NI Entrepreneurs Shortlisted for EY Entrepreneur of The Year™ Awards

  • The EY Entrepreneur of The Year™ programme is a global recognition programme that runs in 145 cities in more than 60 countries. Currently in its 26th year in Ireland, the programme works to recognise, promote and build a supportive community around Ireland’s high-growth entrepreneurs and is considered one of the strongest programmes globally.

    The finalists from across the island of Ireland will compete across three categories - Emerging, Established and International. A special Sustainability Award will also be presented to the finalist who makes the biggest contribution to environmental sustainability through their business. One overall winner will be selected as The EY Entrepreneur of The Year™ 2023 at a gala awards ceremony which will take place in November.

    In April, the finalists for the 2023 candidates were announced including two phenomenal entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland, shortlisted among the 23 who span a range of sectors including technology, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, retail, consumer products, and engineering.

    Andrew Woods and Douglas Adams, the two selected finalists from Northern Ireland, are revolutionaries in their sectors with transformative visions that are making a significant impact.

    Andrew Woods founded CATAGEN in 2010, successfully spinning it out of Queen’s University Belfast with Professor Roy Douglas CTO. Andrew has built an award-winning team whose purpose is to clean and decarbonise the air. From initially providing world-class green emissions testing to the automotive sector, the company is now developing advanced testing for heavy-duty diesel and industrial catalysts.

    This expertise in emissions data and simulation, the development of energy-efficient chemical reactor technologies, IP and knowledge has given CATAGEN a vantage point for new net zero technologies. This has led to the development of ClimaHtech – an acceleration system towards decarbonisation using advanced climate technologies. In 2022, CATAGEN successfully received five funding awards from the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop 5 new technologies in green hydrogen, bio-hydrogen, e-fuels, carbon capture and compression technologies. Followed in 2023 by a sixth award of £4.9 million funding by the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) to develop its novel ClimaHtech BIOHGEN Biohydrogen Production Reactor in Belfast.

    From an early age, Andrew was always encouraged to achieve, push forward and be creative. Later in his formative years, Andrew met a well-travelled, inspirational person who opened his eyes to the impact that business can make to individuals and the community. Being responsible for his own destiny whilst creating something that makes impact and long-lasting change really appealed to Andrew.

    He took the opportunity to do a PhD in Automotive Catalysis after his mechanical engineering degree and this is where his entrepreneurial journey began. He was able to take an idea right through to full commercialisation of the technology and this manifested to become CATAGEN.

    While Andrew was taking part in an entrepreneurship development programme at MIT in Cambridge, Boston in 2018, the shift to decarbonisation was gaining pace and along with that came the market demand for a decarbonisation toolkit for hard-to-abate industries. He identified that CATAGEN had those key competencies, evident in its ability to build energy-efficient chemical reactors.

    Taking a step back, Andrew could see the bigger picture which offered a massively scalable opportunity if CATAGEN further evolved its existing technology to meet the new market demands. Andrew explained, “It’s estimated to be a 50 trillion dollar market to decarbonise the world’s economy between now and 2050. Currently, 85% of the world’s energy use is still derived from fossil fuels and, on a more local scale, only 9% of the total energy use on the island of Ireland is from renewable energy. To really tackle climate change, we’ve got to move quickly and to build and deploy these solutions at scale. From that, I can see a truly scalable market with a high defence ability based on our technology, IP, patents and software advantages”.

    CATAGEN has a foundational business proposition that is profitable, growing and successful. Andrew credits that success to what was learnt when building the foundational knowledge of the provision of green emissions testing to the global automotive industry. This laid the groundwork and paved the way for the team to reimagine how green energy is transformed, from one form to another and to overcome those significant engineering challenges in the production and provision of green energy and net-zero energy systems.

    Climate change is what drives the need for a path to decarbonisation, with Andrew describing it as “the biggest challenge the world and humanity have ever faced.”

    Considering the importance of CATAGEN’s technologies for the future, Andrew expressed that the fate of humanity lies upon developing every type of technology possible to drive towards global decarbonisation and implementing them as quickly as possible. “I’m worried for the next generation and the challenges that they will face, however I do believe in human spirit and ingenuity, and the will to overcome these challenges.”

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