Dr Lisa O’Donoghue has developed an LCD screen-recycling machine which can recycle 80 LCD screens in an hour and is the first of its type in the world.
LIMERICK start-up company ALR Innovations plans to dominate the European market with its LCD screen-recycling technology within two years. After that, it will move on to the rest of the world, starting with Japan and Korea. The plans might seem a little ambitious for a company that has yet to go to the market — but for the fact that it is offering the world’s first automated machine for recycling LCD screens.
At present, recycling companies all over Europe are stockpiling waste LCD screens, awaiting the arrival of technology which will allow them to be recycled efficiently. This has been happening since 2003, when the EU made LCD recycling mandatory. Given the enormous demand for this innovative technology, automated LCD recycling is anticipated to have a minimum turnover of €54 million by 2016. LCD screens came into use in the late 1990s and are now dominating the market. Company chief executive and founder Dr Lisa O’Donoghue says 190 million screens were sold worldwide in 2010 and the European sales figure alone is set to hit 85 million by 2015. At present the only way to recycle LCD units is manually. “Only three or four screens can be recycled in an hour. It is labour-intensive and dangerous, since it requires the removal of liquid crystal and a mercury component which are harmful to the environment,’’ she says.
The launch of ALR's automated machine, which can recycle 80 screens an hour, is scheduled for next summer. Dr. O’Donoghue says that with growing stockpiles of waste LCD screens, recycling companies all over Europe have responded very positively. “We will start by saturating the market in Europe and then we will move on to develop sales in Korea and Japan and within four or five years we plan to start selling in the US and Australia,” she said. Although some research is being carried out into this type of technology by recycling companies in other countries, she says the company has first-mover advantage and intends to make the most of it.
Developed at the University of Limerick over the last four years, ALR's technology has been patented in Ireland and is also being patented worldwide. Dr O’Donoghue says it could be a few years before any potential competitor could be ready for market. In 2009 Dr O’Donoghue identified a need for this type of technology and set up a research team at the University of Limerick, securing €350,000 in funding from the EPA. Setting up the company with an office at the University of Limerick and the Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre in Limerick in June this year, she licensed the technology from the University of Limerick. Participating in the LEAP Enterprise Platform programme at Limerick Institute of Technology, the company secured funding from Enterprise Ireland and won the High Growth award for the Munster region in the Intertrade Ireland Seedcorn competition.
The company, which employs a staff of three, is now finalising the market-ready machine, as well as fundraising and developing a sales strategy for Europe. Britain, Germany and France have been identified as the key target markets for 2012. The company is also completing negotiations with a company in Ireland which will manufacture the recycling machines.
Dr O’Donoghue says that manufacturing in Ireland will ensure that the company maintains control over the process and guarantees quality. Funded since this summer by Dr O’Donoghue, the company is now planning to raise in excess of half a million euro to fund the product’s roll-out.
“Winning the high growth award for Munster in the Seedcorn competition has been a major boost. “The venture capital companies are now inviting us to submit applications instead of us having to approach them,’’ adds Dr O’Donoghue.
ALR Innovations attended the launch of the Tierney Building, the University of Limericks new business incubation centre. Here they presented their new technology to the Minister for Finance who officially opened the building.
UL President, Professor Don Barry, Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan T.D. and Dr. Lisa O' Donoghue, ALR
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan T.D. officially opened the Tierney Building at University of Limerick on the 21st November 2011. This state-of-the-art campus facility will house UL’s Innovation Centre and Lero – the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre. The UL Innovation Centre is the latest Enterprise Ireland campus incubation centre to be opened and will support the formation and growth of 35 new high potential start-up (HPSU) companies between 2011 and 2016, generating over 115 new high-value jobs.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Noonan said: “The Tierney building will house both cutting-edge software engineering research together with a centre that will support the growth of new high potential business start-ups. It is a tangible example of what we can achieve when Government, industry and our universities collaborate together.”
“Over recent years Ireland has built up a very impressive record in scientific research. If we are to get out of our present difficulties, we must now use this base to commercialise more ideas, create more Irish businesses, and attract and embed more multinational investment. Turning good ideas into good jobs: that is what SFI’s research centres, such as the Lero CSET, and funded teams are about, and that is what I am determined to achieve.” Minister Noonan added.
Supporting Innovation at the University of Limerick
The objective of the UL Innovation Centre is to increase regional entrepreneurship with an international trading focus. It will provide dedicated business incubation space and support services for start-up companies whose activities are aligned with UL research strengths. The UL Innovation Centre offers dedicated units for supporting new technology based businesses together with two fully equipped research laboratory suites, boardrooms, meeting rooms and ancillary support services. The centre will facilitate the transformation of new knowledge into commercially viable opportunities and become a hub around which regional innovation is driven, organised and supported.
