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Portal linking scientists and public

Portal linking scientists and public to aid clinical trials sweeps Entrepreneurship Challenge

A venture that will help scientists reduce the time and cost of setting up clinical trials has claimed top prize in the final of the Spark $40K Challenge at The University of Auckland (as at 8pm Friday 26 September).

Guineapigs went home with $20,000 in seed funding and a tenancy at New Zealand's top business incubator, The ICEHOUSE, valued at $10,000.

Guineapigs will aid the recruitment of participants for research projects, and provide information about those projects and opportunities to the wider community via a web portal. Its team members are Jamie Mannion, who completed a Master of Science degree in Exercise Rehabilitation earlier this year and works at the University's Exercise Rehabilitation Clinic, and marketing expert Jude Mannion, who is Jamie's mother.

The Spark Entrepreneurship Challenge arms teams of University staff and students with the tools to turn promising research and business ideas into successful commercial ventures.

It is a student-led initiative supported by The University of Auckland Business School and The ICEHOUSE. Gold sponsors are UniServices Ltd, ASB Bank, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and The Tindall Foundation.

More than $80,000 in cash and prizes were handed out. A strong selection of contenders from faculties throughout the University challenged the judges with their great ideas and compelling business plans.

Spark $40K runner-up ClicktheClam received $10,000 in start-up capital. ClicktheClam, a venture by Business School postgraduate student Fraser Hurrell and his business partner, Dr Yvette Ahmad, will help autistic children learn to recognise human emotions through a purpose-designed computer game in a process they dub "psytainment".

Highly commended were Konzept Business Solutions, which will provide consulting services and software to help small businesses decrease their environmental footprint; and Vigil Optics, whose venture seeks a new type of switch for fibre optic networks to improve speed and reliability.

Spark Aspire Challenge winner SavY received $5,000 for a programme targeted at secondary schools to improve the financial literacy of students to enable them to make informed decisions, now and in the future. The five runner-up teams covered a range of ventures addressing environmental solutions (Monarch's Gold and What If Wiki), cultural preservation ( and He Reo Ano) and issues faced by the not-for-profit sector (Volu).

The $10K Challenge provided a range of creative ideas including a proposed treatment for a common skin disease (Skinetix), a proposal to avoid errors in the administration of prescription medication in hospitals (Med-E3), a system to improve the safety of children on field trips (Safe Berries), software that lowers the training costs for organisations (Speon Builder), and a device to help consumers shop for food that meets their health requirements (Health-E-Choice).

Spark Chief Executive Duane Fernandes says the competition continues to draw out and support the many innovative ideas created across all faculties at the University. Entrants now have more options than ever before to develop their ideas and take advantage of support to make it a reality.

"The successes of previous Spark winners, such as INRO Technologies and PowerbyProxi, also winners at the recent Gen-i New Zealand Incubators Awards, provide encouragement that fostering the entrepreneurial mindset has a positive flow-on effect into the business community and New Zealand economy," Mr Fernandes says.


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