Spark Ignite


The Spark Innovation Programme is delighted to say that the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Innovation Competition is underway at present with the call for applications now complete.  Spark Ignite is run in association with the Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI), the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director (ONMSD), the National Health and Social Care Professions Office (HSCP), and National Doctor Training and Planning (NDTP).

HSE staff who work across the Irish healthcare system carry out important work every day. This past year their response to the COVID-19 pandemic made an enormous difference to patients across all primary care, acute and national services. These front-line workers see the problems first-hand and have the expertise and passion to develop solutions. This competition provides an opportunity for those staff to develop their ideas for solutions.

The very best ‘big ideas’ from healthcare staff are assessed, developed and showcased through this competition. This competition is seeks innovative ideas from the 115,000+ HSE employees aiming to improve patient and healthcare outcomes. Spark Ignite is open to all disciplines and departments within the HSE, enabling staff to develop their ideas through validation of clinical need and to determine the market for their proposed solution, product, or service. Successful applicants will also receive guidance on how to bring their ideas towards reality.

Spark Ignite is an opportunity for all healthcare staff to put forward their ideas for innovative products or services. The goal of the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Competition is to assist staff to develop solutions to the challenges faced by healthcare providers and patients.

Successful applicants will benefit from a bespoke healthcare focused innovation workshop delivered by experts, to hone their idea and proceed to pitch for funding including a €3000 prize for an individual winner, €3,000 team prize and three runner up prizes of €1,000, in three regional competitions, followed by a National final for the six regional finalists.

Alan Hopkins Innovation Fellow:

“After the fantastic success of HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite last year when it continued despite challenging times I am very excited to see the creative and innovative solutions from frontline workers in the HSE. The willingness that we continue to see from frontline workers to engage in such programmes despite the level of work they are doing is truly admirable and supporting entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship is more important than ever. With the workshops, mentorship and other supports that the programme offers we are sure to see the same brilliant standard of creative solutions this year.”

Spark Ignite 2020

Over 150 applications with innovative ideas in healthcare were received from HSE staff nationwide. The innovative projects submitted included a variety of new products and services with commercial appeal, and healthcare service or process improvements applicable to any hospital or team, home and abroad, all of which have the patient and the care teams at their core. Following a two-stage review by experienced reviewers, 36 finalists were chosen to go forward to a bespoke innovation workshop, supported by the Local Enterprise Office Galway.

The 36 finalists received mentorship from the HIHI national team to develop their innovative ideas and solutions, and to prepare them for the regional pitching competitions. The Regional pitching finals were conducted electronically in association with each of the three HIHI offices, Cork, Dublin and Galway. The 12 finalists in each region pitched to a panel of experienced the judging panel comprised of experts from industry, venture investment, Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland, public and private healthcare, and academia.

Each regional final awarded five prizes: Best Single Applicant Overall, Best Team Applicant Overall, both winning €3,000, and then three €1,000 prizes for categories of Novelty, Fastest to Market, and One to Watch. The best single applicant overall and best team applicant overall from each region qualified for the National Final. The winner of the national final received a further €3,000 prize for their innovation.

HIHI Spark Ignite National Winner 2020

Marie Ronan and Rose Cafferkey, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacists, Mayo University Hospital

IDEA: Our innovation is a smart tool capable of the real time audit, monitoring and surveillance of antibiotics and will have a significant impact in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and benefit not only patients in Mayo University Hospital but patients nationally and internationally.

Speaking on winning:

“Rose and I are delighted and proud to win this prestigious award for the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team and Pharmacy Department in Mayo University Hospital … We would strongly encourage anyone with an innovative idea to enter this competition.”


Marie Ronan and Rose Cafferkey, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacists, Mayo University Hospital (Photo taken in 2019)

The national finalists were:

Cork regional final ‘Best Individual Pitch’

Norma Caples, CNS/RNP Heart Failure, University Hospital Waterford

IDEA: “My innovation is an app that will alert heart failure patients when there is a significant increase in their weight that may indicate a deterioration in their heart failure”.


Cork regional final ‘Best Team Pitch’

Dr Lyndsey Paul, Dermatology Consultant; Dr Catriona Gallagher, Dermatology Specialist Registrar; Anita Flynn Dermatology Staff Nurse, University Hospital Waterford,

IDEA: “Our innovation aims to improve the safety profile of immunosuppressive drugs by patient education, personalised reminders for screening and vaccinations, and a record of all test results in one streamlined app or written record.”


Dublin regional final ‘Best Individual Pitch’

Siobhán Ryan 3rd Year Medical Student, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

IDEA: “My innovation is a pressure detection device designed for use on an operating theatre table to improve the current standards for intraoperative pressure care.”


Dublin regional final ‘Best Team Pitch’

Alison Harper, Chief Medical Scientist Tallaght University Hospital; Helena Begley, Senior Medical Scientist Naas General Hospital; and Fergus Guilfoyle, Chief Medical Scientist Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital

IDEA: “Our innovation is a weekly blood exchange programme which uses blood stocks more efficiently.”


Galway regional final ‘Best Individual Pitch’

Helen Ryan, Senior Medical Scientist Saolta University Healthcare

IDEA: “My innovation is a novel non-invasive diagnostic tool for early detection of leaking amniotic fluid following non-overt rupture of amniotic membranes in expectant mothers.”


