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Environmental innovators urged to take on C-Prize challenge

02 December 2019

Environmental innovators urged to take on C-Prize 2019 challenge –
judging panel ready to convene

Anyone with a bold concept for a product or service with the power to improve environmental outcomes is being urged to submit it for the 2019 C-Prize challenge, before entries close midnight Sunday 8 December.

The entry submission needs to come from a team of at least two people but the criteria leaves the door open to a wide range of entrants – businesses, iwi groups, novice or established entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, scientists, engineers and even students with ambitious ideas for technology-based products or solutions.

"With this year’s C-Prize challenge we're looking for smart new ideas that use different technologies to address climate change, bring about clean water or enable smarter resource use,” says Richard Quin, Energy and Environment Group Manager at Callaghan Innovation. “We want to see people’s plans for products or processes that apply technology in new ways and show thinking that’s bold and original."

Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s innovation agency, launched C-Prize in 2015 with a challenge focused on honing drone technology for new industry applications and in 2017 the challenge was to develop novel wearable technology to enhance people’s performance and wellbeing.

Up to ten of the teams that enter the C-Prize 2019 challenge will be selected to take part in a series of workshops in 2020, where they will be given R&D support and business advice to progress their product or services concept and develop the prototype.

The ten finalist teams will also each receive $10,000 cash to support their project and the opportunity to vie for the grand prize of $100,000 cash and $50,000 in support and services to help them progress their concept through to commercialisation.

"Being selected as a C-Prize finalist and participating in the C-Prize programme is valuable because that’s when you get mentored by the best of the best. We introduce finalists to our Callaghan Innovation experts and our partners across the innovation ecosystem to educate and inform them about what it's going to take to realise their idea. Our aspiration is that all 10 teams come out of that process with the potential to go on and become thriving New Zealand enterprises."

Dotterel Technologies had its origins in the 2015 C-Prize challenge and its noise reduction and audio enablement technology is now used in New Zealand and offshore.

“The exposure and connections the finalists forge are invaluable but even before they reach that stage the chance to get their idea in front of C-Prize’s highly-respected panel of judges is a real opportunity,” says Quin.

Judges looking for real-world potential

The C-Prize 2019 judges are: Juliet Gerrard – Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor; Anne Haira – Deputy Secretary Partnerships and Customers, Ministry for the Environment; Brett Holland – GM Innovation Services, Creative HQ; Arama Kukutai – Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Finistere Ventures; Conrad Lendrum – Group Manager Advanced Materials, Callaghan Innovation; Sean Molloy – Co-Founder and CEO, Avertana; and Suse Reynolds – Executive Director, Angel Association New Zealand.

Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Juliet Gerrard says she’s hoping to see a strong applicant pool for this year’s C-Prize challenge and real depth of thinking on how to get their ideas to scale.

“Only when rolled out commercially will these ideas be able to make a genuine difference,” says Gerrard. “Hopefully C-Prize provides an impetus for more science and technology to escape the laboratory and start to make a difference in the environment.”

Ministry for the Environment’s Anne Haira says she’s really excited by the focus of this year’s challenge on environmental innovation that helps restore our land, climate, soil, water and nutrient systems.

“In New Zealand we need environmental innovation to not only help us address some of our toughest environmental challenges but also to help us grow, develop and remain competitive.”

Another of this year’s judges, Avertana CEO Sean Molloy, is highly aware of the opportunities that environmental innovation can offer. Avertana’s technology recovers ‘stranded resources’ – valuable mineral and chemical raw materials – from industrial waste, which can then be used in products like paint and building materials.

“The technology is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution – not only consuming waste, but also avoiding the waste produced in making the products it substitutes,” says Molloy.

Molloy says he wants to see this year’s C-Prize entrants utilising the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. But, he adds, the priority is a viable solution that meets a real market need.

“First and foremost, [it has to be] solutions to problems that people or industry actually have, that will deliver a compelling financial return. The private market will not finance anything that doesn’t.”

When developing their solution, Molloy says the C-Prize teams need to consider the lifecycle assessment of their solution compared to existing solutions.

“We don’t want to be simply moving the problem somewhere else. A good test is, does it provide less than a 50% improvement? The commercialisation path almost always erodes the savings as more definition is created. If there isn’t a big enough saving at the beginning, there may be none left at the end.”

There are over 100 entries currently in the C-Prize pipeline, including sustainable building materials, reimagined fashion, alternative fuel and energy sources, home energy systems, methane and carbon dioxide solutions, transport apps, plastic alternatives, eco pesticides, education platforms, corporate decision making tools and smart pest control.


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