CTO & Co-founder
Based in Dublin, Ireland Lios was founded in 2009 by Rhona Togher and Eimear O’Carroll. Over a decade, the business has developed real-world solutions which address the problem of noise pollution.
The award-winning product, SoundBounce, is at the cutting edge of metamaterial science, disrupting the traditional materials sector.
As an acoustic metamaterial, SoundBounce is Lios’ game-changing innovation, which tackles the issue of noise at the source, helping to create new technology and facilitating a quieter world. SoundBounce provides superior noise reduction and is a cost-effective way of attenuating harmful or unwanted noise for automotive, aerospace, construction, and power generation industries.
In January 2021, Lios began to work with the European Space Agency to develop a new acoustic component for their launch vehicles through the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.
Current acoustic and vibration materials in launch vehicles need to be thick and heavy to absorb the high levels of low frequency noise generated at the launch and separation flight stages. Critically, this reduces space in the cargo section of the launch vehicle, limiting the development of future satellites. There is also a risk the vibrations will damage the delicate instrumentation before it reaches its final destination, wasting years of work and money.
This collaboration has an impact beyond the space sector as lightweight and scaled production are common requirements in automotive and aerospace.
CTO & Cofounder at Lios
My job has given me amazing opportunities to travel and work with interesting people from all over the world – both within our team and with our customers.
Everyday I get to work on solving big problems and creating useful solutions. As a scientist, I find this really creative and stimulating. And on a personal level, helping people who have noise damaged hearing, and preventing it happening to more people, means a lot to me as it’s something I’ve experienced myself.
I also have the great privilege of working with my best friend and cofounder, Rhona. We’ve been friends since school and it’s a real joy to come to work everyday with a true friend by your side.
Rhona and I cofounded the business in 2009 so I’ve been involved since the beginning. At first I worked part time while I studied physics at the University of Edinburgh. After graduating with my masters, I returned to Ireland to work full time as CTO.
It’s a cliche but no two days are the same when bringing a new material to market. In a typical week I spend a lot of time working with our product development team, checking in on their latest progress with experiments and simulations. We discuss results and I decide the next steps for the team.
The other side of my job focuses on our customers who are mainly in automotive, aerospace, home appliances, and construction. I work with them to understand their acoustic and product needs, how our technology can help them make quieter products, and figure out how best to collaborate on developing these products. That spans everything from writing proposals, presenting our products or results, negotiating contracts, and visiting labs in different countries.
There’s a real thrill when something we’ve been working on for a long time comes together. Being able to see our work make a real difference for our customers, and society at large, is really rewarding.
It would be nice sometimes to have a few extra hours in the day but I’m very fortunate that there’s no part of my job I don’t like. There are always challenges in a startup, but I believe there’s always a way to work through those challenges.
In school I studied History, French, Physics, and Chemistry (along with English, Irish, and Maths).
At university I studied physics to a masters level.
All my subjects have influenced my career in different ways. For example, I still use my (now rusty) French to get around when we do business in France every few months. And English has been critical as writing and communication is a huge part of my role as a leader and a scientist. Physics and Chemistry are very obviously related to my current work in material science.
As I mentioned, writing and communications are arguably the most important part of my work. Helping others understand what we do, regardless of their background, is key in talking to customers, our team, and members of the public.
Physics also teaches a problem solving approach which is invaluable in all aspects of life. Taking really big problems, breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and then setting about solving them until you crack the big problem has been a useful tool in our business in general.
I developed the skills through practice, teamwork and feedback. With writing in particular, I’m very lucky that Rhona and I are a great team, we work together to edit and refine whatever it might be that we need to communicate. Working in a team and having a trusted person to give you feedback is a great way to improve almost any skill.
I would encourage anyone to give themselves the space to try something, not be very good at it to begin with, but stick with it and try again. Particularly when you’re early in your career it’s important to have the perseverance to keep learning.
The work we’ve done on raising awareness of tinnitus and noise damaged hearing, particularly the ways in which it can affect younger people, has been very rewarding. We founded World Tinnitus Day to get people talking about tinnitus and learning how it can be treated. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a chronic issue for many people and can affect their mental health as well as their hearing.
Following from this work, and our work in using material science to address noise pollution, I was recently featured as part of the JEC Women in Composites series. This major industry organisation has highlighted some of my role models in composites and material science so it was a real honour to be part of this group.
This is it!
I think being a CTO requires a technical background for sure, but mainly the ability to find the best in people and encourage them to collaborate and excel – whether that’s your own team, or potential customers. And running a startup takes a lot of perseverance and passion, it’s important to believe in yourself and your mission as this is your main source of motivation sometimes.
I would encourage someone interested in being a CTO to get a variety of experience and work with lots of different types of people. And really hone your communication skills.