An innovative vest for keeping hot workers cool has been recognised as one of the next "Big Ideas" to come out of Queensland, with a $50,000 grant to develop the technology for the global market.
Originating from James Cook University (JCU), the CoolMeTM Vest is moving closer to market-ready manufacturing with the help of start-up company GRW Industries and JCU's research commercialisation partner, UniQuest.
The CoolMe Vest is designed for emergency workers, miners and others working in extremely hot conditions to limit the impact of heat stress. The low-cost, disposable product generates an intense cooling effect (3-5°C) without requiring access to refrigeration, ice or power. Worn under protective clothing or in hot or humid environments, the vest is activated rapidly when water is added to a reservoir.
The $3 million What's your big idea Queensland? competitive grants scheme, initiated by the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, provides businesses with up to $50,000 in funding to help commercialise their creative ideas, deliver new products and services, or increase competitiveness.
Thirty winners in the scheme's second round were announced on 29 November at a gala event for the 60 finalists, who were selected from 300 applications.
GRW Industries director Jasper Taylor, who is also JCU's Director of Research Services, said the grant will help fund further product development.
"The first manufactured prototypes of the CoolMe Vest have just been sold to a number of customers for evaluation trials and we have orders for more, so the timing couldn't have been better," Mr Taylor said.
"The CoolMe vest is the first of its kind to overcome the hygiene and maintenance issues of current cooling methods for heat-stressed workers. The grant will help us incorporate feedback from customers as we develop a longer lasting version of the vest based on the same concept."
UniQuest Managing Director, Mr David Henderson, said the awarding of this grant reflected the capability of Queensland universities to contribute to the State's economic and innovation growth.
"With the support of JCU and the Queensland government, GRW Industries is demonstrating how commercial entities spun out from university research can transform an idea into a viable venture that not only solves a real industry problem but also generates a financial and reputational return," Mr Henderson said.
"The GRW story is also an exemplar for Australian university research teams collaborating successfully with each other, government agencies and private enterprise.
"The CoolMe project emerged after researchers from JCU's Institute of Sport and Exercise Science began working with Queensland Fire & Rescue Service to develop a solution to a common productivity issue. Through UniQuest, the GRW team also connected with industrial designers at the Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building at the University of Technology Sydney, and with the Bayly Group and Clipper Plastics in Melbourne, to develop the prototype ready for manufacturing.
"It's innovative research as well as a smart model for transferring knowledge into a consumer benefit."
The GRW team and the CoolMe Vest won the inaugural UniQuest Trailblazer prize at JCU and The University of Queensland's $100,000 Enterprize business planning competition in 2009; as well as a heat on the ABC's New Inventors program and a Tropical Innovation Award in 2010.
GRW Industries is currently working with UniQuest to attract investors interested in launching the CoolMe Vest globally.
New Inventors http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s2894911.htm
References to heat stress information:
UniQuest Pty Limited
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year.
UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.
P: +61 7 3365 4037
M: +61 0 409767199
GRW Industries is focussed on developing products that address heat stress in the workplace. The company undertakes product development in conjunction with lead customers to ensure that the final product, in addition to being effective, meets other user requirements in terms of features and functionality. GRW Industries works closely with researchers from James Cook University including staff from the Institute of Sport and Exercise Science. These researchers have been working closely with Queensland Fire & Rescue Service to develop the first product, which is being optimised for intense heat and short duration situations. GRW has also worked with industrial designers at the Faculty of Design Architecture and Building at the University of Technology Sydney and with Bayly Group (Melbourne) during the CoolMe vest development process.
P: +61 7 3365 4037