University of Queensland start-up in the running for a US$200k prize

A start-up based at the University of Queensland has been named as a finalist in the $US200,000 Imagine H20 prize for water start-ups, run by US-based non-profit group Imagine H2O.


The start-up, Bilexys, was formed by UniQuest to commercialise technology developed at the Advanced Water Management Centre, located at the University of Queensland.


Established by the university in the 1980s, UniQuest is one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups.


UniQuest helped the AWMC develop a strong intellectual property protection and business strategy, which saw it win the university’s $100,000 Enterprize business planning competition.


The Bilexys technology is currently under licence from the university, with several subsequent patent applications strengthening the IP value for prospective investors and industry partners.


Bilexys saw an opportunity to biologically convert the organics within wastewater into high-value chemical products, including sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide.


Chemicals produced by the Bilexys method are potentially less expensive and have a lower carbon footprint relative to traditional chemical manufacturing techniques.


It is therefore providing a significant economic and environmental driver for the commercialisation and industrial adoption of the technology.


This is the third year that San Francisco-based non-profit Imagine H2O has offered the prize to encourage entrepreneurs to develop business opportunities from water challenges.


The prize includes cash and in-kind services, including participation in Imagine H2O’s Accelerator Program, which aims to commercialise ideas by connecting partners, customers and investors.


As a finalist, Bilexys will receive technical and financial mentorship from Imagine H2O prior to making a final presentation to the judging panel this month.


The winners, chosen from a shortlist of nine finalists, will be announced at a showcase event on March 20.


Paul Barrett, Bilexys business development manager, says the announcement has helped to focus the company’s attention on potential industry partners based overseas.


“We entered the Imagine H2O prize because of the exposure it offered as much as for the prospect of winning prize money to further develop the technology,” Dr Barrett says.


Barrett says there will be 21 judges assessing Bilexys, including clean tech experts and venture capitalists.


“To have this panel looking closely at our business plan is a very encouraging step towards building our profile in the US, which makes up the largest share of the global water utilities and wastewater treatment market,” he says.


UniQuest managing director David Henderson says Bilexys is a good example of how university research can collaborate with industry to develop viable applications for scientific discoveries.


Bilexys is also operating a pilot plant at a major Australian pulp and paper company, producing sodium hydroxide from its wastewater.


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