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Neurovalens embarks on second ground-breaking R&D project and creates 22 new jobs

24th January 2020

Belfast based health tech company Neurovalens, a global leader of neuro-technology products, is embarking on the development of a ground-breaking medical device for the treatment of obesity.

The company specialises in combining neuroscience and technology to tackle global health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and sleep disorders. The investment in research and development will be accompanied by the creation of 22 jobs to support business-wide growth.

The Project
The new device builds upon the success of their pioneering weight loss device, Modius. The technology is based on the neuro stimulation of specific areas of the brain responsible for influencing appetite and cravings.

Invest NI has supported the company from an early stage and it is fantastic to see it growing and establishing itself as a leader in its field. The new jobs created by this investment will bring the company’s staff complement to 36.

The new medical device will be a regulatory approved medical product. The R&D grant will enable the company to undertake pivotal clinical trials, in collaboration with Ulster University and University of California San Diego, to prove the effectiveness of the technology as a treatment for obesity.

Dr Jason McKeown, Co-founder and CEO of Neurovalens, who was also recently awarded the Helen Ramsey Turtle Scholarship at QUB said: “This is an exciting time for the company as we begin development of our second device, which will help tackle the problem of obesity. We are also growing our team across a range of disciplines from senior management to technical and marketing, to enable us to effectively develop, market, sell and support both the new medical device and Modius

Results and summary of benefits realised

Dr Jason McKeown, Co-founder and CEO, Neurovalens
Neurovalens recently secured £4.6 million in equity funding from a number of investors including Invest NI’s TechstartNI, which is part of the agency’s Access to Finance initiative.

Invest NI’s Director of Innovation, Research and Development, Dr Vicky Kell, said: “Neurovalens has developed innovative, disruptive technology that has huge market potential given the global epidemic of obesity and associated health complications.

“Invest NI has supported the company from an early stage and it is fantastic to see it growing and establishing itself as a leader in its field. The new jobs created by this investment will bring the company’s staff complement to 36.

Neurovalens’ Modius device, which non-invasively stimulates the brain to reduce appetite and cravings, is revolutionising the weight loss industry and has already helped thousands of people to lose weight.

The company is a great example of how a partnership approach with Invest NI can deliver a commercial success story for Northern Ireland.”

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?
Dr Vicky Kell, Director of Innovation, Research and Development, Invest NI

"Invest Northern Ireland is supporting the R&D project and new jobs with an offer of over £1million of support."

Dr Jason McKeown, Co-founder and CEO of Neurovalens

“Invest NI has been a great source of support to us since we set up the company in 2013. We benefitted from taking part in the Propel programme, and received R&D grant support to develop our Modius product. This latest offer of assistance is allowing us to capitalise on the success of Modius and will help us achieve our growth targets, generating significant new export sales.”

TechstartNI and Invest NI’s R&D support are part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014–2020.

Hear from Dr Jason McKeown on how Access to Finance has helped his company grow:

Creative Composites

29th July 2019

Lisburn based Creative Composites invests £11m in state of the art manufacturing facility

Company name & background

The Creative Composites is the UK’s most advanced composites manufacturer supplying a wide range of innovative products for demanding applications. It provides world leading products through a unique combination of better design, better manufacturing and better service.

Reasons for Project

Creative Composites works with customers across a diverse range of industries including automotive, rail, bus & coach, off-highway and medical.

The Project

Among the new technology installed as part of the investment is the UK’s largest compression mould press which will further enhance Creative Composites’ position at the leading edge of what can be achieved with composites.

Results and summary of benefits realised

Invest NI Chief Executive, Alastair Hamilton, added: “This significant investment introduces new technology to Northern Ireland’s advanced manufacturing industry and enhances Creative Composites’ capability to produce high-tech composites for a range of applications.”

“In a highly competitive global industry, this commitment to innovation helps to cement Creative Composites’ reputation as one of the leading composites manufacturers in the UK.

“The new jobs are also a great boost for the economy, and with half already in place, are a real demonstration of the company’s growth. We are pleased to be helping this highly-skilled and ambitious local company achieve its growth ambitions.”

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

Invest Northern Ireland has offered £1.5million towards this capital project part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

The new jobs being recruited include production operatives, engineering and managerial positions. Once all the jobs are in place they will generate over £2.7million annually in additional salaries to the local economy.

