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IRL scientists honoured for innovation with impact

Media release
22 November

IRL scientists honoured for innovation with impact

Leading the fight against deadly disease, improving concert hall acoustics around the world and explaining how innovation underpins prosperity are just some of the feats that have earned Industrial Research Ltd’s top scientists recognition at this year’s most prestigious research awards.

At last night’s 2012 New Zealand Research Awards, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ), the remarkable achievements of the country’s’ leading scientists were honoured with the award of the research community’s most coveted medals, three of them going to IRL scientists.

They are: Dr Richard Furneaux, head of IRL’s internationally-renowned Carbohydrate Chemistry group; IRL Principal Scientist Dr Mark Poletti, a world-leading acoustics researcher, and Professor Shaun Hendy, IRL’s first Industry and Outreach Fellow.

Dr Furneaux, a Fellow of the RSNZ, received the 2012 Thompson Medal ‘for his outstanding and inspirational leadership of carbohydrate chemistry research and its commercial application to biotechnology in New Zealand’. In its citation, the society noted that in addition to leading what is regarded as the largest carbohydrate chemistry team in the world, Dr Furneaux has established an international reputation for research generated by his team, as well as commercial applications to biotechnology in New Zealand, with R&D delivered to over 20 companies. “Richard’s research, along with a long-standing collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has resulted in the development of drugs with potential for treating cancer, gout, and malaria,” it says.

Dr Mark Poletti received the 2012 Cooper Medal for his world-leading development of the globally preferred method for tuning concert hall acoustics, now commercialised as the “Constellation” system. In its citation, the RSNZ noted that the unique feature of Constellation, which is installed in over 100 halls and theatres on four continents, including the Aotea Centre’s ASB Theatre in Auckland, is its ability to alter the acoustics of a space and so allow optimal reverberation for differing types of music.

IRL Industry and Outreach Fellow Professor Hendy, FRSNZ, who is also deputy director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and a physics professor at Victory University, received the 2012 Callaghan Medal ‘for his outstanding work in raising public awareness of science and its role in increasing economic prosperity’. Professor Hendy, a leading physicist with an outstanding ability to communicate a broad range of scientific ideas, is well known to a wide readership through his column A Measure of Science on Sciblogs, regular broadcasts on RadioNZ Nights, and other regular talks on science topics. According to the RSNZ citation, Professor Hendy ‘has been especially effective in analysing and communicating the ways in which science and innovation increase economic prosperity. His ideas and analyses have already influenced businesses and policy-makers in New Zealand, and will continue to do so.’

IRL Chief Executive Shaun Coffey congratulated all of the award-winners for their massive contributions to the advancement of knowledge and its impact on the country’s fortunes.

“I am particularly proud of the award of three RSNZ research medals in a single year to IRL scientists – both well-earned recognition of the individual achievements of some of the leading researchers in their fields, and fitting recognition of the work of IRL as it prepares to move into Callaghan Innovation.

“Congratulations to Dr Furneaux, Dr Poletti and Prof Hendy on achieving such recognition for their outstanding work – be it developing a home-grown pharmaceutical industry, commercialising world-lead acoustics research or characterising, modelling and understanding the New Zealand innovation ecosystem and its relationship with the world economy.”

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