2018 Awards Finalists

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 2018 finalists!

Norman Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator Finalists

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.

Dr Andrew Kralicek

Dr Andrew Kralicek

Plant & Food Research

Dr Andrew Kralicek – Plant & Food Research

Insect Receptor Sensors: Harnessing insects’ amazing powers of smell to revolutionize commercial sensing

Dr Andrew Kralicek, Team Leader of the Molecular Sensing Team at Plant & Food Research, has spent the last decade working out how to harness insects’ amazing sense of smell to revolutionise the world of electronic sensors.  His technological breakthrough led to the development of a proof of principle prototype showing that insect odorant receptors can be used for the detection of miniscule amounts of volatile compounds. Possible commercial applications range from human health, pest and disease detection, food quality and defence technologies.

Over the past three years, Dr Kralicek’s passion has been the commercialisation of his innovative new technology as a platform technology.  These efforts, backed by PreSeed accelerator investment, have seen Dr Kralicek engage with potential customers, collaborators, funders and advisers to better understand the commercial opportunities that could be captured by this novel device. Andrew was the first researcher selected for the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme in 2015 for his 'biological electronic nose' sensor technology.

Dr Deborah Crittenden

Dr Deborah Crittenden

University of Canterbury

Dr Deborah Crittenden, University of Canterbury

Infinitely rechargeable batteries; real-time nitrate sensors.

Dr Deborah Crittenden from the University of Canterbury is developing exciting new technologies delivering environmental sustainability, including infinitely rechargeable batteries and real-time nitrate sensors. A senior lecturer at the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, she brings a diverse skill set and pragmatic approach to developing novel scientific and technological solutions for important real-world problems that also have the potential to deliver excellent economic outcomes for New Zealand. She is currently working on designing new energy storage liquids for use in redox flow batteries, a novel nitrate sensor system based upon laser-induced photochemistry coupled to simple, low-cost detection methods, and developing a new platform technology for predicting how drug molecules bind to their targets on a very large scale.

In 2017, a spin-out company, Flow Holdings, was established based upon Dr Crittenden's molecular design work to develop a prototype redox flow battery. Discussions are ongoing around partnering with industry to further advance and commercialize Dr Crittenden's nitrate sensor design, which has already attracted pre-incubation funding. Additionally, Dr Crittenden is in early discussions with a tech incubator around commercializing her computational drug design tool.

Vlatko Materic

Dr Vlatko Materic

Hot Lime Labs

Callaghan Innovation

Dr Vlatko Materic – Hot Lime Labs

‘Hot Lime’ to help feed the world - increasing greenhouse crop yields with sustainable CO2

Dr Vlatko Materić, Founder and CEO of Hot Lime Labs, has developed technology to sustainably boost glasshouse yields while reducing their carbon footprint.

Dr Materić started development of his 'Hot Lime' technology while in his previous role, as a researcher at Callaghan Innovation. He had long envisioned a technology to produce clean CO2 from the combustion of waste which could change the world by significantly boosting glasshouse vegetable and flower yields while reducing their carbon footprint.

The Hot Lime Labs technology can recover clean CO2 from the burning of waste organic material and then allow this clean and concentrated CO2 to be released into the greenhouse to improve crop yields by around 20%. This enables greenhouse growers to operate at optimal yields, and increase food production while simultaneously cutting environmental harm by using a renewable source of clean CO2.

The technology has the potential to increase grower's revenues by $40-80k per annum per hectare compared to using other sources such as natural gas or liquid CO2. The global market opportunity for the technology is estimated at over $800m per annum and is growing rapidly. In the space of just two short years he is now realising his dream, having foundered a start-up company as a commercialisation vehicle for his discoveries. Hot Lime Labs has already attracted significant private investment and is set to take on the world with eager early adopters lined up for commercial trials.

Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Finalists

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.

Professor David Williams

Professor David Williams

The MacDiarmid Institute

University of Auckland

Professor David Williams - University of Auckland and MacDiarmid Institute

Air Quality Measurement for Everyone: Sensors, systems and networks

You can’t see, taste, touch or feel it but what’s in the air you breathe can profoundly affect your life. Professor David E Williams, from the University of Auckland has lead a range of research projects which resulted in the formation of Aeroqual Ltd, a company specialising in instruments and systems to measure air quality.

