Curtinnovation Awards

The annual Curtinnovation Awards recognise Curtin University’s commitment to transforming exceptional research into new products and services that benefit the community, with leading research acknowledged across Curtin’s Faculties of Science and Engineering, Health Sciences, Business and Law and Humanities, as well as Learning and Teaching, and International.

The awards identify new technologies, products and services arising from research at Curtin or it’s collaborators, and enable us to highlight commercial opportunities at Curtin both internally and to the wider business community.

Previous winners include iCetanaREX OrthoRenergiHyprfire and Climate Clever which all started with an idea for a new product and service based on Curtin research. Applications are judged against criteria including the level of innovation and commercial potential of the opportunity.

2023 Awards Recipients

Curtin University is pleased to announce the 10 award recipients for the 2023 Curtinnovation Awards, representing a diverse range of industries and sectors and scale of business development, announced at the annual ceremony on Friday 20 October where business leaders, investors, and key stakeholders received the opportunity to meet the finalists and learn more about their exciting innovations.

The Griffith Hack Overall Winner Green Hydrogen, an electrolyser to produce green hydrogen from untreated water – Professor Zongping Shao, Jiayi Tang

The two existing methods for extracting hydrogen from water have their limitations: one process requires ultrapure water and an expensive catalyst, the other requires significantly higher energy inputs for the same level of hydrogen production. Curtin researchers have created a new water electrolysis method that employs unpurified water sources, including sea water. Their approach uses an alternative catalyst that costs just one tenth of existing methods, calculated to offer up to a 38% cost saving in hydrogen production. This exciting development could be a cost effective, plentiful source of hydrogen that contributes to the achievement of global zero carbon goals.

Curtin Entrepreneurs Award Tempo – Nicola Cuthbert

Tempo is a new web app designed to help address Australia’s growing healthcare needs. The innovative two-sided platform helps healthcare providers find available, qualified practitioners to fill shifts quickly in a variety of healthcare settings, while allowing freelance healthcare professionals the chance to nominate their availability, and to negotiate their pay rate for each shift they accept. Previously, agencies have acted as the hub between professionals and providers, but the Tempo app now gives all parties greater flexibility. The web app offers self-employed healthcare professionals more control over their work-life balance, helping avoid burnout, while healthcare providers who have previously relied on a time-consuming booking process, now have instant access to a pool of practitioners with just one post.

Business & Law ANI Research – Dr Sean Lee, Professor Billy Sung

ANI Research is a self-serve, market research platform that helps businesses understand their customers’ needs, identify new opportunities, test new products and make data-driven decisions. The fully automated platform draws from a bank of proven questions to create a customised survey with associated analysis and data presentation templates. Data is collected via shareable survey links or consumer panel services, and the statistically validated analytics are applied to the results. Rather than only providing data to the business, the automated analysis and interpretation assists in creating true insight.  Disrupting the domain of full-service market research agencies, ANI Research’s affordable subscription model makes rigorous market research accessible to even the most modestly funded organisations and start-ups and empowers and educates clients to make informed data-driven decisions.

Health Sciences MYLO – Georgie Anderson, Joel Dunstan, Professor Tom Gedeon, Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, Professor Warren Mansell, Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester

Manage Your Life Online, or MYLO, is an AI web-based chatbot that generates specific questions for individual users, prompting users to ask questions they may not have thought to ask themselves. The app is designed to emulate ‘Method of Levels’ therapy, which encourages users to listen to themselves. It also uses elements of Perceptual Control Theory, prompting users to find ways to change their perception of challenges they face to better manage their life and emotions. Users are able to rate the helpfulness of each question, informing and improving future questioning. The Curtin MYLO project team has forged strong ties around the globe with mental health service providers, commercial entities and development partners interested in researching, funding and distributing MYLO. In the future, the team anticipate translations of the app to other languages and platforms to support a wider international audience.

Humanities Marri Gum Dye, a natural extract from the Western Australian Marri gum – Helen Coleman

With the global textile industry seeking out sustainable alternatives to toxic synthetic dyes, this offers a new, energy-efficient method to produce a natural dye from the iconic Western Australian marri tree. Marri gum contains up to 70% soluble and insoluble tannins, giving it the potential to become an effective natural dye, but up until now, the insoluble elements, which cause colour inconsistences, have proven difficult to remove. The discovery is an efficient way to separate the soluble and insoluble fractions of the gum in cold water to create a water-soluble extract that produces yellow-brown colours on cloth, or with the addition of a food-grade reducing agent, pink to pinkish-red hues.   The next step is a collaboration with Aboriginal artists participating in the Noongar Arts Program who are exploring natural, locally made dyes for the creation of their work. The team envisages a commercialisation model led by Noongar businesses for harvesting and producing the dye, with the support of state and federal government initiatives.

