University community rises to the challenge of creating solutions for New Zealand’s problems

Covid-19 disruption, microplastics disposal, and marine health are just some of the many problems tackled in this year’s Velocity Innovation Challenge competition.

Velocity is the University of Auckland’s flagship extra-curricular entrepreneurship programme, led by students with the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Over the last 17 years its annual Innovation Challenge asks students and staff from all faculties at the University of Auckland to identify problems and come up with solutions to some of the gnarly social and commercial challenges faced by New Zealand. Participants are asked to write 1,000 words articulating their idea for a chance at one of many $1,000 prizes up for grabs. Submissions are assessed by academic staff and industry leaders from New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This year’s competition had a new element added with the creation of two new categories for solutions to commercial and social problems that have become particularly prominent during the global pandemic. CEO of Velocity, law and arts student Gemma Bell, says “Like everyone, when COVID-19 hit, our Velocity student committee were initially overwhelmed. At one point we discussed whether it was appropriate to run the Innovation Challenge this year. Talking to others in our university community it became very obvious that people were wanting opportunities to make a positive impact in the world. We ended up having hundreds of entries to this year’s Velocity Innovation Challenge.”

Everyone who has entered the Velocity Innovation Challenge will be encouraged to enter the Velocity $100K Challenge where they will be coached on how to write a business plan. Entrants will then compete for part of a $100k prize pool, including an opportunity to enter the University’s six-month VentureLab incubator.

2020 Velocity Innovation Challenge Winners

COVID-19 social innovation prize
CircleOut - CircleOut is a digital learning platform that lets young people learn from one another in a safe and supportive environment. We draw from indigenous knowledge systems and practices to unify technology, community, and education under the belief that life and learning are one and the same.

COVID-19 commercial innovation prize
RosterLab - A world-leading web app for automatically creating the highest quality rosters for hospitals, utilising the latest in artificial intelligence research and harnessing the power of cloud computing. Our rosters will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and lead to better patient outcomes all over the world.

Commercial innovation prize winners
FishBox - The marine life around New Zealand is a priceless commodity, yet both the people in the fishing industry and those that police the fishing industry use inefficient manual processes to measure and classify hauls of fish. FishBox is a modern solution, for efficient management of this precious resource.

G-VentOX - The current Covid-19 infection pandemic has required mechanical ventilation over prolonged periods in order to maintain the oxygenation of many patients. However, outcomes of ventilated patients have been abysmal. We have a new experimental device that will improve patient oxygenation and thereby improve patient outcomes.

Nikau Robotics - Woodworking on construction sites is currently a human-intensive process relying on skill and traditional power tools. Nikau Robotics is developing an automated woodworking machine that aids in on-site construction. The machine improves cut quality, reduces material wastage, and results in faster, cheaper builds with greater design flexibility.

Pet Pocket - Are you finding it difficult to access your Pets data? Are you visiting multiple platforms to do so? Introducing Pet Pocket, a cloud based software available on all devices. Pet Pocket will be the first software in New Zealand which integrates all pet related data into a single platform.

Social innovation prize winners
Beacon - Beacon is a social enterprise looking to develop an accessible culturally diverse mobile platform for early intervention of young adults suffering from mild to moderate mental health turbulence.

Ethigo - Ethical traveling has never been easier. A one-stop website to educate, promote, and provide travelers with the guilt-free accommodation. We find local accommodations, fund community-led projects to improve conditions, and we direct tourism to those who need it most. Ethigo gives eco-friendly producers of the world the chance to flourish.

PuriFibre - Media have recently reported on how microplastic fibres are being emitted from our clothing when cleaned in the washing machine. The fibres enter the waterways, harm marine life and therefore humans when they enter the food chain. PuriFibre is a ball thrown into the washing machine that traps microfibres inside.

ZeroC - Consumers want to make better choices to reduce their shopping emissions. ZeroC is a service that turns food producers’ carbon-equivalent emissions into an easy-to-understand rating system to help make more sustainable decisions. Our rating empowers consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and incentivizes producers to employ more environmentally friendly processes.

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