2019 KiwiNet Awards Finalists: NZ’s top research innovation revealed

Hamilton, NZ, 6 June 2019

Twelve outstanding finalists have been selected for the seventh annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, designed to celebrate impact from science through successful research commercialisation within New Zealand's universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations.

The innovative researchers and cutting edge research commercialisation projects include: new 3D printing technology for miniaturisation, next generation earthquake protection, pioneering drug discoveries, precision diagnostic solutions, mussel selective breeding technology, healthcare and horticulture robotic technologies, bio-material research, fruit grading and sorting technologies, and new spectroscopy technology for analysing cloudy liquids. A new award category recognises New Zealand’s best commercialisation professionals.

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 17 universities, Crown Research Institutes, an Independent Research Organisation and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research by helping to transform scientific discoveries into new products and services.

KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson says, "New scientific discoveries have the potential to transform lives and change the world. KiwiNet's excited to showcase the amazing work that goes into getting these discoveries 'business ready'. With the high tech sector looking to soon surpass dairy in its contribution to New Zealand's export economy, we're excited to celebrate the achievements of people and teams who are creating prosperity for us all."

The 2019 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:

Norman Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator Award

  • Andrew Best and Andrea Bubendorfer, Callaghan Innovation: MicroMaker: a new 3D printing technology for high value miniaturisation
  • Dr Brendan Darby, Marama Labs: Revolutionising analytical spectroscopy with analysis of cloudy liquids 
  • Dr Shalen Kumar, AuramerBio: Precision diagnostics made faster, cheaper, and mobile

Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award

  • Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble, University of Auckland: Pioneering drug discovery and development
  • Professor Bruce MacDonald, University of Auckland: Revolutionising horticulture and healthcare with cutting edge robotic technologies
  • Dr Leonardo Negron, Callaghan Innovation: Bio-material research into innovative and unique products for the health sector

MinterEllisonRuddWatts Commercialisation Professional Award

  • Will Charles, Auckland UniServices and University of Auckland: Supercharging the commercialisation activities of the University of Auckland
  • Mark Cleaver, Massey Ventures and Massey University: Leading teams to transform New Zealand's great food and agritech research capability
  • Geoff Todd, Viclink and Victoria University of Wellington: Commercialisation pioneer who has shaped the way scientific research is commercialised in New Zealand

PwC Commercial Impact Award

  • Sanford, Cawthron and SPATnz: Transforming mussel aquaculture through hatchery technology and selective breeding
  • Plant & Food Research and Compac Sorting Equipment: World-leading fruit grading and sorting technologies
  • Tectonus: Next generation earthquake protection

The BNZ Supreme Award is awarded to the category winner with overall excellence in all core areas of research commercialisation.

The KiwiNet Awards judging panel comprises: Duncan Mackintosh an Investment Manager at Brandon Capital Partners, Bridget Coates the co-founder of Kura™ and Chairman of White Cloud Dairy Innovation Ltd, entrepreneur Daniel Xu the CEO of Spark 64 and Chair of the Digital Technologies Investment Committee for Return On Science, and angel investor, advisor and director Debra Hall.

Lead judge Duncan Mackintosh says, "It's fantastic to play a role in this year's KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards. These awards have become an institution that recognises and brings a spotlight onto the people behind some of New Zealand's world class innovation. As judges we were impressed by each and every one."

Jason Lewthwaite, Senior Partner at BNZ says, "The remarkable people and projects represented amongst the finalists are making an important contribution to a higher performing New Zealand, through clever research that is commercialised into successful new technologies and businesses. With the tech sector now contributing NZD16.2bn to the NZ economy it's great to see so many innovative technologies this year. BNZ are very proud to be a long-standing supporter of this event, which celebrates our most innovative scientists and commercialisation professionals."

Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive of MBIE's Labour, Science and Enterprise group, says that by commercialising their research, these researchers are helping to overcome current and future New Zealand and global problems.

"The high level of interest in these awards reflects a growing innovation system in New Zealand and demonstrates that Kiwis are producing internationally valuable and world-class innovations right here in New Zealand."

KiwiNet member organisations and shareholders include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Ventures, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR, NIWA, Scion, Malaghan Institute, GNS Science, Massey Ventures Ltd and Health Innovation Hub. Principal support is provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

Hutchinson says, "KiwiNet gratefully acknowledges the support of Return On Science, a key partner in driving the success of the 2019 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, and KiwiNet member organisations." 

Sponsorship support is provided by BNZ, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, PwC, Baldwins, MBIE, Norman Barry Foundation, and Sciencelens photography.

Winners will be announced at an evening reception on 7 August in Auckland.

2019 Awards Finalists

For further information please contact:

Sandra Lukey
Shine Group (PR for KiwiNet)
Phone: +64 21 2262 858
Email: sandra@shinegroup.co.nz