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Ireland scores highly for Covid innovation

Enterprise Ireland client companies have helped put Ireland into the top echelon of countries whose innovative solutions are helping to reduce the impact of Covid-19.

A global survey ranks Ireland among the top countries in the world for producing innovative solutions to the current crisis.  Ireland has come sixth in a global ranking of those responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic.

Inventive solutions coming out of Ireland span everything from med tech devices to diagnostics solutions and contact tracing software, and place the country just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.

The survey is compiled by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, in association with the UN-backed Health Innovation Index (HIEx) and partners such as Crunchbase, a US business information platform.

Ireland’s top ranking position reflects the fact that within weeks of the World Health Organisation declaring the pandemic, on 11th March, more than 100 Enterprise Ireland client companies had responded with innovative solutions.

As a result Ireland is one of just a few in the Top 20 country ranking which is singled out by the report’s authors for “over-performing in Covid-related innovation”.

The rankings consider the number of innovations in each country, giving extra points for those which it selects as ‘outstanding’ in the fight against the virus.

The scale and scope of Ireland’s innovation response to the pandemic is immense. It includes examples such as nutraceuticals firm Mervue Labs in Cork partnering with iconic drinks maker Irish Distillers to create hand sanitisers.

Similar initiatives are to be seen among human and animal health companies such as Univet, Chanelle and Ovelle.

Irish mask maker Irema, a contract manufacturer to US conglomerate 3M and other medical device suppliers, has expanded its workforce and built a new production line to ramp up production of reusable respirator-grade masks.

Ireland’s engineering sector stepped up to the plate quickly too. Long established companies such as Automatic Plastics and Key Plastics, whose clients range from pharmaceutical and food packaging to telecoms and aerospace, pivoted to manufacture face shields for use by health service workers.

High potential start ups are responding fast too, with CALT Dynamics, a 3-D printing company backed by Stanley Black & Decker, making protective visors.

Software companies have risen to the challenge with alacrity.  Clinical practice management solutions company Wellola launched a secure patient communication portal for general practitioners in Ireland’s national health service, the HSE. By providing treatment remotely, it is helping to keep queues and wait times down, while at the same time protecting both doctor and patient from the spread of Covid-19.

Scheduling software company Swiftqueue is optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres.

Irish medical devices innovators are coming to the rescue too. PMD Solutions, creator of pioneering patient monitoring devices, is trialling a new respiratory monitoring solution in one of Dublin’s biggest hospitals.

Jinga Life allows people to securely record, store and share their own medical information. By providing for the digital transfer of things such as CT scans, MRIs and x-rays, it reduces the risk of infection from handling current technologies such as CDs.

Digital healthcare company PatientMpower provides tech solutions for people living with long term illnesses. Its remote monitoring enables clinicians to provide continued high quality care to vulnerable patients without the need for hospital visits during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the world’s leading digital mental health providers, SilverCloud Health, is opening up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the impact of Covid-19.

The Irish company has offices in Boston, Dublin and London and clients such as Ireland’s HSE and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and Canadian retail pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart. It is providing programmes on stress, sleep and resilience for free to its clients’ 150 million customers.

Tracking and tracing is an effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19 and Waterford based software development company NearForm is working with Ireland’s HSE to develop a mobile tracing app for the disease.

The potentially life-saving app will facilitate the rapid notification of people who have been in contact with someone who is subsequently been found have tested positive for the virus.

Irish artificial intelligence start up Oblivious AI has developed a Covid19 contact tracing solution that provides accurate information at speed while at the same time protecting people’s privacy. It is being piloted in India.

Internet of Things specialist Taoglas is helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Augmented reality hand washing app SureWash, which is already used by healthcare workers globally to ensure proper hand hygiene, has been made available by the company to the general public, to stem the spread of the virus in the community.

Dublin based HiberGene Diagnostics, a developer of molecular diagnostics tests for human infectious diseases, is developing a new and rapid test for the novel coronavirus, based on non-invasive human samples such as swabs.

Because it is a “near patient test”, samples will be taken and tested on location, without needing to be sent offsite to a laboratory. It could produce a positive COVID 19 result many times faster than the fastest existing molecular diagnostic tests.

Fellow Irish biotech company Aalto Bio Reagents has launched a new protein with the power to fight the Covid-19 on three fronts – diagnosis, vaccines and research.

Irish med tech company Aerogen has pioneered new ways to help people in respiratory distress using aerosol drug delivery technology.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, Aerogen has an in-line circuit design, which means the ventilation circuit does not need to be broken for drug delivery. Its management team believes it could therefore be a viable option to help deliver industry-leading care to patients infected with Covid-19.

Finally, innovative plasma technology developed by Irish company Novaerus is helping to close the infection control loop of hands, surfaces and now air. It uses a patented technology that kills airborne viruses by sucking air from a room and passing it through patented plasma coils which destroy them, reducing the risk of cross-infection.

Irish companies are continuing to respond to the pandemic challenge with resourcefulness and creativity, says Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s divisional manager for innovation and competitiveness. “We are seeing companies innovating, adapting and creating new solutions.”

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