Google science winners to grow idea into thriving enterprise

Two of the country’s brightest young scientists are taking the first steps in transforming their cutting-edge scientific research into a fully-fledged business having landed the top prize at the Google Global Science Fair with the idea last year.

Germinaid is the brainchild of 17-year-old Kinsale students Ciara Judge and Emer Hickey who — along with the third member of the Google-winning team, Sophie Healy-Thow — shot to prominence last September when their research beat off competition from 5,000 entries to land the prestigious prize in California.

Now the young scientists are turning their attention to making a success of Germinaid — the company that has grown out of their award-winning seed germination research.

The Cork girls’ project discovered that a particular bacteria, known as diazotroph, can increase germination rates and crop yields by more than 70%.

“Germinaid is a company that was set up by myself and my co-director Emer Hickey in the aftermath of our win at the Google Global Science Fair. It’s an agricultural research company that’s going to be building up from our initial research that we did until last September and then hopefully diversify.

“Basically our first product is going to be either a supplement or pre-treated seeds that take advantage of the results that we’ve found which is that using a natural bacteria we can increase crop productivity by up to 74%,” Ms Judge said yesterday on the fringes of the it@Cork European Tech Summit in partnership with the Irish Examiner.

The company’s official launch took place in front of British royalty at the Outbox Incubator in London last week.

The young entrepreneurs pitched their idea to a panel which included Britain’s Princess Anne and will return to the programme over the summer.

Coming from a scientific background, summer holidays this year are to be put to use furthering their business and entrepreneurial skills.

“We’re primarily scientists and we don’t have a business background so this summer we’re going to do mainly personal development.

“I’m going to MIT for a business programme and then we’re both going to go to the Outbox Incubator in London to learn how to grow our business and put our scientific knowledge into the business and entrepreneurial context, so we’re going to look more into product development.”

The girls are optimistic their initial product will be launched during their first college year which is still a year and a half away.

Currently in fifth year, balancing school; study; hobbies and running a company is no mean feat and one which Ms Judge admits is tough, especially as the school year draws to a close.

University College Cork is the young scientist’s current college of choice but, as Ms Judge reminded us yesterday, as a 17-year that could change pretty quickly.


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