Future plans 

Speaking about the investment, Jonathan Holmes, Managing Director of Creative Composites, said: “The applications for composites are endless and we are focused on expanding our business in key sectors including automotive and rail.

Heavenly Tasty Organics

1st April 2019

Invest NI have recently produced a video case study showcasing how a company can benefit from ERDF funding. Company founder Shauna McCarney-Blair, highlights the benefits of ERDF funding and how it has helped their business.

Seating Matters

13th February 2019

North West healthcare seating manufacturer Seating Matters motions towards international growth

The Project

The family business works with leading healthcare organisations around the world and hopes to build on its recent supplier listing within the network of Veterans Hospitals in the USA.

Eight new jobs will be recruited as part of Seating Matters’ growth plans, aimed at increasing sales to over £6 million by 2020. The business is also investing heavily in marketing and product development, all with support from Invest Northern Ireland.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

Des Gartland, Invest NI’s Executive Director of Regional Business recently visited Seating Matters at its Limavady-based premises.

 “We are pleased to be helping Seating Matters implement a growth strategy that will enable the business to achieve its full potential. In particular, the benefits Seating Matters has gained from applying exemplar lean manufacturing practices across the plant are commendable and I hope will aid the continued increase in global sales.”

Invest NI has offered the company support with its recruitment, marketing and product development activities as well as technical advice with securing product patents and implementing lean practices.

Martin Tierney, Director of Seating Matters added: “We have dedicated a lot of time and effort to both streamline our production methods and augment our chair design so that it can be fully adapted to the needs of users.

“Seating Matters supplies specialist seating to healthcare providers, including National Health Services, nursing homes and hospitals. The product range caters to the holistic needs of patients, providing comfort, postural support and pressure management and is currently distributed across the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Malta, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Australia, Canada and USA.

Invest NI’s R&D support is part funded by ERDF under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

Future plans 

Commenting on the company’s progress, Des said:

“Seating Matters operates at the forefront of seating research and innovation. The company’s plans to expand its workforce is good news for the Causeway Coast and Glens region and reflects the growing demand from its customers across varied export markets.“

Of Invest NI’s support, Martin said:

"It is enabling us to enhance our product range, grow our workforce and increase international sales. Our mission is to change the world of healthcare seating and we aim to continue to share our knowledge with the world to ensure no person has to face unnecessary discomfort or mortality.”

The Robot Exchange

13th February 2019

The Robot Exchange chooses Lisburn for new R&D hub

The Project

The Robot Exchange specialists in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions (facilitating the automation of repetitive tasks), is investing in a research and development project that will deliver innovation in the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The company, founded just over a year ago, is headquartered in Nottingham but is setting up a research and development hub in Lisburn to carry out the project and support future business growth.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

Invest Northern Ireland is supporting the R&D project to increase customer accessibility and reduce the cost through the development of new IT architecture. The R&D project will also result in seven additional jobs being created.

Andy Wallace, CEO, Robot Exchange said “We chose Northern Ireland as the location for the research project because of the availability of skilled developers and the support from Invest NI. As well as providing financial assistance, Invest NI helped us to clarify our vision.

The Robot Exchange uses RPA solutions to automate tasks such as back office administration; resulting in increased efficiencies and cost savings as well as freeing up staff to concentrate on higher value activities.

Our RPA solution uses software robots to capture data and manipulate applications in the way a human would. They interpret, trigger responses and communicate with other software applications in order to perform a variety of repetitive tasks.

This R&D project will involve designing, developing and testing new ways to organise and integrate systems (architecture) for our RPA solution. We want to continue to provide an affordable and accessible route for businesses that are keen to adopt RPA to create efficiencies but are not in a position to invest heavily in skilled staff and licensing.“

Future plans 

Dr Vicky Kell, Director of Innovation, Research & Development, Invest NI, comments: “The Robot Exchange is a company that recognises the importance of R&D to business growth and is investing early in its lifecycle to stay ahead of the competition. Investment in R&D results in competitive advantage, increased sales and, hence, growth.

Increasing business expenditure on research and development is one of Invest NI’s three Business Strategy outcomes and we were pleased to note that the most recent Research and Development Statistical Bulletin on R&D expenditure by businesses shows an upward trend in R&D investment by SMEs, which reached £43 million in 2017.”

