2015 was a stellar year for long-time Tyndall partner, Cork-based PMD Solutions, who secured over €4m in funding from the EU Horizon 2020 SME Instrument. PMD Solutions was one of only three innovative SMEs from across Europe selected in the health sector of the SME Instrument. The funding will be used to commercialise its new respiratory monitoring device ‘RespiraSense’. Heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, pulse oximetry and respiratory rate, all need to be monitored to provide an overall picture of a patient’s health.
Up to now, respiratory rate has been known as the ‘Lost Vital’ due to the lack of a comprehensive monitoring apparatus. However, PMD’s ‘RespiraSense’ solves that problem and in doing so, is set to become the industry standard in respiratory rate monitoring, a market valued at over €2.2bn. ‘RespiraSense’ is a discreet wireless sensor, placed on the patient’s chest at admission and worn continuously until discharge.
It measures the chest and gut movement during breathing to deliver highly accurate measurements. Myles Murray, PMD Solutions’ founder, explained that ‘RespiraSense’ is explicitly designed to support nurses and enhance routine vital sign observations. “Respiratory rate is a key indicator of a patient’s general well-being, so changes in this vital sign can be indications of respiratory compromise, increasing severity of sepsis, worsening pneumonia, and oncoming heart attacks”.
PMD Solutions has enjoyed a close, symbiotic relationship with Tyndall since its inception, and Tyndall has had crucial input into the development of 'RespiraSense'. Murray is fulsome in his praise, saying, “An institution like Tyndall is an essential asset for start-ups such as ours. They fill the knowledge gap that we, as a start-up, simply can’t afford. Tyndall provided expert input in areas such as electronics and miniaturisation, and they gave us the benefit of their state-of-the-art know how".
"But that’s just one part of the relationship, as PMD Solutions started to mature, Tyndall engaged with us on how to structure and develop the company around a core product, in our case around our wireless ‘RespiraSense’ invention”.
Dutch electronics giant Philips and Tyndall have worked together for almost three decades in a partnership that has evolved over the years. Today, the focus of that relationship is firmly on MedTech and ICT industries. The thrust of Philip’s focus on research and development in medical devices is carried out as part of the EU-driven InForMed project, funded by the ECSEL program.
As Ronald Dekker, Principal Scientist, Philips Research outlined, “There are a lot of potential inventions brewing in the MedTech space, but to bring them to production you need an environment that is specifically targeted and equipped to bridge the gap between concept creation and full-scale production".
"Philips hosts a pilot line facility for medical devices that provides exactly that environment”. 39 Partners from 10 countries participate in the InforMed project, including Tyndall.
The aim of the project is to form manufacturing networks and an eco-system where new medical devices can be seeded and nurtured to grow into new business opportunities for Europe, at a time when there is a paradigm shift from large expensive diagnostic equipment towards small, disposable, minimal invasive and un-obtrusive diagnostic and therapeutic instruments and tools.
Dekker said, “We have had intense co-operation with Tyndall over the past four to five years on a number of projects. We enjoy working with Tyndall because they have an interesting health programme, but importantly, they also have a real feel for what companies need”.
From a Tyndall perspective, its capabilities, technology platforms and health strategy are aligned with those of Philips, but the Institute sees as key its ability to provide a gateway for Philips to SMEs and MNCs in the Irish MedTech and ICT Industry. Dekker acknowledged that Tyndall is a gateway to the extensive MedTech industry in Ireland and also to the US parents of many of those companies, which he sees as an important advantage.
Through Tyndall, Philips is already engaging with three Irish companies and all three projects involve highly innovative smart MedTech solutions to healthcare challenges.
Endeco Technologies, a leader in smart grid optimisation has partnered with Tyndall since the company was established in 2007, and although the business now has offices in London and Dublin, it retains its ‘Smart Grid Lab’ at Tyndall. Michael Phelan, founder and CEO said, “A previous company I worked for had a relationship with Tyndall, so I knew what Tyndall and its team were capable of, and in particular I knew they were conducting very interesting research in wireless technology, an important building block in the creation of Endeco’s energy management solutions”.
Endeco Technologies worked in partnership with Tyndall to create the original technology. Michael Phelan described the initial support as being invaluable. “Start-ups don’t have the resources in-house to develop the breadth of expertise available at Tyndall. We set up an office in the Tyndall incubation centre to allow us maximise the benefits of our working relationship”.
This relationship with Tyndall was instrumental in its ability to attract venture capital as it gave Endeco Technologies the opportunity to sell a product rather than a concept. During the intervening years the company has grown to a position of leadership in its field both in Ireland and in the UK, using IoT to reduce energy consumption for large businesses.
The strength of its offer was recently underpinned with a €3.3m investment by ‘ESB NovusModus’ the ESB Clean Tech Fund. As Phelan explained, “Our clients are large power users within different industries. We manage their participation to the National Grid Scheme with respect of their processes and without disrupting their operations and production”.
Reflecting on his relationship with Tyndall, Phelan said what impresses him apart from the cutting edge technology generated on campus, is the fact that the people at Tyndall are commercially astute. “They understand industry and they understand the importance of delivering within a meaningful timeline. When Mike Hayes and his ICT for Energy Efficiency team say they will do something and will deliver at a certain time, they do, and that’s not always the case when interacting with research institutes”.
2015 was a milestone year for Powervation (PV) - an Irish spin-out company that develops Digital Power Management system-on-chip solutions - which was recently sold to ROHM Semiconductor (Japan), for approximately $70m. Established as a University of Limerick spin-out in 2007, PV headquartered in Cork and quickly became a leading innovator in digital power controllers serving high performance computing, cloud and communications infrastructure markets.
