NUI Galway COVID-19 Project Wins National Impact Award

Dr Aoife Murray, NUI Galway and Irial Conroy, IBM, with Breda McColgan, PJ McKenna, and Brian O’Donoghue remotely. Photo: Aoife Morrissey, Saolta Communications
Dec 03 2020 Posted: 09:37 GMT

A project that connects patients with their loved ones, against a backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions on visits to hospitals, has seen NUI Galway win a National Impact Award.  

The university worked with industry partners Cisco and IBM to deliver a state-of-the-art video call system, ICU FamilyLink, specifically for the intensive care unit setting at University Hospital Galway (UHG). The project won the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Award, in the ‘COVID-19 Response’ Category on 26 November. 

ICU FamilyLink
When hospital visiting restrictions were introduced in early March, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team at University Hospital Galway (UHG) appreciated that it was going to be very difficult to keep families and patients in the ICU updated and connected, particularly where family members may be in physical isolation in different locations. In an effort to address these challenges, they reached out to their academic partners in NUI Galway, who in turn reached out to industry contacts in Galway and beyond. 

NUI Galway, Cisco and IBM assembled a team to answer the call and working closely with the ICU and Clinical Engineering and IT teams in UHG, rapidly developed a state-of-the-art video call system tailored specifically for the ICU setting. The system runs on the hospital’s Cisco Enterprise Wireless Network using Cisco Webex Meetings software and Cisco Webex Devices donated from Cisco’s software development office in Oranmore.  

The secure system is designed for easy setup where close family members are invited by the nurse looking after the patient, to see and speak to their loved one. ICU FamilyLink also enables staff to advise the family and discuss medical and treatment issues that arise. 

The Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Impact Awards recognise and showcase the success in knowledge transfer carried out in Irish Higher Education Institutions and publicly funded research organisations for the wider benefit of the economy and society at large. As part of the initiative, the collaborating bodies made information regarding all components of the bespoke video conferencing system freely available at

Speaking about the news, David Murphy, Director of Technology Transfer and Innovation at NUI Galway, said: “This achievement is a positive reflection of the talent within the university, industry and hospital. It is also a reflection of the commitment to community in a time when it was so important to those affected by the pandemic. As a place well-known for collaboration and creativity, and as a global medtech hub, our research and innovation community has been to the fore in looking at innovations and insights that can support the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

KTI director and chair of the judging panel, Dr Alison Campbell, added: “The finalists and winners of these awards are real examples of the compelling work being undertaken in the third level to support innovation and to help Irish companies thrive in challenging markets, delivering benefit to the economy and for people.”

This initiative was delivered by Irial Conroy (IBM) and Dr Aoife Murray (NUI Galway), both BioInnovate alumni, Brian O’Donoghue (Cisco), Breda McColgan (IBM), PJ McKenna (IBM), Frank Kirrane (UHG), Leonie Cullen (UHG) and Dr Bairbre McNicholas (UHG).

The team was supported by the UHG IT department and wider Saolta, Cisco, IBM, UHG and NUI Galway staff, and other organisations that kindly provided supports. Special thanks to Niamh Connolly (NUI Galway), Ian Gallivan (NUI Galway) and the TTO office for the facilitation of making all of the project’s contributions available in the public domain.

Watch a short video about ICU FamilyLink here:

To read more about other initiatives with which the NUI Galway research and innovation community have responded to COVID-19, visit: .


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