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SmartProbe shortlisted for SFI Future Innovator Award

Posted on: 05 Jun 2019

SmartProbe shortlisted for SFI Future Innovator Award


Article Updated: 4th February 2020

The Smartprobe team are currently engaging with the SPRINT Accelerator programme and will become a spin-out within the next two years. The technology is currently being tested on excised breast tissue.


Following a rigorous and competitive judging process, overseen by an international expert review panel, a research team led by Tyndall has been shortlisted for the prestigious Science Foundation Ireland Future Innovators Prize.


Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, confirmed that the Tyndall ‘SmartProbe’ innovation, to enable better breast cancer diagnosis, is among the six finalists for the prize. 


Martin O'Sullivan, Lead Surgeon, BreastCheck Southern Unit and UCC, Liosa O'Sullivan, Patient Advocate and Eric Moore,  Academic Member, Tyndall and Lecturer In Analytical Chemistry, UCC, with the 'SmartProbe' concept.

The team is led by Tyndall's Dr Eric Moore, in partnership with Martin O'Sullivan (Lead Surgeon, BreastCheck Southern Unit and UCC) and Liosa O'Sullivan (Patient Advocate). ‘SmartProbe’ relates to the development of a technology for clinicians to improve the breast cancer diagnostic pathway through real time point of care detection of breast disease.  

Martin O'Sullivan, Lead Surgeon, explains, “The 'SmartProbe' has the potential to immediately reassure the majority of women who currently wait several days for benign biopsy results.   It can also enable those with breast cancer to have their treatment fast-tracked.”  

Congratulating the Tyndall team, Tyndall Chief Executive Prof. William Scanlan said, “We are delighted that some of the groundbreaking research taking place at Tyndall is being acknowledged today with the news communicated by Science Foundation Ireland. ‘SmartProbe’ has the potential to accelerate diagnosis of breast cancer, and provide real time reporting to clinicians which will have huge societal impact as well as medical, therapeutic impact for medical professionals and hospitals, but also positive psychological impact for patients. We would like to congratulate the Tyndall team on their selection and wish them continued success for SmartProbe.’


The competing teams are led by academic researchers and a “Societal Impact Champion” drawn from a range of disciplines and stakeholder groups such as industry and civil society in an effort to support convergent and collaborative problem-solving. Competing teams come from University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), NUI Galway (NUI Galway), University College Cork (UCC), as well as Tyndall National Institute (TNI), with involvement of a number of national agencies, hospitals and world leading SFI Research Centres.


Congratulating the shortlisted teams, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “On behalf of the Government, I want to congratulate the six teams who have made it to the second round of the Future Innovator Prize competition. We launched the initiative last year to encourage bright minds across the country to work together to identify major challenges facing Ireland’s society, and to propose creative solutions. It is very exciting to see so many innovative ideas coming through and I look forward to seeing their ideas develop further over the coming months.”



Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, said: “It is heartening to see the excellent standard of the six teams who have progressed to the second round of the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition. Their passion for their fields reflects their dedication to improving Ireland’s economy and society through research, collaboration and inventiveness. I am confident that they will continue to impress us as the competition goes on.”

The 'SmartProbe' team.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “I congratulate the six finalists on making it to the next stage of the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition. This programme by its very design, is highly competitive and seeks to fund excellent research that aims to produce a tangible impact for society. Proceeding to this phase of the programme is a great achievement, and the motivation of the teams demonstrates the appetite and capacity of the Irish research community to help contribute to solving major national and global challenges. Congratulations to each team on their hard work and dedication.”

The overall winning team will be announced in December and will receive a prize award of €1 million, providing the opportunity to deploy an innovative solution with potential to deliver significant impact to Irish society.


The SFI Future Innovator Prize, funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland, is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. Challenge-based funding is a solution focused approach to funding research that uses prizes and other incentives to direct innovation activities at specific problems. The SFI Future Innovator Prize challenges the country’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to create novel, potentially disruptive technologies in collaboration with societal stakeholders and end-users. 


The programme aligns with the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland initiative, beginning to prepare for jobs of the future now through ensuring that our economy is well positioned to tackle obstacles and continue transforming for the better.