Since 2005, the James Dyson Award (JDA) has challenged the inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit of undergraduates and recent graduates in engineering and design by challenging them to invent a solution to a problem. Of the winners of past editions – each awarded Ј30,000 – 1 out of 5 have successfully commercialised their inventions.
As well as recognising the international award, this year the JDA will also crown a second winner in the ‘Sustainability’ category for the first time. James Dyson said: “Every year we are amazed at the ingenuity and spirit with which young people manage to solve truly complex problems. For many of those entered for the James Dyson Award, the goal is to improve the world with the help of engineering and technology. In recognition of the role that engineers and scientists play in creating a sustainable future, we have decided to give a second international award to ideas that address environmental or social issues with a view to doing more with less”.
Solve real problems
The best inventions are often the simplest, but they are also those that provide a clear and intelligent solution to real-world problems. Previous winners have focused on issues such as plastic waste, renewable energy generation and medical therapies in developing countries. In 2019, the first international award went to MarinaTex, a home-based compostable bioplastic made from a combination of waste materials from sustainable fisheries and algae. It was conceived as an alternative to disposable plastic films.
The national edition
On the top step of the podium of the last Italian edition of the JDA, was placed Stay Lock, a wearable support for the backpacks of the bellboys. If the problem on which the winning project focused is the increasingly topical one of food delivery, the two 2019 finalist projects touched on issues related to pediatric hospitalization and joint injuries, proposing original and innovative solutions. These are, respectively, Heromed, a wearable medical device for the artificial nutrition of children, with the aim of converging the dimension of play with that of therapy and KEA, a system of temporary immobilization of joints, to be used alone in case of injuries.
The award has given resonance to young inventors in the national and international media, opening up further investment opportunities and opportunities for them to develop their ideas. Some of the winners, such as the creators of the leak-detecting robot, Lighthouse, the national gold medal winner at the 2018 edition in the USA, or those of ORCA, a water-purifying robot awarded the same year in China, have established real successful companies. The inventor of MarinaTex, Lucy Hughes, said that winning this award “changed her life”. The cash prize and the interest shown by investors allowed her to turn MarinaTex into a full-time enterprise and to start mass production of her invention.
After winning, Lucy said:
“I’m very proud to have won the James Dyson Award; it’s an honour to see the potential of my invention, MarinaTex, have achieved such recognition. Winning the James Dyson Award will be a great springboard for me to move MarinaTex forward to the next stage of R&D and then on to production. I also hope it will highlight the importance of circularity in the design phase and how crucial it is to take into account form, function and impact.
MarinaTex is a domestically compostable material, designed as an alternative to disposable plastic films. The material is made from a combination of fish waste and sustainable algae.
Afflo is a wearable IA device, designed to monitor asthma symptoms and predict asthma attacks, allowing users to make data-driven decisions and better manage their asthma, thereby improving their quality of life.
The Gecko Traxx is an affordable portable accessory for manual wheelchairs, allowing users to move around on dirt roads. It is a unique, flexible tyre that wraps around road tyres, allowing wheelchair users to access beaches and rough terrain independently.
The O-Wind Turbine is an omnidirectional turbine that, unlike traditional turbines, is able to capture the wind regardless of the direction in which it blows. In this way it can be used in urban environments where the wind flow is multi-directional.
sKan is a low-cost, non-invasive device to diagnose melanoma, invented by a team of medical and bioengineering graduates from McMaster University, Canada. The team is currently using the prize money to refine the project and ensure it meets the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
EcoHelmet is a paper folding bicycle helmet perfect for bike sharing. It is based on a hive configuration to protect the head from impacts and folds completely when not in use. The product is currently under development.
Voltera V-One uses the principles of rapid prototyping on which 3D printing is based to produce power cards to be inserted into the power systems of devices such as smartphones. One of their models is currently in use by Dyson engineers.
Purpose of the contest
Formulating a project to solve a problem. It can be a daily frustration or a worldwide problem. The important thing is that the solution is effective and demonstrates the existence of a well thought-out and well-considered project.
The competing proposals are first evaluated by a committee of judges at national level and then moved on to the international stage. A jury of Dyson engineers then selects a shortlist of 20 international finalists. The first 20 projects are then examined by Sir James Dyson himself, who elects the winner and finalists for the International category, and from today also the winner of the Sustainability category.
The international winner receives a prize of ₤30.000 to which is added another ₤5.000 for his university.
– The winner of the Sustainability category receives a prize of ₤30,000.
– The two international finalists each receive ₤5,000.
– Finally, the prize money for each national winner is ₤2.000.
Sustainability category winner
In 2020, the James Dyson Award introduced a new additional award in recognition of sustainability efforts. The winner of the Sustainability category will be elected by Sir James Dyson from the 20 international finalists. The winner of this award will be the project that has paid the greatest attention to current sustainability objectives in terms of materials, design, production methods or even the same solution as the invention.
Deadline for entries: 8:00 AM on 1 July 2020.
How to register
Candidates can register via an online application on the James Dyson Award website.
Applications must briefly describe the invention, its operation and development process. The best ideas solve a real problem, are clearly illustrated, show iterative development, provide concrete evidence of a physical prototype and are supported by a photo gallery and video.
The James Dyson Award involves 27 countries and regions around the world, namely: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, United Kingdom and USA.
To qualify for the James Dyson Award, candidates must have been, or have been in the last four years, enrolled for at least one semester in a Bachelor of Science or PhD in engineering/design at a university in the chosen country or region. In the case of group nominations, all team members must be, or have been in the last four years, enrolled for at least one semester in a bachelor’s or doctoral program at a university in the chosen country or region to participate in the James Dyson Award. At least one team member must have studied a suitable subject in engineering or design.
In 2020, Level 6 or Level 7 apprentices and those who have completed such an internship in the last four years may also participate in the competition.
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