During its nine-year journey from start-up to acquisition, ROHM Powervation (RPV) interacted with Tyndall on a collaborative research project through MCCI (Microelectronic Circuits Centre Ireland). Apart from Tyndall’s compatible capabilities, there was a strong personal connection between PV and the institute. John Ryan, VP Engineering with RPV was a student at Tyndall’s precursor, the National Microelectronics Research Centre (NMRC), in the early 1980’s.
The connection remains alive, as he currently serves as a member of the MCCI steering committee. Ryan outlined the project, “It involved the design of a 12-bit ADC (analog to digital converter) which is optimised for use in the type of products that PV and latterly RPV produce".
"Our designers were at that time fully immersed in another project but we knew that this new ADC would be needed for 2016/2017, and therefore getting it started earlier through Tyndall made a lot of sense”. When the collaboration with Tyndall commenced it was with PV, at that time a venture funded start-up with limited cash. Ryan said, “The Innovation Partnership mechanism was a good way of getting engaged with Tyndall as it is subsidised by Enterprise Ireland".
"An additional advantage was the benefit of the MCCI ‘Visiting Professor’ programme where world-class experts reviewed the project with a view to suggesting improvements or spotting problems”. Assessing the benefits of engagement with Tyndall, Ryan said, “A key benefit for us was access to engineering resources that we did not have in our company, as well as access to expert project review and mentoring by visiting professors".
The collaboration enabled PV to make progress on future projects without diverting internal staff from current projects. Ryan also highlighted the beneficial funding model with support from Enterprise Ireland. “While it may not be the shortest path to acquiring a new IP, we would recommend this model to other start-ups”.
In existence for over 25 years, Fleming Medical has historically been a distributor of wound care products and had not previously interacted with a third level institute on R&D, and never collaborated with one to develop advanced device technologies. But, suitably intrigued after receiving an invitation from Tyndall to discuss research into next-generation wearable sensors with the potential to make a significant impact on his business, company CEO Mark Fleming responded immediately.
After initial interactions with the Tyndall team, a third partner, the Holst Centre/TNO (Eindhoven, Netherlands) was introduced and together, they are developing the world’s first commercially-available “smart dressing”, provisionally branded as ‘DermaTrax’ and intended to form part of a wider suite of healthcare products that interact with the patient and clinician in real time, providing valuable information that will result in improved patient wellbeing and reduced healthcare costs.
Just three years later, Fleming Medical is globally recognised as a cutting edge R&D business thanks to ‘DermaTrax’ and the collaborations that made it possible. Dr Paul Galvin, Head of ICT for Health at Tyndall, said, “DermaTrax is not only a significant addition to Fleming Medical’s product portfolio – it will also help increase Ireland’s standing as an international hub for medical device research and development. The success of this and other innovative products underpins the ongoing expansion of health-related technology projects here at Tyndall, projected to be worth over €10m by 2018”.
Mark Fleming said, “DermaTrax” contains sensors that monitor the condition of a patient's wound, and of the dressing itself, relaying information to clinical personnel or a nurses’ station via a wireless link. Medical staff can be alerted to the possible presence of infection and other healing issues without the need to remove the dressing, which can disturb the patient and disrupt the conditions needed for optimal healing. “Manual removal of patient dressings to visually inspect chronic wounds is an invasive and costly healthcare issue, particularly in countries with ageing populations, and that’s part of the reason why "DermaTrax" is such an exciting invention”.
He added, "DermaTrax has opened a whole new space for Fleming Medical but the invention process also opened us to new ideas and technologies and collaborations that we would not have thought possible. Our association with Tyndall gives us credibility, but the Tyndall team also connected us to people and helped plug us into funding, specifically by introducing us to Philips (Netherlands) who lead the ‘InForMed’ European Horizon 2020 project through which the research is coordinated. This activity is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland, which recognises and encourages the value added by institute-industry collaborations”.
The outward looking engagement facilitated by Tyndall will help to further build the export business of Fleming Medical, which now stands at 30 percent. Current export markets include the UK, Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean and India.
Würth Elektronik eiSos GmbH & Co. is a manufacturer of electronic and electromechanical components for the electronics industry and is part of the Würth Group, the global market leader in fastener technology. The company employs 6,100 people and generated sales of €475m in 2015.
The Würth Elektronik eiSos product range covers EMC components, capacitors, inductors, RF inductors and LTCC components, transformers, components for circuit protection, power modules, LEDs, connectors, switches, power elements in press-fit technology and assembly technique.
The team at Würth Elektronik eiSos was aware of Tyndall, having attended the International Workshop on Power Supply on Chip, hosted by Tyndall in Cork in 2010. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that Würth Elektronik first collaborated with Tyndall with the commencement of a joint research project in the area of wafer-level magnetics. As Martin Haug, Division Manager MagI³C R&D said, “In recent years Würth Elektronik eiSos has started to investigate wafer level magnetics. Through co-operation with Tyndall we intend to accelerate and extend our program”.
Tyndall makes devices, based on its proprietary technology, for Würth Elektronik to evaluate in a number of future Würth products. These are fully packaged devices, in line with Tyndall’s ability to act as a one-stop-shop in terms of modelling, designing, fabricating, testing/characterising and finally packaging the devices.
Martin Haug reported, “Our joint project is still in progress and we are excited by the prospect of receiving our first samples soon. We have had very interesting and fruitful discussions during project meetings and reviews which helped us to enhance our designs. Tyndall’s long history in the field of wafer-level magnetics and world class facilities at their labs in Cork were the key factors that attracted Würth Elektronik, but the experience of working with Tyndall has highlighted how connected the people at Tyndall are with the industry and research communities worldwide. On top of their excellent research capabilities, the team at Tyndall bring a good understanding of the latest technology and market trends”, said Martin Haug.