On Thursday evening I was extremely privileged to attend the NISP INVENT Awards’ ceremony, at Titanic Belfast.
I’m embarrassed to say, before I attended the ceremony I had a relatively limited knowledge of entrepreneurial opportunities and initiatives in Northern Ireland. However, by the time I left, I felt thoroughly educated.
For those, who like myself, are uniformed about the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP), it provides infrastructure such as buildings that are startup specific, and helps to build ‘eco-systems’ that provide a support mechanism which is essential for a startup entity.
NISP Awards were presented to companies from 6 different sectors including, ‘Insizelife’ in the Creative Media and Consumer Internet category, ‘Greensword’ in the engineering category, ‘Seesense’ in the electronics category, and ‘PlotBox’ in the Enterprise Software category. ‘PlotBox’ were also crowned NI’s next big business innovator. ‘Microborial Nematicides’ received an award in the Agri-Food category, and our very own QUB Pharmacy team received an award for their innovative ‘VaccineTabs’, in the Life and Health category.
Together with a plaque crafted by Ashdown engineering, each category winner received a share of the £33,000 prize fund and a week long trip to San Diego, and San Francisco in December. (We at The Scoop will be reporting on, QUB Pharmacy and ‘VaccineTab’ leader, Vicky Kett’s journey in the next few months.)
Sixteen year old Grosvenor Grammar school student, Gareth Reid received the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award for his mobile application, ‘Write-To-Read’. Gareth has invented a font which aids people with dyslexia to “improve their comprehension and retention of words”.
The ‘Student Award’ was presented to University of Ulster student, and owner of print and accessory design company ‘One Square’, Karishma Kusurkar. I was fortunate enough to be sitting at the same dinner table as Karishma, where she gave me a sneak peak at some of the handbags she has designed, and I must say that I would be surprised if she isn’t the next Coco Chanel / Louis Vuitton within the next five years! They were absolutely beautiful!
During the awards ceremony, NISP Connect Director, Steve Orr, explained how NISP “provides a platform” enabling “entrepreneurs to answer the challenges which they face” across the various sectors they aim to penetrate.
Mr Orr said, “there is a confidence and courage amongst entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland” which is adding to the “wonderful cultural vibrancy across NI”.
In Mr Orr’s opinion, “NI is on the map in terms of innovation” and the NISP team has helped entrepreneurs to “collaborate and achieve their shared goals rather than competing” against each other.
One project which NISP has been the driving force behind in order to get local creative minds “thinking, talking and collaborating” has been Create 2014.
Sarah McBride, one of the young people involved in the Create 2014 initiative, told the packed awards hall how she had ben nominated by her teacher to participate in ‘Generation Nation’. She went on to say that being part of Create 2014, has shown her that “NI is an amazing place for starting a business, and for young people to leave their mark”. (For more information on the Create 2014 initiative, read Paul Wyatt’ s interview with the team : http://qubthescoop.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/inspiring-the-next-generation-create-2014/ )
The final award of the evening was presented to Dr William Wright CBE, founder of Wright Bus Ballymena, as one of NI’s most successful entrepreneurs. When asked how he has made his business an international success, Mr Wright said, “by never working on a Sunday”.
Attending the NISP Connect Awards was a truly inspiring experience. My eyes were opened to a wonderful world of innovation and creativity, of which previously I had not been aware. The fact that Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial sector continues to exert such vibrancy throughout times of economic hardship, is a huge accolade of which I believe we should all be extremely proud.
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