AgTech Startups

Emerging Greentech Start-Up Wins UCD’s 2024 VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme

Dublin, Ireland, 18 April 2024, NovaUCD has today announced SusBioME, an emerging greentech start-up, as the overall winner of the 2024 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. SusBioME is developing technology for use in the anaerobic digestion process to increase renewable gas yields from biomass.

The annual VentureLaunch Programme, which is run by NovaUCD, aims to support the creation and launch of sustainable and profitable new start-ups emerging from University College Dublin (UCD).

Renewable gas from anaerobic digestion is key for energy security and sustainability. In the anaerobic digestion process organic feedstocks, including wastes, are digested and turned into biogas or biomethane, which can be used exactly like natural gas. However, a major bottleneck limiting renewable gas production is the low digestibility of feedstock used in the anaerobic digestion process which leads to unrealised gas yields and low operational efficiency.

To address this problem SusBioME, a start-up emerging from the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, is developing modular, plug-in disruptive electro-processing technologies to make feedstocks more biodigestible. As a platform technology it can be applied to a wide range of feedstocks and bioprocesses.

By the direct applications of electric fields, the SusBioME technology physically disrupts feedstocks, which rapidly and very efficiently make them more biodigestible leading to gas yield improvements of up to 30% for renewable gas producers along with reduced operational costs and increased revenues.

The members of the SusBioME team are, Dr Ajay Menon, who completed the VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme, Professor James Lyng, Norman Maloney and Bernie Fitzpatrick.

Dr Ajay Menon, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and a promoter of SusBioME said, “We are delighted to have been named the overall winner of the 2024 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.

Everyone knows why renewable energy is important, but few know how much of it is sourced from biomass. Last year, 59% of the EU’s renewable energy came from biomass-based bioenergy, more than wind, solar and hydro combined. Renewable gas, made using anaerobic digestion, is the most promising and important kind of bioenergy and is a huge and growing industry. However, a major bottleneck in the process is that the feedstock cannot be digested very well leading to unrealised gas yields. The SusBioME technology which we have successfully trialled addresses this issue and results in gas yield improvements of up to 30%, an important development for the sector.”

He added, “Currently we are half-way through our Enterprise Ireland Commercialistion Fund project, and we already have three trial partners secured for pilot demonstrations. In 2025 we intend to spin-out of UCD, raise some €500k in pre-seed funding and commercially launch SusBioME."

He concluded, “I would like to acknowledge the excellent support provided by the NovaUCD team, the VentureLaunch programme facilitators, and the other VentureLaunch participants especially for their invaluable feedback and advice throughout the programme. I would like to acknowledge and thank Enterprise Ireland for their continuing support through the Commercialisation Fund and also BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”

The main objective of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme is to equip participants with the knowledge, skills and understanding that will be required to work as part of a team leading a new commercial venture. On completion of the programme the expectation is that participating new ventures will have developed a commercially viable business plan.

The programme consisted of eight (8) workshops delivered over a three-month period from February to April at NovaUCD. The Business Model Canvas approach to start-up development forms the basis of the programme with each session consisting of a mix of taught content and interactive workshops delivered by external experts as well as involving talks from entrepreneurs. Participants also gain expert mentoring on marketing, finance and funding, sales and pitching to investors.

Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, NovaUCD said, "Our focus through the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme is to support members of our research and entrepreneurial communities who want to accelerate the creation of exciting new start-ups. I wish SusBioME, and all the participants on this year's programme, every commercial success and impact, not only here in Ireland but on the global stage, in the years ahead. We look forward to continuing to working with SusBioME and all this year’s programme participants to support them to achieve their ambitions.”

In addition to the 2024 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme Award SusBioME receives a prize package worth €30,000, which includes a €10,000 cash prize sponsored by NovaUCD founding sponsors, (AIB, AMD, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Ericsson and Goodbody), a professional service package sponsored by Bryan Maguire Financial Services and incubation space at NovaUCD.

The 2024 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme judging panel, which selected the overall winner following pitches by the seven finalists, was chaired by Dr Helen McBreen, Partner, Atlantic Bridge. The other members of the panel were; Gianni Matera, Founder, Growing in Capital and NovaUCD VC in Residence; Maurice Roche, Partner, Delta Partners; Faye Walsh Drouillard, Founder, Wake Up Capital and David Bowles, Partner, The Yield Lab.

During the 2024 VentureLaunch Showcase and Awards event a panel discussion on the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) on innovation and start-ups also took place. Participants on the panel were;

Professor Kate Robson Brown, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact; Ronan Murphy, founder and executive Chairman of Smarttech247, co-founder of GetVisibility and a member of the Government’s AI Advisory Council and Prag Sharma, Global Head of Artificial Intelligence at Citi. The panel discussion was moderated by journalist, Vish Gain.

The other participants on this year’s VentureLaunch Accelerator programme in addition to SusBioME were; GalMAX Biotech, Maternitec, Mirror Security, Neuropause Medical, Real World Data, and WeiSyn.

SusBioME, Neuropause Medical and WeiSyn are currently being supported through the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund.