Two of UniQuest’s commercialisation projects at the University of Tasmania were acknowledged for their entrepreneurial research at the recent Tasmanian C-Star awards: a team from the Australian Maritime College (AMC) and staff from the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS).

‘Team Bycatch’ and ‘CE-Scan’ were finalists in the State Government’s C-Star awards for the commercialisation of science, technology and research.

The small group of AMC staff dubbed ‘Team Bycatch’ were shortlisted for pooling their combined knowledge to develop a novel technology that reduces bycatch in prawn trawl fisheries. ‘Team By-catch’ is an interdisciplinary group of fishing gear technology experts from, engineering and marine biology and ecology.

Team member David Maynard said for every kilogram of prawns consumed, between three and 20 kilograms of non target animals are captured and discarded.

“This is a waste of natural resources and also represents inefficiency in the fishing process – fishermen paying to catch and then discard substantial volumes of fish,” Mr Maynard said.

“There are a number of devices available to prawn trawl fishermen that reduce small fish bycatch, but they are not overly effective and they are known to cause around five percent prawn loss, which is an inefficiency in the fishing method. Our device works totally differently. It catches five percent more prawns so that’s a 10 percent improvement in catch rate. It also reduces small fish bycatch by about 20 percent.”

The ACROSS C-Scan researchers were shortlisted for their separation science work focussing on a portable device for analysing post-blast  samples  of improvised explosives, such as those often used by terrorists.

ACROSS was established in 2001 by a strategic agreement between key researchers at UTAS and RMIT University. Separation science involves the separating complex mixtures into their components, then measuring the amount of each component present.

Dr Robin Fieldhouse, UniQuest’s UTAS-based Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development, said he was pleased that two UTAS projects were selected as finalists in the 2010 C-Star awards.

“It was an honour to be a part of these awards, as they focus on the commercialisation aspects of research, such as how the Intellectual Property value is protected and how a prototype is developed,” Dr Fieldhouse said.

UniQuest has helped the ‘Team Bycatch’ researchers apply for a patent for a device that exploits fish responses to light. UniQuest is also actively seeking investment from the private sector to get the product on to the world market.

“Globally, there are around 20,000 prawn trawlers. Independent market research calculates the global market for our product to be about $500 million,” said Dr Fieldhouse.

“It is really exciting that tools that will impact on global fisheries are being developed here in Tasmania.”

The CE-Scan technology also has a number of competitive advantages over current methods for detecting explosives. Its portability, sensitivity, and ability to detect a wider range of devices simultaneously are likely to attract interest from industry partners in the global explosives detection market, which is worth more than $210 million.

“Both of these research innovations offer potentially significant economic benefits for Tasmania and the University as well as the industries they will help. Recognition of this from the state government is very encouraging for the research and commercialisation teams involved,” Dr Fieldhouse said.

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