Two Irish entrepreneurs in the running for EU women innovator awards

Akara’s Niamh Donnelly and Ciara Clancy of Beats Medical are among the 14 finalists in the European Innovation Council contest.

Two Irish entrepreneurs are in the running for major EU innovation awards.

Niamh Donnelly of Akara Robotics and Dr Ciara Clancy of Beats Medical are among 14 finalists from across Europe who have been shortlisted for this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Funded by the European Innovation Council under Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation programme, the awards seek to celebrate the women behind groundbreaking innovations.

Three prizes worth €100,000 each will be awarded to top innovators, while three prizes worth €50,000 will go to promising emerging innovators under the age of 35.

Clancy, who is founder and CEO of Beats Medical, is one of eight finalists in the women innovators category.

She trained as a physiotherapist but moved into medtech a decade ago when she started Beats Medical. Her company is developing tech to help people with Parkinson’s disease to assess and manage their mobility symptoms.

Clancy has been recognised for her innovations before, being named Cartier Women’s Initiative laureate in 2015 and Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in 2017

Niamh Donnelly of Akara Robotics is holding an award.

Image: Niamh Donnelly

Donnelly is co-founder and chief robotics officer at Dublin-based Akara. She is one of six finalists in the rising innovator category, which recognises entrepreneurs under 35.

The Trinity spin-out has focused on developing AI and robots for the healthcare sector, making a mark with social care robot Stevie and disinfection robot Violet.

Donnelly has a key role to play when it comes to the tech and AI behind these robots, which are being tested out in Ireland and beyond.

‘Good for growth, good for people’

The EU Prize for Women Innovators was first launched in 2011. Over the past decade, more than 30 scientists and entrepreneurs have received awards and a further 100 women have been shortlisted.

Last year, a third of the entrepreneurs nominated for the finals were from Ireland. In the end, Irish sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane – the founders of Izzy Wheels – took home the title of rising innovator and a prize of €50,000.

“Supporting Europe’s women entrepreneurs is good for growth, is good for people and is good for our planet,” said Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation and research.

“This year’s finalists are pioneering groundbreaking innovations that could help revolutionise healthcare, develop more human-centred artificial intelligence and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Along with Clancy, the women innovators category this year features finalists from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Slovakia. Their innovations cover medtech, healthcare, waste recycling, electric bike trailers and immersive communications.

The rising innovator category is recognising a host of social enterprises and AI innovations. Donnelly is accompanied by finalists from Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, France and Portugal.

The winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2022 will be announced at the European Innovation Council Summit, taking place in Brussels on 7 and 8 December.

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Maria J. Danford

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