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Ivan Coulter of Sigmoid, Facebook's Colm Long and the University of Ulster's Barry Henderson network at the Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards launch

THE UNIVERSITY of Ulster today played host to the launch of the Irish Times InterTradeIreland All-island Innovation Awards. Over 90 companies attended the launch event which took place today at the Magee campus.

Now in its second year, the all-island competition aims to recognise and promote the best service, product or operational innovations throughout the island. Companies can enter one of seven innovation categories and an ‘Innovation of the Year’ will be selected from the category winners, receiving a communications and advertising package from the Irish Times worth €200,000.

The launch event was hosted by Colm Long, Head of Operations, Facebook and last year's overall ‘Innovation of the Year’ winner, Ivan Coulter, CEO, Sigmoid Pharma. Also speaking at the event was Altnagelvin-based C-TRIC, which took home the North-South collaboration category award last year.

Speaking at the event as a member of the 2011 judging panel, Colm Long said: “I would encourage all innovative organisations to enter the Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards. Winners will not only benefit from the endorsement and recognition of their business approach, they will play a bigger part in helping both economies on the island in promoting an innovative, enterprising and knowledge-based business culture. “

Attendees at the event heard that innovation should not be limited to the laboratory, with last year's winning innovations ranging from biodegradable towels to remote sleep monitoring systems, through to service innovations aimed at tackling childhood malnutrition in developing countries.

Eddie Friel of the University of Ulster's Office of Innovation said: “The University is delighted to be associated with the launch. The University’s Research and development activity is vital to the future health of the economy, and  plays a key role in developing the innovation ecosystem across Ireland north and south.”

InterTradeIreland Strategy and Policy Director, Aidan Gough said: “Our recent business monitor survey reported that 71% of firms are planning to undertake innovative activity in the next 12 months so innovation is very much alive and well on the island.  I would urge organisations regardless of size, sector or location– to enter the awards this year and promote their innovative practices.”

The launch of the 2011 awards has tapped into the buzz that surrounds Derry's victory in the contest for the 2013 City of Culture title, and has married this with a competition which recognises innovation in business across the island.

Ivan Coulter of Sigmoid Pharma. is a member of this years judging panel and explained what he would be looking for in winning entries:

“To be successful, companies must demonstrate that their concept is both original and has significant commercial potential. Articulating the business and end-user impacts as a result of the innovation will also be crucial. We need to see evidence of the current and potential returns, for example creation of new markets, sales growth or operational efficiencies as well as clear demonstration that the management team can effectively manage the innovation process from concept to market, which is key to commercialisation.”

Closing date for applications is 20th December 2010 and the final awards ceremony takes place in Dublin in March next year.

The launch event was hosted by the Ulster and supported by Derry City Council.


AUDIO: David Young asked Colm Long how universities could encourage and support the innovation process. Click here to hear the Facebook executive's views:

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