IHBI Inspires

Bluebox recently sponsored and attended the IHBI (Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation) Inspires conference. IHBI Inspires is a two day showcase of the research undertaken by IHBI students. The students organised an exciting conference which featured a range of posters and a series of high level presentations with an emphasis on real world research implications. A broad spectrum of technologies were presented including research into prostate and endometrial cancer, wound repair, the genetics of migraine, heart failure and other health conditions together with scaffolds for tissue engineering, implants and surgery to name just a few technologies. Talks even ventured into some more controversial areas such as fecal transplants which sparked some lively debate. Inspirational talks came from guest speakers Prof. John Fraser (Prince Charles Hospital, BiVacor, ICET Lab) and Jessica Watson – sailor intrepid. The conference was a great success and continued to demonstrate the world class research that QUT, and in particular IHBI, undertakes which continues to grow significantly in both reach and impact.

IHBI-193

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: Clipchamp – Q&A

Clipchamp - logo

1. What is Clipchamp?

Clipchamp is a start-up that makes sharing video easy and fast.

2. Who are the people behind Clipchamp?

The team consist of seven people with diverse backgrounds who have been working together for various employers for nearly ten years in the areas of sales, executive and general management, development, research, marketing and operations.

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

The two co-founders are staff members of QUT.

4. How long have you been operating as a business? 

The team was incorporated in February 2013 and have had Clipchamp on the market since August 2014.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Clipchamp?

The Clipchamp team set out to build the largest distributed supercomputer in the world. Their first use case was to be around video conversion and they built quite a bit of technology to make it happen. When the original plan turned out to be too ambitious, they pivoted and released the video technology as a free product that received significant user uptake.

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Some team members ran companies or parts of companies and some built and evangelised technologies and products for large software companies. However, Clipchamp is their first tech start-up.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with Clipchamp to date?

Their products are technologically challenging and building them in a way to scale hundreds of thousands of existing users and the millions they are potentially expecting takes much patience. Also, obtaining the different legal, financial, operational and other aspects under control at the same time requires a significant bandwidth, which they would instead love to spend on progressing the business.

8. What has been your biggest success with Clipchamp so far?

When the Clipchamp team rolled out the platform, they had no idea that they would attract half a million users within a year with virtually no marketing. The business is growing strongly and many users provide excellent feedback.

Solving a real problem for many users is their biggest success so far.

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

The Clipchamp team are influenced by different local and global entrepreneurs but the biggest source of inspiration interestingly comes from a user the team have never been in contact with praising the software. Some significant YouTubers call Clipchamp ‘life-changing’.

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

It would put Clipchamp into a position to accelerate growth, refine and speed up product/market fit and become cash-flow positive sooner. The Clipchamp team are operating in a vertically growing industry and growing fast is their only currency. Different growth trajectories might be the difference between failing and succeeding.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: eziDialer – Q&A

eziDialer - logo

1. What is eziDialer?

eziDialer is a patentable internet application that allows the integration of a user’s mobile phone with their latest cloud business applications.

It is a disruptive technology (an innovation that displaces an established technology with a ground-breaking product to create a completely new industry) designed to accelerate the decline of fixed business phone service for small businesses. eziDialer will also create new market opportunities for start-ups to build mobile applications for businesses to enable them to efficiently run their businesses while on the road.

2. Who are the people behind eziDialer?

The team consists of:

  • Simon Horne, an international communications expert and entrepreneur with two communication patents and four international telecommunication standards. He has 15 years hands-on experience building communication businesses in Asia, the US and Australia including founding a Silicon Valley start-up BlueJeans.com in 2010, which raised $100 million for venture capital funding and is currently valued at over $500 million. Simon has represented two countries at the UN on communication matters and is currently a mentor at River City Labs and iLab.
  • Tylor Stewart, who is part of the winning team at River City Labs’ Startup Weekend and is a founding member and current treasurer of QUT Code.

