VaXIMISER: maximising vaccine production

Andrew Bean – CEO, VaXIMISER

VaXIMISER is a novel approach to improving influenza vaccine manufacture by the use of an egg that is enhanced to maximise vaccine production. The World Health Organisation estimates that potentially half a million people die each year from seasonal influenza. The solution is vaccination, however, producing enough doses of vaccine in a cost-effective manner can be challenging. Influenza vaccines are grown in fertilised eggs and in some instances it can take two eggs to produce a single dose of vaccine. With 500 million doses of vaccine produced every year, this has dramatic cost implications across the whole vaccine production supply chain. VaXIMISER’s solution is a premium high-yield egg that maximises vaccine growth. VaXIMISER’s premium high-yield egg will increase value for vaccine companies by improving production efficiency across the supply chain, which means more vaccine in less time. The industrial application of this invention will enhance the capacity to respond to disease outbreaks and will help to protect the world from the next pandemic.

Wearing the future: electronic skin and stretchable, wearable electronics

Madhu Bhaskaran – Associate Professor, Functional Materials & Microsystem Research Group RMIT

Transforming the way we imagine, use, and interact with electronic devices is the focus of this project. We are a team of electronics and materials engineers at RMIT University. Our breakthroughs on combining functional oxide materials processed at elevated temperatures with elastic and plastic materials has led to stretchable electronics and sensors. The applications demonstrated to date include room temperature gas and UV sensors. Preliminary designs towards futuristic technologies such as flat optics and smart contact lenses has also been demonstrated.

3D surveying of hostile and remote regions

Nicola Bilton – Research Scientist, Defence Science & Technology Group
Joyce Mau – Research Engineer, Defence Science & Technology Group

Currently, piloted planes are required to obtain information about underwater areas – but it is highly impractical to survey unknown terrain in hostile situations. Military operations require topographic and bathymetric information as soon as possible. Our UAV-based system will bridge this capability gap by providing a remotely operated SPAD (Single Photon Avalanche Diode) LADAR solution to survey an area of interest quickly with less risk to personnel.

The SPAD is a solid-state photo-detector that has the ability to detect a single photon. Our research aims to develop an advanced Time of Flight camera image sensor (based on SPAD array chip technology) to capture quality 3D images using long-range LADAR. Our SPAD devices are cheap, small, light, and offer superior functionality than other detector technologies.

Preventing global ecosystem collapses

Lucie Bland – Research Fellow, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University

Our project focuses on assessing and measuring the risk of ecosystem collapse, i.e. extreme ecosystem degradation leading to dramatic consequences for biodiversity. In doing so, we aim to identify potential levers for ecosystem management and restoration. Our project has influenced conservation practice globally and nationally. The World Union for Conservation of Nature endorsed the Red List of Ecosystems in 2014 as the official global protocol for assessing risks to ecosystems, and the Australian Commonwealth and State governments have agreed in principle to adopt the Red List for upcoming listings of threatened ecosystems.

Seeing small: using nano-diamonds to help patients faster

Carlo Bradac – Research Fellow, UTS

Medicine and life science research relies on the ability to see microscopic organisms in order to discover new therapies and cures for disease. But there is no safe, reliable way to see many of the critical molecules that lead to deadly diseases. Our nano-diamonds can track the molecules and cells in live bodies, remaining visible for long periods of time to provide insights into how they travel around the body. Unlike current bio-tracking and imaging techniques which require biopsies or radioactive, toxic probes, these nano-tracers are non-toxic bright light beacons that can be detected under conventional medical imaging systems. They feature perfect brightness, non-toxicity and biocompatibility.

The impact of these nano-tracers could be felt in areas like cancer research, drug development and water purification. This technology will allow new therapies to reach patients in a faster, safer and more reliable way. It will also enable pharmaceutical companies to better visualise where drugs travel, informing strategic investment decisions at every stage of the development pipeline.

