University Bridge Fund

Being Investor Ready - Enterprise Ireland's Big ideas Showcase 2017

In its eighth year, the Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas event illustrates the commercial potential of innovations from Ireland’s academic institutions across many different sectors. This year’s Big Ideas showcase was held in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and ten companies had just four minutes to pitch to an audience of established researchers, business experts, academics and a host of investors.

The companies are from a wide range of sectors including Medtech, Fintech, Agritech and Cleantech and all have been through the initial process of getting their products or services ready before pitching their innovations to investors. HookeBio from University of Limerick took home the award of ‘One to Watch’ out of the 10 companies that pitched. Their technology is aimed at the pharmaceutical industry, enabling cost-effective drug screening.

During the panel discussion Helen McBreen, Investment Director at Atlantic Bridge spoke about the Atlantic Bridge €60m University Fund, which is already making a big impact by investing in early stage companies with global potential that are built from world class Irish research. The aim is to create high potential start-ups and support scaling and internationalisation.   

Helen advised that building well-rounded teams with a mix of skillsets is often the key to unlock the potential of early stage research based startups. She also advised to build early relationships with investors, and gave examples of the high touch value add approach that Atlantic Bridge takes with all of its portfolio companies. Investment from Atlantic Bridge accelerates the scaling of companies into global markets and connects companies to partners, customers and key growth markets.

Alongside Helen on the panel was Ena Prosser, Partner at Fountain Healthcare who shared key insights on scaling life science companies and the unique challenges it brings. Most notably, she shared the story of Fountain Healthcare’s recent realisation of Neuravi to J&J in April this year, and the complex yet rewarding journey this Company made from investing to acquisition.

Stephen McNulty CEO at Ambisense, an Atlantic Bridge portfolio company and Olive O’Driscoll CEO at Aventamed joined the two investors on stage to share their experiences of starting a company and raising capital. Stephen said that one of the most important things for him when fundraising was to make sure that both the company and the investors interests are aligned from the offset or otherwise problems will arise further down the line. He mentioned that Ambisense began building a relationship with Atlantic Bridge very early on, which helped immensely when it came around to raising capital.  Olive also shared her stories of angel investment backing her early and supports from Enterprise Ireland as key drivers to success.

 The keynote speaker at Big Ideas 2017 was Mark Pollock, a specialist in resilience and collaboration, who became the first blind man to race to the South Pole in 2009. The following year, a fall from a second story window left him paralysed. Now he is focused on fast tracking a cure for paralysis by creating science and technology research collaborations and translating their results to the clinic.

Trinity College’s Dr. Conor McGinn discussed the future use of artificial intelligence, design and robotics in the home, as well as giving a live demonstration of 'Stevie' the robot. 

The Big Ideas Showcase is a magnificent way to highlight the stellar R&D and innovation that’s happening across the country.  Atlantic Bridge would like to congratulate all ten companies on their pitches and we look forward to seeing the continued opportunities and transformations that Ireland’s community of innovators and disruptors will bring in the future. 

Kathy Kelly, Investment Associate