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Researchers receive jumpstart to prove ideas

Researchers receive jumpstart to prove ideas and develop technology

Hamilton, New Zealand, 21 December 2010 - Three researchers at the University of Waikato are closer to turning their ideas into commercial reality as winners of the Tech Jumpstart program, targeted at researchers who need investment and assistance to begin developing their technology concepts. The initiative, developed to support early stage research and technology development by WaikatoLink, the University's commercialisation office, awarded projects with the greatest market potential.

Mark Stuart Chief Executive of WaikatoLink says, "We wanted to put early investment into some new ideas that could have significant potential for New Zealand when commercialised. We've uncovered some really innovative ideas and research that may not have been realised in a commercial context without an initiative like this."

The winning projects from Associate Professor Vic Arcus from the Faculty of Biological Sciences, and Associate Professor Rainer K?nnemeyer, and Senior Lecturer Nihal Kularatna from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, were chosen from a range of molecular biology, electronics, engineering and computer science applicants.

Biologist Associate Professor Vic Arcus' BoxB Display project will involve the development of a new display system for high-throughput protein screening in molecular biology. The new display method could potentially create larger libraries of protein targets and promote greater accuracy. Protein libraries play a critical role in drug discovery and the proposed method could be in high demand in the pharmaceutical industry.

Engineer Associate Professor Rainer Kunnemeyer's Blue Ray Cytometer project will focus on engineering new cytometry equipment for cell counting and analysis. His objective is to reduce the size of the equipment, making it much smaller and more portable than existing cytometers, for use in field testing.

Senior Lecturer Nihal Kularatna's Enhanced Surge Protection project will focus on designing improved power management systems for surge protection. He aims to develop more reliable and durable surge protection devices that can withstand repeated high surge voltages such as severe lightning strikes.

With support from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, WaikatoLink will invest up to $20,000 into for each winner's project to cover equipment and development costs. WaikatoLink will also provide commercialisation support.

Mark Stuart says, "Giving ideas an early push means we can accelerate the process of building the value in research and technology to a proof-of-concept or technology development stage. At that point projects are more likely to attract other sources of investment for further development."

The Tech Jumpstart initiative was first run by WaikatoLink in 2007. The outcomes of the funded projects were so promising that 80% went on to gain further investment for continued development, 40% are now completed for licensing, and one project formed the foundation for a spin-off company.

This year Tech Jumpstart was rolled out through UniCom, a University commercialisation consortium, of which WaikatoLink is a founding member and lead contractor. UniCom focuses on translating the research outcomes from the consortium into commercial technologies leveraging the collective expertise, IP and networks of the group.

Stuart says, "Tech Jumpstart has produced some great successes for us, so it's great to see a total of 15 winning projects from UniCom members around the country, building on the three from WaikatoLink. The potential value to be gained from taking the winning ideas to the next stage is enormous. We expect to see some of the ideas form the basis of technologies that can be licensed or spinout companies."

Graham Scown from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology says that this is an invaluable initiative to support researchers who are prepared to engage commercialisation input early in their R&D programmes.

"Early engagement in this way increases the chances of a significant economic return from R&D. Innovation is critical to achieving the optimum outcome for New Zealand - not just through an innovative research programme, but also through innovative approaches to identifying and supporting promising technology."

Tech Jumpstart programmes have also been completed by UniCom members AUT University, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury and Lincoln University. The first of the winning projects from the University of Waikato have just begun.


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