The interplay between stories and numbers at the heart of Aboriginal wellbeing

Sheree Cairney – Associate Professor, Flinders University

There is no greater ‘wicked problem’ in this country than the pervasive status of Aboriginal wellbeing. The challenge lies in integrating Aboriginal values and knowledge held in stories into government policy that prioritises numerical information. Over six years, scientists collaborated with remote Aboriginal communities and the Australian Government to develop the holistic Interplay Wellbeing Framework. As a grassroots national strategy for Aboriginal wellbeing in remote Australia, the framework brings together ‘stories and numbers’ to generate measureable outcomes, providing a roadmap for change. Information is presented in an interactive data visualization that integrates statistical pathways and interrelationships with over 30 short documentaries voicing community perspectives.

Following its launch at the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra last November and subsequent reporting in journals and conferences, substantial interest has followed from federal and state governments and philanthropic groups. The Interplay Wellbeing Framework provides a tool to design and evaluate policies, programs and services based on community needs, with broader potential for other groups needing to develop and implement shared values and vision.

Saving plants from drought in this sunburnt country

Kai Xun Chan – Postdoctoral Research Associate, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, ANU

We all know that pot plants will die if we forget to water them. On a national level, however, drought is more than a minor inconvenience because it decreases agricultural production and costs the Australian economy billions of dollars annually. So what changes occur within a plant during drought? How do plants know when they’re in trouble, how do they respond to save themselves, and, are there things we can learn that will help farmers improve yield in Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘Sunburnt country’?

Plant chloroplasts are better known for their roles in capturing sunlight to make food for plants in a process called photosynthesis. However, recently we discovered that a protein within plant chloroplasts can actually sense drought, effectively acting like a “fire alarm”. This “fire alarm” alerts the plant upon sensing water shortage and getting “sunburnt” from intense sunlight. The alarm is not a siren, but a small molecule that moves within plant cells to close the pores on leaves to preserve water, and it also produces other proteins and molecules that protect and repair damage caused by drought and excess light.

We are currently developing a novel chemical spray that we can apply quickly, cheaply and safely to crops to activate this “fire alarm” earlier during drought, thereby enhancing the ability of crop plants to preserve water. This might help our crops survive longer, reduce farming losses and increase food security.

Pocket Rocket: a miniaturised space engine for Cubesat nano-satellites

Christine Charles – Professor, Australian National University

Thousands of small satellites are expected to be launched over the next decade: ‘a disruptive space revolution’ boosting Earth imaging, internet, global positioning and space weather forecast capabilities. ‘Cubesat’ nano-satellites (the size of a loaf of bread) provide low-cost access to space and open doors to unprecedented unique projects for universities and small companies. One key remaining challenge is the development and integration within the Cubesat platform of suitable low-power miniaturised space engines. Pocket Rocket is an Australian-born miniaturised electrothermal radio frequency plasma thruster which uses green propellant such as argon. It has the potential to provide satellite orbit control, altitude control, formation flying and docking capabilities.

Changing Australia: Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA)

Nick Cleary – Founder & Chairman, CLARA

In 2015 Nick Cleary founded Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) to deliver a program to change Australia. CLARA is an Australian private group which seeks to undertake a re-balancing of our settlement and deliver new ways of imagining, planning and building cities, transport and infrastructure. This is a population strategy for our nation.

CLARA is proposing to build eight new regional, compact, sustainable, SMART cities and connect them by the world’s most advanced high speed rail between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Biofabrication: the hospital of the future

Mathilde Desselle – Project Manager: Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology, QUT

We believe that all major hospitals within ten years will have 3D printing manufacturing centres forming part of the patient care pathway, leading to lower health costs, improved access to the best treatments and better health outcomes and quality of life for individuals and society. These techniques will all be coming together in Brisbane at the new Herston Biofabrication Institute, opening in 2018 (a collaboration between QUT and Metro North Hospital and Health Service which will be located at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital / Herston Precinct), where doctors and scientists will be able to develop approaches to engineer new tissue using advanced clinical scanning, modelling and 3D printing to create customised engineered tissue implants, some using the patient’s own cells, to repair tissue that is lost or damaged due to trauma, cancer or birth defects.

