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HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Innovation competition 2021 winners

Two healthcare innovations from HSE staff to receive special funding.

Published: 21 June 2021

HIHI Spark hse winners 2021

Two healthcare innovations from HSE staff have been named the national winners of the HSE-Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) Spark Ignite innovation competition and will receive special funding.

HIHI and the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme this week concluded the innovation competition, open to all HSE staff across all disciplines and departments, with a national final where the two winning projects were unveiled.

The goal of Spark Ignite Innovation is to help staff from within the health service with a solution to a problem, challenge, or unmet need in healthcare, to validate the need, and determine if a market exists for their proposed solution, product, or service. It is a unique opportunity for HSE staff, supported by the commercial and industrial experience of the HIHI team to develop and to promote their ideas.

Best individual overall winner

Winner: Aoife Collins, a senior physiotherapist and co-ordinator of Active Back Care Program in the Physiotherapy Department, Cork South Lee PCC, HSE.

Aoife won for her ‘Rapid-Access Online Active Back Care (ABC) Programme’. Aoife plans to adapt and deliver her existing award-winning, evidence-based, group-rehabilitation program online via a customisable platform, provided by Salaso Health Solutions.

“I am delighted to win the prestigious Spark Ignite National Award on behalf of The Physiotherapy Department in Cork South Lee Primary Care. To be short-listed in such a competitive contest has given me the confidence to believe in my innovation and drive it forward. Winning this competition has shown me that innovative healthcare is essential to continuously improve HSE service provision, and that Spark Ignite offers the support needed to all frontline staff to develop their ideas from a spark to their fruition,” said Aoife.

Best Team Applicant Overall

Winners: Dr Kevin Deasy, respiratory special registrar, and Dr Marcus Kennedy, consultant respiratory physician and interventional pulmonologist, with their ‘Remote Learning in Bronchoscopy using a Low-Fidelity Airway Simulator' at Cork University Hospital.

Dr Kevin and Dr Marcus plan to develop a low cost flat-pack bronchoscopy and pleural ultrasound kit for home assembly and remote learning. Their ultimate goal is to develop a formal, well-researched simulation program encompassing real world and distance learning through remote video platforms using this flat pack simulator.

The pair accepted the award saying, “We are delighted to be selected as a winner in this national final event and thank the expert panel. All presentations were outstanding and it is an honour to present in the same program. We would like to thank the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Project Group, Health Innovation Hub Ireland and Dr Andrew Cameron NUI Galway/Feeltect for his expertise and mentorship. Finally, we would like to thank our collaborators, Prof Helen Whelton and Barry O’Reilly, UCC; Prof Peter Dieckmann, CAMES Copenhagen; Prof Roberto Casal, Boston Scientific and Boston Scientific Ireland.”

2021 Application process 

Over 180 applications with innovative ideas in healthcare were received from HSE staff nationwide.  Following a rigorous review, 36 finalists were chosen to go forward to a bespoke HIHI innovation workshop delivered by Donncha Hughes (Start-up Hughes) and supported by the Local Enterprise Office Galway. All winners will receive continued mentorship and guidance from HIHI to develop their idea further and avail of the bespoke HIHI Innovation pathway ( 

The 36 finalists received mentorship from the HIHI mentor panel to bring their innovative ideas and solutions towards reality, and to prepare them for the regional pitching competitions. Regional pitching finals were associated with each of the three HIHI offices, Cork, Dublin and Galway, and concluded last week. The 12 finalists in each region pitched to a panel of experienced judges to win funding for the development or implementation of their idea. The judging panel comprised experts from industry, venture investment, Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland, public and private healthcare, and academia.

Each regional final awarded five prizes: Best Individual Applicant Overall, Best Team Applicant Overall, both winning €3,000, and then three €1,000 runner-up prizes. The best individual applicant overall and best team applicant overall from each region qualified for the National Final on Wednesday the 16th of June.

The winner of the national final for the individual and team category received a further €2,000 toward their innovation. 

Competition objectives

The Spark Ignite initiative is funded by the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme, a collaboration between:

  • the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director (ONMSD),
  • National Doctor Training and Planning (NDTP),
  • the Health and Social Care Professionals Office (HSCP)
  • and the Quality Improvement Team (QIT)

to support frontline innovation and quality improvement across the HSE.  The annual HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite competition is one of the key initiatives of the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme (

The innovative projects submitted to the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite competition 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 the heart and seek to improve healthcare for everyone.

HSE CEO Paul Reid congratulated the winners. “Our health service has encountered great challenges in recent times but throughout it all, HSE workers have demonstrated tremendous determination and navigated great obstacles via creativity and innovation. It is more important now than ever before that this approach is encouraged and championed, and I believe that the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Innovation competition is the perfect opportunity to discover new and better ways of service delivery,” he said.

Dr Colm Henry, CCO, HSE, said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of innovation in healthcare delivery.

“The past year has shown that without innovative thinking in times of crisis, we will perish. Healthcare professionals throughout the country responded by necessity to the great challenges we face: it is indeed true to say: ‘múineann gá seift’. This culture of innovation has been captured by programmes such the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Innovation Competition. We have found that not only can we devise solutions with innovative thinking, but we can also implement them quickly in times of necessity.”

In addition to this year’s prizes, special recognition was given by Bank of Ireland to two projects in the form of the Best Innovation in Healthcare Award (Individual) and the Best Innovation in Healthcare Award (Team).

The recipients of the special recognition went to Claire Ahern, a senior radiographer at BreastCheck West, Galway with ‘AniMammo’, and Edel Siney, occupational therapist; Andy Byrne, physiotherapist; and Brian O'Ceallaigh, senior physiotherapist, with ‘Upper Limb Rehab App', HSE - University Hospital Galway, respectively.