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2023 KiwiNet Awards Finalists: Celebrating Research Innovation With Real-world Impact

The 11th annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards celebrates 18 impressive finalists bringing transformative new technologies to the world by commercialising scientific discoveries within New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations.

The KiwiNet Awards showcase the passionate people and teams from around Aotearoa New Zealand, creating new technologies and businesses from outstanding research. Research innovations in the spotlight this year include forensic drug analysis tech, reusable framing for sustainable construction, hydrogen production tech, cultivated meat, strawberry birthmark treatment, post-operative bra to support cancer recovery, food science innovations, natural menstrual care products, clean tech superconducting innovations, 3D printed chromatography columns, a reconstructive microsurgery device, natural product innovations, subsurface moisture detection, and deep-tech for transforming drug discovery for Neuromuscular Disorders.

KiwiNet CEO Dr James Hutchinson says, “It’s a genuine privilege to celebrate the success of our talented innovators, entrepreneurs and commercialisation professionals across the country. Our 2023 finalists are leading the charge towards a more prosperous future for Aotearoa New Zealand. I couldn’t be prouder of what they are collectively achieving to bring new technologies into the world. These awards show how our deep-tech sector is getting stronger every year, and it is through telling the stories of our finalists and celebrating their success that we can inspire what is possible and continue growing our commercialisation ecosystem into one that is truly world-class.”

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The 2023 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:

Momentum Student Entrepreneur

  • Lucy Grunfeld: Bra+ve / Massey University: Supporting breast cancer surgery recovery
  • Monique Lau: Endosoothe / University of Canterbury: Reimaging menstrual care through innovation and community
  • Sophie Burling: Project Geminae / Massey University: An entrepreneurial leader transforming drug discovery for Neuromuscular Disorders

Sprout Breakthrough Innovator Award

  • Dr Jérôme Leveneur - Bspkl / GNS Science: New Zealand’s first deep technology hydrogen start-up
  • Dr Olivia Ogilvie – Opo Bio / Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland: Cultivating meat for the next generation
  • Dr Sean Feast – Precision Chroma / University of Canterbury: Pioneering 3D printed chromatography to transform the separations industry

BNZ Researcher Entrepreneur Award

  • Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh - Riddet Institute / Massey University: Esteemed food scientist and icon of research entrepreneurship
  • Dr Laura Domigan - Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland: Leading New Zealand to the frontier of future foods
  • Professor Rod Badcock - Robinson Research Institute - Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington: Building an emerging clean tech economy taking New Zealand’s expertise to the world

Simpson Grierson Commercialisation Professional Award

  • Brendan Vercoe, 2before Performance Nutrition – Plant & Food Research: Commercialising natural products backed by science
  • Kevin Sheehy, MacDiarmid Institute: Effective support for deep tech entrepreneurs, start-ups, and the ecosystem
  • Dr Sean Mackay, Massey University: Breaking the commercialisation professional mould

PwC Breakthrough Project Award

  • Avasa – Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland: Transforming reconstructive microsurgery
  • Bspkl – GNS Science: Activating sustainability through innovative manufacturing
  • Strawberry Birthmarks – Massey University / Gillies McIndoe Research Institute: A game-changing treatment for infants

MAS Commercialisation Impact Award

  • LumiTM Drug Scan and ESR: Making forensic science accessible to frontline responders
  • TDRI and Lincoln Agritech: Reducing roading costs with rapid subsurface moisture detection
  • XFrame and Wellington UniVentures: Reusable framing for the next generation of sustainable construction

The 2023 KiwiNet Awards judging panel comprises Nick Willis – Chief Technology Officer of Adminis; Hanie Yee - Chief Operating Officer of Alimetry; Dr Sean Simpson - Founder of LanzaTech; Bridget Coates - Executive Director, and Eleanor Chambers – Chair of the Wellington Momentum Investment Committee.

Judging panel convenor, Nick Willis says: Judging panel convenor, Nick Willis says: “These awards are a testament to the boundless diversity and exceptional quality of research that thrives across New Zealand's Crown Research Institutes and Universities. Congratulations to all entrants, finalists and supporters on their contribution. The collective dedication and perseverance of countless individuals who’ve embarked on journeys of discovery, expertly guided by commercialisation professionals, has elevated opportunities to their utmost potential and is shaping a brighter future for us all.”

Nic Blakeley, Deputy Secretary Labour, Science, and Enterprise at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says, “Turning our excellent science and research into new products and services drives prosperity, creates jobs and grows Aotearoa New Zealand for all. The finalists in this year’s KiwiiNet Research Commercialisation Awards represent innovation with real-world impact, which will set the scene for our future.”

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 19 universities, Crown Research Institutes, an Independent Research Organisation and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research by helping to transform scientific discoveries into new products and services.

The 2023 KiwiNet Awards are supported by MBIE, Callaghan Innovation, MAS, PwC NZ, Sprout, Simpson Grierson, and BNZ, as well as Return On Science, Momentum, and Matū, the sponsor of the Momentum Student Entrepreneur.

KiwiNet Awards winners for 2023 will be announced at an evening reception on 28 September in Auckland.

About the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet)

KiwiNet is the combined power of 19 of New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes, and other research organisations, working together to transform early-stage discoveries into products and services that will have social, environmental, cultural, and economic impact for NZ.

Through PreSeed Accelerator funding from MBIE, training programs, support, and industry connections, KiwiNet helps commercialisation teams and entrepreneurial scientists take their discoveries from the lab to the world. To date, KiwiNet organisations have invested $60.7 in PreSeed Accelerator Funding with 82 start-up companies established, and 704 employment opportunities generated or sustained in NZ. Our PreSeed projects since 2003 have created over $558m in known revenue to NZ.

For more information, see

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