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Eureka! Airport safety innovation wins prestigious national prize

A portable device which rapidly detects homemade explosives, using technology invented at the University of Tasmania, has won a prestigious Eureka Prize at a ceremony in Sydney.

The University, together with commercial partner Grey Innovation, was successful in the Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia category.

GreyScan is the world’s first trace-detection device that can identify inorganic explosives in under a minute, and its use in mass transit locations such as airports and train stations could help make Australia and the world safer.

The chemistry was initially developed by the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS) based at the University of Tasmania.

The technology was invented by a team led by Professor Michael Breadmore and developed in strategic partnership with Grey Innovation, Australian Federal Police, National Institute of Forensic Science, Australian Customs Service and US Homeland Security.

The instrument is the product of more than 20 years of research from a team of more than 20 researchers.

“The instrument can detect homemade bombs of the types used in the Oklahoma bombings, Bali and the Boston marathon bombings,” Professor Breadmore said.

“GreyScan is a product of academic and industrial research that is at the forefront of global trace inorganic explosive detection. The Eureka award is recognition of the quality of our science and the necessity of relationships with key stakeholders and innovation partners.

“It just goes to show what Australia can achieve when we back ourselves to not only do the critical research to demonstrate the capability, but also to invest in translating the product to bring to market through value-based, long-term strategic relationships with innovation partners such as Grey Innovation.”

This relationship between the University and Grey Innovation Pty Ltd, as it was then known, was initiated through a licence that the University’s Business Development and Technology Transfer (BD&TT) team completed over five years ago.

The licence was instrumental in the spin-off of a new company - GreyScan Pty Ltd - which became the dedicated commercial entity that led the development of GreyScan.

The Director of BD&TT, Dr Darren Cundy, said: “This is a great example of how the collaboration of great science, technology transfer and industry has come together to build new companies, and create new jobs in an industry that will help make the world a safer place”.

The Executive Dean of the College of Sciences and Engineering, Professor Brian Yates, congratulated Professor Breadmore and the School of Natural Sciences.

“The technology behind GreyScan has been developed over a number of years at the University of Tasmania, alongside commercial partner Grey Innovation, with the final product promising to make travel across the world safer,” Professor Yates said.

“This recognition at the national level brings great credit to the University of Tasmania, and to its research capabilities in science.”

Established in 1990, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, and science engagement and education.

Winners of the 2019 Eureka Prizes were announced at a gala dinner at the Australian Museum.

Published on: 29 Aug 2019 2:56pm