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. I will be looking for radical inventions that challenge and question established thinking. Good luck!”

James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson

2020, an unmatched year

The James Dyson Award 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. 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 $56,000 NZD global prizes: the the International winner and the Sustainability winner. But first, each participating country and region will award a National winner ($3,700NZD) and two National runners-up. Those that win a National accolade proceed to the international awarding stages.

New Zealand in 2021 will be judged by a talented line up of experienced industry figures, including international entrepreneur Derek Handley, sustainable business entrepreneur Brianne West and scientist, inventor and local legend Sir Ray Avery.

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 2020 New Zealand National winner Voronoi Runners addressed the global issue of waste from the footwear industry in shoes that can be easily deconstructed, with every component and material compostable at the end of its life.

Boosting opportunities

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.

How to enter

Candidates can enter through an online application form via the James Dyson Award website. The deadline to apply: midnight PST on 30 June 2021.

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.

Enter via the James Dyson Award website here.

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