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Matariki – the People Making It Happen…

Matariki – the People Making It Happen…

Belinda Sleight

Director, University of Waikato Hawke’s Bay

A move to Hawke’s Bay 13 years ago, with a PhD in Plant Pathology in hand, hasn’t stopped Christchurch-born Belinda Sleight from pursuing a career focused on innovation around the country.

Since studying microbiology, molecular biology and biological sciences at Canterbury and Lincoln Universities, Belinda has worked in managerial roles in the Government sector and private businesses that conduct research or implement research results as new products or improved productivity.

Examples include Lincoln University where Belinda was a member of a small team which set up its Bio-Protection Centre, a private science R&D company based in Auckland, and the meat and health sectors, says Belinda.

“Mostly, these have been innovation programmes – doing new things, doing things differently.”

Key tasks included stakeholder networking, project management, identifying funding sources and applying for funds, strategically positioning organisations and managing programmes of related work. This wealth of expertise and experience has been beneficial in Belinda’s current role as the inaugural Director, University of Waikato Hawke’s Bay.

“This role combines a couple of repeated aspects of positions throughout my career. It is a new position for my employer – almost all of my roles have been ‘greenfields’ opportunities – and a remote-working role – several of my former jobs were managed from afar.”

The University of Waikato is involved in a number of Matariki initiatives, driven by Belinda and supported by University staff in both Hawke’s Bay and Hamilton.

The University of Waikato in Hawke’s Bay (Action 1.3)

“I began my role of Director, University of Waikato Hawke’s Bay in January 2017. This role is one of the Matariki - HBREDS Actions (1.3), whereby Napier City Council was wanting to partner with a university in order to access a wide range of academic knowledge to inform Council projects. Whilst the role is jointly funded by Napier City Council and the University, the focus is Hawke’s Bay-wide. Its purpose is to link up the University’s research and teaching expertise with projects and opportunities across Hawke’s Bay. Currently, University staff are establishing cross-disciplinary research projects with region-wide stakeholders, and developing linkages between students and local employers through internships and summer research placements.”

National Aquarium of New Zealand (Action 5.3)
“The University of Waikato, as a member of the Action 5.3 Steering Group, was tasked with identifying research that could be conducted at the new National Aquarium of New Zealand facility. Based on discussions with various stakeholders and referencing the land-to-sea scope of the expanded aquarium’s exhibits, we have proposed a research theme of integrated catchment management – the sustainable management of bio-physical resources within a context that includes social, cultural, economic and political considerations. The Steering Group was supportive of this theme as it has a good fit with Hawke’s Bay’s regional profile, particularly land and water management that supports our region’s biggest industries (primary production/horticulture and tourism), and is broad enough to encompass a wide range of research activities in collaboration with other researchers and with citizen-scientists. The expansion of the National Aquarium of New Zealand presents an exciting opportunity to conduct this ‘people-and-science-centred’ work in an environment and facility that reflects and enhances that intent.”

Hawke’s Bay Digital Strategy (Combined Actions 2.9, 4.3 & 5.7)

“I recently joined this working group, which will develop a digital strategy for Hawke’s Bay, together with a shortlist of prioritised actions/projects. This is likely to be quite a broad remit – from increasing access to computers and the internet, through to encouraging entrepreneurial digi-based start-up enterprises to establish in Hawke’s Bay.”

Food/Agri-business Innovation Hub/ Food Innovation Network (Actions 2.10 & 6.3)

“I’m on the steering group that has led a discovery phase project, identifying gaps and opportunities for establishing a Food/Agri-technology Hub. This is an opportunity for Hawke’s Bay-based food and agritech businesses to easily access and work with Waikato researchers on R&D projects in diverse areas like cyber security, big data, robotics and biological sciences. It’s food and food production going high tech!”


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