James Dyson Award Is Looking For Our Next Big Inventors

Author: Pamela Connellan


The 2021 James Dyson Award international design competition is now open for entries from undergraduates and recent graduates of engineering and design, to ‘Design something that solves a problem’. Purposely broad and open-ended, the brief challenges students to solve real-world problems and we’re hoping the JDA will find our next big inventors in the process.


This year, there’s $52,000 in global prizes for the International winner and the Sustainability winner. But first, each participating country and region will have a National winner with prizes of $3,500 – and two National runners-up. Those that win a National accolade proceed to the international awarding stages. Australian entries in 2021 will be judged by a line up of experienced industry figures, including Jane Waldburger, leading engineering executive and Olympian, Rae Johnston, award-winning journalist and leading commentator on all things science and technology, and Alex Goad, founder of Reef Design Lab and the 2014 James Dyson Award Australian National Winner.



The James Dyson Award is looking for Australia’s next big inventor

Past winners of the JDA have found solutions to renewable energy generation, new forms of sustainable plastics, and medical and cancer screenings. Sir James Dyson, founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson, chooses the two global winners, who receive funding and global recognition – key first steps to take their ideas into real life practical application.


As Dyson says: “Young people want to change the world and the Award supports them to do that giving crucial funding, validation and a platform to launch their ideas. They are remarkably successful, 65% of international winners are commercialising their ideas, against a backdrop where 90% of start-ups fail. I will be looking for radical inventions that challenge and question established thinking. Good luck!”

2020 was an unmatched year for the award

The James Dyson Award saw a record-breaking number of entries to the Award and the new Sustainability prize was awarded to its first recipient: AuREUS, invented by Carvey Ehren Maigue from the Philippines. The Sustainability prize was added because it was seen as important to recognise the role engineers and scientists play in creating a sustainable future.

Solving real problems

The best inventions are often the simplest, providing clear and intelligent solutions to real-world problems. The 2020 International Winner, The Blue Box, is an at-home breast cancer detection device which diagnoses patients using an AI algorithm and a urine sample. It’s designed to be less invasive and more accessible than current screening processes, after witnessing a rise in women skipping mammograms.

The 2020 Australian National runner up and International Top 20 design Quito, is a low-cost and sustainable CO2-based mosquito trap, which mimics human presence to attract and capture mosquitoes rather than repelling them, using a simple but highly effective method.




Boosting opportunities for young inventors

The Award has given young inventors international media exposure, which has opened up further investment and opportunities for them to develop their ideas. The UK 2011 National winner KwickScreen, infection-controlled screens for patient safety, has grown to establish a company employing over 70 people, supplying screens to every NHS trust in the UK and 240 hospitals internationally.

In 2017, US National runner-up SoaPen, a colourful soap pen encouraging safe handwashing, commercialised their invention and SoaPen was listed in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 List. SoaPen now ships its expanding product portfolio across America, most recently creating a hand sanitiser to meet demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.