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Community Programmes | 02/10/2020

Inspirational NI Companies Recognised For Innovative Responses To Covid-19 Pandemic

Three inspiring companies and one individual have been named as the recipients of the Innovators Award, launched by Catalyst as part of its INVENT Awards to recognise those who have used innovation to pivot and respond positively to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bloc Blinds, Axial 3D, SureCert and Dr Tara Moore received the award for innovation that has helped to reduce the impact of the pandemic at a local, national and international level.

To be considered for the award, companies or individuals had to demonstrate how they had pivoted or developed their product or business in response to the pandemic, addressed a specific issue connected to coronavirus or collaborated in partnership to support rapid innovation.

Magherafelt-based Bloc Blinds was recognised for pivoting from manufacturing blinds to the design and production of face shields, a move that enabled it to bring all of its workforce back from furlough and employ a further 200 local staff.

Belfast-based Axial 3D also pivoted from its normal production of anatomical medical models to begin 3D printing ventilator valves, face shields and respiratory equipment that were in high demand as the health sector responded to the spread of the pandemic.

Recruitment software firm SureCert were recognised for modifying its platforms to allow for faster background checks for volunteers and care workers to ensure people could be hired quickly in areas of need. The company also changed their platform to allow the inclusion of prescription pick-ups and food parcel deliveries.

The individual to receive the Innovator’s Award was Tara Moore, professor of personalised medicine at Ulster University and chief of R&D at Avellino USA. Tara was invited by CIGA healthcare to become chief medical officer to assist with COVID-19 diagnostics and diverted her attention from her day job to head up the Ulster pandemic study team.

Forty nominations were received, across the spectrum of local  large enterprises, SMEs and individuals, which were then considered by a judging panel made up of the alumni of previous winners of Catalyst’s Innovation Founder award, people who have founded and led successful science and technology companies. The panel decided four winners should be recognised for their outstanding leadership and achievements during the pandemic.

Kerry McGarvey, INVENT programme manager at Catalyst said: “This year we wanted to recognise and celebrate the companies and individuals who have stood up and stood out over the past six months in the face of unprecedented challenges. Those companies who have had to pivot, manage cashflow, manage people, adapt and show real resilience to not only survive but to make a real difference in society’s push back against the virus. All are worthy winners.”

Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking NI from Bank of Ireland:  “Through our customers, business community partnerships and our Begin Together programme we have seen the incredible impact and achievements that can be accomplished when we come together with a common purpose to overcome challenges of the pandemic. Bloc Blinds, SureCert Axial 3D and Professor Tara Moore are exemplars of this through the powerful combination of their passion, resilience, determination and skill. This,alongside having a very clear purpose and vision, has resulted in the realisation of their innovations, which is delivering asignificant positive impact in the local and global fight against Covid and reflects the true enterprising spirit of businesses and individuals across Northern Ireland.”

Organised by Catalyst with headline partner Bank of Ireland, Invent is an annual competition that supports, recognises and rewards local innovations and proof of concept ideas that have the greatest commercial potential. The main showcase event will take place virtually on October 8, register here.

For more information or to register to attend please go to https://wearecatalyst.org/programmes/invent/ .