Measurement of air quality is tough and traditionally done with high-grade instruments, at sites carefully chosen to measure averages, and operated by specialists. However, what people want to know is what is in their own immediate environment or on the route they propose to walk or cycle, and they need this information to be reliable and timely. Aeroqual Ltd can provide exactly that.

The Aeroqual AQY is a box the size of a ‘Harry Potter’ book, that can mount on a lamp-post, fence or on your house. It measures the key pollutants ozone, nitrogen dioxide and small particles. It has been extensively tested in deployments in Auckland, Christchurch, Vancouver and Los Angeles. The important innovations are not only in the instruments and the sensors inside them, but also in the data systems that check the results and ensure that you get information you can rely on: world-leading technology from New Zealand.

Electrochemistry Professor David Williams is also a Principal Investigator and former Deputy Director in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. He is an exemplar for an entrepreneurial researcher: Aeroqual was his second startup and since then he has triggered three others (Mote, Orbis Diagnostics and SpotCheck Technologies Ltd) and has inspired and supported other researchers to follow his footsteps and form enterprises.

Dr Philip Elmer

Dr Philip Elmer

Plant & Food Research

Dr Philip Elmer – Plant & Food Research

Biological Control Tools: Reducing pesticides and sustainable strategies for plant disease control

Dr Philip Elmer from Plant and Food Research has demonstrated a career-long commitment to addressing the business needs of the fruit and vegetable industries in NZ, developing new tools and technologies that have been successfully implemented to sustainably address significant disease issues in key horticultural crops.

He was a pioneer and key player in the new field of biological control tools and has contributed to the success of many of our horticultural export industries. Dr Elmer developed biological tools to address botrytis, a major disease of many crops, particularly wine grapes; and introduced the GrapeFutures programme that created tools used by 75% of NZ wine growers to enhance sustainable disease control practices. His experience was critical in the response to the devastating disease Psa that threatened to decimate NZ's kiwifruit industry and has successfully led the development of a new bio-bactericide for Psa control, due to be released to kiwifruit growers in time for Spring 2018. He was also a key member of Psa response team that was awarded the Prime Ministers Science prize for 2017.

Over the last 20 years, Dr Elmer has worked closely with both NZ and international biocontrol companies to facilitate the development and commercialisation of these valuable new biocontrol tools. His strengths in team leadership and industry engagement contribute significantly to the success of New Zealand's horticultural exports.

Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee

Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee

University of Auckland

Victoria University of Wellington


Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee (TJ), Victoria University of Wellington

Taking New Zealand’s virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to the world.

Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee (TJ) from Victoria University of Wellington is passionate about solving global challenges in Virtual and Augmented reality. His commercial appetite has been honed developing a wide range of innovative products, including 17 years’ industry experience with Samsung. Whilst there, he oversaw a 3D virtual prototyping and visualisation system that resulted in over 200 products. He joined Victoria University in 2012 and has continued to form strong academic and business collaborations.

When TJ first arrived in New Zealand his talents caught the eye of Weta Digital. Seeing an excellent opportunity with the film industry he pioneered the Victoria’s Computer Graphics Programme, which offers students the opportunity to gain unprecedented insights into the inner technologies of the creative industries.  Over 10 internship and graduating students now work for Weta Digital, contributing to some of the biggest blockbusting movies we have seen in the past few years.

TJ started Dreamflux, his own company utilising breakthrough technology built at Victoria University, 5 months ago.  He has already worked directly for virtual tour project with Wellington International Airport, Singapore Airlines and Wrestler; the experience is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Recently, DreamFlux technology was accepted to the SIGGRAPH 2018 to showcase their immersive mixed reality technology in the main stage of “Real-time Live” at Vancouver.

To improve the commercialisation of research to solve industry problems TJ was instrumental in establishing Victoria’s new Computational Media Innovation Centre where he is a deputy director and research director. The Centre will incubate potential start-ups and industry pipelines to strengthen New Zealand’s computing and media ecosystem, and develop extensive links with international gaming and anime companies and institutes. The Centre will be based in Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering and was announced as one of the first three recipients of funding from the Government’s $35 million Entrepreneurial Universities initiative.