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

Simon holds two degrees from QUT, one in Engineering (1993) and an MBA (2000). Tylor is currently undertaking a bachelor of Information Technology at QUT.

4. How long have you been operating as a business?

 The start-up is brand new and has only been operating since July 2015.

5. How did you come up with the idea for eziDialer?

Simon was the coach of Tylor’s team who won River City Labs’ Startup Weekend with the idea to build a more efficient call centre using VoIP technology. After the event and analysing the concept as a potential business opportunity, they discovered it was not unique as there were already a number of well-funded start-ups in the market.

Taking a leaf out of the Uber book that states ‘people dislike call centres’ and ‘people don’t answer calls they think come from call centres’ (no caller ID or a fixed phone number), it was agreed that the business needed to pivot. Simon and Tylor did not want their product to be a superior technology that people disliked using but fortunately Simon woke up one morning with the patentable concept.

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Both Simon and Tylor have previous experience in the start-up environment. Simon has 15 years experience running international start-ups in Asia, the US and Australia with the most successful being the conceptualisation, joining and building of the Silicon Valley start-up, BlueJeans.com.

Tylor has previous start-up experience from running a successful mobile phone repair business in Hervey Bay.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with eziDialer to date?

Recruitment and the ability to find more QUT students willing to step out of their programming comfort zone and joining a start-up.

8. What has been your biggest success with eziDialer so far?

Execution and building a proof of concept in 48 hours, only three days after inventing the eziDialer idea.

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

Simon has tracked his own course as an entrepreneur as it is more of a personal journey and what has worked for him may not work for someone else. 

He is motivated (to disprove) the writings of his distant cousin and author Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country (written in the 1960s but is still relevant today). The book is a social commentary on Australia and discusses what is right and wrong with the nation and why Australia’s luck is more along the lines of Steven Bradbury luck (to succeed unexpectedly or unusually) rather than hard work creates luck. Simon’s fear is that Australia’s luck is running out unless we take action.

He is influenced by Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009) and how businesses should focus on their vision and how customers share that vision and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (2014) and how great business leaders attract and motivate staff and building loyalty by being the first one on the battlefield and the last one to enjoy the victory.

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

It would mean the ability to plant a seed that will hopefully grow and create both eziDialer and a general start-up ecosystem from which young motivated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates (especially computer science) can hone their skills, make some money and go off and start their own technology start-ups. In doing so, this will demonstrate to risk-adverse investors that start-ups are very much worth the risk and attract the required investment.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: Fantasy Insider – Q&A

Fantasy Insider - logo

1. What is Fantasy Insider? 

Fantasy Insider is a sports analytics platform that develops new metrics and tools for analysing sporting data and focuses (in the first instance) on Australian sports and horse racing.

The current launch product, known as Fantasy Insider, provides research tools and lineup optimizers for AFL (Australian Football League) and NRL (National Rugby League) fantasy contests.

2. Who are the people behind Fantasy Insider?

The team consists of:

  • Darryl Woodford, who has led the technical development of Fantasy Insider and has previous experience in data science. As a professional gambler and a current fantasy sports player, Darryl is motivated to develop tools for easier interpretation of sporting data.
  • Michel Lubuya is the co-founder of Euphoric Vision, a strategic marketing and design firm, Shadow Management, a sports management firm and he leads the business development and promotional side of Fantasy Insider. Michel started his journey in marketing at QUT before becoming the marketing manager at a Brisbane nightclub. He then ventured in a new direction and opened up a direct marketing/promotions business called Retrouvailles that has now been rebranded as Euphoric Vision.

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

Darryl completed a PhD at QUT in 2013 looking at regulations in the offshore gambling industry. From 2013 to 2015 he was employed as a Research Fellow in the Social Media Research Group, which ultimately led to commercial opportunities with Hypometer, a social media analytics platform.

Michel is a former QUT marketing student.

4. How long have you been operating as a business?

Fantasy Insider has been operating for around three months, although the ideas behind the platform can be traced back to both Darryl’s work on Hypometer and his experience in sports modelling and gambling.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Fantasy Insider?

