Winning ideas from student entrepreneurs

18 August 2017

A perfectly customisable pillow and an autonomous UAV-based system that will detect airborne pathogens were the winners of this year’s student innovation challenge.

The 2017 Student Challenge, run annually as part of the University of Sydney’s Innovation Week, gives student-led teams the opportunity to pitch their best ideas to a panel made up of entrepreneurs, industry, government, academics and fellow students.

There were two categories: Richard Seymour Memorial Prize for best startup business pitch and the Research, Policy or Project prize.

Somnium Lab creators Suri Susilo and Miles Tycho Hugh

Creators of Somnium Lab, Suri Susilo and Miles Tycho Hugh

Somnium Lab to transform sleep

The makers of Somnium Lab promise to revolutionise the way we sleep by creating perfectly customisable pillows that align to the curves of our spines. Developed by biomedical engineering PhD candidate Suri Susilo and Miles Tycho Hugh studying a Bachelor of Commerce and Liberal Studies, the pillows are designed to relieve pain and optimise sleep.

They’ve created the world’s first filler-less height adjustable pillow which will ensure everyone has the correct sleeping posture regardless of their height and size. It’s an invention that could disrupt a product that has remained largely unchanged for the past 100 years.

Resident Entrepreneur at INCUBATE and one of the judges of the challenge Natasha Rawlings said Somnium Lab were the clear winners.

“Neck pain is a common problem but most of us still sleep on regular pillows, which is crazy when you think about it as we spend a third of our life in bed. Somnium seemed to have a viable product with a large and global addressable market, which gave them a clear edge,” Rawlings said.

Somnium Lab plans to release their first product on Kickstarter in mid October. 

As the winners of the Richard Seymour Memorial Prize for best startup business pitch, the team won $10,000 in grant funding, mentoring and services from Genesis and INCUBATE, the University Student Union start-up accelerator and entrepreneur program.

This award is named in honour of the late Dr Richard Seymour, whose passion for entrepreneurship education inspired thousands at the University of Sydney and around the globe. Members of Dr Seymour’s family attended the pitch finals.

The team behind biOSpy, Saron Berhane, Lewis Collins, Henry Brindle and Ken Zoe Wong

The team behind biOSpy, Henry Brindle, Saron Berhane and Lewis Collins

biOSpy could protect us from disease

BiOSpy will be our guardians in the sky detecting airborne pathogens and helping to protect us against airborne diseases. The UAV-based system was developed by biomedical engineering students Saron Berhane and Lewis Collins and mechanical engineering students Henry Brindle and Ken Zoe Wong.

The system will provide real-time aerobiological sampling that will collect bio aerosols from the atmosphere helping to track airborne disease before they spread to the crops or through a population.

The team at biOSpy said the next steps for their product is to finalise lab testing, refine their commercial validation and take advantage of the resources available at the University to take this start-up to the next phase. Following more rigorous testing they hope to release the biOSpy system by the end of 2018.

As the winners of the research and project prize, the team was awarded $5,000 in cash, follow-up support and industry advice from INCUBATE, Genesis, academic mentors and the University’s Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships team.