Researchers’ IMPACT Pitch Final: Celebrating innovators and change-makers


Pictured L to R: Dr Sergey Tumanov, the Heart Research Institute; Kevin Purnell, School of Computing; Dr Susan Caldis, Macquarie School of Education; Dr Ian Wood, Macquarie Cyber Security Hub and Patime Osman, School of Engineering

The final of the Incubator’s Researchers’ IMPACT Program was held recently with five finalists pitching their ideas for the chance to secure a slice of $25,000 in non-equity bearing seed funding. All participants also received membership into next year’s program.

“Research is not just about discovery, it’s about the researchers’ relentless pursuit of answers that shape our world,” says Melissa Ryan, Director Incubation and Entrepreneurship. The Researchers’ IMPACT Pitch Final celebrates these innovators and change-makers who are turning questions into solutions.”

Congratulations to the Apate team – Professor Dali Kaafar, Dr Ian Wood, Michal Kepkowski, Conor Atkins and Dr Nardine Basta – from the Cyber Security Hub for winning first prize. The pitch, ‘Apate: Defeating Global Phone Scams with Conversational AI’, demonstrated how conversational AI techniques are used to develop adaptive AI bots that disrupt the scamming model by wasting the scammers time.

The team plans to use the $20,000 in seed funding to enhance and scale the voice generation and cloud hosting services offering within the product. Not only will this provide a higher quality POC (proof of concept), but it will also assist with prototyping the highly scaled deployments that will be required in partnership with major telecommunication providers.

Dr Susan Caldis from the Macquarie School of Education was runner-up, receiving $5000 in seed funding with her pitch on ‘CoMAP’, a research-informed solution to support trainee and graduate teachers who are required to teach a subject beyond their specialisation. CoMAP stands for a Co-designed Microcredential and Advising Program. The Faculty of Arts will contribute additional funds to support the development of the program.

“I was looking for a way to stretch and challenge my thinking about research productivity and to explore a meaningful way to translate my research into a tangible product beyond publications,” says Dr Caldis. “This program promised and delivered on rigour, creativity, struggle, success, enrichment and accountability; you get out what you put in.”

Apate’s Dr Wood agrees: “[The Researchers’ IMPACT program] has been a valuable bridge between the academic and commercial startup worlds. Even for those who feel they know their way around, the evidence-based learning is bound to identify new aspects and perspectives. I highly recommended this program.”

Last year’s winner, Professor Ray Laurence, Discipline Chair, Ancient History, used the funding to make a series of five animated films about the everyday people living their lives in Pompeii, Italy 2000 years ago. The first film, Pompeian Streets, launched on 16 October.

“I would recommend the Researchers’ IMPACT program to other academics in any faculty. It was the catalyst to get me to do what I had been thinking about doing,” says Professor Laurence. Read more here about Professor Laurence’s project on The Lighthouse or watch episode one of the series below:

This film is part of a new series of Pompeii films to be released each month from October 2023 on the Ancient Rome in Motion YouTube channel. The series was supported with funding from the Macquarie University Research Impact program.

The dates for next year’s Researchers’ IMPACT Program will be available soon. If you are a researcher and want to know more about the program, contact Melissa Ryan





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