Growing the future

Growing the future

Three student teams have envisioned new ways of harnessing biotech to solve environmental problems as part of an international design challenge.

Teams Enzer, Symbiome and Kelpture, featuring students from the Master of Design Innovation and Technology, Bachelor of Industrial Design (Honours) and Bachelor of Fashion Design (Honours) programs, were among 37 finalists invited to New York City as part of the Biodesign Challenge Summit earlier this month.

The annual student competition partners students with biologists, artists and designers to build collaborations, work with emerging biotechnology, and to engage the public with visions for the future applications of the tech.

Finalists were selected from a competitive pool of more than 500 participants from around the world and different fields of study.  

RMIT was the only university to have two teams, Symbiome and Enzer, placed in the top nine.

Enzer also won the ORTA Prize for Bioinspired Textiles Processes, which is awarded to the team that explores sustainability in the fabrication and treatment of textiles, for their development of a system to remove microplastics from the washing process.

The Ezner team in New York City. Photo: Valery Rizzo The Enzer team was awarded the Orta Prize for Bioinspired Textiles Processes. Photo: Valery Rizzo

School of Design Industry Fellow and Lecturer Dr Ollie Cotsaftis, one of the four team mentors, said biodesign was expected to become a major industry and field of research within the new few years.

“By participating in the challenge, students have a chance to expand their horizons about what design is and can speculate about future applications of biotechnology,” Cotsaftis said.

“It is a strong belief of mine that design is a driver behind the current state of the world and that design can and will also be a key strategy in fixing our broken planet.”

“Having the full support of the RMIT School of Design and Master of Design Innovation and Technology was critical to our success.”

The Enzer team's winning project. The Enzer team's winning project.

Bachelor of Fashion Design (Honours) student and Enzer team member Kristine O’Loughlin said a highlight of the Challenge was working with interdisciplinary students and meeting a diverse community in New York City.

“Participating in the Biodesign Challenge opened my eyes to a new area of design,” O’Loughlin said.

Founder and director of the Biodesign Challenge Daniel Grushkin said students demonstrate fantastic creativity and innovation every year.

“These students are re-thinking everything from the future of food, medicine, architecture, and even fashion. Their visionary thinking will help pave the way for important changes across industries,” Grushkin said.

RMIT is the highest ranked university in Australia for Art and Design according to the 2020 QS World Rankings by Subject.


Story: Jasmijn van Houten


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.