2nd September 2022
Body armour start-up Vikela Armour has been named as the winner of this year’s INVENT Awards, Northern Ireland’s premier competition for innovative start-ups.
Organised by science and technology hub Catalyst with headline partner Bank of Ireland, the annual INVENT Awards celebrate the brightest new business ideas with the greatest commercial potential from across the region.
Ten finalists were chosen to compete for the main prize at a showcase event in the ICC Belfast, with Vikela Armour taking home a prize package of £26,000 from the total prize fund of £50,000.
Belfast-based engineering graduate Peter Gilleece set up Vikela Armour to develop a new type of body armour that provides better protection and comfort than conventional flak jackets.
Founder of Vikela Armour, Peter Gilleece, said: “It is an honour to be named as the overall winner of INVENT 2022 and to see the potential of our business being recognised.
“Existing body armour leaves the head, arms and legs completely exposed and is built on an outdated concept. It is also too heavy, reducing the flexibility of movement and causes the wearer to become exhausted. I wanted to address these issues, leading to the creation of Vikela Armour. Paramedics, motorcyclists, mine clearance charities, the military and many more industries can benefit from our lightweight, full coverage products.”
He added: “The funding we have received from INVENT will help us to expand into more industries, including aerospace and automotive. We hope that in five years from now we will be growing our manufacturing base further within Northern Ireland and will be starting to design the next evolution of armour.”
INVENT Awards category winners on the night were:
- Greentech – Phasora Ltd
- Health and Wellbeing – Pulse AI
- Business Software – Thunder
- Consumer Software – Linc
- Product – Vikela Armour
The 10 finalists had to give a live one-minute elevator pitch to win £1,000, with the audience on the night also voting Vikela Armour as the winner of best pitch.
A newly introduced Inclusive Innovation Award was presented to Field of Vision, who provide live sport for visually impaired fans, delivered through haptics and AI.
The winner of the Student INVENT competition was Atlas Smart Technologies Ltd, which has designed and developed an adjustable dumbbell that uses a patent-eligible mechanism to allow users to change its weight from 4kg up to 30kg.
Meg Magill, INVENT Programme Manager, said: “We’d like to congratulate all of the start-ups and entrepreneurs who made it to the INVENT 2022 Final. These companies are an inspiration to us all as they strive to find innovative solutions to real world problems. Catalyst is focused on fostering inclusive innovation and developing entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and the calibre of entries we received this year has once again highlighted the quality of talent and potential for innovation that exists here. I have no doubt that this year’s finalists will go on to do amazing things.”
George Higginson, Director of Northern Ireland, Partnerships & Mortgages at Bank of Ireland UK, headline partner of the INVENT Awards, said:
“Bank of Ireland is proud to continue our partnership with Catalyst, supporting this year’s INVENT competition. The 2022 programme has been inspirational and we’re hugely excited about the fantastic innovations again this year. The overall competition really highlights the talent the Northern Ireland tech and innovation sector has to offer. I am convinced that the entrepreneurs will go on to do amazing things and will represent Northern Ireland well on the global stage.
“Vikela Armour have enormous potential and their passionate and outstanding team have made substantial progress. They are determined to ensure this ground-breaking innovation, looking at an established product from a completely different angle, can be developed to maximise the potential scale of the undoubted global commercial opportunities. This makes them a very worthy winner.
“We are delighted to collaborate as a partner with INVENT 2022 to help turn these ideas into reality and contribute to the transformation of the local economy.”
More information on all of the finalists can be found on Catalyst's website.
Pictured at INVENT 2022 are (L-R): George Higginson from Bank of Ireland, Peter Gilleece, founder of INVENT 2022 winner Vikela Armour, Meg Magill, INVENT Programme Manager, and Steve Orr, CEO of Catalyst.
Catalyst is an independent, not for profit organisation working for the greater good to build an inclusive innovation community in an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout Northern Ireland. The epicentre of Northern Ireland’s tech sector, we provide everything that innovators and entrepreneurs need to reach higher and succeed faster – a home, business support, connected networks and much more. We invest, pro bono, all surplus profits from our property portfolio into nurturing a community-led innovation ecosystem that supports technology focused start-ups, entrepreneurs, and innovators so they can grow, scale and flourish.