Saturday 10 December 2016

UCD inventor is raising €10m to develop a eco-friendly glue

John Reynolds

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Professor Kevin O’Connor with the Nova UCD Innovation Award. Photo: Nick Bradshaw
Professor Kevin O’Connor with the Nova UCD Innovation Award. Photo: Nick Bradshaw

An award-winning inventor at UCD is raising €10m to develop an eco-friendly glue - and is aiming to link up with an industry partner to carve out a share of the emerging €6bn global market for greener adhesives that are used in glue, packaging materials and labels across all industrial sectors.

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Prof Kevin O'Connor - who was awarded the prestigous NovaUCD 2016 Innovation Award last week - aims to conclude the funding round next year and is currently in talks with a number of leading international companies in the industry about using glues that are biodegradable and made out of natural materials.

Industry analysts say that these greener alternatives to the oil-based plastics that dominate the €25bn market at the moment could take about 25pc of the market in the coming years, representing a business opportunity worth about €6bn.

Corkman Prof O'Connor has already secured over €16m in research funding, and said the money raised would be used to build a demonstration plant with an industrial partner which would produce the green glue, he said.

The production technology was developed and patented in UCD and is now licensed by spin-out company Bioplastech, which he formed with Dr Ramesh Babu of Trinity College and Italian entrepreneur Enrico Altieri. Currently employing seven people, they have developed applications for the glue in collaboration with Amber, a Science Foundation Ireland-funded centre led by Trinity.

Prof O'Connor lectures on biomolecular and biomedical science, and his work to date has resulted in over 85 international peer reviewed articles and 150 international conference papers, as well as 11 inventions; the filing of nine priority patent applications and six licence agreements.

He also featured in the Sunday Independent in 2013 for a scientific discovery he had made with another spin-out, Oncomark.

It had identified how green plastic could be combined with an anti-cancer compound and could possibly help get more of the compound into cancer cells and improve the chances of battling cancer.

"I'm also currently assessing the foundation of another startup for the production of a bio-based antioxidant with multiple health benefits. It's an exciting time to be an inventor," he added.

Congratulating him on the award, UCD President Prof Andrew J Deeks said: "Kevin is an excellent role model. Since joining UCD in 1999 he's combined excellence in teaching and research with a commitment to translating his research outputs into commercial applications. He's at the forefront of the new bioeconomy which holds great promise for job creation in Ireland."

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