University College Dublin (UCD) today presented Professor Kevin O’Connor with the NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award. The Award was presented to Professor O’Connor, a professor at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and a principal investigator at the UCD Earth Institute, by UCD President, Professor Andrew J. Deeks, during an event held at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs.
Professor O’Connor’s interests include research into the development of biodegradable polymers; methods of improving the recycling of plastic and other materials i.e. upcycling; the transformation of waste products and industrial side streams into value added products. His expertise includes areas such as the bioeconomy, environmental technology, bioprocessing, biocatalysis, and protein engineering.
Speaking at the event Professor Andrew J. Deeks, UCD President said, “I am delighted to present the NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award to Professor O’Connor in recognition of the quality and impact of his peer-reviewed research, his technological developments for the production of bio-based products as well as his industrial collaboration and successes in the commercialisation of the intellectual property arising from his research at the University.”
He added, “This Award also recognises Kevin as an excellent innovation role model. Since joining UCD in 1999 he has combined excellence in teaching and research with a demonstrated commitment to translating his research outputs into commercial applications. He is at the forefront of the development of the new bioeconomy which holds great promise for job creation in Ireland. I would like to congratulate him and wish him continued success.”
Professor O’Connor, who has already secured over €16 million in research funding, is the lead principal investigator in the UCD Biocatalysis Group. This Group is focused on the synthesis of bio-degradable polymers as well as small bioactive molecules. The Group also investigates the ability of bacteria and their enzymes to convert waste or inexpensive starting materials into value added products.
Professor O’Connor’s research output to date includes the publication of over 85 international peer review articles and 150 international conference papers. His intellectual property portfolio currently consists of 11 invention disclosures; the filing of 9 priority patent applications and 6 licence agreements.
He is also the co-founder and CEO of Bioplastech, a UCD spin-out company which he established in 2009 with Dr Ramesh Babu, from Trinity College Dublin and Italian entrepreneur, Enrico Altieri.
Bioplastech, which currently employs a staff of 7, uses a patented manufacturing technology process to convert waste materials into high value-added, environmentally friendly (i.e. biodegradable) polymers. Bioplastech has developed a number of adhesive products based on its biodegradable polymers and is currently testing these with a number of international adhesive companies.
On receiving the NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award, Professor Kevin O’Connor said, “I am honoured to receive this prestigious University College Dublin award. The Award recognises the huge effort, commitment and intellect of the current and past researchers and students in my research lab in UCD and in Bioplastech to develop and commercialise our technologies. They, like me, strive to combine excellent science, innovation and collaborations with industry to improve the quality of our environment and to impact the Irish and international economy.”
He added, “In this regard Bioplastech, is currently raising external funding over the next 6 months to enable us to build a demonstration facility to produce our adhesive products. I am also in the early stages of assessing the foundation of another company for the production of a bio-based antioxidant with multiple health benefits. It’s an exciting time.”
He concluded, “The innovation ecosystem created and developed at NovaUCD through the vision and hard work of the technology transfer managers and the enterprise support programmes are a huge benefit for researchers like me as they provide the roadmap and support structures that enable us to commercialise our research outputs.”
The NovaUCD Innovation Award was established in 2004 to highlight University College Dublin’s commitment to innovation. The Award is presented annually to an individual, company or organisation or group in recognition of excellence in innovation or of success achieved in the commercialisation of UCD research or other intellectual activity.