23 April 2009

UQ staff and students with entrepreneurial ideas or early stage research projects are encouraged to enter UniQuest’s annual Trailblazer competition, which offers $40,000 in cash prizes.

Trailblazer, now in its seventh year, aims to identify and reward original and innovative ideas that have the potential to benefit the community, industry or business as well as generate a financial return.

As well as competing for prizes in both Open and Student categories, entrants who are chosen as finalists gain the opportunity to learn how to develop their proposals into five-minute presentations for pitching to a panel of commercialisation experts.

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 Southern Cross Venture Partners have provided the prize money.

UniQuest’s Managing Director, David Henderson, said entries were invited from all UQ research disciplines, whether they related to businesses, products, services or scientific and communication technologies.

"Every year we receive more entries from a range of disciplines, which highlights the growing trend towards commercialisation across UQ’s faculties and campuses, not just from the traditional science and technology centres," Mr Henderson said.

"Last year we had finalists from the Arts and SBS faculties, as well Health, the Sciences, and Engineering fields.

"Entering Trailblazer helps people to consider the commercial potential of their research and the possibilities for using commercial models to accelerate the transfer of their ideas from the university to the community and the world.

"The competition has been instrumental in helping UQ staff and students understand how commercialisation could help advance research and research careers, in addition to publishing and grants. The competition stimulates new ways of thinking about how an idea might translate into industry or community engagement."

Feedback from previous Trailblazer finalists highlights the value of the competition:

"The pitch required a completely different framework than the social impact focus of my research, so UniQuest input not only helped me win the competition but also gave me valuable skills that are transferable in other aspects of my work, e.g. writing grant applications."

"The UniQuest crew are all very supportive and the feedback from the selection committee after the presentation was also very helpful."

"It is a very worthwhile event, and it is held with high regard ... Good for the CV!"

UniQuest continues to work with previous finalists to drive their successful ideas into rewarding commercial ventures.

• An advanced engine optimisation control system originating from the research of PhD student Larry Weng prompted another start-up, ActiveTorque Pty Ltd, which has raised more than $900,000 in investment and $250,000 in grants.

• Dr Andrew Bradley's neonatal hearing screening IP became the basis of the Ausonex Pty Ltd start-up, which has attracted a $350,000 investment, a $64,000 COMET grant, a $314,000 CommReady grant and a $50,000 Queensland clinical trials grant, and will soon commence wide-scale clinical trials in Australia and overseas.

• 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 investment from three major biotech investors. Its lead compound is now in phase 1 clinical trials.

• Hydrexia Pty Ltd, a company established to commercialise a new technology for the inexpensive and safe storage of hydrogen developed by Dr Kazuhiro Nogita and Prof Arne Dahle, has received more than $7m in funding support from UniQuest, Uniseed, teQstart, the Queensland Government Innovation Start-up Scheme, the Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund, UK-based Conduit Ventures, GBS Venture Partners and the Commonwealth Government Commercial Ready and Climate Ready grant programs.

• Professor Istvan Toth and Dr Joanne Blanchfield’s entry for an oral pharmaceutical based on the body's own natural pain killer, endomorphin, led to the formation of Neurotide Pty Ltd. The company received $249,450 funding from the Australian Government's Biotechnology Innovation Fund to carry out proof of concept work, plus a Uniseed investment of $250,000. The researchers have also been successful with NHMRC funding for their work in this area.

Arts and Social Sciences entries UniQuest is working with include "Singing for you and your baby: An essential guide for first time mothers" project, and "Family Transitions", a Positive Parenting-related program for families involved in divorce settlements.

Entries for this year's Trailblazer must be submitted online and close on 8 May 2009. Finalists will be shortlisted by 20 May, with the winners announced on 4 June, following the finalists’ pitches to the judging panel. More information is available on the UniQuest website: www.uniquest.com.au.

Media inquiries: Leanne Wyvill (3365 4307, 0409 767 199). Images of last year’s winners available on request.