Tech SMEs show their wares

More than 40 aspiring technology sector entrepreneurs gathered in Dublin last week for the third Enterprise Ireland ICT Showcase, which offered them the opportunity to pitch their projects to investors and likely partners.

The event is organised by the ICT commercialisation team of Enterprise Ireland, which to date has managed to get more than 24 Irish IT and communications technologies licences, with 12 more deals on track for completion this year.

Seven start-up companies have been established through this framework and at least four more should be on the way before the end of the year.

This year’s event heard presentations from ten researchers, while 31 more exhibited in a demonstration area. Among the attendees were 13 companies from the venture capital sector, while around 40 private investors and a large number of firms were there looking for partnership opportunities.

One of those giving a presentation this year was Andrew Deegan, managing director of Breakout Gaming Concepts. The firm has developed an action figure that can be used as a peripheral in computer games.

‘‘Essentially it’s like a voodoo doll for computer gaming,” Deegan said. ‘‘Whatever you do with the figure happens on screen. If you move the leg, the character in the game will move his leg, and so on.”

Breakout Gaming is already in discussions with a number of potential partners. The first stage is finding hardware partners who will assist with the manufacture of the device, who will then pitch it to computer game designers for use in their games.

The firm is now looking for €1.8 million in investment funding to advance this project. Some of this will come from Enterprise Ireland, but the firm hopes that around €1 million of it will come from private sources.

Ronan Fox of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway was also presenting at the conference.

Fox is leading a team which has developed Plug and Play Electronic Patient Records (PPEPRs).Fox said electronic patient records systems in most hospitals cannot readily communicate with one another.

‘‘Every department, whether it be radiology, cardiology or the laboratory, tends to have its own,’’ Fox said.

Linking these systems is a costly business and hospitals often rely on paper=based systems as a back-up. What PPEPR does is provide one solution, rather than the patchwork of solutions that have been employed to date.

The team has already built a working prototype at the Mater Hospital in Dublin and is now moving into a clinical trial phase. Fox said he was at the event looking for investors and partners.

‘‘Funding will give us the opportunity to get a sales and marketing effort under way,” he said. Given that nearly 95 per cent of hospitals worldwide use systems compatible with PPEPR, there is significant opportunity for global sales.

Another firm that already has a working example of its product in the field is Sonitus Systems, which develops noise-monitoring systems for urban areas. According to Paul McDonald of Sonitus, the firm saw its market opportunity in the 2002 EU Noise Pollution Directive, which obliges local authorities to monitor noise levels across a wide area. The company is already rolling out its system with Dublin City Council.

McDonald said most noise monitoring systems were designed for spot-monitoring in one location. To date, suppliers have adapted to the new requirement by shoehorning their existing system into it.

McDonald said the Sonitus system was more cost-effective as it just recorded the data needed under law and didn’t undertake more expensive processes, such as actually recording noise.

Units can be mounted on traffic lights or on the sides of buildings. They are wi-fi-enabled, which means that data can be collected by bringing a laptop within range. They can also be fitted with mobile phone modems, which allows them to report back automatically to a centralised control system.

Unusually, Sonitus isn’t looking for investors at the moment as the company is self-funding, but it is looking for partners that can help it market the system worldwide.

Publication Date

October 12th 2008


Sunday Business Post