Invent competition: Search is on for NI entrepreneurs with ‘global commercial potential’

Catalyst has recently launched its annual ‘Invent’ competition and is hoping to attract over 100 innovators and entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland.

Sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, Invent is now in its 11th year and shows no signs of losing momentum.

Created to discover products with strong innovation and global commercial potential, more than 1,200 applicants have already been through the process since its inception in 2009

Agri-Science category winners

One Invent success story is CropSafe; an AI and satellite-based farming solution, invented by John McElhone (19) and Micheál McLaughlin (19).

Since winning the Agri-Science category in Invent 2019, these two school friends have seen their product go from strength-to-strength and are launching it internationally later this month.

CropSafe is a mobile app that utilises artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to photograph crops from over 100 satellites orbiting the earth.

The CropSafe app provides farmers with detailed reports on their crop health, giving them tools to accurately detect diseases and predict yields weeks in advance.

Over the next 12 months, the duo will be working extensively with farmers globally to tailor CropSafe as a solution to fit into the average farmers’ everyday lives.

Many rural farms are said to be without an internet connection and CropSafe is utilising a special fleet of satellites and cellular networks to bring modern crop surveying to the most remote farms on earth.

‘Invent is the competition for you’

Initially believing they were too small and early-stage to enter Invent, John and Micheál continued with the application and were delighted with the outcome.

John McElhone said: “No matter how new your idea, business or product, Invent is the competition for you.

“Throughout the process, Catalyst guided us through workshops and mentor meetings to refine our idea into a real-life working product.

“The partners that worked with us provided amazing legal and financial advice from Bank of Ireland UK to shortcut some steep learning curves,” he stated.

The key to making Invent work is have a vision for the next 12 months, and then think bigger.

Micheál McLaughlin added: “Also, the moral support from the Catalyst team and the start-ups together provides a buzz that is hard to recreate outside other programmes.

“You will meet new friends and being so close with them on their start-ups journey makes for an amazing community!”

Other recent winners in the Agri-Science category of Invent include:
  • 2018: Crafted Equestrian – an injury prevention solution for horses, invented by Jenny Gregg;
  • 2017: Kegomagic – invented by Connor McGurk, Connor Carville, Donovan Campbell, Patrick Devlin, Bryan Murphy and Aaron Rath;
  • 2016: DipFast – a moulded sheep-showering unit for sheep dipping, invented by Oran Oak Engineering.

The Invent competition offers applicants from a range of sectors the opportunity to get support, gain valuable exposure to a network of business experts and influencers, and potentially scoop part of the £33,000 prize fund.

These sectors include: engineering; agri-science; life and health; enterprise software; electronics; and creative media.

Who can apply?

Invent is open to anyone who is a resident of Northern Ireland; and offers an opportunity for enthusiastic and passionate innovators and entrepreneurs to be part of a unique competition.

The highlight of the Invent competition is said to be the annual awards ceremony, to be held this year on Thursday, October 8, 2020.

Here, around 700 business leaders, innovators and investors will gather to discover who will be crowned the overall winner. Closing date for entries is Friday, March 27, 2020.

To apply, simply follow the link.