Thursday, 15 March 2012

Innovation Ecosystem in CIT

Last Friday I visited Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) who were the winners of two of the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards in 2011. On arrival I was met by Michael Loftus Head of the Science and Engineering Faculty who was my host for the day. I also paid a courtesy call to Dr Brendan Murphy President of CIT who I had met last month at the Irish Maritime Training College at Haulbowline.

PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland with 
Dr Brendan Murphy President of Cork Institute of Technology

My visit coincided with CIT Innovation Week which culminates in the coveted overall Entrepreneur(s) of the Year together with a 1st Prize of €4000 sponsored by Cork County and City Enterprise Boards. In all some €10,000 in prizes are awarded to Most Innovative Entry, Best Graduate, Best Business Plan and Best Exhibition Stand. Uniquely for a third level exhibition a parallel exhibition for second level students was interspersed with the third level exhibition in the Nexus Hall. This was to show the CIT ethos that the Innovation Ecosystem starts at second level then graduates to third level and onto fourth level where the leading Entrepreneurs in the Rubicon Centre nurture the CIT Enterprise hub to support and develop innovative knowledge based business. 

The Rubicon Building at CIT 
The keynote speaker at the Awards Ceremony was Bill Liao. Bill is a Serial Entrepreneur and Co Founder of the Coder Dojo Movement to assist young people to learn how to programme. His vision is captured in his book 'Stone Soup: a Secret Recipe for Making Something from Nothing'. He has previously spoken at the London School of Economics, the Global Forum in Stockholm and at Technology Entertainment Design (TED) Conference at Long Beach California. Having heard him speak, I can confirm that he is an inspiring motivator for young people though somewhat unconventional in his approach.

With Michael Loftus I toured many of the stands where there was an interesting mix of mostly CIT Third year Mechanical and Biomedical Students competing for the main Innovation Awards and secondary pupils competing for the Cork Schools Enterprise Programme Regional Finals. Two entries from these schools in particular caught my eye - Retrospekt from St Vincent's School Cork, X-Sellerate Tag Hoodies from Scoil Mhuire gan Smal in Blarney and BinCeption from St. Colman’s College, Midleton. This competition offers second level students in Cork the opportunity to set up and run their own business experiencing all the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Overall winners of the CIT Prize for Innovation – Cool Counter – left to right Daniel Goulding, Shane Fogarty, Cian O’Leary, PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Darren Dawson, Cian Harley, Ann-Marie Cullinane, Mohammed Slimane and Michael Loftus Head of Faculty CIT
The overall winners of the CIT Entrepreneurs of the Year worth €4000 were Cool Counter from a combination of the Business Mechanical and Biomedical Schools in CIT. Cool Counter is a cooling device for beverages that can be integrated into a bar top and keeps drink cool. The Most Innovative Award of €2000 went to the Muscle Stress Indicator which provides real time analysis that correlates the relationship between a muscle that is under stress and the resulting heat that is generated because of this. Prize for the Best Stand went to Road Network Solutions a project examining road junction safety.

Winners of the Best Exhibition Stand with Michael Loftus Head of Faculty CIT, Evan Collins 3rd Year Mechanical Engineering, Agnieszka Leja, 3rd Year Biomedical Engineering 
and PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland
As mentioned already the CIT Rubicon Centre is an enterprise hub which is home to some 44 knowledge based start-up companies. The centre is jointly financed by CIT and Enterprise Ireland. Clients based at the Rubicon are at different stages of development from concept stage to completing their first customer orders and many are already trading on the international market. Company names currently there are Treemetrics, Radisens Diagnostics and Kernel Capital Partners in addition to Entrepreneur in Residence Kieran Moynihan. The CIT Innovation Ecosystem comprises Research Clusters which feed into Technology Centres which feed into the Rubicon Incubator Centre of Commercialisation.

While at CIT, I visited the 2020 Zero Energy Centre with Daithí Fallon Head of Department of Manufacturing, Biomedical and Facilities Engineering where a model passive building is under construction to include a new insulated curtain wall on the external façade of the building.

PJ Rudden with Daithí Fallon visiting the 2020 Zero Energy Project
Together with Des Walsh, Head of Civil Structural and Environmental Engineering, I also met two student classes in both Structural and Energy Engineering where we briefly discussed their project work and likely future work opportunities.

Structural Engineering Class with Lecturer Kieran Ruane, President of Engineers Ireland PJ Rudden, Lecturer Leonard O’Driscoll and Des Walsh Head of Civil Structural & Environmental Engineering
As I left Cork, it was very obvious that CIT is a major force in engineering education in Ireland. 20% of Institute of Technology students around Ireland are engineering students while only 7% of Irish university students do engineering. Little wonder then that the unique Innovation Ecosystem in CIT is making such waves nationally in the technology job creation area in terms of new companies, services and products.

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