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Ulster Innovators Jump For Joy

26 May 2010

University of Ulster staff were jumping for joy this week as they celebrated their 100th successful project in the Innovation Vouchers Programme, which helps small firms access top flight R&D know-how from scientists and researchers in the university.

Funded by Invest Northern Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, the Innovation Voucher Programmes offer small businesses support worth up to £4,000 (€5000 in the Republic of Ireland). Vouchers are then redeemed against the cost of practical advice and expertise.

Joining the University to celebrate its accomplishment was electronics firm FSL from Cookstown – the 100th company to receive an Innovation Voucher. The company have developed a new product called JumpMAT which is used to measure the physical performance of athletes.

FSL sought expertise from Dr Rodney Kennedy of the University’s School of Sports Studies to test the validity of flight and contact time measurements of the JumpMAT, an innovative electronic fitness measurement device, already used by the Irish and English international rugby teams, as well as Olympic cycling and diving teams.

John Meenan, Managing Director of FSL was delighted with the results of the work.

“JumpMAT is a new product and to ensure its acceptance at the highest levels, we needed to have its results validated by an independent body.  

“The University of Ulster’s Sports Academy was able to calibrate our JumpMAT with an internationally recognised piece of laboratory equipment and confirm the accuracy of the results.  Ulster’s independence and international reputation has proved a major asset in the acceptance of our product“.  

Tim Brundle, Director of the University’s Office of Innovation, said,

“With a successful heritage in innovation support, Ulster is proud of its achievements in the Voucher Programme. Work has been completed by academics in all 6 faculties and right across the University’s four campuses. This is a clear reflection of the breadth and diversity of our specialist skills which small companies are finding so relevant to their immediate and longer term business needs.”

Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, said: “FSL is one of the many Northern Ireland companies to recognise the value of innovation in developing their business.

“I commend the resourceful and imaginative thinking of this firm, who with the support of specialists at the University of Ulster have created a product with wide reaching applications across the sports industry.

Just some of the projects already helped by the University of Ulster under the programme include:

· fire and skid resistance testing,
· product and package design,
· the design of recycled plastic structures,
· research into the sterilisation of healthcare devices,
· the development of a communication and policy engagement strategy,
· testing of a new mind mapping e-learning package.

Since the Invest NI Innovation Voucher Programme launched in the summer of 2008, Ulster has successfully completed 100 projects North and South, providing unparalleled support for businesses across Northern Ireland.

Dr. Martin Lyes, Enterprise Ireland’s Manager of Research and Innovation said: “It is great to see the University of Ulster bring so many of its resources together to help a small company develop a new product.  More companies should consider collaborating with higher education institutes to tap into the vast knowledge and expertise that exists amongst their students and academic staff and the Innovation Vouchers initiative is an ideal vehicle for such cooperation”.

Notes for editors

The Innovation Voucher scheme is administered jointly by Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland, enabling successful companies to access knowledge providers from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.