Invest NI’s support is part funded by ERDF under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020

Liopa Ltd

5th September 2018

The Project

LipRead’s primary function will be improving the accuracy of commonly used voice-driven assistants (such as Siri, Cortana or Alexa) and voice activated applications in noisy environments such as vehicles, offices and factories. Other potential uses of lip-reading technology, which will be multi-lingual, include:

  • An aid for the hard of hearing via automated subtitling
  • Word/phrase search in upload video
  • Human-robotic interaction; and
  • Preventing authentication fraud (aka Anti-spoofing)

Liopa is led by seasoned entrepreneurs Liam McQuillan and Richard McConnell. Together they have been involved in the creation of several indigenous NI tech start-up companies that have successfully developed software products for the worldwide market and have achieved substantial exit values.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

The company has secured $1million in funding – led by its initial backers, Techstart NI, and QUBIS – which will enable it to commercialise the LipRead platform and actively market it for global use. Its latest investors include the AI Seed Fund which exclusively supports start-ups that harness Artificial Intelligence to create leading edge tech solutions. The funding round was also supported by Co- Fund NI II (ERDF)

Hal Wilson of Techstart NI added his support: “Liopa brings together great technology, strong team and an exciting market opportunity. This latest funding round marks a significant step forward and will support the team’s plans to bring the LipRead technology to market”

Future plans 

Confirming the latest funding milestone, Liam McQuillan said: “Voice is forecast to overtake the keyboard and mouse as the primary means of interacting with mobile & computing applications. The big stumbling block however is the accuracy of current voice technologies in real world environments –commands get misinterpreted frequently due to background noise. LipRead will augument current technologies and provide this much needed accuracy, thus ensuring the success of the “Voice UI”.

Pentech Ventures

29th June 2017

Financial Instruments (FIs) provide non-grant support for business investments via loans, guarantees and equity. As an investor in the company, the Fund Manager takes a proactive role at an early stage of development of ideas and products helping new and entrepreneurial companies navigate financial investment in parallel with proactive assistance with building the business.

This case study explains how a typical relationship between the FI Fund Manager and investee company develops. 

The Fund Manager

Pentech Ventures is an Edinburgh based technology venture capital fund management business operating since 2001 which established a Belfast office to manage dedicated NI Funds.

Under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020, Pentech Ventures has been awarded a £20m mandate to manage an integrated suite of products focused on startup and early stage companies in Northern Ireland – branded ‘techstart ni’.  techstart ni includes the provision of advice via an Investment Awareness Programme, proof of concept grants managed as 5 year contracts for services between Invest NI and Pentech Ventures and seed capital which is delivered via 10 Year Limited Partnership structures.

The Investee Company

A local Northern Ireland company was interested in cognitive decline caused by dementia and impact sports. They believed they would be able to transform the ability to detect disease related cognitive decline at the very earliest stages of development.

The Stages of Fund Manager Relationship

  • Proof of Concept Grant awarded

The company was awarded a £40k Proof of Concept (PoC) grant in early 2015 to refine the product design and to produce early prototypes. techstart ni worked with the company to establish the best business model to pursue and introduced the company to others in GB with experience of the cognitive health market.

  • Initial ERDF Equity Investment

The company’s thesis captured interest but progress was needed to demonstrate that the idea was viable and the company had the capability to deliver early iterations of its proposed solution. techstart ni invested £250k in March 2016 believing that further funding could be attracted as the business progressed.

  • Investment Round Extension

techstart ni worked proactively with the company between March and October 2016 to identify and close a further £275k of investment. They also made introductions between the company and a number of GB based health professionals and a NI based executive who led the British Business Bank’s Angel CoFund investment into the company as part of this round of investment.

  • Business Assistance by techstart

Crucially, techstart ni was able to introduce the company to a variety of companies to help address challenges they faced.

More specifically, they introduced the company to a Northern Ireland SME which could manufacture the product, and also established a relationship with a recruiter who successfully found personnel for what had been hard to fill positions within the company. techstart ni also introduced the company to a finance manager who looks after all financial aspects of the business as well as introductions to potential partners and customers. In addition, they provided CEO coaching and support and corporate governance advice.

  • Follow on Round Assistance

A £2m funding round is currently underway. Introductions have been made to potential new investors based across the UK. The techstart ni team also continue to provide support as the investment round progresses.

Time Committed to the Company

techstart ni have helped at multiple levels in the business with practical support, which continues.

