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The hunt is on for Australia's brightest sparks

19 June, 2012

The search is on again for the nation’s greatest ideas – in fields from environmental science to education – through the $70,000 The Australian Innovation Challenge awards.

The awards are run by The Australian in association with Shell with the support of the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

The goal is to help drive game-changing breakthroughs by scientists, engineers, technologists, educators and backyard inventors to commercialisation or adoption.

Clive Mathieson, editor of The Australian, said the newspaper was delighted to renew the search for the nation’s top innovators following the resounding success of last year’s inaugural challenge, which attracted more than 300 entries.

Entrants included a team led by Australia’s latest Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt and a team including triple Olympic gold medallist rower Drew Ginn.

"The calibre of entries submitted in 2011 was astounding," he said.

"They came from backyard sheds, university halls and prestigious laboratories across the country. We’re keen to see what ideas we’ll uncover this time round."

Dr Terry Cutler, CSIRO deputy chairman and leader of the federal government’s 2008 review of the national innovation system, will head the judging panel again this year.

"Australia has a great reputation for innovation," he said.

"Among our famous inventions are the black box flight recorder, ‘spray-on’ skin for burn victims and the bionic ear."

Country chair of Shell in Australia Ann Pickard said: "Shell aims to be the most innovative energy company in the world. We work closely with partners in and outside of our own industry, universities, and other experts to spark new ideas and share expertise."

"That is why we’re delighted to be sponsoring The Australian Innovation Challenge for a second year in a row, which we hope will unearth new and different ways of tackling the challenges we all face."

Minister for Industry and Innovation Greg Combet said innovation is about enabling discovery and new ways of delivering high-quality goods and services.

"Innovation is critical to improving productivity, creating opportunities for business, growth and jobs. The Australian Government has a range of programs, including the generous new R&D Tax Incentive, to help businesses invest in innovation," Minister Combet said.

"My Department is proud to support the Australian Innovation Challenge Awards and to highlight the fantastic efforts of our innovative businesses."

The awards, which are open to both individuals and teams, have seven professional categories, each carrying a prize of $5000. The overall winner of the professional categories will receive a further $25,000. An eighth category, Backyard Innovation, is open to the general public and has a $10,000 prize. The categories are minerals and energy, environment, agriculture and food, education, health, ICT, manufacturing and hi-tech design, community services, and backyard innovation.

Professor Mark Kendall, of the University of Queensland, and his team took out the overall prize last year for a patch to replace needles and syringes in vaccination.

The Nanopatch could save millions of lives, with its biggest impact expected to be in developing countries. It is projected to be on the market within 10 years.

To enter The Australian Innovation Challenge visit www.theaustralian.com.au/innovationchallenge

Entries close 12 August 2012.

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