Research & Business Partnership Finalists

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

Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope
An artist’s impression of the SKA at night: Credit SKA Organisation

AUT and the NZ SKA Alliance

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Telescope - Exploring the Universe with the world's largest radio telescope

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is the World’s largest radio telescope delivering fundamental advances in understanding our Universe. New Zealand SKA Alliance partners, led by AUT, jointly undertake research and design to deliver the unprecedented computing power behind the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

The SKA is the World’s largest mega-Science project of the next decade. It represents numerous firsts for New Zealand, being the World’s biggest Big Data project, the largest Science project in which New Zealand has ever had substantial lead roles, and the largest New Zealand involvement in an international ICT collaboration. Once the receivers, infrastructure and supercomputing systems have been built scientists in the 10 member countries*, including New Zealand, will have access to the World’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. With it they will make fundamental advances in our understanding of the Universe over the next 50 years.

The New Zealand SKA Alliance consists of three universities: AUT, University of Auckland, Massey University; and companies including: Catalyst IT, Compucon NZ, and Open Parallel. The organisations jointly undertake research and design for the unprecedented computing required to make the SKA a reality. Established in 2013 and aiming for SKA phase 1 construction 2019-2025 it will be one of the longest and largest academic-industry collaborations in NZ.

*Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


Auckland University of Technology

AUT Ventures

Revolutionising high speed train travel

Victoria University Wellington


Victoria University’s Multi-party Chinese Partnership

Victoria University’s International Partnerships - Revolutionising high speed train travel

The Robinson Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, along with Viclink (Victoria University's tech transfer office), is part of a multi-party Chinese collaboration, with the goal of revolutionising high-speed train travel across Asia and Europe.

The "1 Belt, 1 Road" project will see Robinson Research Institute working with Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU). The project is a key part of China's strategy to improve linkages across Asia and Europe, with China taking a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.

This project, which recognises Robinson Research Institute's engineering excellence, has enormous prestige in China as it is: the largest international cooperation project awarded in 2017 by MOST (Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology); the first belt and road project in advanced technologies in China with New Zealand; and the only project with a New Zealand partner to be awarded by MOST.

The partnership encompasses two top Chinese universities, three major listed Chinese companies, Victoria University's Robinson Research Institute and a New Zealand company. The project will enable train travel at speeds exceeding 400km/hr across Asia and into Europe. Current transformer technology can't meet the size and weight requirements desired for upgraded high speed rail.

Prior to this project the Robinson Research Institute, Viclink and Beijing Jiaotong University have worked together on the design of electric motors using high temperature superconductor technology.

University of Auckland



StretchSense and Auckland UniServices Partnership

Partnering for commercial success - Smart sensor data empowering your next move

The StretchSense and UniServices partnership is a prime example of a spin-out company that has maintained a strong relationship creating significant value for New Zealand.  StretchSense, a spin out company from Auckland University, makes soft stretchy sensors for measuring the body and sells into top companies in the wearables, sporting, consumer electronics, and virtual reality industries.

Wearables today are bulky and use tech derived from hard industrial applications. There is a strong push towards more fashionable devices, because if it’s going to be obvious it might as well look good. In the future the tech will make all of this irrelevant because wearables will be invisible to the user. StretchSense is building to that future, with soft sensors to make them comfortable, precise so they can capture meaningful data, and self-powered so there is no need to charge batteries. Their sensor tech has been in market for 5 years, and they have licensed energy harvesting tech from Auckland UniServices.

StretchSense is now core to a thriving partnership with the university’s Biomimetics Laboratory. Since its inception in 2012, commercialising research emerging from the Biomimetics Lab has enabled StretchSense to continue to grow. UniServices has licensed eight patent families in sensing and power generation to StretchSense, thus representing an important channel-to-market for this University of Auckland research cluster.

The University of Auckland and StretchSense partnership is a shining example of a deep and genuine collaboration where the research organisation is benefiting from research funding, capability development and a channel-to-market for emerging IP. StretchSense benefits from a steady pipeline of high quality commercial opportunities and scientific capability that is enabling them to build their commercial momentum.




