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Posted 27 September 2013

VentureLaunch, UCD’s new accelerator programme begins

Seven early-stage companies and new ventures from University College Dublin (UCD) and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) are currently taking part in UCD’s new VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.

The overall winner of the three-month programme will be announced at a VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme Awards event in late November. The winner will receive a cash prize of €10,000 as well as a professional services package worth an additional €15,000.

The aim of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme is to support the creation, and accelerate the launch, of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from UCD and NCAD (a recognised college of UCD).

The programme aims is to equip UCD and NCAD researchers with the knowledge, skills and understanding that will be required to work as part of a team leading a new commercial venture. On completion of the programme the participating new ventures will have developed a commercially viable business plan.

The new accelerator programme will run annually. It has been designed and is managed by UCD’s Office of the Vice-President for Innovation and takes place at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at the University.

Five of the participating new ventures; Aficionado, BlackLabBio, Fondúireacht Bhéaloideas Éireann, Kinesis Healthcare Technologies Ltd and Nuritas Ltd are emerging from UCD, while the other two, Gazel and Obeo, are emerging from NCAD.

“The new UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator is a key support programme for UCD academic and research entrepreneurs who are spinning-out companies based upon their research outputs,” said Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation.

“This new programme is based on an enhancement and further development of the NovaUCD Campus Company Development Programme (CCDP) which ran for many years, over a 9-month period. Participants on the CCDP over the years included many successful companies such as BiancaMed, ChangingWorlds, Equinome, HeyStaks, Logentries, OncoMark and Wattics and we anticipate that our new VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme will build on this entrepreneurial legacy.”

The VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme consists of ten 3-hour workshops delivered over a 3-month period from mid-September to mid-November. The Business Model Canvas approach to start-up development forms the basis of the programme and each workshop consists of a mix of taught content and interactive workshops delivered by external experts as well as involving talks from entrepreneurs.

During the programme projects will also gain expert mentoring on marketing, finance and funding, sales, and pitching to investors.

Derek McGarry, Head of Design Innovation and Commercialisation, NCAD, said, “Everyone at NCAD Origin8 is delighted to have their first two potential spin-out companies make it into the highly competitive UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. Gazel and Obeo are exciting product design companies that will benefit significantly from this intensive start-up programme aimed at commercialising innovative ideas.”


Aficionado is a knowledge management SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution which supports the discovery of specific expertise across an organisation. In many organisations, such as large corporates or universities, finding experts and retaining their knowledge is a significant problem. Aficionado, which can automatically model expertise from both structured and unstructured document repositories, is easy to set up and use and allows for the searching, discovery and visualisation of expertise across various dimensions within an organisation. 

As an insight tool, Aficionado helps users understand the topology of expertise across their organisations as well as offering comparison and report generation capabilities. As a marketing tool, Aficionado can be used to showcase organisational expertise to attract partners and funding and to develop successful collaborations.

The promoter of Aficionado is Dr Kevin McCarthy, INSIGHT, UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics.


BlackLabBio is a new biotechnology venture focused on the development of a new affinity tag system. Affinity tag systems form part of bioprocessing systems which are complex, costly and time consuming processes used by global pharmaceutical companies to manufacture drugs.

BlackLabBio’s new affinity tag system will enable global pharmaceutical companies to dramatically speed-up the process of immobilising, detecting and purifying proteins and other molecules used in drug manufacturing. The BlackLabBio affinity tag system will significantly reduce the cost and time associated with getting drugs to market.

The promoter of BlackLabBio is Dr David O’Connell, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the UCD Conway Institute.


Fondúireacht Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore Foundation) is a not-for-profit venture being established to preserve, conserve and disseminate to a global audience the National Folklore Collection held at University College Dublin.

This collection is an unparalleled resource of Irish culture and heritage and is home to one of the largest collections of oral and ethnological material in the world. It contains in the region of 2 million pages of written lore, more than 10,000 hours of sound and visual recordings, 80,000 photographs and images and a specialist library.

The promoters of Fondúireacht Bhéaloideas Éireann are Dr Kelly Fitzgerald and Professor Ríonach Uí Ógáin, UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies, Irish Folklore and Linguistics and the National Folklore Collection at UCD.


Gazel is a new homeware brand which is designing and selling exclusive lifestyle products for the modern home. Gazel 'rethinks the everyday' with innovative objects that combine beauty with convenience. Gazel’s products are spread throughout the home, and include an ingeniously easy to use clothes hanger and a striking multi-purpose kitchen knife.

The promoters of Gazel are Kevin Doherty and Ronan Murphy, National College of Art and Design.


Kinesis Healthcare Technologies Ltd has developed a falls risk assessment technology named QTUG (quantitative timed-up and go) that can be used by a broad range of healthcare professionals and care providers to facilitate objective assessment of falls risk and mobility in older adults.

Falls are a costly, complex and common problem, with 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 years falling once each year. This figure rises to 1 in 2 in the over 80s. In the US alone, the annual cost of falls management is estimated to be $30 billon. In addition, 40% of deaths of older people are as a result of a falls incident.

Kinesis has developed a unique approach for assessing falls risk and mobility in older adults. Accurate identification of falls risk and mobility impairment can be used to facilitate targeted intervention, which in turn may lead to a reduction in the number of falls among older adults as well as improved quality of care.

The founders of Kinesis Health Technologies Ltd are Dr Barry Greene and Seamus Small, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science and TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) Centre and Bill Bollengier who is based in the USA.


Nuritas Ltd uses cutting-edge bioinformatics to help food companies quickly and cost-effectively add a health value to their ingredients.

Nuritas achieves this by identifying therapeutic molecules in food ingredients known as bioactive peptides. These molecules have various therapeutic qualities, such as their capacity to enhance our immune response, or lower syndromes such as diabetes and cholesterol. These bioactive peptides can be added to products allowing food companies to quickly gain market share in the functional food market.

The founder of Nuritas Ltd is Dr Nora Khaldi, UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, Complex and Adaptive Systems Laboratory (CASL), and the UCD Conway Institute.


Obeo has developed a product to address user convenience issues surrounding food waste recycling in the home. Obeo aims to help households to more conveniently separate their food waste in the kitchen so that it can be diverted from landfill either by using the ‘brown bin’ service or through home composting.

To do this Obeo has developed a stylish all-in-one 100% compostable food waste caddy which allows householders to quickly and easily collect kitchen food waste. When full, the caddy, along with its contents is sealed and placed into the ‘brown bin’ or home compost. Obeo is made from a combination of recycled card and water resistant paper, and is compostable to EU standards.

The promoters of Obeo are Kate Cronin and Elizabeth Fingleton, National College of Art and Design.


Origin8 is a design innovation and commercialisation gateway at the National College of Art and Design. Origin8 functions as a portal for business clients to collaborate with our leading designers through knowledge transfer.  It operates as a conduit between academia and industry. Origin8 also supports staff, students and design residents in the development of products and services, campus company start-ups and related creative enterprise.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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