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UC sells stake in earthquake solutions venture

29 July 2015
UC sells stake in earthquake solutions venture

The University of Canterbury (UC) has sold its stake in Canterbury Seismic Instruments Limited (CSI) to local technology advisory and investment company Aoraki Partners, completing its direct involvement in a successful research commercialisation initiative.

Earthquake hazard studies in the early 1990s highlighted the significant risk to Christchurch from regional faults including the Alpine Fault. Dr Hamish Avery, now CSI’s Chief Technology Officer, and Peter Coursey in UC’s Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, developed strong motion seismographs for a Canterbury seismic network that would help understand regional seismicity and this risk. Their research was supported by the Earthquake Commission, Technology NZ, The Mason Trust, the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and the University.

In 2003, former UC academic Dr John Berrill and Dr Avery formed CSI, including the Canterprise foundation shareholding, to provide these instruments commercially to Geonet, New Zealand’s new national strong motion seismic network. In the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, CSI’s instruments obtained the strongest high quality ground shaking and building response records ever measured globally to that time.

CSI used this strong research base over the last decade to develop monitoring systems with exceptional flexibility and capacity, using high-precision satellite positioning and timing, for almost any seismic, structural, geotechnical, geological or environmental situation. They now provide owners and users with instantaneous information on their structure’s response to earthquakes, wind gusts or other events, and real-time automated alerts on evacuation and re-entry. This allows faster and more reliable structural inspection and analysis and better-informed decisions on repairs and insurance claims.

Still Christchurch-based, CSI’s systems are now installed worldwide in buildings, dams, bridges, tunnels, landslides, infrastructure and seismic networks - from Asia to Europe and from South America to Scandinavia and Iceland.

In Canterbury, CSI’s systems are used by Christchurch International Airport, Christchurch Woman's Hospital, Christchurch Civic Offices, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, and UC itself.

From 2010 to 2012, these systems allowed many of these critical facilities to remain open after significant earthquakes, with assurance that they were safe for workers and the public, while other facilities and buildings across the city were evacuated for hours or days until detailed engineering inspections were completed.

UC’s Research & Innovation Commercial Director, Bill Lee, says the University was pleased to remain a supportive shareholder as CSI commercialised its original technology and grew successfully from its research roots to its current position. UC is now pleased to realise its investment and transfer its shares to Aoraki Partners, a local strategic investor with close ties to UC, which is now working closely with CSI to help it achieve its full New Zealand and global potential.

“Our focus is to support UC’s academic staff and researchers to get useful new ventures based on research and innovation off the ground,” Mr Lee says.

“Our expertise is in sourcing initial research funding and supporting researchers through to commercialisation of the outcomes. Canterbury Seismic Instruments is now well-established and ready for growth, so it’s time for us to wish CSI well and focus on other innovation opportunities.”

CSI is one of several technology companies with links to UC. Last month, UC celebrated the fact that five of seven technology start-ups set to receive funding from Callaghan Innovation had connections to the University. The start-ups are on their way to commercialising valuable new intellectual property (IP) after each receiving repayable grants of up to $450,000 over two years.

UC’s involvement with start-ups is part of developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship – shifting from a sole focus on getting research published to helping UC researchers commercialise the IP they create, as well as bring benefits to New Zealand technology companies. The change is helping build the University’s reputation for doing useful things – useful for businesses, communities and environments.

UC’s innovation role also includes helping to build scale in the region as a founding shareholder in the Canterbury Innovation Incubator and Powerhouse Ventures Ltd and a member of the stakeholder advisory group of CDC Innovations.


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