International Prize Pine Sense – Eric Chua Yong Hong, Dr Christine Wan Sieng Yeo (Curtin Malaysia)

The humble pineapple fruit is popular worldwide, with the global pineapple market forecast to reach US$23.1 billion by 2026. However, current methods to test the flavour profile and quality of a pineapple prior to sale are time consuming and invasive, destroying the fruit in the process. Researchers at Curtin Malaysia have developed Pine Sense, a non-destructive AI method that identifies a correlation between the colour of the fruit’s shell and its sweetness or acidity.  An image of each pineapple is separated from its background, and its colour data is assessed through quality prediction modelling. Pine Sense’s ability to quickly and accurately assess pineapples, without destroying the fruit, makes it possible to grade individual fruit for different sectors of the market during processing. With Malaysia producing on average 400,000 to 600,000 tons of pineapples yearly, this new innovation aims to benefit the local and wider pineapple market by helping producers identify higher quality varieties, while reducing product waste.

Science & Engineering Space Domain Awareness – Jake Jones, Aoife Stapleton, Luke Verduyn, Mia Walker, Associate Professor Randall Wayth, Emmaline Yearsley

Curtin researchers have harnessed their expertise in imaging distant galaxies to create a highly portable and ‘invisible’ radar system, with exciting potential applications for the defence and aerospace industries. The Space Domain Awareness (or SDA) system was designed in-house and looks for reflections of FM radio and TV station signals that have bounced off objects in the sky.  Using this method, the SDA system does not broadcast its position, unlike conventional radar systems, which transmit a dedicated signal and look for its reflections. By employing techniques from radio astronomy applications, such as low noise amplification of weak signals, the SDA system has the capability to track aircraft or even objects in orbit thousands of kilometres away. The highly portable system was manufactured in Western Australia and can be deployed by a small team in under two hours.

Student Prize MacroMop – Melissa Eccles, Dr Benjamin Dwyer, Associate Professor Giuseppe Verdile

A special type of immune cell could offer an alternative treatment pathway for patients with infections that have become immune to antibiotics, or patients with cancers that are not responding to chemotherapy. The cells, known as macrophages and microglia, consume and remove infected and damaged tissue in a process known as phagocytosis. A team of Curtin researchers have identified a novel protein, present in the macrophage cell, that when increased, dials up the rate and capacity of phagocytosis. These ‘super active’ macrophages could potentially be applied or injected into specific infection sites or tumours to ‘consume’ the diseased tissue more quickly. While macrophage therapy is currently being explored, the use of this protein is new and presents a novel way to increase the utility of macrophage therapy. The next phase of research will look into the potential of other further therapeutic uses, such as improving the skin condition of burns patients, enhancing pathogen recognition by macrophages in infections, and modifying the environment of solid tumours.

Teaching & Learning Elucidate Education – Jack Anderson, Patrick Catambay, Kyi Chan, Christina Chong, Hannah Knight, Ben Whitten

Elucidate Education is Australia’s largest not-for-profit education platform, making upper secondary school learning resources accessible to all students, regardless of their circumstances.  Curtin students have joined forces with a large team of university volunteers to create curriculum-based textbooks, online content and videos that are already proving to be effective. To date, 82,000 students globally have accessed the material, with many expressing a preference for these learning resources.  While the textbooks are available for purchase by all students and high schools, Elucidate Education also uses a two-for-one donation model aimed at supplying every third textbook for free to students who are financially disadvantaged, or who are under-resourced due to regional isolation. Following its initial roll-out in Western Australia and Victoria, Elucidate Education has an Australia-wide expansion plan to increase the number of volunteers writing textbooks for middle and upper school learning. The team is also developing a production studio for the creation of educational content.

Trailblazer Hydrobe® – Duncan Anderson, Associate Professor Tejas Bhatelia, Brent Bonadeo, Dr Sufia Hena, Dr Nadia Leinecker, Dr Milinkumar Shah, Jaco Zandberg

Finding ways to capture and recycle carbon discharged by heavy industries is critical to achieving net zero emissions targets. Western Australian company Hydrobe has developed a new, sustainable approach to decarbonisation that uses a biological process to convert carbon into algal biomass, without generating new carbon.  Hydrobe is using Curtin research to quantify and improve the effectiveness of recycling carbon into organic carbon while co-producing hydrogen. As Hydrobe’s core technology doesn’t require high heat or pressure, the cost, size and energy footprint of large-scale photosynthetic reactor systems are reduced. A recent independent study has confirmed the viability of Hydrobe’s process at scale, and an ability to produce hydrogen for less than USD$2 per kilogram.