When daily fantasy sports sites including Moneyball and SportsFantasyPro launched in Australia, Darryl wanted to be involved but realised how far Australia was lagging behind America in sporting analytics.

With approximately two million Australians and 100 million worldwide playing fantasy sports, Darryl realised there were big market opportunities in fantasy sports and fantasy sports data from media partnerships and other uses of the data such as sports/racing betting.

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Katie Prowd and Darryl founded Hypometer in 2014 to translate social media information into a data form that is interesting to the public. Their tools were used in Channel 7’s G20 coverage, ABC News 24’s coverage of the Queensland election and a range of factual and entertainment media channels including Big Brother, TV ratings and Triple J’s Hottest 100.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with Fantasy Insider to date?

Timing has been the major challenge. Much of the development work has taken place during the latter stages of the AFL and NRL seasons, which means the Fantasy Insider team will need to wait until early 2016 to monetise those sports.

Darryl and Michel are now looking at horse racing, soccer, tennis and golf as shorter-term monetisation options.

8. What has been your biggest success with Fantasy Insider so far? 

Fantasy Insider quickly formed promotional partnerships with both Moneyball and SportsFantasyPro and continue to work with others in the industry, which are very supportive of new players in the industry, which in turn develop tools to help the market expand.

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

American statistician Nate Silver (of Baseball Prospectus, FiveThirtyEight blog and US election prediction fame) and the general American sabermetric scene acts as inspiration for most of the approaches Darryl has taken on both Hypometer and Fantasy Insider.

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

It would greatly accelerate growth in two key areas. Firstly, it would provide Fantasy Insider access to much more granular data (available upon subscription) which would improve the projections Darryl and Michel make available to the public. It would also make their work much more useful to others in the sports industry such as the media and sporting teams themselves.

Secondly, it would provide a budget for marketing, enabling Fantasy Insider to test marketing approaches on niche sports during the off-season and be prepared to apply them to AFL/NRL when the fantasy draft season begins in early 2016.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: iKnow (Wajarra Studios) – Q&A

iKnow - logo

1. What is Wajarra Studios?

Wajarra Studios is a newly-established start-up commercialising ‘iKnow’, a proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) eLearning platform that represents a second-generation disruption to the global eLearning market.

2. Who are the people behind Wajarra Studios?

The foundation team for Wajarra Studios consists of:

  • Dr Scott Bolland (CEO, Director and Shareholder). Scott is a neuroscientist and has spent the last 20 years actively researching and teaching in the field of cognitive science – the interdisciplinary study of how the mind works spanning such disciplines as neuroscience, psychology and computational science. He holds a PhD in this area, as well as a University Medal for outstanding academic scholarship.
  • Dr Peter Beven (Executive Director and Chairman). Peter has over 25 years experience in technology commercialisation with the likes of CSIRO, the University of New England and various state governments and is also contracted to the Department of Defence as a commercialisation advisor. He is employed by the QUT Graduate School of Business as a specialist in innovation, intellectual property management, strategy and planning where he teaches into advanced award and corporate programs such as the MBA, Executive MBA and Executive Masters in Complex Project Management for the Department of Defence.
  • Ms Kym Warner (incoming Director and Shareholder). Kym is a finance specialist and is currently the CFO for News Corporation.
  • Mr David Beckett (incoming Director – TBC). David is a Partner (Mergers and Acquisitions) in national law firm Johnson, Winter & Slattery.

Key Advisors include:

  • Mr Sean Howard. Sean was the founder of Ozemail, the first Australian technology stock to be listed on NASDAQ and subsequently sold to WORLDCOM.
  • Professor Peter Little, QUT Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Corporate Programs and Partnerships).

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

Dr Beven is a QUT Staff member of the Graduate School of Business, Ms Warner is a member of QUT Alumni and Dr Bolland is a former QUT staff member of QUT Graduate School of Business.