PwC Commercial Impact Finalists

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

Callaghan Innovation


Callaghan Innovation

Transforming New Zealand’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Sector

Callaghan Innovation’s C-Prize is a visionary mechanism providing multifaceted impacts into industry sectors for New Zealand.  The C-Prize successfully helped the UAV and screen sectors work together, through a challenge format, to quickly develop breakthrough technologies that will keep both at the top of their respective fields. It challenged teams to design and build a prototype UAV (drone) that could overcome one of three obstacles that limit their use in the film and TV industry: strong wind, rotor noise and the need to track moving objects automatically.

Each finalist was assigned a Callaghan Innovation business manager to advise and coach them through the processes of acquiring funding and building an IP strategy. They were also assisted with their technical development, and got to participate in various workshops on lean principals, cinematography, plus learning how to pitch and to put an investment case together.

In December 2015 Vortec UAV, a group of former University of Auckland students, was announced the winner of the inaugural C-Prize.  In April 2016, just a year after the C-Prize launched, Vortec UAV and C-Prize finalist, Dotterel Technologies, took their drone prototypes to the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.

Dotterel found themselves in the enviable position of being a true niche product, as the only company offering noise-cancellation systems for UAVs. The company received some incredible media and market interest, and won the “overall most innovative product” at the tradeshow, a phenomenal accolade for the New Zealand start-up considering the range of products on display.

In 2017 a new C-prize championed technology on wearable devices to enhance sport, health and emergency services support. With this showcase event Callaghan Innovation continues to enhance the commercial impact of opportunities for New Zealand.

Plant & Food Research

Plant & Food Research

Amarasate® Extract – 100% plant-based, world-first weight management extract

calocurb™, the 100% plant-based supplement that helps you manage food cravings is set to take international weight management market by storm

Scientists at Plant & Food Research have developed a 100% plant-based supplement that helps you manage food cravings and is set to take the international weight management market by storm. calocurb™, licensed by Lifestream International has just launched into the US, the world’s largest market for weight management. calocurb™ contains Amarasate® extract, which is the lead ingredient from an MBIE research programme for ‘Foods for Appetite Control’, and is a New Zealand grown hops extract that supports portion control and reduces daily calorie intake. Targeting the Bitter Brake™ mechanism, the bitter extract is released in the duodenum and triggers taste sensors in the gut to release satiety peptides.

Amarasate® extract was found to be the most effective compound (out of more than 900 plants screened) to trigger the Bitter Brake™ – an evolutionary response whereby bitter compounds trigger a ‘stop eating’ signal in the brain. When coupled with patented capsule technology, the Amarasate® extract progressed through clinical trials and demonstrated that bitter compounds support a feeling of fullness or satiety. Plant & Food Research was able to create a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) self-determination dossier showing historical use of the extract in the US with support from PreSeed funding through KiwiNet.

Plant & Food Research then contracted with the world’s leading company for production of capsules to manufacture a trial run of capsules as well as completing US market validation and a provisional patent. Ultimately Plant & Food Research licensed the technology to Lifestream International, a New Zealand private equity owned company who has financed the product launch direct to consumers in the US, bypassing historical retailers, maintaining margin for the commercial partner and developing direct consumer relationships through an online only initial launch. The product was launched in New Zealand in April 2018 and the US in May 2018.

University of Waikato

Waikato Link

Saluda Medical

University of Waikato and WaikatoLink

MRI-Safe human-implantable electrodes – licensing deal with Saluda

Professor Jonathan Scott and his graduate student, from the School of Engineering at University of Waikato, have invented exciting new designs that enable electrodes implanted in people to operate safely in MRI machines.

This device was invented in response to needs of Australian start-up, Saluda Medical, whose products automate in-body electrode-driven technology for management of chronic pain. Their inventions address neurostimulation applications such as deep-brain stimulation and spinal-cord stimulation. Saluda Medical raised Series D finance of AUD53 million following successful human trials to support commercialisation of its technology. The Saluda solution offers a significant improvement in quality of outcomes for recipient patients and has the technology to make a significant impact in its market over a short period of time.

Around 70,000 neurostimulators are installed around the world each year at a cost of around USD15-17k each, including implantation. The manufacturer distribution market is estimated to be worth around USD$375 million annually.

Professor Scott's MRI-Safe human-implantable electrode designs, which received PreSeed funding to aid development, have the potential to generate significant royalty streams and make a significant market impact. The University of Waikato and Saluda aim to leverage this experience to commercialise other medical device projects.