Safe and sound: 3P winner fills gaps in construction crews

3P competition winners, from left, Ryan Ayres, Mladen Jovanovic and Karen Zhang  Photo: Lesley Parker

3P competition winners, from left, Ryan Ayres, Mladen Jovanovic and Karen Zhang Photo: Lesley Parker

In summary: 
  • A service connecting under-employed labourers with work via an online gateway is the winner of this year's IBISWorld 3P Innovation Competition
  • The competition is open to all UTS students in the innovation and commercialisation space and gives them the chance to explore business ideas that consider people, planet and profit

Having worked on big construction projects himself, Mladen Jovanovic, winner of this year's IBISWorld 3P Innovation Competition, knows that losing just one labourer from a shift can cost thousands of dollars if an entire work crew has to be sent home as a result.

Jovanovic, a UTS Bachelor of Business student has come up with a solution that could save the construction industry many millions of dollars a year while connecting under-employed labourers with work via an online gateway.

"The construction sector is very reliant on labour and workforce organisation," he told the finals of the 3P competition. "And every infrastructure project has exactly the same problem.

"This problem endangers people's lives as inadequately trained people are brought in; it is also costly for supervisors and for projects."

He gives the real-life example of a project where a crew was to work overnight on a task that would otherwise interrupt traffic on a main road. The absence of one labourer left the crew short and it was not possible to proceed.

The crew was sent home but paid for their eight-hour shift, at a cost of about $5000. The work had to be rescheduled, causing other delays for the project as a whole.

With Jovanovic's Recrew gateway service, a supervisor could call up the app on their phone and search for suitably qualified labourers and skilled tradesmen able to reach the site in time. The service handles all the administration, including payment.

Jovanovic says there are about 2.1 million potential users on the labour side and more than 200,000 businesses in this market.

The IBISWorld 3P Innovation Competition is open to all UTS students in the innovation and commercialisation space and gives them the chance to explore business ideas that consider people, planet and profit.

In its sixth year, it is organised by Professor Zoltan Matolcsy of the Accounting Discipline Group within UTS Business School.

"Every year the quality of the ideas and the business plans has lifted," Professor Matolcsy says, noting that students come to the competition not only from Business but from areas including engineering and design.

Jovanovic wins $12,000 in prize money for his idea. The 3P competition has a prize pool totalling $25,000 through the sponsorship of business research company IBISWorld, whose founder, Phil Ruthven is a judge in the competition.

High-level business professionals also mentor the entrants as they develop their business plans over the three-month span of the competition.

Runner-up Karen Zhang, also from the Bachelor of Business program, wins $8000 for her active lifestyle brand, Kabi Bottle, and its mission of "a society where plastic bottles are a thing of the past".

Australians drink an average of 14 litres of bottled water a year, or 28 bottles per person. That's almost 1 billion plastic bottles, she says.

Zhang is also tapping into the power of social media – in particular, social media "influencers" – to market her range.

Third prize of $5000 went to Ryan Ayres of irrigate02, who came up with a device that extracts moisture from the air and gravity feeds it to pot plants – keeping your home and the world a greener place. Ayres is in UTS Business School's Executive MBA program.

The other finalists in the competition included a portable washing device; an automated cash management system that puts ‘lazy money' to work; and a new procurement program.

Last year's winners of the 3P Competition, Construction Cloud, went on to be finalists in the University Startup World Cup in Denmark, before winning best intangible product in the international Virginia Tech KnowledgeWorks Global Student Entrepreneurship challenge

Construction Cloud is a visual documentation tool for building sites. The team is now refining the system, having secured a Minimal Viable Product grant from the NSW Department of Industry and attracted industry interest, including from the NorthConnex tunnel project in Sydney.

This year's judges were Phil Ruthven of IBISWorld; Vivian Quinn, Finance & Business Services Director of Australian Hearing; UTS Council Member Peter Bennett; private investor David Champtaloup; Mathias Kopp, founder and managing director of CoVEST Capital and co-founder of Sydney Angels; PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Richard Stewart OAM; and Anthony Deane, Founder and Director of MindInk, winner of the inaugural 3P Competition in 2012.