Solar powering your apartment: open source solar storage

James Eggleston – Postgraduate Research Student, Curtin University

Australians in freehold housing have benefited the most from solar PV, with significantly less uptake in solar power from those in shared ownership scenarios (like strata or common property arrangements). Our project is changing this, with the development of a unique open source solar storage governance model for application in any apartment building (existing or newly built) in Australia. This could be applied to 25% of the Australian housing stock.

The energy governance model will be tested over the 110 dwelling WGV housing precinct located in Fremantle, Western Australia. Once complete, the governance model will be released as open source for national application. We anticipate seeing a return on investment of 4-5 years with costs competitive with the rising price of retail electricity.

We are also trialling a number of other innovations as ancillary services that could be offered by the solar storage energy governance model. These include (but are not limited to) the peer to peer trading of surplus solar energy over the network infrastructure, in addition to a shared electric vehicle complete with charging station.

Project partners include the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Cooperative Research Centres for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL), Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute, City of Fremantle, Landcorp, Western Power, Synergy, Access Housing, Contempo and Yolk.

3D Reefs

William Figueira – Associate Professor, University of Sydney

The shallow reefs of our seas are amongst the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Yet these areas are also typically the most heavily impacted by the ever-expanding human footprint. Impacts such as coastal development and climate change induced coral bleaching are driving dramatic changes to the habitats that serve as the basis for these incredibly diverse systems.

The 3D Reefs Project is a synergy of science and engagement which uses the latest innovations in imaging technology to shed much-needed light on the problems faced by our shallow reef systems, and also to offer solutions. We use the process of photogrammetry to build high resolution models of everything from individual coral colonies to hundreds of square metres of reef. The incredible detail offered by these models allows us to track growth and erosion rates of coral reefs resulting from cyclone damage or coral bleaching. We can also pull apart the various aspects of the structural complexity of these habitats to better understand their importance to different groups and types of organisms living on them. This allows us to predict changes in fish assemblages as a result of coral bleaching or the replacement of coastal rocky reef by seawalls and jetties.

We can also go further to use this information to design the structural elements of remediation efforts, for instance the 3D printing of specific coral models from our library to replace complexity lost on bleached reefs over the short to medium term recovery period. The 3D models we develop also serve as a powerful outreach and communication tool, serving up something that is out of sight and mind to the majority of people in a compelling and engaging way, allowing them to observe the beauty of these systems in a truly interactive manner. The Project is built heavily around off the shelf components, allowing broad applicability within not only the science community but opening doors to citizen science as well. The 3D Reefs Project aims to engage the public in the plight of these systems, grow our scientific understanding of them and develop practical short term solutions to mitigate the ongoing impacts.

Protecting our landscapes: managing woody weed invasion

Victor Galea – Principal Scientist, BioHerbicides Australia

An environmentally appropriate and sustainable system is needed to manage aggressive woody weed invasion of our landscapes. Our research group has developed a unique technology for the rapid insertion of specially formulated capsules into the stem of woody plants. These capsules can be used to deliver a range of solutions to problems with woody plants – from beneficial therapies to components which kill unwanted (weed) trees. Both the delivery method and some of the products we have developed (biological herbicides) are unique in terms of design, function, efficacy, operator safety and environmental considerations.

