Two Irish entrepreneurs – Ailbhe Keane of Izzy Wheels and Dr Anita Finnegan of Novah Leah – have been shortlisted for the EU Prize for Women Innovators.

The EU Prize for Women innovators has 13 finalists and offers prizes of €100,000 each for the top three winners.

It is understood to be the second time any Irish innovator has been selected for the award since it was launched in 2011. In 2016 Sarah Bourke, chief executive of spacetech firm Skytech won third prize in 2016.

“These women clearly lead by example and show that you can follow your dreams no matter how big they are”

This year’s finalists are pioneering game-changing innovations across a wide range of industries and help combat global challenges. Their innovations range from the optimisation of cancer treatments to generating clean electricity from ocean and sea waves.

“Today, we celebrate the work of outstanding women innovators and encourage the next generation of women and girls to follow in their footsteps,” Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said on Friday (10 July).

“Gender biases and stereotypes continue to steer girls and women away from science and technology-related careers. These women clearly lead by example and show that you can follow your dreams no matter how big they are.”

The power of innovation

Dark-haired woman in an office.

Dr Anita Finnegan, founder of Novah Leah

Anita Finnegan is the CEO and founder of cybersecurity player Novah Leah a company she started as a spinout from Dundalk IT focused on improving improve the security of connected devices used by healthcare providers. As an internationally recognised expert in Medical Device Cybersecurity she also has a strong background in software quality processes, engineering and quality engineering roles across multiple highly-regulated domains. The company has gone from strength-to-strength and has raised investment from backers that include Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund as well as Suir Valley Ventures and Enterprise Ireland.

Two women with dark hair, one in a wheelchair.

Izzy Keane with her sister Ailbhe

Ailbhe Keane is among eight finalists for the “rising innovator” category which has a prize of €50,000. During Ailbhe’s final year in National College of Art and Design, she had to do an assignment called ‘helping the less fortunate’. Ailbhe’s sister Izzy has Spina Bifida and Ailbhe used to draw and decorate her wheelchair. Ailbhe decided to produce covers of these drawing as works of art for the spokes of wheelchairs. After leaving college, Ailbhe decided to create Izzy Wheels and started to sell the wheel covers online. The two sisters were included in the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 13 July, 2020

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