Security solution for Internet of Things grabs top Northern Irish INVENT award

09 October 2015

Five other category finalists recognized at showcase event held at Titanic, hosted by the BBC’s William Crawley

BELFAST– 23:00,8th October 2015 – Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) CONNECT has tonight awarded its prestigious INVENT Award grand prize to PicoPUF, a spinout from Queen’s University’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT). The INVENT competition, in partnership with Bank of Ireland UK, is an opportunity for anyone with an innovative concept to be recognized as Northern Ireland’s next big thing. The competition has long been considered the foremost Night of Invention in the region.

PicoPUF invented a tiny semiconductor IP core that provides strong, unique authentication for even the cheapest microchip, and not only won the Electronics category but the overall grand prize. PicoPUF was deemed by judges to have the most innovative product with the biggest global commercial potential. They faced stiff competition from 11 other finalists in categories including Agri-Food, Life and Health, and Enterprise Software. The award was presented to the trio of Queen’s researchers who invented PicoPuf, Neil Hanley, Maire O’Neill, and ChongyanGu. Their invention means that any grade of device can have the highest grade of security. They took home a prize package of £13,000, a fast-track to NISP’s Springboard programme, and a space on the NI TechMission to California in January 2016.

The other five category winners, who received £3,000and a place on the TechMission were:

  • Agri-Food –NextGenBiopesticides

Insect parasitic nematodes selectively bred to be a safe, effective biopesticide for the control of crop pest insects

  • Enterprise Software– Cognition Video

A processing framework that enables the effective understanding of media content using intelligent automated algorithms

  • Life and Health –Re-Vana

A new drug delivery system that provides long-term benefits for patients suffering from eye diseases that lead to blindness. The solution also saves the NHS considerable cost on treatment.

  • Creative Media and Consumer Internet –ChipIn

A platform for goal setting that provides motivation via rewards that are either crowd-funded or self-funded

  • Engineering –Skunkworks Surfboard Company

Robust soft (learner) surfboards that are 100 per cent recyclable and unbreakable

These category winners rose to the top after a challenging six-month programme that began with 80 entrants in Spring this year. They were whittled down to 12 at the semi-finals event in May, which was open to the public, where they also received mentoring to support the final stage business plan and Big Pitch delivery.

Also tonight, Brian Conlon of First Derivatives addressed the audience, after he was given the highest honor of the 2015 Innovation Founder Award. Brian has built his software business from grassroots into one of Northern Ireland’s biggest success stories. More on Brian’s contribution to the local and global economy can be found here.

Julie Ann O’Hare, Bank of Ireland UK’s Head of Business Banking Strategy & Sectors NI said: “Brian, PicoPUF, all of this year’s winners and participants clearly demonstrate the top quality, creative and vibrant entrepreneurial potential that is growing in Northern Ireland. The Bank is delighted to continue to support this important initiative and believes that a sustained focus on developing the Knowledge Economy is vital to the future health of Northern Ireland’s economy.

“INVENT is the leading night of innovation in Northern Ireland, and securing the Internet of Things is one of the hottest topics on the global IT agenda at present,” said Steve Orr, Director of NISP CONNECT. “It’s a huge pleasure to see that our INVENT competition was topped by a group addressing a global concern. Candidates in the INVENT competition have their finger on the pulse of innovation everywhere, with true Northern Irish roots. It has been incredible to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room tonight. We’re showing the world that the best innovation comes from right here in the Titanic Quarter.”

“There is a perfect storm happening in IT security right now, “said PicoPUF founder Neil Hanley. “The huge number of devices on the market, combined with the low-cost nature of these devices, makes it impossible to use heavily-computationally-resourced security solutions. Lightweight security will be a game-changer and we are set to capitalize on that. This INVENT competition has been a massive step towards that goal, and we thank the Science Park for the chance to get involved. We can’t believe we won.”



INVENT is a proof-of-concept stage competition for inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs and students to pitch their prototypes and new inventions in front of Northern Ireland’s most experienced leaders from within the technology and commercial sector. Entrants are competing for a share of the £33,000 prize fund, fast-tracking onto SPRINGBOARD and a place on the NI Tech Mission to pitch to investors and partners in California.


We are an independent, non-profit organisation that supports the development of innovative technologies and early stage companies through a series of educational seminars, mentorship programmes, capital competitions, and public policy advocacy.

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Emily McDaid | 07456094649 |