During the Proof of Concept (PoC) phase, there were regular update meetings on progress and the business model. Post PoC and prior to equity investment, further meetings were held to discuss and refine how much funding would be required to achieve meaningful business progress.

After the initial investment and before a round extension there were again multiple meetings to discuss additional third party investment. This support has continued after the equity investment with bi weekly meetings and monthly board meetings, as well as techstart ni using their network within NI and further afield to help the company seek new investors and potential partners and customers.

 

Repstor Ltd

26th April 2017

Reasons for Project

The company identified an opportunity to specifically address ECM in an environment where very large quantities of information are grouped and managed on a casework basis, such as is required by large legal services companies.

The Project

Repstor were offered £91,497 of grant support for its “LSCIM project” to develop a platform which manages and protects case and email information within Office 365 by extending the capabilities of SharePoint to help easily manage cases. Secure and familiar case management tools are provided within Office 365 and are accessible from Microsoft Outlook. Users can use SharePoint sites and lists to store case content. Users can apply structure, metadata, workflow processes and policy to each case type easily and consistently.

Results and summary of benefits realised

The company is now a Microsoft Gold partner and as a result of the project the company has secured Kana, a Verint Company, which has deployed Repstor solutions across its legal department worldwide to assist with filing, improve collaboration and provide efficient offline working. Three of the UK’s top 30 legal firms and a US 1,800 person practice are currently engaged in product trials.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

The R&D project would have been scaled back and not fully implemented. The financial risk to undertake all proposed activities in the proposed timescale without the ERDF assisted funding from Invest NI would have been too high.

Future plans 

Repstor are currently assessing further R&D opportunities to lever Microsoft’s ongoing significant investments Business Analytics, Cloud Workflow and Machine Learning to develop market leading capabilities in their sector.

Mulholland Social

9th February 2017

Delivered by Invest NI and part funded through the ERDF Programme, the Design for Business Programme helped businesses to respond to new market opportunities and generate new product ideas. Support included one-to-one consultations and interactive workshop sessions with professional design consultants.

In this case study Des Mulholland, of Mulholland Social, who took part in Invest NI's Design for Business Programme, explains how his business benefitted from taking part.
 

 

Causeway Sensors Ltd

18th January 2017

Reasons for Project

The company identified an opportunity to investigate biological coupling schemes to nanostructured surfaces for the detection of proteins.  The aim of the project was to establish an understanding of a suitable base layer for the detection system and then to identify protocols for the detection of specific proteins which would be of interest to academic and industrial researchers.  The technology can be used for detecting cancer and other diseases in their early stages. 

The Project

In October 2015 Causeway Sensors Limited were offered £98,600 of grant support for their ‘Coupling schemes for nanostructured chips’ project through the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.  The company has created prototypes of an instrument that can be used by academics to identify protein detection.  The purpose of the Research and Development project is to investigate a detection system that will complement the instrument and tailor its use to areas of key interest to researchers in the field of drug discovery.

Results and summary of benefits realised

As a result of the technology developed in the Research and Development and project progress the company secured funding through the Development Fund which is also ERDF funded; Kernel Capital Growth Fund (NI), £500,000 in June 2016.  The company will use this investment to commercialise the technology both nationally and internationally and in turn create employment for the NI economy.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

The R&D project would not have proceeded without ERDF funding as the company did not have the financial resources to recruit the necessary researchers.  The ERDF funding therefore enabled the employment of two researchers and for the project to proceed.

Causeway Sensors will use this investment to commercialise its technology, with an initial focus on the growing area of medical diagnostics.

“The investment from Kernel will help Causeway to develop the potential of its nanotechnology, and to grow and scale both nationally and internationally, while also stimulating the local economy and creating new employment opportunities in areas where Northern Ireland has world class leadership.” Jayne Brady, Kernel Capital

The company hosted a visit in November 2016 by Tamara Pavlin, UK Desk Officer, EU Commission to hear at first-hand how the project is progressing.

Future plans 

Causeway Sensors has developed Intellectual Property for the product and will continue to develop the prototype to ensure it is desirable for customers to purchase.

 

Cavanagh Free Range Eggs

10th January 2017

Delivered by Invest NI and part funded through the ERDF Programme, the Design for Business Programme helps businesses to respond to new market opportunities and generate new product ideas. Support includes one-to-one consultations and interactive workshop sessions with professional design consultants.

