Damien’s brainwave may help to make ‘locked in syndrome’ leap

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Londonderry man Damien Coyle’s invention to help sufferers of ‘locked-in syndrome’ to communicate has been recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s greatest new innovations.

Mr Coyle is a finalist in the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT 2015 competition, after pitching to an audience of over 200 people and under the scrutiny of an international judging panel at a ‘Quick Pitch’ event in W5 in Belfast.

NeuroConcise is wearable neurotechnology which non-invasively measures and translates brainwaves into control signals that allow people to communicate and interact with computers without moving.

Dr Damien Coyle said: “I’ve been working on this technology now for over 15 years and it’s at a stage where it’s ready for commercialisation so it’s great to be recognised by this competition.

“There were some incredible innovations on show at Quick Pitch so I’m delighted to have been shortlisted amongst them.

“NeuroConcise will benefit people who have no means of communication whatsoever- a lot of them have been in a so-called ‘locked in’ state or in some cases, people don’t even know if they are aware of their surroundings or not. Our technology will first of all provide clarity around their awareness and secondly, offer them a movement-free communication channel.”

Vying for their chance to be in the final top twelve, 24 companies delivered a high-pressure three minute pitch before facing questions from the judges.

At stake is a position on the NI Tech Mission to California and a chance to compete for a share of the £33,000 prize fund, as well as money-can’t-buy mentoring, networking and business development through the Northern Ireland Science Park’s NISP CONNECT.

Organiser of the competition, Peter Edgar of the Science Park explained: “QuickPitch is the semi-final stage of INVENT, which is all about telling the story of a breakthrough idea which has the potential to change an industry or solve a global problem which can make people’s lives better. It’s fast and exciting.”

INVENT 2015 received 82 entries across 6 categories of; Agri-Food, Creative Media and Consumer Internet, Electronics, Enterprise Software, Life and Health.

The competition both reflects and nurtures the rise of Northern Ireland’s Knowledge Economy.

Last year’s Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) reported that 295 tech startups were formed in 2014 alone.

Twenty-two of these new companies have between them raised investment of £32m in the last 12 months, indicating that the Northern Ireland tech sector is starting to spark.

Julie Ann O’Hare, Director Business Banking at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “This was the best Quick Pitch yet.

“Last year we witnessed the benchmark being raised significantly and INVENT 2015 has taken it to even greater heights. I congratulate all 24 finalists on their excellent pitches and encourage them to stick with it. The evening was a testament to the innovation, ambition and commercial potential that exists within Northern Ireland. Bank of Ireland is proud to play a leading role in this.”

The INVENT 2015 judging panel included Michael O’Hara, CMO of GSMA in Boston, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide (and the man behind one of the most dynamic global tech events in the calendar, the Mobile World Congress) and technology entrepreneur Lee Strafford, who co-founded internet service provider Plusnet, both of whom flew into Belfast to evaluate the emerging local tech talent.

The Top 12 will now embark on a unique six month process supported by NISP CONNECT, which will see their inventions challenged and refined by some of the best mentors and advisors in the NI science, tech and business worlds.

NISP CONNECT Programme Manager, Peter Edgar continued: “For many of our Top 12, this was the first opportunity to reveal their innovations to the public for the first time, but, having secured their place, they are on a journey to creating a business which has global commercial potential. “Essentially, this was the beginning of 12 new companies from Northern Ireland - and that’s hugely exciting. At the end of this programme, our Top 12 will have a viable business plan and will be ready to pitch to some of the biggest customers and networks in Northern Ireland and across the world.”

The climax of the competition is the INVENT Awards on 8 October 2015. Over 600 investors, entrepreneurs, executives, top research scientists, professional services leaders and elected officials will gather at Titanic Belfast to hear the announcement of the winners. Tickets are on sale now at www.invent2015.co

For more information on INVENT, visit www.invent2015.co.