Monday, June 22, 2009

Innovation Awards 2009

This evening was the national finals of the Innovation Awards 2009, in association with the Irish Independent. Siemens have sponsored some of the awards for some time, and this year the Dublin Airport Authority sponsored a new category on innovative sustainability. I'm also very grateful for the judges who gave freely of their time to make very difficult choices: Malcolm Edgar, Srdjan Krco, Jack MacGowan, Gerald Nagle, Eoghan Nolan, Michael O'Connor, Damien Owens, John Power, Paul Rellis, Brendan Tuohy, Lorcan Tyrrell, and John Walshe.

In his recent budget speech, the Minister of Finance stated that ‘our economy must return to being driven by sustainable export-led growth, rather than domestic demand’. The basis for a sustainable export-led growth is a new Smart Economy, relying on innovative people applying intelligence and insight, rather than brawn, to drive growth.

Science is the discovery of what already exists. Entrepreneurship organise business. Invention yields new ideas which did not previously exist.

Innovation is however how new ideas are put into practice.

Science Foundation Ireland’s mission is to develop a world class research capability. The discovery of new things, by research, may attract foreign investment, and it may encourage the invention of new products based on insights from the natural world. We celebrate our most successful scientists via SFI, the British Telecom Young Scientists Exhibition, and indeed via others.

We also celebrate our entrepreneurs via the annual competition sponsored by Ernst and Young and Ulster Bank. Entrepreneurs manage a business, sometimes taking considerable risk. It is wonderful to see the growth of family businesses, and the implementation within Ireland of imported business models and franchises, but it is unclear whether such ventures necessarily lead to a sustainable prosperity and repair of our faltering national competitiveness.

Joseph Schumpeter, in his Theory of Economic Development, noted that innovation brings new goods, new methods of production, new markets, new sources of raw materials, and new organisational structures into practice. If we innovate and bring new products, new processes, new markets, new sources, and new business structures into practice, then we will not only change Ireland but also change the world.

In my view, innovation is the true foundation for a sustainable export-led economy. Engineers Ireland chooses to celebrate our innovators, and our innovative companies.

The 2009 winner of the Innovative Company of the Year was OpenHydro, for its successful innovation of open turbine tidal power generators. Denis O'Connor is the 2009 Innovative Engineer of the Year, providing real time monitoring of water quality for a number of local authorities. Mesut Dogan won the 2009 Sustainability award for his Intelligent Air-City Dublin initiative for Dublin airport.

In the student awards, Nicola Greene won the Sustainability category, for her Green Roofs coupled with Rainwater Harvest for Dublin Airport. Colm O'Brien won the Level 7 award for his Automated Personalised Home/Work Environment using RFID tags. John Mulvihill won the Level 8 award for his Reduction of Time Required for Haemodialysis by Optimising the Mass Transport in an Idealised Dialysis Cartridge.

Finally, Noel Joyce was highly commended for his student project on novel braking system for wheelchairs.

Our country is asking much of our innovators. It was an honour to be able to recognise some of them this evening.

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