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2021 KiwiNet Awards Finalists: Saluting NZ’s World-class Research, Creating Business Impact

Sixteen stunning finalists have been selected for the ninth annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, designed to celebrate impact from science through successful research commercialisation within New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations.

The innovative research commercialisation successes include new aluminium-ion battery technology, next-generation cochlear implant technology, nanofibre cosmetic products from marine collagen, ‘lab on a disk’ testing platform, freeze-dried vegetable baby food, plant disease biocontrol product, reusable framing system for sustainable construction, smart calling and voicemail platform, commercial-scale production of traditional Māori fungi, and protection of critical infrastructure from cyber attack. New Zealand’s research commercialisation professionals are also recognised.

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 18 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.

KiwiNet CEO Dr James Hutchinson says: “The KiwiNet whānau of universities and research institutes has spent the past ten years creating an extraordinary pipeline of projects, accelerating our most promising ideas to market. The stars are now aligning for all parts of our ecosystem, and great opportunity awaits. We see the critical role that deep tech can play in our COVID-19 recovery, scientifically, economically and beyond. We’re excited to celebrate the people and teams who are harnessing brilliant research discoveries to transform lives and grow New Zealand for future generations.”

The 2021 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:

Momentum Student Entrepreneur

· Jeanette Rapson, Massey University: Early Habits - freeze-dried vegetable baby food

· Luke Campbell, University of Canterbury: Millions of calls made smarter with Vxt

· Tom Maslin, University of Canterbury: The next generation of cochlear implant technology

Breakthrough Innovator Award

· Christopher Smith, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research: The Mushroom Smith

· Ged Finch, Research and Development, XFrame™/Wellington UniVentures: XFrame™ - a recoverable and reusable framing system for the next generation of sustainable construction

· Dr Matheus Vargas, Orbis Diagnostics/ University of Auckland: Orbis Diagnostics makes complex medical testing simple and accessible wherever and whenever needed to help re-enable safe travel amidst a pandemic

· Dr Shalini Divya, Tasmanlon/ Wellington UniVentures: A new aluminium-ion battery technology, offering a safer, sustainable, cost-effective alternative for grid storage and portable applications

Researcher Entrepreneur Award

· Andrea Bubendorfer, Callaghan Innovation: Championing science and scientists for real value

· Prof Johan Potgieter, Massey University: Inspiring entrepreneurial insurgency by creating a technology pipeline

· Prof Ian Woodhead - Lincoln Agritech Limited: Advancing electrical and electronic engineering for agri and environmental sectors

Commercialisation Professional Award

· Dr Alex Tickle, Otago Innovation Limited: Leading research teams to commercial success

· Darja Pavlovic-Nelson, Plant & Food Research: Sensing opportunities – capturing value from Plant & Food Research IP

· Hamish Findlay - General Manager Commercialisation, Wellington UniVentures: A commercialisation expert, identifying and nurturing commercial outcomes to create impact

Commercial Impact Award

· Plant & Food Research and NanoLayr: Nanofibre cosmetic products from marine collagen - ActivLayr™ a unique nanofibre delivery platform for bioactives and cosmeceuticals

· First Watch - WaikatoLink and CTek: Protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attack

· Aureo®Gold - Plant & Food Research, Zespri and UPL: Aureo®Gold a new biocontrol product combating plant disease

The KiwiNet Awards judging panel for stage one comprised: Rob Heebink, R&D Executive at Gallagher Group, Bridget Coates, Founder & Chair of Kura Nutrition and White Cloud Dairy Innovation, deep-tech expert Kiri Lenagh-Glue, and independent director, advisor and mentor Debra Hall.

Lead judge Debra Hall says: “Judging the KiwiNet Awards entries is such a joy, seeing the best of New Zealand’s scientific discoveries coming to life to deliver meaningful impact to people’s lives, our country and our planet. The judging doesn’t get any easier - every entry is a winner, and when we get to the final judging, it will be very much about selecting the best of the best. The judges salute all our entrants - both the researchers and the commercialisation teams delivering world-class outcomes - you are the ones making a real difference to our world.’

Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says: “It is encouraging to see such a wide range of exciting innovative research this year. Getting research from the lab to market is critical in a time where we’re still experiencing impact from COVID-19, not just in Aotearoa New Zealand but globally. All of the finalists have shown great determination in these challenging times, with impressive outcomes. You should all be incredibly proud.”

Hutchinson adds, “KiwiNet gratefully acknowledges support from MBIE, Return On Science and Momentum, as well as Matū for sponsoring the Momentum Student Entrepreneur category – to help showcase some truly outstanding innovation, people and teams.”

Winners will be announced at an evening reception on 16 September in Auckland.

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