Innovation thrives at UCC's IGNITE programme despite pandemic

Ali-Rose Sisk of Safecare and a nurse working on the frontline and James Northridge, UrAbility pictured ahead of the IGNITE Spring Awards which took place for the first time online on Thursday evening. Picture: Darragh Kane

An entrepreneur diagnosed with dyslexia as a youngster has won Best Business at UCC’s IGNITE Awards for his online educational platform for children with disabilities.James Northridge founded the company UrAbility, which uses algorithms to auto assign online courses and advise on assistive technologies based on users’ technical abilities, spoken language, and location. 

UrAbility supports families to better understand how assistive technology works for the one in five kids in Irish classes that have dyslexia, dyspraxia or autism.

Having Dyslexia himself and ADHD, Mr Northridge dropped out of college before finding assistive technology to get back on track.

Cork northside duo and founders of Traxsit, Conor Walsh and Luke O’Mahony, won Best Business Plan for their GPS devices, powered by the newest IoT technology, which are used for theft prevention and asset monitoring.

Mr O’Mahony said the IGNITE programme at UCC, which nurtures startups to commercial reality, had opened new avenues for business regionally and nationally.

"IGNITE equipped us with the skills and resources to validate our business idea. Among the many benefits, the program will provide you with access. Access to mentorship, access to an invaluable network of successful alumni and industry experts and access to a shared working space full of fellow founders," he said.

Nurse Ali-Rose Sisk founded SafeCare, a management software which reduces documentation time and audit time for nurses and allows them to increase patient contact time.

The 24-year-old from Rostellan in east Cork, who did her four-year nursing undergrad in UCC and is now completing her Masters in Medicine and Health, has recently been awarded a scholarship to study a PhD in Psychiatry Medicine at the University of London.

The Cork woman also runs dementia communication intervention workshops in UCC under the name VERA, after her grandmother, who was diagnosed with dementia six years ago.

The IGNITE programme at UCC, which has supported more than 120 new companies since its inception in 2011, saw its twice-yearly awards take place online for the first time due to the Covid-19 crisis.UCC President, Prof Patrick O’Shea addressed the webinar as did Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation at UCC, while guest speaker on the night was Susan O’Brien, the founder of Smigin – a travel app for people who travel but don’t speak the language. 

A graduate of UCC, Ms O’’Brien speaks six languages and has had executive roles in US-based public and private companies, and has worked directly with some of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2011 and supported by Bank of Ireland, IGNITE is a joint initiative by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, the Local Enterprise Offices in and UCC to encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise creation. 

Since then, it has worked with around 100 start-ups and over 120 founders who have launched companies such as AnaBio Technologies, ApisProtect, Eurocomply, EziVein, LegitFit, OnTheQt, PunditArena,, Talivest, TrustAp and Vconnecta. 

Based at UCC, the 12-month IGNITE programme is open to all recent graduates from all third level institutions in Ireland to work full-time on a scalable start-up idea with potential for commercial or social impact.

IGNITE director Eamon Curtin said: "These are tough and testing times for all businesses and we see how hard our participants work to make their businesses a success.” 

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