Applications are now open for UniQuest’s annual Trailblazer competition.

Staff and students from all UniQuest research commercialisation partners are invited to submit their entrepreneurial ideas, early stage research or inventions and compete for a share of $100,000 in cash prizes. Entries can relate to businesses, products, services, technologies or other innovations.

The competition aims to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and encourage students and academics to consider the commercial potential of their intellectual assets.

Finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of commercialisation professionals, with a little help from faculty and institute-based UniQuest Managers of Innovation and Commercial Development.

The winners will be announced in June, at five university-based special awards ceremonies by representatives from Platinum sponsors Fisher Adams Kelly Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys, Davies Collison Cave Intellectual Property Advisers, and Gold sponsors Griffith Hack Patent Attorneys, ShelstonIP, and Cullens Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the competition aims to reward original ideas that have the potential to benefit the community, industry or business as well as generate a financial return.

“The cash prizes from sponsors provide a great incentive for innovative thinkers to come forward with their ideas but Trailblazer participation offers an attractive range of benefits,” Mr Henderson said.

“The online entry form encourages researchers to consider the impact their projects might have on the way lives are lived or businesses are run in the future. Finalists learn how to express their ideas as a professional pitch that focuses less on the technical features and more on the competitive advantages for potential industry partners.

“Every year there are a new technologies revealed that have the potential to really capture the public’s imagination and support, and with increasing participation from a wider a range of disciplines, from the Arts and Social Sciences as well as the traditional science and technology centres, we are looking forward to discovering some really exciting ideas through Trailblazer again this year.”

Professor Jim Rothwell from The University of Queensland’s Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science entered the competition in 2009.

“I found the Trailblazer competition a very worthwhile endeavour.  Distilling my project idea down to a brief presentation given in lay terms crystallised exactly what it was that we were hoping to achieve,” Prof Rothwell said.

For Dr Gethin Thomas at UQ’s Diamantina Institute, Trailblazer proved to be “a great experience which really requires you to think about the potential of your research and also how to present it to a wider audience. It is also well worth checking out the competition – the breadth of UQ research with commercial potential is really quite eye-opening!”

Dr Thomas and his colleagues won a first prize for their Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnostic innovation.

Associate Professor Simon Darcy, from the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, entered his web portal  innovation last year. He believes Trailblazer is “a great way of thinking beyond your research”.

The “7 Natural Physicians Healthcare Education Program” developed by James Cook University student Trish Thomas is running at more than 20 schools through QLD and NSW and has been adopted by James Cook University to help its staff achieve a better work-life balance.

“I was appreciative of the opportunity to present to a group of professionals who were able to provide positive feedback in relation the presentation of my invention. Obviously winning the student section gave me renewed confidence in ‘where I was going’ and ‘what I was doing’. The encouragement was particularly comforting as you can sometimes feel a sense of isolation when you are trying to break new ground with an innovative idea,”  Ms Thomas said.

Over the past seven years many participants have worked with their institution’s resident commercialisation staff and UniQuest to achieve technology transfer milestones.

  • Dr Andrew Bradley’s neonatal hearing screening IP became the basis of the Ausonex Pty Ltd, a University of Queensland start-up which has attracted a $500,000 investment, a $64,000 COMET grant, a $314,000 CommReady grant and a $50,000 Queensland clinical trials grant.
  • One of the first projects to win a University of Wollongong Trailblazer award was packaged with an existing patented technology from The University of Queensland to form Imprezzeo Pty Ltd, an image-search software company. Imprezzeo has secured backing from Independent News and Media PLC and was launched into the global market last year. It is now an Australian company with technical development and R&D taking place in Sydney, and sales and management functions based in London where the major image libraries and media end-users are located.
  • The University of Queensland’s Professor Maree Smith’s small molecule technology prompted the establishment of Spinifex Pty Ltd, which has the world-wide exclusive license to develop and commercialise a novel pathway for pain medication. Spinifex has advanced significantly in just four years with capital from major biotech investors.
  • Hydrexia Pty Ltd, a company established to commercialise a new technology for the inexpensive and safe storage of hydrogen developed by Dr Arne Dahle and Dr Kazuhiro Nogita, has benefited from the financial support of Uniseed, teQstart, the Queensland Government Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund.
  • An advanced engine optimization control system originating from the research of University of Queensland PhD student Larry Weng was licensed to start-up company ActiveTorque Pty Ltd and raised more than $900,000 investment and $250,000 in grants.
  • UniQuest is currently marketing to potential commercial partners three very diverse 2009 University of Technology Sydney Trailblazer innovations: a hypertonicity-relieving device for lower back pain; a 3D soil reinforcement concept; and a non-invasive cardiovascular vital signs monitoring technique that provides estimations of blood pressure without the need for a cuff.
  • CoolMe Technology developed by Dr Glen Deakin and his James Cook University colleagues won the UQ Business School $100,000 Enterprize business planning competition in 2009 and will appear on the ABC’s The New Inventors program in May 2010.

Visit the Trailblazer pages on this site for more information.

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