Zap Wave for disinfestation of fruit flies

Mala Gamage – Research Project Leader, CSIRO

Zap wave is a microwave based continuous insect disinfestation method developed by CSIRO scientists and engineers for devitalisation of fruit flies living in intact fruit and vegetables. This technology enables the growers to conduct disinfestation of fruit flies and other insects of quarantine concerns, at the farm or at a local packhouse. Zap wave leaves no chemical residue in the treated product unlike the commonly used fumigant methyl bromide and is faster than the currently used vapour heat treatment. The effectiveness against fruit fly inactivation has been demonstrated in three different crops (apple, capsicum and zucchini) with three types of fruit flies: Bactrocera jarvisi (Jarvisis’ fly), B. tryoni (Queensland fruit fly) and B. cucumis (cucumber fly). Queensland fruit fly is considered the most costly horticultural pest that impedes Australian host commodities accessing export and domestic markets.

Smart textiles: improving mining with Imagine Intelligent Materials

Chris Gilbey – Chris Gilbey – CEO & Founder, Imagine Intelligent Materials

Imagine Intelligent Materials develops industrial-scale structural integrity reporting systems leveraging graphene’s super-conductivity. They manufacture coatings for geotextiles, making them into ‘smart’ textiles. Their first licensee is Geofabrics Australasia, the largest textile manufacturing company in Australia. In addition to making the coatings, they make devices that connect to smart textiles extracting useful data and reporting it in real time. The company’s initial market focus is the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining market, where it is essential that the toxic leachate produced during CSG extraction is contained and does not pollute ground water. The first installation of imgne® X3 coated bidim® C manufactured by Geofabrics took place in May 2017 at an Origin Energy site in Queensland. Imagine IM has research relationships with Swinburne University’s Factory of the Future and with Deakin University’s Institute of Frontier Materials. Imagine IM is the lead industrial partner in the Graphene Supply Chain CRC-P located at Swinburne University and also has research relationships with Oklahoma University and University of Wollongong.

The fourth element for our energy future: geothermal

Linden Jensen-Page – PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

A sustainable energy future is not possible relying on the three elements of solar, wind and hydro alone. The sun doesn’t shine all day, the wind doesn’t always blow, and in Australia water resources are limited making hydro only viable in certain regions. The world needs the fourth element – geothermal. In your city, basements, roads and metro tunnels are currently not renewable energy sources, but this will change with 4EE. We provide a complete solution, encompassing design, build and operation of shallow geothermal systems at any scale. Architects, engineers, power companies and governments on any project can thus work towards a complete sustainable energy future.

4EE, a complete shallow geothermal solution accessing energy that is already there; just by looking underground.

LithSonic: the low-cost production of lithium metal

Daniel Jewell – Project Manager, LithSonic

LithSonic will power the next battery revolution with a new paradigm in lithium metal extraction technology. It is a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to produce lithium metal for use in transport and energy storage applications.

As the world moves into an energy economy dominated by rechargeable electrical storage at the battery level, the need for ever more energy dense storage media will become critical for continued technological development. Electric vehicles, mobile technologies, and distributed storage and supply are already transforming the planet, but range anxiety, battery life, charging times, and safety are key factors that can either make or break a new technology, and are amongst the most common of all complaints from consumers.

The current leading battery technology, lithium-ion, was developed as a compromise to lithium-metal batteries which at the time were too expensive, unsafe, and challenging to develop, despite their significantly more favourable properties. Unfortunately, lithium-ion batteries are reaching their theoretical limits and without a change to new battery chemistries, the promising technologies that rely on such advancements will be unlikely to flourish.

LithSonic is the key to unlocking a lithium metal future.

Inhaled Oxytocin: addressing maternal mortality in resource-poor settings

Michelle McIntosh – Associate Professor, Monash University

Every day over 800 women die due to pregnancy-related causes, overwhelmingly in the poorest countries. The leading cause of these deaths is postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) or excessive bleeding after birth. Oxytocin is the gold standard therapy for the prevention and treatment of PPH, however oxytocin is currently only available in an injectable form that requires refrigerated supply and storage to maintain quality and skilled healthcare workers for safe administration. Consequently, in settings where cold chain infrastructure is lacking and unreliable, and trained providers scarce, access to this essential, life-saving medication is limited.

