Flish, a team from Queen's University Belfast who have developed a low cost, low power antenna capable of picking up satellite signals automatically, which could make satellite dishes a thing of the past, are 'flying high' after being announced as the 'the next big thing' to come out of Northern Ireland's research community at the NISP CONNECT £25K Awards last night.
They have walked away with a total prize fund of £13,000 as overall winners of the technology entrepreneur awards which are sponsored by the Bank of Ireland UK, QUB, University of Ulster and AFBI (Agri Food and Biosciences Institute) and supported by NI's Health and Social Care Trusts. Designed as a commercial experience the Awards aim to encourage researchers to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading commercial opportunities.
The innovative equipment developed by Flish is a high gain antenna which has the ability to 'point' to distant signals such as a satellite. It does not need to be aligned, like a satellite dish, and has no moving parts.. It enables satellite dishes to be replaced with flat panels on walls or roof tiles that need no set-up or calibration and will have particular relevance to the commercial satellite broadband market with the long-term aim of replacing the cumbersome domestic satellite dishes. It also has potential application in transportation as it can fit around the curves of vehicles or aircraft. The more compact antenna which has the ability to point to a signal in milliseconds has further application in the military and disaster relief market when a team may only have minutes to setup a lifesaving video link.
Neil Buchanan from Flish said: "It is a great honour to be crowned the overall winner of the £25K Awards. We have worked in conjunction with the European Space Agency to fine tune our unique analogue circuit design and have been able to produce an end product that is more power efficient, lighter and less costly than anything else currently available. The global market value of antennas was estimated to be $10.1billion in 2009 and expected to increase to $13.3billion in 2014 and we believe our innovation has the potential to be a real game changer for the industry. We plan to capitalise on our learning experiences from the £25Ks to seek funding to see the business through to profitability."
The £25k Awards category winners were as follows, each picking up a cheque for £2,500:
NISP CONNECT Director, Steve Orr, said: "The £25K Awards offers a showcase for regional research talent to display their world-class innovations while providing a valuable training and development process towards commercialisation of their innovations. I would like to congratulate all the category winners for their innovative entries however special acknowledgement must go to the overall winners, Flish, who wowed the judges with their pioneering antenna device, which offers great commercial potential.
"This is an extremely exciting time for the team and moving on from the initial stages of business development I have no doubt that Flish will be able to benefit from other NISP CONNECT programmes which are designed to inspire, encourage and nurture local technology entrepreneurs during idea conception, growth and improvement stages."
Clare Guinness, Regional Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK added: "Once again the £25K Awards have been a resounding success with the spotlight shining on Northern Ireland's research community who have worked hard to produce truly innovative projects with real commercial potential. At Bank of Ireland UK we are delighted support the Awards and look forward to developing our relationships with the teams and other local entrepreneurs who are committed to the commercialisation of knowledge for the benefit of our local economy."
The awards were presented at a gala ceremony in the Titanic's Dock & Pump-House at the Northern Ireland Science Park.