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Researchers awarded $5 million in MBIE research funding

29 August 2013

University of Waikato researchers awarded $5 million in MBIE research funding

University of Waikato researchers have been awarded $5 million of research funding in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2013 science investment round for projects aimed at improving industrial energy efficiency, managing our fresh water resources and developing designer enzymes to enhance biochemical processing in a range of industries.

The Director of the University’s Energy Research Group, Professor Peter Kamp, and his team have been awarded $2.07 million for a three-year project to identify energy efficiency opportunities in the dairy processing and timber drying industries with an aim of saving up to $20 million in energy costs at current levels of production.

Professor Kamp said the energy savings expected as a result of the research would help maintain New Zealand’s export competitiveness.

Together the dairy processing and timber drying industries used about 40% of the primary energy used for industrial process heat in New Zealand, he said.

Deputy Director of the University’s Te Kotahi Research Institute, Maui Hudson, and Associate Professor Kevin Collier have been awarded $1.84 million to lead a four-year project entitled “Nga Tohu o te Taiao: Sustaining and Enhancing Wai Maori and Mahinga Kai” with a team of University, CRI and iwi researchers.

The research project – developed out of MBIE’s new ‘sandpit’ process for identifying research and collaborative research teams - will examine how mahinga kai, a culturally important value of waterbodies, could help define limits for managing our freshwater resources; how to combine mātauranga Māori and science to sustain mahinga kai objectives; and how best to communicate research results for effective outcomes.

Professor Vic Arcus has been awarded $850,000 for a two-year project to develop a new method for designing “next-generation enzymes” for commercial applications.

Professor Arcus said the aim was to design improved enzymes that could function efficiently under often extreme conditions for industrial process purposes.

He said the project would assess a ‘reverse evolution’ approach to identify and characterise the ancient ancestors of modern enzymes used in the brewing and biofuel industries, in diagnostics and forensics, and in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. A comparison of the ancient enzymes with their modern counterparts, and the characteristics they offer, would help researchers assess this method as a means of designing improved enzymes for industrial end-users.

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