DIT technology stars at EU Innovation Expo

21 December 2011: New Irish technology that kills MRSA and other disease-causing pathogens played a starring role at the first European Innovation Convention which took place in Brussels earlier this month.  The light-activated antibacterial surface coating was developed by a DIT research team at the Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST).  With funding from Enterprise Ireland, the research team worked with VitrA Ireland, to convert the photocatalytic technology into a commercial product  for use on ceramics.

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EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn congratulates Dr. John Colreavy, Centre Director, CREST, at the Innovation Expo in Brussels

The ground-breaking technology was one of only 50 star projects selected from over 450 entries to participate in Europe’s premier innovation event and CREST was  the only Irish research organisation invited to be present at the Convention.  At the opening of the event, EU Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation, Máire Geoghegan Quinn visited the stand where she met the team and was presented with a sample of the anti-bacterial coated tiles, featuring the DIT and Vitra logos.  The Commissioner was accompanied by the President of the European Investment Bank, Phillipe Maystadt, following their official agreement to provide a €6bn finance facility for SMEs involved in research and innovation.

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Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn at the CREST/VitrA stand with (l to r)
Hugh Hayden, Radical Coatings: Renaud Batier, Cerame-Unie; Caroline Whelan, Physics and Nanosciences, COST Office; Matthias Haury, COST Office; Robert Hickson, VitrA Ireland; John Colreavy, DIT CREST; Mark Bowkett, T.E Laboratories; Monica Dietl, Director, COST Office Declan McCormack, DIT; John McKeon, Airmid Healthgroup; Suresh Pillai, DIT CREST; Catriona Ward, Manager, Enterprise Ireland; Inge De Prins, COST Office

At the CREST/VitrA stand, the Commissioner met members of the research team, including Dr. John Colreavy and Dr. Suresh Pillai of CREST, Dr. Declan McCormack, DIT School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Mr. Robert Hickson, MD of VitrA Irealnd.   The team explained how, with the support of the Enterprise Ireland funded Innovation Partnership programme, the CREST researchers overcame the challenges of using indoor light to activate the coating, and ensuring the coating could be fired in the kiln while maintaining its sterilising properties.  VitrA is now licensing the technology from DIT on an exclusive basis for use on its products worldwide.

Tests carried out by DIT and by the accredited lab Airmid Health Group in Dublin have found the technology is 99.99 %  efficient at killing the hospital ‘superbug’ MRSA, E. coli and the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.  “We believe it will also be active against other bacteria and micro-organisms,” says Dr. Suresh Pillai, Senior R&D Manager at CREST.  Describing how the technology could have applications in the healthcare setting, swimming pools, schools and gyms, Robert Hickson, MD of VitrA Ireland said:  “VitrA is known for excellence in design and technology, and we are very active in commercial projects such as airports and hotels, leisure centres and hospitals around the world.  This global reach gives us an excellent platform to launch new products and technologies.”

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Dr. John Colreavy, Centre Director of CREST at DIT, Dr. Declan McCormack, Head, School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at DIT, and Dr. Suresh Pillai, Senior R&D Manager at CREST

According to Dr. Martin Lyes, Enterprise Ireland, “This partnership between VitrA Ireland and the research team at CREST DIT shows how EU funding for networking in science brought together leading companies, research centres and universities, enhancing Europe’s innovation and creating jobs”.

Many leading innovators, thinkers and business leaders attended and participated in the Convention. Asked on a number of occasions to identify the main concern for future investment in Europe many CEOs including Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman Google and Craig Mundie, Chief Research & Strategy Officer, Microsoft, pointed to access to bright, well-educated talent as the key criterion in their decision making process for investment.

For information on the Innovation Convention Expo 2011 visit http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/ic2011/index_en.cfm  The next EU Innovation Convention is planned for 2013.

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