Local science takes centre stage

Image credit: Curvecrete

It’s fun. It’s high stakes and it celebrates Victoria’s thriving science scene. It’s veski’s fast smarts innovation program.

As veski (Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation) turns 15 this year, their fast smarts program (launched in 2017 and spanning academia, creative industries, digital technologies, medical sciences and the environment) was recently held during Melbourne Knowledge Week (20-26 May).

Julia Page potrait shotMany entrants – current or up-and-coming leaders who want to make a real difference to Victoria’s knowledge base – stood out for their creativity in tackling issues such as sustainability and human health, says Managing Director and Chief Executive of veski, Julia Page.

Julia was on this year’s judging panel along with eight other leaders from academia, business and government.

Entrants needed their wits about them: they were required to deliver rapid-fire presentation of 20 slides for just 19 seconds each.

There was plenty of talent on show and that’s not at all surprising, says Julia. "Melbourne is one of the world’s top innovation hubs alongside San Francisco, Tel Aviv, London and Shenzhen; plus being a part of the Asia Pacific region, known for its large tech sector, Victoria is an international centre for research and innovation," she points out.

Julia attributes her own interest in innovation to her upbringing.

"I grew up a farmer’s daughter where gender never came in to play," she says. "My father was entrepreneurial – he was prepared to try his hand at everything and that work ethic rubbed off on me. That’s why I’m so passionate about innovation and immensely proud of the veski fellows and the broader community (including veski fast smarts innovators) who strive to make our city, country and planet a better place.

"With almost 15 years under my belt, I love that my veski role changes every day. When veski was born, its focus was very much in the biotech/biomed space – and it has expanded its reach over the years to include human health, the environment, renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, food and agtech."

Key highlights

Examples of veski’s impact over the past 15 years include:

  • Delivery of talent attraction programs resulting in the awarding of more than 37 veski fellows to continue their research in Victoria;
  • Introduction of a number of world-first leadership programs for women in STEM; and
  • Support for the next generation of innovators through a series of inspiring student and teacher activities.

At a glance: Innovation in action

Participants at the Fast Smarts eventJulia highlights three standout innovations achieved by the veski fast smarts program in the past three years.

In 2017, 14-year-old student of St Kevin’s College Justin Mitchell shared his innovation – Synth-etic: The world’s first ‘Hood-Wind’ instrument. Combining his love of maths, coding and music, Justin programmed a pocket-friendly device that allows the user to compose and play electronic music. He was the youngest innovator to present. Watch Justin’s presentation on YouTube.

In 2018, Melissa Warner explained why there was a need to use psychedelics in research activities to treat mental health in Australia. Already occurring around the globe, her goal was to establish a program here. Less than a year later and Mind Medicine Australia was established. Melissa is in the role of education officer. Find out more about her.

The 2018 veski fast smarts Innovator of the Year went to duo Dr Serena Duchi and Dr Carmine Onofrillo at the BioFab lab at St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy. Their Biopen is a handheld 3D bio printer used to print human cells directly into cartilage to assist regeneration. It has the potential to prevent osteoarthritis and may eventually be used at roadside traumas. Discover more on the BioFab3D website.

2019 Innovator of the year - Mr Daniel ProhaskyWinner’s circle

Congratulations to the 2019 veski fast smarts Innovator of the Year, Daniel Prohasky, co-founder of Curvecrete (pictured right). The company plans to commercialise sustainable curved concrete made using a patented reusable robotic mould. Curvecrete envisages the technology servicing Australia in the next two to three years and the globe in five to seven years.

More details are available from the veski website.