Shell and The Australian, in partnership with the Department of Industry and Science, are calling on startups to apply for the fifth annual Innovation Challenge.
The categories for this year’s challenge include environment, agriculture, and food, minerals and energy, manufacturing, construction and infrastructure, health, and backyard innovation. There is also a category for young innovators aged 21 or below.
Each professional category winner will receive $5,000, with the backyard innovation winner taking $10,000, and the overall competition winner receiving an additional $25,000 to help fund their idea.
Andrew Smith, Shell Australia’s country chair, said the company is excited to shine a light on local innovations.
“Innovation is crucially important to us here at Shell, and as global demand for energy continues to rise, human ingenuity will be even more important to unlocking the energy needed today and in the future,” Smith said.
Shell has been sponsoring the challenge since the inaugural competition in 2011.
Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry and Science, added that the awards are an important platform to support and promote Australian ingenuity and help drive ideas for commercialisation.
“Innovation is critical to our success as a nation. It helps to build our competitive strength and keep pace in a rapidly evolving global economy. It is important we harness our innovative thinking and innovative thinking to boost Australia’s productivity and open up our goods and services to the global marketplace,” Macfarlane said.
Chris Wilkins of Podplants, winner of last year’s backyard category, which looks for ideas that could make a difference to our lifestyles, environment, work, or play, said the award greatly contributed to the startup’s growth over the last year.
Podplants is solving the usual problems most of us have with plants – too much water or sunlight, or not enough? – by creating vertical garden units, or greenwall systems. The startup has developed a freestanding unit that doesn’t require any drainage, plumbing, or waterproofing, allowing for entire walls to be covered in plants.
The startup is now part of the ATP Innovations portfolio and has found success in the corporate market, having been brought on to work with architects and interior designers involved in the new multi-billion dollar Barangaroo development in Sydney.
Last year’s manufacturing, construction, and infrastructure category and overall prizes went to the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio-telescope, built in Western Australia, which is helping scientists survey more of the sky than ever before.
Entries for the challenge close on September 7.
Image: Chris Wilkins of Podplants