UniQuest has announced this year’s winners of its $50,000 Trailblazer competition, with winning ideas ranging from a new therapy for bone cancer to a safer way to extract copper.
Established by the University of Queensland in the 1980s, UniQuest is one of Australia’s largest university technology transfer companies and has held the Trailblazer competition since 2003.
This year, 23 grand finalists from five universities and a medical institution showcased their ideas to a seven-member judging panel for the chance to share in $50,000 in cash prizes.
As well as offering prize money, Trailblazer introduces participants to industry sponsors who can help them protect, package and promote their ideas.
Taking out the title for open winner was Dr Andrew Hutchinson, from Sydney’s University of Technology, who received the highest score for pitching his novel multiple myeloma therapy.
Hutchinson walked away with $16,000, as did student winner Reza Al Shakarji, who impressed the judges with his alternative anode for large-scale copper extraction.
Al Shakarji graduated in 2008 but can still be found on campus at James Cook University. He decided to develop an alternative anode for copper extraction to combat acid mist.
“Acid mist is a huge health issue, particularly for the copper mining sector. Workers in Chile, for example, have to work long shifts in hot conditions wearing uncomfortable protective clothing,” he says.
“My work could be a breakthrough in how they carry out their work while at the same time impacting positively on the economics of the industry.”
His research involves a new type of anode that is lighter, safer to handle, more cost-effective to produce and transport, generates less acid mist, and poses no environmental or health hazards in comparison to lead anodes.
Among the other winners were Dr Ryan Wilkinson, who aims to develop a less invasive test for identifying and improving fish welfare, and Dr Trent Munro, who has developed biologic bullets to beat bacterial infections.
Other winning ideas included an innovative method for sustainable ammonia production, and a computer-based toolkit that users formal software engineering methods to obtain better-designed and more efficient rural services.
UniQuest managing director David Henderson says this year’s entries reflect the high quality and extensive range of ideas being researched at Australian universities.
“Ideas for improving health, education and the environment featured strongly this year, with every entry offering a solution to real problems facing society and industry on a global scale,” Henderson says.
“Trailblazer has taken these ideas out of the researcher’s notebook, and out from under the microscope, and put them under a bigger spotlight.”
“[The competition is capable of] lighting the way for those ideas to move forward into products and services that will change how we deal with the big issues like cancer, obesity, pollution and sustainable development.”