To further the planning process there is also a team of five experienced Executive MBA students actively assisting Wajarra Studios with the business planning process.

4. How long have you been operating as a business?

Wajarra Studios is a new start-up to commercialise intellectual property in the global market.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Wajarra Studios?

The idea that has culminated in the formation of Wajarra Studios originated as a result of Dr Bolland’s PhD research and the subsequent research that was funded as a $1 million philanthropic grant from Mr Howard.

The idea was further matured as a result of exploration of the use of technology in higher-order learning through the QUT Graduate School of Business.

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Dr Beven has extensive start-up and business experience. He has been directly involved in a number of research and government spin-outs and has founded his own successful technology ventures including one government partnership which currently employs around 45 staff.

He is an angel investor with ownership in five technology ventures, including one in partnership with the Queensland Government and is an investment advisor to two family funds.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with Wajarra Studios to date?

Completing product prototyping in a bootstrapping mode.

8. What has been your biggest success with Wajarra Studios so far?

Preliminary agreements with initial clients and partners who will become the basis of early cash flow and growth.

These include:

  • Queensland Government (schools and health education)
  • News Corporation
  • Acquire Learning (national vocational training market)

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

Elon Musk – visionary and mould-breaker!

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

It would be an enormous support to get ‘investor ready’ and launch into first round user testing in specified market segments.

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: Machinam – Q&A

Machinam - logo

1. What is Machinam?

Remember back in high school you would arrive at maths class and just be like, “Woooo, I can’t wait to get stuck into these non-linear equations today?” Nope, neither can Machinam.

As engineers, the team from Machinam (pronounced Ma-ki-nam) use maths every day in their lives to solve relevant, real-world problems but back in high school, they couldn’t see the point of what they were learning.

That’s why Machinam, a for-profit, for-purpose company that has developed an app-based resource for high school maths classes, was created.

This product tackles the age-old question “Why do we need to learn this?” by framing maths problems in a way that allows students to connect what they are learning in class to their own lives and potential future careers.

This digital app brings together problem-based learning, real-life context and digital technology to provide an alternative to traditional high school maths textbooks. It is both engaging and relevant to students’ interests, and is mapped to the Australian Curriculum.

2. Who are the people behind Machinam?

Claire Bennett, Felicity Furey and Jillian Kenny have been passionate advocates about the possibilities that arise from diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and creating change in this space for the past six years.

After volunteering their time in existing not-for-profit organisations as well as founding their own successful not-for-profit companies, these women are now using a commercial structure to create lasting and sustainable change. Their passion and their professional experience delivering large projects and leading teams have enabled them to bring their ideas for Machinam to a reality.

  • Jillian Kenny (Director), PhD, Civil Engineer, Co-founder Power of Engineering, 2014 Top 100 Most Influential Women in Australia.
  • Felicity Furey (Director), Senior project manager, Civil Engineer, Co-founder Power of Engineering, 2012 Top 100 Most Influential Women in Australia.
  • Claire Bennett (Director), Senior engineer, high risk project manager, mother.

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

Jillian and Felicity both studied civil engineering at QUT, but funnily enough didn’t meet until a few years after they had both graduated.

Jillian graduated from a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) in 2010 and completed a PhD in innovation, which is currently under examination. Fingers crossed she will graduate in December 2015!

Felicity graduated from a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) in 2007 and was a finalist in the QUT Science and Engineering Faculty Outstanding Alumni Awards in 2013.

Power of Engineering, the not-for-profit organisation Felicity and Jillian founded, held its first event for Year 9 and 10 high school girls at QUT in 2012. QUT is now a Foundation Partner and continues to support and promote the organisation having reached over 1,000 students from the events they have run together.

4. How long have you been operating as a business?

Machinam has been operating as a business since December 2013. At the time they were all living in Brisbane, but Felicity and Jillian have since relocated to Sydney and Melbourne respectively. You might think operating a team of three people across three different states might be a logistical nightmare but they’ve realised that it works rather well.

