Dr Tara Moore and three NI firms awarded for innovative responses to COVID-19

  • Photo: Dr Tara Moore was the only individual to receive the Innovators' Award

    Bloc Blinds, Axial 3D, SureCert and Dr Tara Moore have all received the Innovators’ Award, launched by Catalyst as part of its INVENT Awards to recognise those who have used innovation to pivot and respond positively to the coronavirus pandemic.

    To be considered for the award, Northern Ireland companies or individuals had to demonstrate how they had pivoted or developed their product or business in response to the pandemic, addressed a specific issue connected to coronavirus or collaborated in partnership to support rapid innovation.

    Magherafelt-based Bloc Blinds was recognised for pivoting from manufacturing blinds to the design and production of face shields, a move that enabled it to bring all of its workforce back from furlough and employ a further 200 local staff.

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    Belfast-based Axial 3D also pivoted from its normal production of anatomical medical models to begin 3D printing ventilator valves, face shields and respiratory equipment that were in high demand as the health sector responded to the spread of the pandemic.

    Recruitment software firm SureCert were recognised for modifying its platforms to allow for faster background checks for volunteers and care workers to ensure people could be hired quickly in areas of need. The company also changed their platform to allow the inclusion of prescription pick-ups and food parcel deliveries.

    The individual to receive the Innovators’ Award was Dr Tara Moore, professor of personalised medicine at Ulster University and chief of R&D at Avellino USA. Tara was invited by CIGA healthcare to become chief medical officer to assist with Covid-19 diagnostics and diverted her attention from her day job to head up the Ulster pandemic study team.

    Forty nominations were received, across the spectrum of local large enterprises, SMEs and individuals, which were then considered by a judging panel made up of the alumni of previous winners of Catalyst’s Innovation Founder award, people who have founded and led successful science and technology companies.

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    Kerry McGarvey, INVENT programme manager at Catalyst, said: “This year we wanted to recognise and celebrate the companies and individuals who have stood up and stood out over the past six months in the face of unprecedented challenges. Those companies who have had to pivot, manage cashflow, manage people, adapt and show real resilience to not only survive but to make a real difference in society’s push back against the virus. All are worthy winners.”

    Organised by Catalyst with headline partner Bank of Ireland, Invent is an annual competition that supports, recognises and rewards local innovations and proof of concept ideas that have the greatest commercial potential.

    The main showcase event will take place virtually on 8 October 2020.

    For more information or to register to attend please go to https://wearecatalyst.org/programmes/invent/ 

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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