2016 Awards Winners

The KiwiNet Awards celebrate heroes in research commercialisation — those individuals and organisations whose best practice approach is changing the innovation landscape in New Zealand. We congratulate the 2016 winners!

BNZ Supreme Award

This award celebrates the supreme entry which demonstrates overall excellence in all core areas of research commercialisation.

Associate Professor Cather Simpson - University of Auckland

From Sensors to Sperm Sorting - Lighting up NZ’s Economy with Lasers

Associate Professor Cather Simpson is a physicist and chemist at the University of Auckland, with specific expertise in lasers and photonics. While photonics can be a very high-tech domain requiring a formidable understanding of fundamental science, Cather also has a deeply entrepreneurial streak that has led to significant commercial outcomes over the past 6 years. In 2010 she founded the Photon Factory, which has attracted over $2.5m of commercial contracts. This has more recently led to the formation of two new startup ventures; Engender Technologies Ltd, which employs 6 staff and has attracted significant private investment, and Orbis Diagnostics Ltd, which has also attracted investment. Engender Technologies Ltd is a spin-off company commercialising the use of microfluidic and photonic technology to improve sorting of sperm by sex for the dairy industry. Cather is the founding scientist and chief science officer. The new technology will improve both efficiency of sorting and performance of sex-sorted sperm by avoiding electric fields and reducing shear stress on the sperm membrane during processing. Orbis Diagnostics Ltd is developing exciting new technology for the dairy industry – to carry out “point of cow” analyses of milk composition in the milking shed. With such an impressive track record of commercial engagement, Cather demonstrates how University researchers can use cutting edge science to power business innovation and grow the economy.

Norman F. B. Barry Foundation Emerging Innovator Award

This award recognises an upcoming entrepreneurial researcher who is making outstanding contributions to business innovation or is creating innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licencing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.

Joint Winner - Dr Carla Meledandri - University of Otago, The MacDiarmid Institute

Harnessing silver nanoparticles to treat and prevent dental disease

Carla Meledandri received her PhD in Chemistry at Dublin City University in 2009 specialising in nano-materials. Since completing her PhD, Carla’s career has focused on pushing the frontiers of science to solve real world problems. The result is a rapid accumulation of commercial opportunities, including a technology licenced to a multinational dental company. Having achieved such great progress so early in her career, Carla is certainly an inspiration to other early career scientists and is well on the way to transforming her science into excellent economic outcomes for New Zealand.

Otago University

Otago Innovation

The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Joint Winner - Dr Daniel Holland, University of Canterbury

Mathematics Plus Measurements Equals Economic Benefit

Dr Daniel Holland has a strong track record of applying novel measurement and mathematical analysis techniques to improve efficiency in the chemical industries. He graduated with a BE(Hons) with First Class honours from the University of Canterbury. Since completing his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge in 2006, he has worked with major international companies as well as specialist technology companies. Measurement techniques he developed for Oil and Gas Measurement in the United Kingdom led to the production of a new sampling product to measure the water distribution in flows of oil and water.  Since returning to New Zealand in 2015, he has actively pursued opportunities to drive business innovation within New Zealand companies, building on his overseas success. He has recently established a new programme of research with Magritek, a developer of cryogen-free, compact Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems that work on the benchtop. He is also working with Eko360, a company specialising in innovative environmental products for growing plants, and seeks to use a mathematical model and novel measurements to rapidly prototype controlled release fertilisers.  Cost-effective controlled release fertilisers have the potential to improve nutrient use efficiency especially with nitrogen fertilisers. The outcome being greater agricultural productivity while reducing leaching from the dairy and forestry sectors in New Zealand and internationally.

Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award

This award recognises an entrepreneurial researcher who has made outstanding contributions to business innovation or has created innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licencing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.

Associate Professor Cather Simpson - University of Auckland

From Sensors to Sperm Sorting - Lighting up NZ’s Economy with Lasers

Associate Professor Cather Simpson is a physicist and chemist at the University of Auckland, with specific expertise in lasers and photonics. While photonics can be a very high-tech domain requiring a formidable understanding of fundamental science, Cather also has a deeply entrepreneurial streak that has led to significant commercial outcomes over the past 6 years. In 2010 she founded the Photon Factory, which has attracted over $2.5m of commercial contracts. This has more recently led to the formation of two new startup ventures; Engender Technologies Ltd, which employs 6 staff and has attracted significant private investment, and Orbis Diagnostics Ltd, which has also attracted investment. Engender Technologies Ltd is a spin-off company commercialising the use of microfluidic and photonic technology to improve sorting of sperm by sex for the dairy industry. Cather is the founding scientist and chief science officer. The new technology will improve both efficiency of sorting and performance of sex-sorted sperm by avoiding electric fields and reducing shear stress on the sperm membrane during processing. Orbis Diagnostics Ltd is developing exciting new technology for the dairy industry – to carry out “point of cow” analyses of milk composition in the milking shed. With such an impressive track record of commercial engagement, Cather demonstrates how University researchers can use cutting edge science to power business innovation and grow the economy.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts Research & Business Partnership Award

This award recognises the deeply embedded working relationship between a research organisation and business that delivers significant commercial value for New Zealand.

Scion & Sonae Industria: Woodforce

Working with an International partner to commercialise high performance wood fibre-reinforced plastics.

The Scion and Sonae partnership has successfully established a commercial value chain for wood fibre-reinforced plastics. Plastics with wood fibre are stronger and stiffer than plastics alone, but, until recently, handling the bulky fibre has not been commercially feasible.

Scion’s patented process forms wood fibre into “dice” that can be made in existing MDF plants and easily added to a range of plastics. With most opportunities for composite plastic manufacture being outside New Zealand, Scion looked for an MDF manufacturer with a global reach who could be key party in a complex and unfamiliar value chain.

European MDF manufacturer Sonae Industria was granted an exclusive licence for the technology in North America and Europe. Sonae owns and has developed the Woodforce brand. The commitment of both partners working with the full value chain has led to the optimisation of Woodforce and the compounding process, putting the partners in a strong commercial position. End products that meet demands for lighter weight, thermal stability and sustainability are being trialled and approved by major automotive manufacturers.

The wide exposure to companies along the value chain has also led to relationships with other manufacturing industries to develop new products.

PwC Commercial Deal Award

This award celebrates excellence in research commercialisation delivering outstanding innovation performance and the potential for generating significant economic impact for New Zealand.

AgResearch - ZeaKal

International spin out supports the commercialization of plant biotechnology in New Zealand

Improving New Zealand’s most important crop, perennial ryegrass has lead two enterprising scientists Dr Nick Roberts and Dr Greg Bryan on an exciting journey of discovery and innovation. Born out of their world leading science is their latest venture a biotechnology startup called ZeaKal. Their company utilizes the technology and skills polished while leading the forage improvement teams at AgResearch. Their next-generation biology focuses on increasing plants’ intrinsic photosynthetic capacity. The plants can therefore harvest more sunlight, fix more carbon dioxide and do so with less water. For farmers, this means better seed and grain yield with forecasted yield improvements by as much as 20 percent.

ZeaKal grass
Dr Nick Roberts, Chief Science Officer, ZeaKal and Dr Greg Bryan, CTO, ZeaKal (back centre) pictured with the AgResearch Plant Biotechnology team at their Grasslands Campus