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Ulster University staff and students took home the top prizes at Invent 2020, an event celebrating the brightest new business ideas in the region, showcasing local innovations with the greatest commercial potential.

As the overall winner, KLAS-PDT Technology took home a prize package of £13,000 from a total prize fund of £33,000. Founded by Ulster University lecturer Bridgeen Callan, KLAS-PDT Technology is a peptide based non-invasive therapy for metastatic melanoma, a type of skin cancer. It is used alongside current immunotherapies to increase their effectiveness at a reduced cost to the provider and less toxicity for the user.

Bridgeen Callan, Ulster University lecturer and founder of KLAS-PDT Technology said:

“We have developed an innovative new therapy for treating metastatic melanoma that results in no scarring for the patient and also reduces cost. The INVENT process has been invaluable to help me translate the science into something that is more understandable and which I hope can be made available to everyone.”

The winner of the Student INVENT competition was Ulster University student Kezie Todd, who has developed Arcadia Report, an immersive mystery experience that transforms your city into an escape room via their rich story-telling platform.

Ulster University Professor Tara Moore was named as one of three recipients of the Innovators Award launched by Catalyst to recognise those who have used innovation to pivot and respond positively to the coronavirus pandemic. Tara received the award for her innovation that has helped to reduce the impact of the pandemic at a local, national and international level.

Tim Brundle, Director of Research and Impact at Ulster University said:

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at Ulster University so it is fantastic to see so many of our staff and students recognised for their amazing work. We’re committed to helping our teams create an innovative launch pad with the skills and knowledge to be in a position to present a marketable and investable proposition.”

Organised by Catalyst, with headline partner Bank of Ireland, INVENT is an annual celebration of the brightest new business ideas in the region which supports, showcases and rewards the local innovations that have the greatest commercial potential.

The competition aims to shine a light on the creativity of local entrepreneurs and despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic more than 100 talented innovators applied for this year’s INVENT, with 12 finalists chosen to compete for the main prize.

While INVENT is normally a huge gathering of Northern Ireland’s innovation community, the team pivoted to make it a digital event due to Covid-19 restrictions, with teams pitching at the ICC Belfast’s hybrid studio and streamed live to a virtual audience. The easy to access online format increased engagement, with more than 1,500 people from around the world tuning in to hear from the entrepreneurs on the night.