EYE50 win a "life-changing" moment for Aussie designer, Hollie Baigent

She may live Down Under, but Hollie Baigent is currently sitting pretty on top of a world that she’s determined to help. As the 23-year-old industrial design graduate puts it, “I feel like I’ve had a bite of candy apple and now nothing really adds up to it. I want more.”


Baigent is now back home in Sydney, trying to make sense of what she describes as a “life-changing” three days at C2-MTL that saw her win the conference’s Emerging Young Entrepreneur (EYE50) competition. Launched with C2-MTL’s Innovation Partner, Intel, the contest undertook a global search to identify emerging inventors / entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are using technology to solve some of the world’s more challenging problems and bring big ideas to life. More than 60 projects were entered, of which the contest’s distinguished jury selected 20 to showcase at C2-MTL along with their talented young creators.


Baigent’s winning project, the Outreach Vaccine Backpack and Motorcycle Rack, or VACCi Pak, proposes an affordable, sustainable, locally-sourced solution to the current shortcomings of international vaccine delivery systems. Visits to East Timor convinced her that something had to be done to reduce the country’s high mortality rate for children under the age of five. Subsequent research undertaken at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, where Baigent was studying industrial design, led to her idea for a more efficient and cost-effective method of delivering vaccines.


According to UNICEF, the weight of vaccine carriers accounts for more than 50% of international shipping costs to developing countries. Baigent determined that local manufacture of the carriers to World Health Organization-standards using bamboo composites and other locally-sourced materials would significantly reduce the cost of shipping while giving a much-needed boost to local industry and, most important of all, improving the transportation and safe delivery of vaccines to even the most remote villages.


Winning the EYE50 competition is “good validation for the idea,” Baigent says, “now I really need to think about what’s next for the project. I don’t want this to be something that never really takes off. I want it to be a sustainable economic approach that ultimately makes sense for its local users.” A prototype exists, designed on Baigent’s own dime and time, and she is now hoping to convince the Bill Gates Foundation to fund further design work and make the project a reality.


In the meantime, Baigent’s taking full advantage of her position at a Sydney-based medical device design firm to learn the tricks of her trade, including how to scale projects. With her EYE50 win now rippling through the ranks thanks to a mention in the firm’s newsletter, Baigent says there is even the possibility of VACCi-Pak being developed in-house. Baigent has also received offers of assistance for the project and even a few job proposals from U.S.-based contacts made at C2-MTL.


“I feel empowered,” Baigent says of her experience at C2-MTL and winning the EYE50 competition. “I didn’t at all expect to win. I wasn’t working on my product full-time like the other finalists. This is why it’s so life-changing, because now I see myself as an entrepreneur and want to be an entrepreneur. I’ve got good ideas, I foresee a future for my ideas. C2-MTL really brought this awareness to life, because you never know when you work on these things – you think it’s a good idea but it’s not until someone spots it and brings it to the global stage. C2-MTL kickstarted my thinking of myself as an entrepreneur and moved me more into that space – now watch out!”


* Thanks to EYE50 finalist, Jeff Lee, for permission to use the photo of Hollie Baigent that accompanies this article. For more of Lee’s views on life at C2-MTL as an EYE50 finalist, visit his blog post.