Galway regional final ‘Best Individual Pitch’

Marie Ronan and Rose Cafferkey, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacists Mayo University Hospital,

IDEA: Our innovation is a smart tool capable of the real time audit, monitoring and surveillance of antibiotics will have a significant impact in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and will benefit not only patience in Mayo University Hospital but patients nationally and internationally.


Mr. Paul Reid Chief Executive Officer HSE congratulated the winners

“The HIHI Spark Ignite, Innovation Competition this year has been a great success in the face of difficult circumstances. This event is the result of hard work and effort from the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme, the Office of the Nursing & Midwifery Services Director (ONMSD) and, of course, the HIHI.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate all involved in the 150 applications which came from a diverse group of HSE workers.   It is particularly encouraging to see the number of participants that continued to develop their ideas during a pandemic and is another testament to the dedication shown by all staff within the HSE.

To those who went on to compete in the regional and national finals you should be proud of your achievements and I look forward to seeing the realisation of your ideas in the health services. A special congratulations, of course goes to Marie Ronan and Rose Cafferkey who were deservedly the overall winners of the National Spark Ignite Final 2020. Their idea, which looks to tackle antimicrobial resistance is of importance both nationally and internationally and I wish them well in bringing it to fruition. The competition is an opportunity for all HSE staff to develop ideas and improve the quality of the HSE from within and I would urge all HSE workers to consider participating in innovation programmes such as Spark Ignite in the future.”

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer said:

"The need for innovation is even greater in the new COVID era. Our experience in the past few months has demonstrated the great power of collective imagination in healthcare settings in its relentless pursuit of the possible.  The application of this imagination can make us more resilient and can circumvent the most difficult of challenges. I would like to congratulate all the organisers and participants in fostering this spirit of innovation during the most difficult of times for healthcare. Ní neart go cur le chéile.”

Dr. Colman Casey, National Director Health Innovation Hub Ireland, said:

“HIHI is delighted to be a partner with NDTP and ONMSD in the 2020 Spark Ignite Programme. The programme was conducted remotely for 2020 and consisted of regional finals, culminating in a national final. The number and quality of innovative ideas emanating from within the healthcare community is very impressive in these very challenging times.”

Dr. Ciara Carroll, National Fellow for Innovation and Change said:

“Spark Ignite is a unique interdisciplinary innovation competition where entrepreneurial HSE staff can develop their ideas through a series of workshops with mentorship from the Health Innovation Hub Ireland team. The funding awarded to the top projects pitched at regional and national level will help to transform these ideas into tangible solutions that will enhance healthcare delivery within the HSE and beyond.”

Dr. Steven Griffin, Innovation from Healthcare Lead, HIHI, commented that:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a phenomenal and unprecedented response across the entire healthcare sector for which we as a community at large are grateful. The HIHI appreciate the commitment to this programme shown by all contestants involved. The quality of their outputs is a credit to HSE staff. The HIHI is a free resource for all HSE staff and have an open door policy for engagement – so if you have an innovative idea product or solution visit, email, or contact anyone on the team.”

Spark Ignite Winners 2018 

Spark Inginite

Individual Winner

Liam Connolly – Medical Student, Galway University Hospital

‘My idea is to use a specific belt and monitor that would instruct and guide GERD suffers on how to perform diaphragmatic breathing at home. This would replace the need for patients to be instructed by a language therapist. The belt will lightly constrict and retract in time with the specific diaphragmatic breathing method. It will also have an audio box to instruct and guide users on the timing for inhalation.’


Group Winner

Prof Derek O’Keefe, Consultant Physician, University Hospital Galway.

Team members: Brendan Tuohy, Clinical Engineer UHG, Frank Kirrane, Clinical Engineer UHG, Michael Kerin Consultant Surgeon, UHG, Peter McCarthy Consultant Radiologist, UHG.

‘Our novel idea is to develop an inexpensive handheld medical electronic device that will accurately tell if a Naso-Gastric (NG) tube has been placed correctly in the stomach before NG feeding commences.’


Judges Prize: High Potential (Fastest to Market)

Bronwyn Reid-McDermott | Simulation Technician, ICAPSS

Team Members: Ethel Ryan Consultant Paediatrician, Lisa Dann Paediatric SpR,

“BETTY-BEAR” is a teddy-bear backpack for children with type 1 diabetes. The bear is designed with an injectable simulated skin pad on his stomach for practice of administration of subcutaneous insulin injections.’  


Judges Prize: One To Watch (Future)

Frank Kirrane | Head of Clinical Engineering, at the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical

Team member: Aine Binchy ANP Neonatal ICU.

‘This project idea proposes the design, build and testing of a new device; comprising a microphone, that is synchronized with an infant limb movement sensor (hacked activity tracker sensor), and associated analysis hardware/software, that is placed inside a neonatal incubator, to provide the (currently not available) tangible link between the noise levels experienced by the infant, and the associated infant startle in response to the auditory stimulus.’


 Judges Prize: Novelty (Risk)

Clare Kinahan | Senior Pharmacist Portiuncula University Hospital Ballinasloe.

‘The development and delivery of a pharmacist led Holistic Medication Review service to elderly, frail, multimorbid patients in line with the process outlined in the SIGN polypharmacy guidance 2018. The service could be delivered in the outpatient setting in secondary care or in GP practices.’

 Spark ignite winners

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