RSB student John Rivers wins in Australian-French Entrepreneurship Challenge

14 June 2016

For anyone who has travelled in a developing country and had to make a mad dash to the bathroom, this start-up idea could have been your ultimate saviour.

ANU PhD students recently claimed victory in the Australian-French Entrepreneurship Challenge for designing an innovative concept where a traveller could use their smartphone to test water quality.

“My team won with our disposable microscope lens for a smartphone as well as an image -recognition app that helps the user detect the water-borne parasite, Giardia lamblia,” says John Rivers from the Research School of Biology.

“The idea is that tourists headed to developing countries can pick up a bunch of these lenses at the airport and when they are unsure of water-quality, they can test samples of their water by placing drops on top of the lens, which links to their smartphone camera.”

John’s teammates included Spence Richardson from The John Curtin School of Medical Research as well as PhD students from other Australian and French universities.

The water-quality testing idea was just one of the many innovative and profitable start-up concepts designed by PhD students from all over the world who participated in this gruelling 24 hour challenge.

“We worked through all 24 hours without sleep. It was exhausting!” says John.

“But as we put our ideas together we became more and more excited and that really kept us going.”

The entrepreneurship challenge is recognised as an important event nurturing the business leaders of tomorrow. It even garners support from the French Embassy; the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; the Australian Academy of Science; ANU and the Australian and French business communities.

Other ANU contestants included Rollin Omari from the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Daniel McNamara from the Research School of Computer Science and Ruth Kharis from the Research School of Population Health.

The six Aussies from the winning team are now headed to France where they will visit business incubators and science and innovation hubs.