12 December 2011

Innovation is something Professor Mark Kendall has long valued in his cutting-edge research at The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), even if he has not labeled it that way.

Now Professor Kendall's research on the Nanopatch has been rewarded with an overall win in The Australian Innovation Challenge.

The research aims to replace the traditional needle and syringe with a patch smaller than a postage stamp to deliver vaccines painlessly and more efficiently.

The Nanopatch has thousands of small projections designed to deliver the vaccine to abundant immune cells in the skin, whereas the traditional syringe hits the muscle where there are few immune cells.

Professor Kendall took out the Manufacturing and High-tech Design category of the Innovation Challenge at a gala awards night, before being named the overall winner.

He said the $30,000 in combined prize money would be used in his AIBN research group to fund innovative new ideas which may otherwise not be funded.

The competition was important because it gave scientists a reason to think about innovation and whether they were being innovative, Professor Kendall said.

"Without great science you would not have great innovation. But you also need great new ideas. That is innovation. It is about improving things by implementing ideas effectively.

"Science is a pillar of society. It is hugely useful in its own right, broadening our body of knowledge. But if all the scientific knowledge was trapped in papers and we did not develop things, we would be letting society down."

He said he did not necessarily make a point of trying to incorporate innovation into his research, but it found its way in all the same.

"I am always doing something and thinking of how things can be done in a better way. I suppose you can attach the label of innovation to it," he said.

"You have got to have ideas that will make things better. You need to come up with solutions to problems."

Professor Kendall said winning the Innovation Challenge was exciting, but the title also came with a responsibility to produce results.

"It is exciting but at the same time I am mindful of people's expectations. Funding is the start and not the end. Now it is game on."

Professor Kendall won the Eureka Prize for Research by an Interdisciplinary Team earlier this year.

His research was also given a boost in August, when start-up company Vaxxas was established with venture capital of $15 million – one of Australia's largest investments in a start-up biotechnology company.

The Innovation Challenge aimed to unearth the nation's best ideas and put the spotlight on inspiring innovators who work for the greater good of others.

Among those at the gala awards night were Federal Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, The Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and Shell Australia country chair Ann Pickard.

Media: Erik de Wit (3346 3962, 0427 281 466 or e.dewit@uq.edu.au).