Cavanagh Free Range Eggs based in County Fermanagh supply free range eggs to retail outlets, hotels and restaurants in Northern Ireland.

Eileen Hall from Cavanagh Eggs discusses how they worked with Invest NI and the Design for Business Programme in order to create a new design for their packaging. In the video below Eileen discusses how the company were more than satisfied with the benefits of taking part in the Design for Business Programme.

Environmental Marketing Solutions (EMS)

21st September 2016

Environmental Marketing Solutions Logo

Company name & background

Environmental Marketing Solutions (EMS) was founded by Harry McCourt, incorporated on 22 May 2006 and commenced trading on 22 June 2006. They are based in Killyman, Co Tyrone. Since inception the company focused on designing and manufacturing machines suitable for the recycling and construction industries. EMS currently designs bespoke systems to suit individual customer needs including shredders, air knifes, bag openers, flip flow screens, blowers, picking bays, horizontal and vertical conveyors and fully enclosed cabins   EMS offer a complete turnkey package designed exclusively for the customers’ needs.

Reasons for Project

In this project EMS have designed, developed and manufactured a compact density separator primarily for mixed municipal waste. The design will have a drum less density separator with integral airflow filtration employing airflow redirection and pocket filters, capable of a throughput of material for separation in excess of 35 tonnes per hour at an efficiency level greater than 95%. It will separate waste streams into lights and heavies, reducing waste disposal costs. The unit is to be self-contained with removable conveyors and legs allowing it to be transported in a single 40ft (12m) high cube container.

Drum separators are not new but EMS drum less design overcomes the drawbacks associated with the drum separator designs (particularly plastic films wrapping around the drum). A Density Separator is a device that uses an air current to separate a material from another of greater density or particles from other greater size. By using air, materials can be separated based on other material density or shape. Essentially the machine separates waste streams into two fractions; heavy and light.

The Project

EMS’s Grant for R&D Density Separator has been successfully completed.

The Benefits for Customers having such a product are:

  • Can separate two waste streams into two fractions; heavy and lights quickly and efficiently
  • Reduce waste disposal costs and maximise material recovery with density separation technology
  • Recovering high-quality, reusable material from waste not only equips you with a valuable resource – it also boosts your green credentials
  • EMS Ltd’s density separators benefit from leading separation technology, ensuring an ultra-efficient process and guaranteeing high returns
  • They are also fully self-contained, extremely durable, with the advantage of being easily incorporated into existing systems

Invest NI has offered the company over £70,340 of assistance, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund

Results and summary of benefits realised

EMS has secured a £1.6m deal in UAE following investment in product development and a sales focus on new international markets.

The local recycling company used an Invest Northern Ireland Grant for R&D to develop an innovative extended product range and took part in an Invest NI trade mission to Saudi Arabia and UAE to identify new customers.

How did ERDF funding, through the EU Investment for Growth & Jobs Programme, contribute to the success of the project/scheme?

The R&D project would not be fully implemented as the company believes that the financial risk to undertake all proposed activities in the proposed timescale without the ERDF assisted funding from Invest NI was too high.

Future plans 

EMS remains committed to continue to develop innovative, market led, export focused product development to service the growing waste processing market.

Design for Business

25th August 2016

Innovative product design can reduce production costs and improve selling power, and a strong brand identity delivered through effective design can support investment in product and service development by offering differentiation and competitive advantage.

Delivered by Invest NI and part funded through the ERDF programme,  Design for Business will help businesses to respond to new market opportunities and generate new product ideas. Support will include one-to-one consultations and interactive workshop sessions with professional design consultants.

In this case study Peter McConvey, Director of The Signature Works, explains how, with the help of the Invest NI Design programme, they rebranded, increasing sales and turnover and making design a central part of the organisation.

 

Achievements and Successes of 2007-2013

3rd February 2016

The 2007-2013 ERDF Programme offered a varied selection of support within Northern Ireland. From research and development, roads and buses and tourism projects including the Giro d'Italia and the Waterfront International Conference Venue to name a few, all received funding from the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme. So varied are the projects that an 'Achievements and Successes' brochure was published which showcases just some of the projects which have impacted on Northern Ireland citizens. To read more about these projects and the impact funding has in Northern Ireland, download the 'Achievements and Successes' brochure View the Achievements and Successes brochure (PDF).