They’ve also implemented some great tools like Slack, Trello and Google Hangouts to keep communication active no matter where in the country (or world) they happen to be.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Machinam?

In 2012, Felicity and Jillian co-founded Power of Engineering (POE), a not-for-profit organisation to inspire female Year 9 and 10 students about what’s possible from an engineering career. Claire joined the team as Partnerships Coordinator shortly afterwards.

After a few years, they began to question if there was a way to scale the impact they were making. During that time, the teachers and students Felicity and Jillian met during POE workshops asked whether such a resource, that engaged the students in the classroom, was available. After spending many hours talking and scheming in a quaint café at the Barracks in Brisbane, Machinam was born.

Based on that first conversation in the café, Felicity, Jillian and Claire wanted this venture to focus on changing the social fabric of engineering, technology and design. The word ‘fabric’ stuck out as a potential name (which was, of course, taken), but they discovered the Latin translation of the word to be Machinam. It is also the derivative of words like fabrication and machine, which is a nice homage to their engineering background. Apparently, to machinate is to artfully plot or scheme, which the team quite like as well!

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Machinam’s business experience comes from running POE workshops during the last four years. Although POE is a non-profit model, it has proven to be an excellent training ground for running a business. They have learned many valuable aspects about recruiting, managing teams, project management, financial reporting, business planning and governance. As senior project managers for some of the world’s leading consulting firms, Claire and Felicity have managed multi-million dollar projects for large and small businesses.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with Machinam to date?

The biggest hurdle in getting this idea off the ground was actually their own self-belief and confidence in their idea. In the beginning, Felicity, Claire and Jillian didn’t know anything about ‘validating an idea’ and spent almost six months talking about it and not taking any action because they thought that being engineers, maybe they were just being nerdy and this wasn’t something people actually wanted. Finally, they gathered up the courage to share their idea with people out there in the world including parents, teachers and students and discovered that there was a demand for what they were doing.

8. What has been your biggest success with Machinam so far?

Validating ideas through school trials. Machinam have confirmed their approach, the market size and demand and received positive feedback from students. There were some extremely articulate year nines who were thanking Felicity, Jillian and Claire profusely for helping them rekindle their natural curiosity and thirst for learning in maths. They found it rewarding to see they were making a difference in students’ lives already, and can’t wait to scale this project and help more students and teachers.

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

For inspiration, Jillian, Felicity and Claire all love Brene Brown. If you don’t know who that is, she is a researcher who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame and conducted one of the top five most-watched TED Talks of all time. Click here to view the video.

Brene was the first to label their business approach as ‘grounded theory entrepreneurship’ – an approach where the product emerges to fulfil an existing need. The idea is that you trust what emerges from the data, and what people’s lived experiences are. By doing this, you can identify the main concern of a group of people you want to help (your market). Your business evolves around how you are continually trying to resolve that concern. A business is only as good as its ability to address the changing needs of its market and this approach means you can be confident that your target market wants your product, seeks it out and doesn’t require marketing or promotion.

Machinam are also influenced by big-thinking entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss (love his podcasts), Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis who ask questions like, “How can you impact a billion people not just focusing on a target market of 10,000.” They also love to bounce ideas and share advice with the network of Young Social Pioneers, an amazing group of thinkers, dreamers and doers who solve social issues through entrepreneurship.

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

Claire, Felicity and Jillian have some huge ideas for Machinam. Winning the Innovation Challenge would allow them to develop the basic app and place the product on the market and into schools across Australia.

As one of the teachers who trialled the content in class said, “If successful, this resource has the potential to transform the way a whole generation relates to maths. They’ll understand how and why it’s such an important skill for life.”

qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: VBK Motors – Q&A

VBK Motors - logo

1. What is VBK Motors?

VBK Motors are the creators of a range of lightweight personal electric vehicles including e-bikes (conversion kit), e-skateboards and e-scooters.

