Winning an award can boost your career or kick start a business. Even the process of applying can help clarify your ambitions and possible career path.
For award/scholarship winners Nicole Austin, and Ben O'Leary, being recognised for their inventions has boosted one's career as an industrial designer and set the other one on the path of business.

During her fourth year of a Bachelor of Design degree at Massey University Austin, 23, won the 2017 national winner of the James Dyson Award (JDA), an international award for designers of new problem-solving ideas.
Austin was required to do a year-long project for the honours degree. Coming from a lifestyle block in a rural area, Austin chose to focus on the sheep-farming industry where she found traditional processes hadn't been updated for decades.
Tools were primitive, says Austin, and she decided to create a new blueprint for a docking iron, which farmers use to remove lambs' tails. Austin's tool was designed to be more useable, but still familiar to farmers.

The scissor-action tool, call "Moray" is LPG-powered, which makes it cost-effective and enables it to be used remotely. The LPG heats a copper searing blade, which cuts and cauterises the tail simultaneously. The Mora was designed with New Zealand's weather conditions in mind as well as minimising the potential for repetitive strain injury to users, and blistering of the hands.

Massey University encouraged Austin and her fellow students to enter this and other awards. "I also knew a couple of the past New Zealand winners," she says.
Austin, who now works at Fisher & Paykel Appliances as a part of the industrial design team, says winning will open doors for her in the future. "The JD award is huge exposure for someone of my age. It will help me leverage my career.

Advertisement

"Having such a recognised award behind me really opens up the design community not only here in New Zealand but at an international level and has created a number of opportunities even in this past year alone." She is currently looking at opportunities in Austria or London.

Ben O'Leary, 36, has also designed a tool to make the work of others easier. O'Leary started his career working in a DNA lab and has gone on to become a forensic scientist.
O'Leary experienced first hand how traditional DNA sample processing was ineffective. The inadequacies of traditional work flow systems struck him.

"Having the overview of working in a laboratory then at crime scenes I saw the double handling," he says.

In his spare time O'Leary came up with a design for a DNA swab, which he calls the DNAmic swab. The DNAmic swab is double-sided allowing both trace and body fluid collection at once. The design reduces the chances of contamination risk, sample loss, mislabelling, and it can be stored at room temperature, without losing stability.
Taking the design from conception to market is an expensive and time-consuming process, which O'Leary couldn't fund entirely himself.

"I was lucky enough to have some capital available to pay for an intellectual property lawyer to do a freedom to operate search to see if it was able to be patented."
The search came back showing the swab was unique and novel, meaning O'Leary could patent the design.

"Then I needed to start testing the device," says O'Leary. "The biggest thing is having the money to progress it without re-mortgaging your house."

At the time in 2014 O'Leary's wife Melanie worked for AMP, which has provided scholarships to more than 300 Kiwis over the past 20 years in a wide variety of fields.
He applied for a $5000 AMP People scholarship, available to family of staff members. The judges were so impressed with his application they upgraded his award to a $10,000 national scholarship, open to all Kiwis not just staff.

O'Leary used the money towards experiments he needed to carry out on the prototype swab. Each DNA test of the swab cost around $500, so it was never going to be a cheap process. But it worked and O'Leary is in talks with specialised manufacturers in the United States that have the facilities such as clean rooms to manufacture a viable product.
"Without the scholarship I wouldn't have been able to do the background work to get to this point."

Advertisement

O'Leary, whose start-up is called Crime Scene Solutions still works full time in his day job as a forensic scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
Both awards are now open for entry.