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Record Entries For Science And Technology Showcase

Record Entries For Science And Technology Showcase Awards

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology says a large number of entries in this year’s FiRST Awards is testimony to the importance the science sector is playing in the drive to make New Zealand internationally competitive.

The FiRST Awards, which will be presented in Auckland and Christchurch later this month, showcase the outstanding work being done by young researchers and scientists in New Zealand.

FiRST’s Communications Manager Peter Burke says this years’ awards have drawn an ‘overwhelming response’ and the quality of both the research and the presentation of the projects is excellent.

Peter Burke says science and technology are increasingly perceived as being the building blocks to New Zealand’s future in the global economy.

“The way this sector is perceived has changed markedly in recent years, and the high standard of projects being submitted for the FiRST Awards is evidence of that,” he says.

Any student currently receiving research funding from the Foundation has been eligible to enter the awards, by presenting their project on a poster which makes the findings simple, clear and easily understandable

The theme of this year’s FiRST Awards, presented annually since 1999 by the Foundation, is bringing science and business closer together. A total of eleven awards including the first-ever national FiRST award, will be given.

That includes four winners each from the North and South Islands, a regional North Island and South Island winner and an overall winner.
The North Island awards will be presented in Auckland on 21 June by the Minister of Science, Research and Technology Pete Hodgson.

Nobel prize co-winner and New Zealand born scientist Professor Alan MacDiarmid will present the South Island awards and the national award in Christchurch on 29 June.

Judging of the awards begins tomorrow (Tuesday 5 June) with the final decisions being made next week by the Chief Executives of two of New Zealand’s most successful enterprises – Te Papa CEO Dame Cheryl Sotheron and Aoraki Corporation CEO Sir Gil Simpson.

Sir Gil Simpson says business people have to be seen to be encouraging the process of discovery that talented young New Zealanders are going through.

He believes New Zealand has lost its tradition of innovation and must fight to get it back.

“The society that produced a Lord Ernest Rutherford or Sir William Pickering is no longer,” Sir Gil says. “Creating an environment that encourages our young scientists and technologists is part of recapturing what I call our pioneering spirit.”

“The growth of the Internet means there is nowhere to hide for New Zealand. Recapturing our ability to innovate, to think differently rather than simply improvise with what we have, is crucial to prospering in an Internet world.”

Sir Gil says while science and technology helps us think differently about the world, business can translate that difference into commercial success.

“That’s how the two sectors should work together,” he says.

Last year’s FiRST Awards winners were honoured for research into yacht racing, climate change, helping lambs survive harsh South Island winters, the effect of globalisation on the pipfruit industry, stress levels in cattle, using the oil content of kawakawa trees in traditional Maori medicines and cleaning products for the dairy industry.

Peter Burke says this year’s entries include an equally exciting range of research projects from the science leaders of the future.

ENDS

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