Featuring Advanced Modular Transport & Energy System (AMTES) technology, a number of key components can be easily removed from each vehicle’s chassis and utilised for a wide number of different uses.

2. Who are the people behind VBK Motors?

The team comprises of the three founders: Victor Vicario, Blake Fuller and Karl Von Richter of which the first name initials forms the name of the company.

  • Victor is a strong advocate of innovation and is VBK Motors’ team leader. He has been admitted as a Solicitor in the Supreme Court of Queensland and in addition to his legal experience, he has developed a significant amount of knowledge and skill in both mechanic and electronic engineering. He continues to be involved in a number of tech organisations around southeast Queensland and has been President of HSBNE, Queensland’s largest community tech group (visit www.hsbne.org) as well as co-organiser of the Brisbane 3D Printing Meetup Group. Victor is also part of the mechanical engineering group for Clenergy Team Arrow and is preparing to race in the World Solar Challenge in Darwin during October. Victor is heavily involved in 3D printing through his business 3D Space Labs and through his academic research with QUT.
  • Blake is a final year electrical engineering undergraduate at QUT and is the brain behind VBK Motors’ smart computer modules. Their range of products have an unprecedented number of useful and intuitive features which VBK Motors believe have been long overdue in the portable personal transportation market. He has been Project Manager and President of QUT’s Electrical Engineering Student Society where he was deeply involved in hardware and embedded system design projects. Projects include the Bolt, Storm, Flash and Stratosphere Balloon and details can be found at www.quteess.com. Blake is currently working for Cochlear in the hearing implants team, primarily working on manufacturing processors for the Cochlear BAHA bone conduction implant and the next generation of inner ear implants.
  • Karl is a final year mechanical engineering undergraduate at QUT. He has been President of the QUT Robotics Club and is currently working as a programmer and Robotics Engineer at CSIRO. Karl is heavily involved in both chassis design and battery management systems for VBK Motors’ products.

3. What is your connection(s) to QUT?

Victor holds a Master of Laws majoring in intellectual property law from QUT while Blake and Karl are final year undergraduates at QUT.

4. How long have you been operating as a business?

VBK Motors was officially created in 2015, however the technology and innovation has been in constant development for the past two years with a number of successful tests and prototypes demonstrating the commercial viability of the core concept.

5. How did you come up with the idea for VBK Motors? (VBK Motors’ Advanced Modular Transport & Energy System “AMTES”)

The idea behind VBK Motors’ innovative modular system stems from addressing one of the biggest issues of the 21st century – how to address personal transportation in increasingly dense cities. It is something Victor, Blake and Karl has experienced along with billions of people around the world who have been affected by inefficient transportation alternatives, high costs and lost time in traffic congestion. While some portable vehicles have attempted to provide a solution, their high cost and static functionality has prevented them from becoming mainstream products.

What the market has been missing, is a flexible, versatile and affordable option and VBK Motors offers a range of highly customisable electric vehicles with revolutionary modular technology. VBK Motors’ innovation challenges the current industry-standardised structure of having users conform to their products rather than the products conforming to users’ needs.

6. Do you have any previous experiences in start-ups or business?

Victor, Blake and Karl have had opportunities to work for some of the most important and known companies in the country with Victor also having experience working in start-up businesses.

7. What has been your biggest challenge with VBK Motors to date?

While the current prototypes for the e-long board, the e-mini board, the e-scooter and the bike conversion kit work well, they have been constructed using off-the-shelf components and their level of efficiency can be significantly improved by utilising high quality custom parts.

The next stage is to finalise the production-ready prototype, which requires the production of a highly-precise mechanism with components specifically tailored to the product. Once the final prototype has been completed, the intellectual property protection will be finalised and production of the components may commence.

8. What has been your biggest success with VBK Motors so far?

The biggest success has been building and testing a number of functional prototypes to demonstrate their practical capabilities. At present, the proof of concept has been completed, it has been shown the technology is viable and provides innovation and benefits compared to existing products.

9. Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

The strength of the team comes from their diverse range of experience and backgrounds.

Victor draws inspiration from number of entrepreneurs who have managed to bring significant technological advances across a number of different areas revolutionising multiple markets. One of Victor’s favourite individuals is entrepreneur Elon Musk (PayPal and Tesla) as he has demonstrated a formidable skill in developing successful companies by applying his unique way of thinking and approach to business.

10. What would it mean to you and your start-up to win the Innovation Challenge?

Winning the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge would provide a crucial financial boost to VBK Motors, bringing the commercialisation of their products much closer to reality. They have selected the best technology for their products and have prepared a detailed plan on how to market their creation and generate revenue.

Victor believes they are extremely close at making a difference within the personal transportation market but have exhausted most of their resourcing at this point. Additional capital is required to prepare for production, undertake further testing and to register and protect their intellectual property.

2015 BIO International Convention – Philadelphia

Each year, IHBI, bluebox and QUT’s Division of Research and Commercialisation sponsor QUT researchers to attend the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) conference, this year, held from 15 – 18 June in Philadelphia, USA.
The BIO International Convention is the largest biotechnology industry conference in the world attracting 15,800 attendees from thousands of organisations working within the biotechnology industry. The BIO conference offers key networking and partnering opportunities, and provides insights and inspiration on the major trends affecting the industry.

This year, Dr Jyotsna Batra and Dr Emad Kiriakous were chosen as the 2015 BIO Fellows. Below is an account of their experiences at this years BIO.

Dr Jyotsna Batra

“It was a fantastic networking opportunity to attend BIO 2015 at the Philadelphia Convention Center. As an Early-mid career Researcher attending BIO for the first time, I was thrilled to realise the depth of the conference, and the potential to attract commercial funding into the Research. The QUT Biotechnology Luncheon provided a robust platform for networking with Queensland/Australian dignitaries and as delegates. The talk by our keynote speaker, Dr Amaya Gillespie was truly inspiring.

I was not involved in the one on one partnering, but it gave me ample opportunities to attend most of the educational sessions, which were very highly constructive from a professional development perspective. During the Educational sessions/seminars, many companies pointed out that there are two types of funding opportunities – ‘ready-made technologies closer to commercialisation’ and the other one for the ‘Innovation’. I found it unconventional that companies were ready to fund logical basic ideas with commercialisation potential without much of the data, where companies were interested in venturing initial capital into the project. If I was aware of this opportunity, I would have undertaken several one-one partnering showcasing my research. Nevertheless, I had interactions with representatives from companies during seminars, social networking sessions as well as at their Booths, which was beneficial. I also gathered information about several new technologies/services, such as Drug delivery, Peptide synthesis, Nanomedicine etc., which are highly relevant to the research conducted in my laboratory.

Overall, I was a very fervent to attend the BIO2015 convention and I highly acknowledge QUT Bluebox for providing me a fellowship to become a part of this very fruitful event.”

Dr Emad Kiriakous

“BIO2015 was a good exposure to the biomedical industry and accommodated a unique mix between science and business. A significant benefit from Bio2015 was establishing new links and networks with many businesses and scientists from other countries. Understanding the industry requirements was another benefit that assists tuning up the scientific work towards the commercial targets. Also being introduced to the marketing strategies of businesses in the biomedical industry gave me a good understanding of the importance of demonstrating the practical value of scientific research and not only its theoretical merits.”

Finding a cure for the horse disease laminitis

A QUT research team led by Professor Martin Sillence and Dr Melody de Laat are looking at potential treatments for laminitis—the second most common cause of death in horses and ponies.

Late in 2013, laminitis claimed the life of Black Caviar’s brother, Jimmy. However, the disease doesn’t just claim the lives of top racehorses, it also affects paddock ponies.

Laminitis has been around for more than 2000 years (that we know of), but its cause was a mystery until 2007. That’s when Martin and his team published a discovery that changed our understanding of the disease. They’d found a link between high levels of insulin and laminitis.