Inhaled oxytocin is a Monash University innovation that, in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, is being developed to provide a heat stable, affordable and simple to use oxytocin product for the prevention of PPH in low income countries. By taking oxytocin out of the cold chain and expanding administration to lower tier healthcare workers, inhaled oxytocin has the potential to increase access to women in greatest need and significantly reduce maternal mortality in low and middle income countries.

Connecting problem owners with problem solvers

Bruce Muirhead – Entrepreneur and Founder, MindHive

Today’s innovation problems are tough to solve. The traditional methods that have served government and business well for decades no longer seem to work: it’s not always obvious what combination of people, skills and technology you need; scaling up and down dynamically to match changing workload demands is challenging; there’s often a limited ability to find experts in different markets and geographies; expertise is fragmenting – no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else. The key function of MindHive is to operate as a conduit whereby business, universities, government and not-for-profits can solve complex policy and strategy issues; harnessing the knowledge of expert contributors. Consumers upload their challenges to the MindHive web platform. MindHive takes care of serving their challenges to a pool of problem solvers. MindHive’s growing community of verified experts, responsive crowdsourcing technology and proven problem solving methods make MindHive unlike other idea management methods. It’s not a wiki for one-off in-house collaborations. It grows smarter, faster, and larger overtime. MindHive provides a community that connects problem solvers to users, users to users, and problem solvers to problem solvers. Through these market-driven relationships and platform features, users spend more time on MindHive and more challenges get solved. MindHive’s ambition is to become the primary platform for co-created solutions on the Internet, and to allow any ‘problem owner’ or ‘problem solver’ to upload, collaborate and share the solutions.

AquaTerra: Intelligent Soil Moisture Mapping

Dr Guillermo Narsilio – ARC Future Fellow, The University of Melbourne

Soil moisture is critical to a wide range of industries – especially agriculture. Despite the paramount significance of having an effective water management system, only 1 in 5 farmers in Australia have some sort of (single point!) monitoring informing irrigation, sowing, and nutrient use decisions, leaving the rest to highly subjective and inefficient ways to manage farms, directly impacting on productivity and profitability levels.

Common techniques for soil moisture data collection are time-consuming, labour intensive or require probe insertion and the use of high-cost equipment. They are also difficult to interpret for decision-making.

AquaTerra provides an economical and unique non-invasive approach to measuring soil moisture content enabling extensive and intensive land moisture mapping. The technology provides intelligence to boost productivity, while reducing water and energy consumption and improving crop quality for agriculture. AquaTerra technology also enhances safety and sustainability in other applications such as road construction and bushfire prevention.

Passive Radar – see without being seen

James Palmer – CEO, Silentium Defence

Passive radar is a sensor that uses background sources of RF energy (such as broadcast television and radio) in lieu of a dedicated transmitter. As the sensor is only using background energy, it is making no change to the electromagnetic environment, and, more importantly, making no addition to the electromagnetic footprint of its host platform (i.e. they can stay quiet and are passive). Passive radar technology allows its users to maintain situational awareness (of both RF active and silent objects) by using the parts of the spectrum that are off limits for traditional active sensing.

Silentium Defence’s founders have been researching and developing passive radar technology since 2006 as part of the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group. In late 2016 the founders began investigating commercialisation of passive radar with the full support of DST Group. Silentium Defence was incorporated in December 2016, and the founders transitioned to Silentium Defence full-time in May 2017.

Over the last decade Silentium Defence’s founders have built several generations of real-time, experimental passive radars, and achieved a number of world-first outcomes. These world-first achievements include successfully using a geosynchronous satellite as the transmitter in a passive radar, and demonstrating the ability of a passive radar to measure the range and velocity of objects in orbit. Silentium Defence’s founders’ subject matter expertise and client understanding combined with their agile and scalable signal processing algorithms makes Silentium Defence’s offerings globally unique.

