New UWA program connects emerging PhD talent with global start-ups

25/10/2022 | 2 mins

Doctoral candidates from The University of Western Australia are set to gain practical experience with a range of global start-ups as part of a new program co-founded by UWA PhD candidates Justin Geldard and Carly Portch from the Oceans Graduate School.

The Knodes Network was created to match early-stage companies who are addressing sustainable development goals with PhD candidates at UWA who then collaborate through three-week research sprint programs to accelerate solutions to issues being faced by the start-ups.

Mr Geldard said the idea came about after recognition that start-up companies often face massive barriers to accessing deep subject-matter expertise, especially when solving complex problems.

Carly Portch and Justin Geldard

Image: Knodes founders UWA PhD candidates Carly Portch and Justin Geldard.

“The program allows start-ups to connect into the University at a very early stage to de-risk their ideas at a reduced cost compared to traditional channels, while also providing excellent training for our PhD candidates, and opportunities for them to translate their research to real world application,” he said.

“We ran the pilot program last year with 11 PhD candidates from the UWA Oceans Institute including physical oceanographers, geotechnical and coastal engineers and shark, fish and coral biologists who worked with four international ocean-based start-ups.

“These included B’Zeos Green Tech from Norway offering seaweed-based packaging; Whale Seeker from Canada who use artificial intelligence to detect marine mammals; Plantish from Israel, who produce 3D-printed, plant-based seafood; and Hawaii-based Hohonu, who use sensors to detect sea level rise.”

Mr Geldard said Knodes works with local and global business accelerators to engage with the best sustainable start-ups from around the world. 

The 2022 program was made possible by sponsors The Sustainable Ocean Alliance, For Blue and City of Cockburn, and was awarded an Experiential Learning Innovation Grant by Practera. 

This year, there are seven start-ups involved (some local, some international), and 14 PhD students from UWA’s Business School, School of Agriculture and Environment, School of Earth Sciences, Oceans Graduate School and School of Biological Sciences. 

Local start-ups in the 2022 program include Fremantle Seaweed, who is cultivating local seaweed varieties for a trial farm south of Gage Road with the aim of producing high-quality seaweed for food, fertiliser, animal feed and cosmetics.

If you want to learn about how your business can work with the Knodes team UWA students, visit the website. For any questions or information about new and upcoming programs, including the three month internship in development for 2023, email [email protected]


Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 79795

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