Crop scientist wins NovaUCD’s 2021 Innovation Award

Posted 29 March, 2021

Professor Fiona Doohan was named the 2021 winner of NovaUCD’s Innovation Award

A researcher whose work has helped improve the sustainability of crop production systems in Ireland and globally is the 2021 winner of NovaUCD’s Innovation Award.

Professor Fiona Doohan was presented with this year's award in recognition of her success in enhancing diversification, safety and transparency of Irish food systems.

A researcher at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, she has secured over €30 million in funding to date, and has filed a total of 14 invention disclosures with NovaUCD in areas such as using novel endophyte to suppress diseases in crops; the production of bioethanol via the break down of lignocellulose; and a method of transforming cells to improve crop traits.

A number of these inventions have been co-developed with collaborators in Teagasc and Trinity College Dublin.

Seven of these inventions have been patented and three licence agreements have been signed with industry.

“The enhanced global consumption of crop-based foods and the move within the EU and globally towards more sustainable agricultural practices mean that now, more than ever, we need innovation in crop science to ensure that the Irish agri-food sector continues to lead in the development of sustainable, traceable, quality foodstuffs," said Professor Doohan.

A Principal Investigator on several major national and international research initiatives, including CONSUS, Food Shield and Healthy Oats and the EU project INNOVAR, Professor Doohan is also a co-founder of e-Seed Crop Technology Solutions, a joint UCD-TCD spin-out company, focused on developing novel endophytes that can increase crop yields.

The NovaUCD Innovation Award, established in 2004, is presented annually in recognition of excellence in innovation or of success achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity.

A total of seven awards were announced this year during a virtual event to 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.

Equal1 Labs, a disruptive quantum computing hardware UCD spin-out, and Charlie Gleeson, the founder of Zipp Mobility, a micromobility start-up, were among the 2021 recipients.

“These Awards were established to recognise and highlight the successes being made by members of our research and innovation community across the University,” said Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact.

“I wish them all continuing success in 2021 and the years ahead as they continue to shape the future and deliver impact for the economy and society through their commercialisation, consultancy, entrepreneurial and innovation activities.”

Professor Patricia Maguire was among the recipients of the 2021 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award

The recipients of the 2021 NovaUCD Invention of the Year Award were Professor Patricia Maguire, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aínle, UCD School of Medicine, and Dr Paulina Szklanna, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, for their discovery of biomarkers which can be used to diagnose preeclampsia risk.

Preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication, is difficult to diagnose and kills 50,000 mothers and 500,000 babies each year worldwide.

Based on their discovery the UCD team is now developing a new diagnostic test called AI_PREMie, an AI-powered risk stratification platform, to identify women with preeclampsia and predict preeclampsia severity thus helping to save the lives of mothers and babies.

The recipient of the 2021 NovaUCD Spin-out of the Year Award was Equal1 Labs which is developing a new type of quantum computer based on the latest advances in semiconductor CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology.

The company, founded by Dr Dirk Leipold, Professor R. Bogdan Staszewski and Mike Asker, is a spin-out from the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

The recipient of the 2021 NovaUCD Consultancy of the Year Award was Professor Michael Wallace, UCD School Agriculture and Food Science, for a consultancy study entitled 'Economic Impact Assessment of the Tillage Sector in Ireland' commissioned by Tillage Industry Ireland through ConsultUCD.

This study, which revealed that the Irish tillage sector generates economic outputs of €1.3 billion per annum and supports 11,000 jobs, provides an evidence base to support future development planning for the Irish tillage sector, identifying the sector's integral economic contribution to the agri-food industry specifically and the national economy more generally.

Charlie Gleeson, founder and CEO of Zipp Mobility, won 2021 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award

The recipient of the 2021 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award was Charlie Gleeson, founder and CEO of Zipp Mobility.

During 2020 Zipp Mobility secured over €1.1 million in seed funding, including €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland and launched e-scooter operations in multiple UK locations.

On receiving the 2021 NovaUCD Founder of the Year Award, Charlie Gleeson, said, “It has been a great year for the Zipp team scaling across the UK. However, it was very much a team effort. I’m extremely proud of the team we’ve built and what we’ve achieved in 2020. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without the support of NovaUCD.”

The recipient of the 2021 NovaUCD Innovation Champion of the Year Award was Dr Paul Cuffe, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, for his dedication to working with UCD engineering programme students, to unlock the commercial trajectory of their final year dissertation projects.

In 2020 he supervised Philip Snell’s, ME Electronic and Computer Engineering thesis project to prototype a new MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller.

The result of this project is the Joyst JV-1 MIDI controller which provides an array of gamer-style thumb joysticks to give more expressive possibilities for electronic musicians.

The recipient of the 2021 NovaUCD Licence of the Year Award was awarded to Dr Donal MacKernan, UCD School of Physics, who developed a disruptive molecular switch platform technology.

During 2020 this technology was licensed by NovaUCD to a US-based company Fionnachtain Inc with an initial application as a point-of-care medical diagnostic for COVID-19 and influenza.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Micéal Whelan, UCD Research and Innovation)