Martin says: “There’s been an explosion in this disease in the last 40 years, coinciding with when we started to improve pastures and the type of feed horses and ponies are given.

“The change in diet causes higher insulin levels in all horses, but in certain individuals the insulin levels get totally out of control. Unlike in humans, the horse pancreas never fails and instead continues to pump out insulin until toxic levels are reached.”

After several years of chasing false leads, Martin was almost ready to give up on a laminitis treatment. He then had a ‘light-bulb’ moment when he realised the answer may be treating horses with drugs that target hyperinsulinaemia from a new angle.

The small intestine produces incretins in response to eating sugar. They in turn trigger the pancreas to stimulate increased insulin production. By controlling incretin production and thus insulin levels, Martin realised it might be possible to prevent laminitis occurring.

Martin approached qutbluebox with his idea. We agreed it had commercial potential and invested proof-of-concept funding to kick-start the research and a clinical trial in ponies.

“For 5 years I’d been working in an administrative role at QUT,” explains Martin.

“I hadn’t written a grant application for five years, so I had zero staff, no students and no funding.

“Based on my new idea, and the market size and value of the preventative, qutbluebox invested more than $140,000. The initial results from our study were very promising and over a year later, we’ve got $2.1 million in research grants and a large active team.

“We’ve got funding to test new treatments, which if successful will be the first treatment for the disease ever because at the moment its incurable. We should know if the new treatment works by June 2015.

“In tandem, we’re running a major international survey to study the disease. Veterinaries in Australia, in Britain, the UK, Europe and the US are collecting case studies for us. It’s the largest study of its kind in the world.

“And we’ve also got new theories that we’re working on and we’ve just submitted two ARC linkage grant proposals.”

bluebox continues to work closely with Martin and his team.

To find out more about the research project and just how Martin and he’s team are taking a whole new approach to laminitis, click on the video link above.

Read the case study.

The AUTM 2015 Annual Meeting Wrap Up

In late February I (Maheshi Wadasinghe, IP & Commercial Analyst) had the opportunity to represent bluebox and join more than 1,900 technology transfer professionals from around the world at AUTM’s 2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA, USA. New Orleans welcomed myself and several other staff from QUT with its warm southern hospitality. It is such an interesting city with a rich mix of cultures and traditions. The AUTM meeting is intended to be a common networking location for academic research institutions, industry, investors and interested parties from around the globe. The meeting also provides professional development opportunities and to hear from national and international experts on trends in technology transfer. The opening reception on the first night was a great place to gain flavour of the meeting for a first timer like myself.

One of the highlights of this year’s meeting was the fireside chat with serial entrepreneur and developer of the “Lean LaunchPad”, Steve Blank. Steve stressed the importance of obtaining primary market research by going out there and talking to potential customers to validate the need for a product or process. A product which doesn’t address a market need is unlikely to reach commercial success. Researchers are not necessarily required to disclose their novel idea when approaching potential customers however, they are able to gauge the need for a process or a product by understanding customer pain points and asking a few simple questions!

I was also able to attend courses during the conference which helped me to better understand the key frameworks around the business side of licence agreements, valuating technologies and how Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) operate. I learnt about the complex nature of medical devices and the challenges industry and TTOs face during the effort to commercialise these products.  Another highlight of the conference to me was the negotiations course. There I got a glimpse of the art of negotiation and learnt practical tools and strategies essential for conducting successful negotiations. I now understand that effective communication and transparency is key between TTOs, academia and industry. It is vital to understand the needs of all parties involved when negotiating any agreement.  Throughout all these experiences at the conference, it was interesting to note that despite the differences in backgrounds of those who attended the conference, the common challenges faced by TTOs  and industry were shared by all.

The AUTM conference was truly a fantastic opportunity to expand your professional network , talk to really interesting people with interesting backgrounds and to understand international trends in technology transfer.

For more information, please contact Maheshi Wadasinghe on m.wadasinghe@qutbluebox.

AUTM