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James Dyson calls for budding engineers to tackle the problems our planet faces, as his engineering competition opens for 2023

James Dyson wants young people to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, using science, sustainable design and engineering. Global winners win $50,000 AUD and national winners will recieve $8,800 AUD, alongside high-profile recognition for their idea.

1 March 2023

Past winners

Mechanical engineering graduate, Swaleh Owais and Yang Cheng, and Carvey Ehren Maigue have been previously named a Top 20 finalist in the James Dyson Award. Owais's and Cheng's invention and Maigue's invention, is just two of several inventions among the global best entries that seeks to create a more inclusive world, solving problems faced by people with less access to resources and recycling.

Polyformer - a project that recycles plastic bottles into 3D filament

During Owais's and Cheng's time at a makerspace in Rwanda, they discovered that many locals were unable to utilize the 3D printers due to the expensive cost of importing filament and that there was a scarcity of infrastructure for recycling plastic bottles in the country. As a result, we devised a solution to address both issues by constructing a machine that could transform plastic waste into 3D printer filament for the makerspace. Polyformer is a machine that recycles plastic bottles into 3D printer filament. The device reduces plastic consumption, while also producing 3D printer filament at low costs. By implementing this machine, makers in Rwanda now have convenient access to affordable and high-quality printer filament. Their short-term goal is to deploy several Polyformers at 3D printing labs in Rwanda and then promote it in other developing countries. This will ensure people in developing countries have access to affordable filament and means to recycle plastic bottles as its low cost of $150 is financially accessible to many communities.

AuREUS system - a project that creates aurora renewable energy

Maigue's project evolved from the understanding of how glass buildings in urban areas are contributing to excessive UV exposure. The idea for the solution was inspired by the process of creating Auroras. By utilizing luminescent particles that convert high energy (gamma, UV) into low energy (visible light), this technology functions similarly to address the issue. Traditionally, solar farms have been constructed in a horizontal manner. However, AuREUS introduces a new approach. By harnessing UV rays, AuREUS can generate electricity even when not directly facing the sun. When buildings are covered on all sides with AuREUS, they transform into vertical solar farms. Farmers often face losses due to the spoilage of crops. This technology offers a solution by enabling the upcycling of agricultural waste, reducing such losses. It advocates for the sequestration of UV rays, improved availability of solar energy to combat climate change, and assistance to the local agriculture sector affected by disasters through the repurposing of crop waste, thereby reducing losses for farmers. To achieve a higher sourcing rate of 100% from fruits and vegetables instead of chemicals, further investigation will be conducted to extract the required luminescent particles. This research will contribute to the sustainability of the process. AuREUS currently produces 30 panels per month. However, with additional funding, it can establish a dedicated team and facility to enhance its production capacity. The future holds promising advancements in chassis formation for solar-powered transportation, which will contribute to the development of more efficient and sustainable vehicles.

The James Dyson Award, an annual engineering competition with a sustainability-focus run by Dyson’s charity, is now open and accepting submissions from young inventors who have ideas to improve our planet.

Since 2005, the Award has challenged entrepreneurial undergraduates and recent graduates of engineering to tackle a global problem, from environmental issues to improving healthcare practices. Past winners have developed solutions to advance plastic recycling (Plastic Scanner) and the biodegradability of materials (MarinaTex, AuREUS), as well as bettering at-home medical diagnostics (Blue Box, HOPES).

To date, the competition has awarded 390 inventions with prize money, and over 70% of past global winners are commercialising their winning inventions. We need more game-changing ideas to tackle global environmental and medical problems, and James Dyson thinks young people have the answers and drive to make a difference.

Sir James Dyson chooses the competition’s global winners; they receive vital funding and high-profile recognition – key first steps to take their ideas into real life practical application.

Sir James Dyson, Founder, said: “We are looking for young engineers who are hard-wired to solve problems sustainably, often using less energy and fewer materials, and who want to improve the world through their ideas. Young people have the ideas that can change things for the better, and they should be encouraged. The James Dyson Award gives them the platform to pursue their inventions, and I look forward to judging this year’s entries. Good luck!

What can winners expect?

  1. Prize money. Global winners receive $50,000 AUD and National winners receive $8,800 AUD to put towards the next phase of their invention’s development.
  2. Media attention. Previous winners have highlighted the awareness brought by the Award as one of the most valuable contributions to getting their ideas off the ground.
  3. Past winner support. Last year the Award launched a network for past winners commercialising their inventions; events and networking opportunities for winners to connect, share experiences and consider inter-winner mentorship.

Each participating country and region will award a National winner ($8,800 AUD) and two National runners-up. The National winners are chosen by an external panel in collaboration with Dyson. Last year, the Award opened for the first time in Thailand and Turkey, and this year the competition launches in Portugal.

Those that win a National accolade proceed to the International shortlist and awarding stages, where James Dyson selects his global winners.


What makes a good entry?

The best inventions solve a real-world problem that impacts our planet. They provide clear and intelligent solutions. A successful past winner was Amy Killen from Monash University in 2016, with invention Thermalife, a safe and cost-effective device for the transportation of blood in developing countries.

The inability to maintain the correct temperature for blood in transit from one blood bank to another has been identified as a major cause of unsafe blood transfusion. Thermalife uses a specialised cooling process that utilises intermittent absorption technology coupled with reflective solar panels that supply the device with a regenerative and reliable source of energy, to maintain cooling during long transit journeys.

Amy commented: “I feel very honoured to be receiving the James Dyson Award. A difficult aspect of being a young designer is having the confidence needed to vocalise your ideas. Knowing that your work has been reviewed and encouraged by seasoned industry professionals is a wonderful feeling and has certainly given me a more self-assured outlook as I continue working in the field of industrial design.”

Amy’s inspiration for Thermalife stemmed from the need to make equipment affordable to all sectors of the global health care system, especially in developing countries where it’s often needed the most. During this project, Amy created a number of low-cost prototypes to test the cooling function of the device, as well as a full-scale model which was submitted as part of her application to the James Dyson Award.

Success Stories

  • Winning the James Dyson Award can provide awareness that helps to propel problem-solving ideas to commercialisation. For example, mOm Incubators, 2014’s International Winner, have recently supplied more than 60 of its incubators to Ukraine and 2 other countries including the UK. Overall, the company believes it has impacted the lives of more than 1,000 babies and, as they put it, “We would not have reached this position without the James Dyson Award.” 

    2019 Australian winner RMIT University student, Ryan Tilley, invented Gecko Traxx, a portable and affordable manual wheelchair accessory which fits most wheelchairs and enables access to the beach and other off-road terrains. The invention came about after a personal experience of spending time in a wheelchair, where Ryan realised how challenging it was to access the natural environment. Since winning the James Dyson


Dan Watson, inventor of SafetyNet Technologies, was 2012’s International winner. SafetyNet is a light that fits onto fishing gear to combat unwanted fish and marine creatures trapped in commercial fishing nets. He founded his company SafetyNet Technologies after winning the Award, delivering pioneering technology and support to build a better, sustainable fishing industry. Alongside high-quality LED lights, SafetyNet Technologies also provide underwater video cameras and ocean sensors to support the fishing industry. “SafetyNet is global now, we work all over the world. We’re starting to lead in the fishing industry”, says Dan.

In 2016, US National runner-up SoaPen, a colourful soap pen for children encouraging safe handwashing, commercialised their invention and were featured on Shark Tank. SoaPen has shipped over 60,000 units of SoaPen across America and are expanding their product portfolio with new SoaPen colours and a body wash pen.

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