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Posted 10 November 2009

UCD’s HeyStaks Technologies Wins European Entrepreneurship Competition

HeyStaks Technologies, a spin out company from NovaUCD, has won the inaugural, Europe-wide, UNICA Entrepreneurship Competition for Students and Young Researchers. The company scooped the €20,000 prize in recognition of its revolutionary social Web search platform that improves Internet searches, and helps Internet users to better organise and share resources found while searching and browsing the Internet.

The runner-up position went to UNIKI, an intelligent media development company, representing the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Parelectrics, a company representing Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, which has developed a non-invasive device for the diagnosis of skin cancer, took third place.

“We are delighted to have won the first UNICA entrepreneurship competition. It is a great honour and it will be of enormous benefit to us in raising the international profile of the company,” said Dr Maurice Coyle, co-founder, HeyStaks. “The prize money will be used to drive the company to the next level in its development.”

“Being the co-founder of an Irish start-up company, I hope that our success will further raise the profile of University College Dublin in particular and Ireland in general as being at the forefront in the commercialisation of world-class university research.”

HeyStaks’ patented, social re-ranking core technology was developed by company co-founders Dr Peter Briggs and Dr Maurice Coyle during their PhD research at the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics.

Professor Barry Smyth, a leading UCD researcher in recommender systems, who was their PhD supervisor, is the company’s third co-founder. He is an experienced entrepreneur who was Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of the UCD spin-out ChangingWorlds Ltd, acquired last year by Amdocs for $60 million.

Dr Briggs and Dr Coyle are currently UCD postdocs in CLARITY, the Science Foundation Ireland funded Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, a joint initiative between UCD, DCU, and Tyndall National Institute.

UNICA, a network of 42 universities from European capital cities, invited each university, including UCD, to nominate one entry for this competition, sponsored by the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation. The winner was announced, following Dragons’ Den-style presentations by three short listed finalists to a five-person judging panel, during UNICA’s 2009 General Assembly, held on November 6, in the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris.


HeyStaks web technology platform

The Web search market is driven by the need to find relevant information quickly and efficiently. The problem with today’s search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing is that they offer a one-size-fits-all approach to search result selection and ranking, without regard for the differing needs of individual users.

Current search engines do not also take into account the context of a user’s search. They fail to recognise that a friend or colleague of the searcher may have already done all the hard work by finding the required information. Until now there has been no effective solution which allows users who are searching on a common goal or shared interest to search in a collaborative fashion.

HeyStaks’ technology enables key collaboration and organisational features to be added as a layer on top of existing mainstream search engines so that users may benefit from social search enhancements without having to leave their favourite engine.



NovaUCD is University College Dublin’s Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre responsible for the commercialisation of intellectual property arising from UCD research. It has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.

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