Since 2005, the James Dyson Award has challenged inventive and entrepreneurial 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 big problems. Past winners have found solutions to renewable energy generation, new forms of sustainable plastics, and medical and cancer screenings. James Dyson chooses the two global winners; they receive vital funding and global recognition – key first steps to take their ideas into real life practical application.
“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 (: https://medium.com/swlh/why-90-of-startups-fail-and-what-to-do-about-it-b0af17b65059). I will be looking for radical inventions that challenge and question established thinking. Good luck!” said James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson.
2020, an unmatched year
Last year saw a record-breaking number of entries to the Award and the new Sustainability prize awarded its first recipient: AuREUS, invented by Carvey Ehren Maigue from the Philippines. 2020 National winner – Kuno(Malaysia) was also a recipient. Invented by Kuan Weiking and Garvindeo Seah, Kuno is a zero-energy cooler fridge that harnesses evaporative cooling techniques to cool food, keeping it fresh for an extended period.
Recognising the role that engineers and scientists play in creating a sustainable future, the James Dyson Award introduced this global recognition prize last year, focused on ideas which tackle environmental issues and share Dyson’s philosophy of lean engineering, doing more with less.
In 2021, there continues to be two RM160,000 global prizes: the International Sustainability winner and the Overall International winner. But first, each participating country and region will award a National winner RM10,000 and two National runners-up. Those that win a National accolade proceed to the International awarding stages.
See the 2021 James Dyson Award launch video here.
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 that diagnoses patients using an AI algorithm and a urine sample. It is designed to be less invasive and more accessible than current screening processes, after witnessing a rise in women skipping mammograms. The inventor of The Blue Box, 23 year-old Judit Giro Benet says, “Winning the Award was a real turning point as the prize money will allow for extensive patenting to expedite research and software development”. The prize money and global publicity the Award gave Judit means she is now working on final stages of prototyping and software development at the University of California Irvine, ready for human studies and clinical trials.
Want to know what Dyson engineers are looking for in an award-winning invention? Hear from long standing James Dyson Award judge, Peter Gammack, VP of New Product Innovation at Dyson, on the Dyson Newsroom here.
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 were listed in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 List. SoaPen now ships its expanding product portfolio across America, most recently creating a hand sanitizer to meet demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. 2011’s Singaporean runner-up, Rabbit Ray, is used by 44 hospitals across 23 countries. It’s a communications tool for hospital staff to use when explaining medical procedures to children. Its inventor, Esther Wang, has since founded an award-winning health-education company, Joytingle, and her Rabbit Ray invention supports medical procedure communications from vaccinations to chemotherapy.
Throughout this year’s Award, stay up to date with how past winners are engineering our futures on theJames Dyson Award Instagram page and the Dyson Newsroom. Further FAQs can be found on the James Dyson Award website.
The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, the James Dyson Foundation and James Dyson Award encourage aspiring engineers, to apply their knowledge and discover new ways to improve lives through technology. Since the Award first opened in 2005, James Dyson has contributed over £100m to boundary-breaking concepts in education and other charitable causes. The competition has supported nearly 250 inventions with prize money, and is run by the James Dyson Foundation, an engineering-education charity funded by Dyson profits.
About the competition:
Design something that solves a problem. This problem may be a frustration that we all face in daily life, or a global issue. The important thing is that the solution is effective and demonstrates considered design thinking.
Entries are judged first at the national level by a panel of external judges. Each operating market awards a National winner and two National runners-up. From these winners, a panel of Dyson engineers then select an international shortlist of 20 entries. The top 20 projects are then reviewed by Sir James Dyson who selects the International winner, International runners-up and the International Sustainability winner.
- The International winner receives a prize of RM160,000, plus RM27,000 for the winner’s university.
- The Sustainability winner receives a prize of RM160,000.
- The two International runners-up receive RM27,000.
- Each National winner receives RM10,000.
In 2020, the James Dyson Award introduced a new, additional prize that recognises efforts in sustainability. The Sustainability winner is chosen by Sir James Dyson from the international top 20 finalists. Potential winners of this accolade will have paid close attention to their invention’s part in solving a sustainability-related problem and today’s sustainable agenda. This could be through its materials, design process, methods of manufacture, or to the problem it is trying to solve.
The deadline to apply: midnight PST on 30th June 2021.
How to enter
Candidates enter through an online application form via the James Dyson Award website.
Entrants should explain what their invention is, how it works, and their development process. The best entries solve a real problem, are clearly explained, show iterative development, provide evidence of prototyping and have supporting imagery and a video.
All judges will take into consideration the restrictions to prototyping and product development as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The James Dyson Award runs in 28 countries and regions worldwide. These are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, UK, and USA. The Award launches for the first time in Poland in 2021.
Entrants must be, or have been within the last four years, enrolled for at least one semester in an undergraduate or graduate engineering/design related course. This course must be at a university in a country or region chosen to participate in the James Dyson Award.
In the case of team entries, all members must be or have been within the last four years, enrolled for at least one semester in an undergraduate or graduate programme at a university in a country or region chosen to participate in the James Dyson Award. At least one team member must have studied an eligible subject in engineering or design.
From 2020, those participating in a degree level apprenticeship at Level 6 or Level 7, and those who have completed said apprenticeship in the past four years, are now eligible to enter the award.