Agricultural Cybernetics

Tristan Perez – Professor, Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology

Agricultural Cybernetics takes a dynamical-system view of agricultural production for the analysis and design of management strategies to optimise crop behaviours. As digital technology starts to disrupt the agricultural sector and it becomes feasible to generate appropriate data, there is a great opportunity for developing and deploying novel technologies and decision and system-theory tools to assist with the management of agricultural processes as well as whole food-production systems. Cybernetics provides proven tools and processes to answer fundamental system-related questions that are directly applicable to agriculture: can we achieve desired crop system behaviours given particular means to act on the system? Is it possible to extract the required information from the data collected? Conversely, what is the adequate infrastructure for data generation given the information requirements? Is the management strategy robust enough to cope with different sources of uncertainty associated with data, mathematical models and knowledge? The key to answering these questions lies in understanding concepts related to the characterisation of uncertainty, information, decision problems, and how feedback structures of cyber-physical systems process this information.

CONSULT: A brain surgery planning tool

Lee Reid – Research Fellow, Australian e-Health Research Centre CSIRO

Brain surgery is dangerous. The brain contains about a trillion axons – microscopic ‘wires’ that carry information between brain cells. To access pathology for removal, surgeons need to cut through a subset of these wires. If the wrong wires are cut, patients can end up partially blind, numb, mute, or paralysed for life. Surgeons cannot see which wires are which, and have to plan and execute neurosurgery based almost purely on intuition.

CONSULT is a Connectivity-based NeuroSurgical Planning Tool developed by Lee Reid at the Australian e-Health Research Centre (CSIRO) and The Royal Brisbane Women’s and Children’s Hospital. CONSULT processes advanced MRIs to produce a precise 3D model of a patient’s brain and its wiring patterns. Neurosurgeons can use virtual reality to interact with this 3D model to find the safest incision that may cure the patient without inducing critical injuries. This virtual reality session provides feedback to the clinician as to whether the surgical plans made are potentially dangerous. The model and final surgical plans then integrate with existing surgical-guidance technology, providing surgical teams with real-time feedback on progress and imminent safety issues during surgery itself. CONSULT will make brain surgery safer, more effective, and allow surgery in patients who would previously have been considered too high risk to treat.

Using bacteria to fight mosquito-borne disease

Perran Ross – PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and zika are an enormous burden on global health. Dengue alone infects hundreds of millions of people each year, and over half of the world’s population is at risk of infection. We are working to reduce the incidence of these diseases by harnessing bacteria called Wolbachia. These bacteria occur naturally in insects, and when transferred to mosquitoes, reduce their ability to transmit viruses. Wolbachia also hijack the mosquitoes’ reproduction which allows them to spread throughout mosquito populations. We are now releasing mosquitoes with Wolbachia into the wild; our goal is to replace the native mosquitoes with mosquitoes that don’t transmit dengue. These trials are now happening in several countries, with many groups around the world working on this project (our group at the University of Melbourne is just one of them). Our approach to mosquito control is unique because there is no need to eradicate them; instead we aim to replace wild mosquitoes with ones that cannot carry diseases. Unlike other approaches, once Wolbachia is established in a population there is no need for further control measures. Wolbachia are also completely natural; no genetic modification is required.

Crowdsourcing Supermatchers: using the public to improve image analysis

David White – Research Fellow, UNSW

Are these images of the same person? Is this cell cancerous? Do these footprints match? Society relies on trained specialists to make these perceptual decisions, but relying on highly trained experts is expensive and does not necessarily prevent costly errors.

Our project aims to improve the accuracy, efficiency and transparency of these important pattern matching tasks by leveraging natural variation in human perceptual abilities. The project team currently consists of researchers and practitioners in Psychology, Law and Forensic Science who focus on improving forensic pattern matching evidence in court. However, we believe our approach can benefit society more broadly.