NSW scoops the prize pool in The Australian Innovation Challenge

8 December 2011

Scientists from NSW have scooped the prize pool in the inaugural The Australian Innovation Challenge, winning five of the eight prize categories.

The winners, who are pioneering developments in fields as diverse as copper production, biomedical implants, transport logistics, physics education and the fight against cane toads, were recognised for their work at a gala awards night held in Brisbane on Wednesday 7 December.

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane said it was recognition of the high-calibre research being done at NSW universities and research institutions.

"I am delighted that NSW researchers have been recognised for their top level research and I congratulate them on their achievements," Professor O'Kane said.

"In NSW we are immensely proud of our world-leading research sector and these prizes highlight the array of innovations coming out of NSW research institutions.

"Each of the winners' work has far reaching impacts and will enhance the health and wellbeing of our communities and environment as well as boosting our economic growth," Professor O'Kane said.

Professor O'Kane was one of the judges for The Australian Innovation Challenge and is a member of the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council, which was established by the NSW Government to advise the Government on policies and strategies which create an environment where it is easier for businesses to innovate, improve the innovative capacity of the NSW private sector, help increase investment and build stronger rural and regional economies.

NSW winners of The Australian Innovation Challenge

WINNER: Marcela Bilek (NSW)
Professional Category: Health
Invention: Biological Cloaking
Marcela Bilek and colleagues at the University of Sydney have found a new way to coat the surfaces of biomedical implants such as hip and knee prostheses and cardiovascular stents with biologically active molecules to shield them from the body's immune system. The technology promises to lessen the problem of the body's rejection of biomedical implants.

WINNER: David Miljak (NSW)
Professional Category: Minerals and Energy
Invention: Advanced sensor system for large scale-ore sorting
A mineral sensor invented by CSIRO physicist David Miljak and colleagues could boost copper production efficiency by more than 20 per cent. The sensor can distinguish high grade from low grade ore quickly as tonnes of rock containing the copper mineral chalcopyrite pass along a conveyor belt from the mine.
It promises to cut processing costs greatly by enabling the rejection of batches of ore low in the mineral.

WINNER: Andrew Verden (NSW)
Professional Category: ICT
Invention: NICTA's Indigo Solver
For Andrew Verden and Philip Kilby, of National ICT Australia, winning the Innovation Challenge ICT category means offering Australian industry a competitive edge when managing the transportation of goods. Their Intelligent Fleet Logistics Indigo Solver is software that finds the most efficient routing and scheduling for companies with hundreds of variables to consider when delivering goods by road daily around Australia. The system considers truck sizes and capacity, load and unload times, optional cross-docking, vehicle reuse, allowed driving hours and fatigue management, time windows and dozens of other considerations when deciding the timing and routes of delivery.

WINNER: Joe Wolfe (NSW)
Professional Category: Education
Invention: The Physclips Platform: A new way to learn Physics
University of NSW physicist Joe Wolfe was issued with a challenge. It was the International Year of Physics as well as the centenary of Einstein's special theory of relativity and Wolfe was asked to explain the theory in 15 minutes or less. Wolfe's EinsteinLight web-based tutorial was born. It became the precursor to Physclips. Physclips is a freely available new media technology platform for learning physics, or for teaching it, at the senior high school or introductory university level. Currently, it comprises completed volumes on mechanics, special relativity, sound and waves, and has various collections of resources for electricity, magnetism and thermal physics. He says the platform and its interactivity provide a learning experience that goes beyond chalk and talk.

WINNER: Rick Shine (NSW)
Professional Category: Environment
Invention: Toad vs Toad
University of Sydney biologist Rick Shine and colleagues are exploiting the cane toad's arsenal of chemical weapons in a bid to develop biological control agents against the pest which is wreaking havoc on wildlife. One strategy is based on toxic chemicals unleashed by cane toad tadpoles on eggs of their own kind. Shine's group is also investigating the toad tadpoles' attractant pheromone, which could be used to lure them into traps. Still another target is the tadpole's own alarm pheromone.
The work comes as the cane toad's spread across the continent accelerates. Shine says they are causing populations of apex predators, such as snakes, crocodiles, lizards and quolls, to crash by more than 80 per cent.

For a full list of The Australian Innovation Challenge winners visit www.theaustralian.com.au/innovationchallenge