UL President, Professor Don Barry said: “UL started out with a pioneering vision of innovation, excellence and a commitment to building strong industry collaborations. We are now even more focused on research that can assist companies enhance their own research and development capabilities and support them in obtaining or maintaining a competitive advantage in the market place. We will continue to uncover the emerging technological opportunities we have here in Ireland, to nurture those with high economic impact and growth potential and to support them in achieving success.”
Image: Dan Tierney, UL President, Professor Don Barry and Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan T.D at the launch of the Tierney Building, UL.
Vice President Research, Dr Mary Shire said: “UL has a strong track record in spin-out companies and has gained experience through this that will benefit start-up companies that locate in the innovation centre. A focus of the Innovation Centre is to further collaboration between entrepreneurs and UL’s research community to drive innovation which will deliver high value jobs and enterprise to the region.”
Feargal Ó Móráin Executive Director of Enterprise Ireland said: “Enterprise Ireland is working to maximise opportunities for Irish entrepreneurs around the country. We provide the relevant support at a local level to meet the increasing challenges faced by new, young companies in the global marketplace. Incubation centres greatly improve the survival and growth prospects of start-up campus companies. Enterprise Ireland has invested €50 million in campus incubation centres which between them house 300 companies, employing over 1,300 people.”
The Tierney Building is home to the new headquarters of Lero – the software engineering research centre. Lero has raised the level and profile of Irish software engineering research with such effect that it is now one of the best known and highly regarded software engineering research centres in the world. Lero interfaces with a wide range of industry, state agencies, educational bodies and international collaborators to deliver on its twin goals of research excellence and social and economic relevance.
Professor Mike Hinchey, Director, Lero said; “This building provides a home and focal point for Lero researchers from multiple institutions and a venue for engaging with our industry partners, international collaborators and government agencies. We are delighted to have such an excellent facility and look forward to the expansion of our research here in the coming years.”
This project has been supported by the Irish Government with assistance of the European Regional Development Fund through PRTLI 4, Enterprise Ireland, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Higher Education Authority. The Tierney Building is kindly supported by Dr Dan Tierney. Originally from Limerick, Dr Tierney has been a Director of the UL Foundation since 1993. He is Chairman of Bimeda Holdings Plc.
UL spin-out company ALR Innovations, headed up by Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, was one of three finalists in this year’s ITLG “Silicon Valley Comes To Ireland” University Challenge Event. This event sponsored by Cisco & Invent DCU.
ALR Innovations is developing recycling equipment for LCD displays in worldwide markets. Currently no device exists in the market to address the recycling of millions of LCD screens. This system allows LCD monitors to be safely disposed of by turning them into valuable waste streams, providing a sustainable and eco-friendly solution. The underpinning technology evolved from research led by Dr Lisa O’Donoghue and UL’s Materials and Automation Research Group, Department of Design and Manufacturing Technology. This research was funded by the EPA (€350,000), who recognising the lack of recycling technology for LCD’s as a significant environmental risk facing Ireland and Europe. The technology was patented by the University’s Technology Transfer Office and licensed to ALR Innovations. Inventors of the licensed technology include Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, Dr. Huw Lewis, Dr. Alan Ryan, of the Department of Design and Manufacturing and John Mulcahy, Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI).
The Irish Technology Leadership Group hosted their 4th Annual “Silicon Valley Comes to Ireland” University Challenge event at DCU. Last year this event was hosted at The University of Limerick in partnership with NUI Galway. The final of the University Challenge took place on the 5th October. Each finalist was given the opportunity to raise their profile by pitching their idea to a panel of senior and well respected international technologists and investors in a public forum which included industry, academic and media invitees.
University of Limerick’s Vice President Research, Dr Mary Shire welcomed ALR’s nomination; “ALR Innovations is a very exciting company whose technology addresses a global environmental issue. This company is an excellent example of UL’s high quality graduates and researchers generating value through spin-outs and invention. UL’s success can be measured in its contribution to the economy through the campus companies who attract investment funding for our region and employ graduates locally.”
Dr. O'Donoghue is a Ph.D. Scientist who has recently received the Young Entrepreneur of Year Award (2010), Molex-Kriebel Award for Innovation in Global Business and Technology (2010) and the JCI Outstanding Young Person of the Year Award in Science and Technology in Ireland (June 2011). Dr. O’Donoghue holds a first class honours degree in Materials Engineering and a doctorate in High Temperature Technology in Industrial and Aero Gas Turbines.
WRAP works in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It's main priorities include:
+ to help the UK Governments to meet their national and international commitments and build the green economy; and
+ to support resource efficiency in the UK so that householders, businesses and the public sector save money and make better use of resources.
WRAP have carried out research into the forms of mercury found within the backlights of LCD screens and also research into flat panel display recycling technologies. This work was published on the 31 - Aug - 2011.
The report entitled "The location and character of mercury in waste LCD backlights" outlines the forms of mercury found within CCFL lamps in LCD screens but does not quantify the amount of mercury potentially there. This information is of interest to those involved in the treatment and recycling of LCD screens.