Life Scientific founder Nicola Mitchell named entrepreneur of year

Agrochemicals company employs more than 70 people and generates €60m in revenue

Nicola Mitchell, founder and chief executive of Irish agrochemicals company Life Scientific, has scooped this year's overall EY Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Life Scientific, which makes generic versions of major branded agricultural pesticides, was founded in 1995 and has a portfolio of more than 60 products. The company, which is headquartered in Dublin, employs more than 70 people and generates more than €600 million in annual revenue.

Ms Mitchell received the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year award at a virtual ceremony on Thursday night, attended by an audience of more than 2,000 people. In addition to being selected as the overall winner, Ms Mitchell also won the best international entrepreneur category at the awards.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Mitchell said that despite having several role models, including former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power ,who is her first cousin, she had previously lacked confidence when it came to putting herself forward.


“I never used to go in for awards when I was younger because I was afraid to do so but this makes up for all of this. I hope it shows young girls who lack confidence that their dreams can come true,” she said.

Ms Mitchell is only the second woman to win the overall Entrepreneur of the Year award. It was previously won by CPL founder and chief executive Anne Heraty in 2006.

She said the Entrepreneur of the Years awards were also hugely important to her because it was at the awards ceremony 15 years ago that she met her husband Enda O’Coineen, whose Kilcullen Kapital Partners, owns the Business Post newspaper.

“It has always had a special place in my heart so to win this is extraordinary,” she said.

Ms Heraty was chairwoman of this year's judging panel, which comprised former winners and finalists, including Denis O'Brien, Jerry Kennelly, Michael Carey, Evelyn O'Toole and Harry Hughes.

Ms Mitchell will now go on to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards next year, where she will compete with more than 60 leading entrepreneurs from around the globe.

Now in its 23rd year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards programme works to recognise, promote and build a supportive community around Ireland's high-growth entrepreneurs. Previous winners of the overall award include Aidan Heavey, Padraig O'Ceidigh, Liam Casey, Richard Kennedy, Mark Roden and Brendan Mooney.

Other winners

John O'Connell, co-founder of West Cork Distillers, was named EY Industry entrepreneur of the Year. Founded in 2008, it is one of the largest, wholly Irish-owned distilleries in the State with a distillation capacity of 4 million litres of pure alcohol. Its products, which include Garnish Island Gin, are sold in almost 70 countries.

Matt Cooper, who co-founded biotech Inflazome with Prof Luke O'Neill in 2016 to develop medicines for chronic inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer's, won top prize in the emerging category. Swiss drug giant Roche paid €380 million for the company in September in a deal that could yet be worth close to €2 billion if certain milestones are met.

Frontline staff with the Health Service Executive and An Garda Síochána were also chosen to jointly receive a special award at this year's ceremony.

More than 100 nominations were received for this year’s awards, out of which 24 finalists were selected.

Collectively, the finalists employ more than 5,000 people and have revenues in excess of €400 million.

“The standard of competition between this year’s finalists was incredibly high. It is brilliant to see so many home-grown entrepreneurs at the forefront of their industries, which is testament to the entrepreneurial spirt that’s so prevalent across the island,” said Ms Heraty.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist