KiwiNet Awards highlight NZ’s top research innovation

Published on the 08/08/2019 | Written by Heather Wright


Margaret Brimle_KiwiNet awards

Awards shine light on Kiwi commercialisation of innovation…

Top Kiwi research innovation, from new fruit grading and sorting technologies to pioneering drug discovery and development, was showcased last night as the annual KiwiNet Awards took place in Auckland.

More than 300 attendees packed Shed 10 for the sold-out event which celebrate the transformation of scientific discoveries into new business and the bridging of the gap between research excellence and business success.

Among the winners were Plant & Food Research and Compac, who took out the PwC Commercial Impact Award for their work on an optical and visual sorting platform for fruit and a platform using near-infrared light to determine the internal characteristics of produce for automatic grading.

“The success stories we are celebrating are bringing vital science-based solutions that will drive future prosperity for NZ.”

Dr Shalen Kumar took out the Breakthrough Innovator award for his work developing aptamers, or synthetic bio-receptors – part of a US$10 billion biosensor market. Kumar, who started research on the technology during his undergraduate studies at Victoria University of Wellington, is now cofounder and CEO of AuramerBio which is developing solutions for mobile testing for illicit drugs and female fertility. The company has developed tests capable of testing for up to eight drugs in saliva samples in 30 seconds, and includes GPS and other data.

Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble of the University of Auckland took out the Baldwins Research Entrepreneur Award and the night’s big award – the BNZ Supreme Award which was a public vote combined with a judges vote.

Brimble’s work has generated millions for the New Zealand economy over the years, developing treatments for Rett Syndrome, Fragile X Sydrome and autism disorders and as founder of startup biotech company SapVax is now developing cancer vaccines.

James Hutchinson, KiwiNet CEO, says the awards finalists are entrepreneurial champions who are leading the transformation of the Kiwi economy from high volume to high value.

“The success stories we are celebrating are bringing vital science-based solutions to the world that will drive future prosperity for New Zealand,” Hutchinson says.

A consortium of 18 universities, Crown Research Institutes, an independent research organisation and a crown entity, Kiwinet (or the Kiwi Innovation Network) is a collaboration designed to take scientific discoveries and make them marketable.

KiwiNet Awards lead judge Duncan Mackintosh, an investment manager at Brandon Capital Partners, says the ‘tremendous’ line-up on entries and finalists, and all the deserving winners are a testament to a sector ‘that is going from strength to strength’.

The full list of winners from last night’s awards is:

Norman Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator Award

This award recognises an upcoming entrepreneurial researcher who is making outstanding contributions to business innovation or is creating innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licencing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.

Winner: Dr Shalen Kumar, AuramerBio for helping make precision diagnostics faster, cheaper and mobile.

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Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award

This award recognises an entrepreneurial researcher who has made outstanding contributions to business innovation or has created innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licencing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.

Winner: Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble, University of Auckland: for her pioneering drug discovery and development

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 MinterEllisonRuddWatts Commercialisation Professional Award
This award recognises a commercialisation professional working within a New Zealand research organisation who has made an outstanding contribution to the commercialisation of publicly-funded research.

Winner: Will Charles, Auckland UniServices and University of Auckland for supercharging the commercialisation activities of the University of Auckland.

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PwC Commercial Impact Award:

This award celebrates excellence in research commercialisation delivering outstanding innovation performance and the potential for generating significant economic impact for New Zealand.
Winner: Plant & Food Research and Compac Sorting Equipment for their world-leading fruit grading and sorting technologies.

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Momentum Student Entrepreneur Award: Winner
Cynthia Hunefeld, Victoria University of Wellington for HerbScience, evidence-based nutraceuticals and integrative medicine.

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BNZ Supreme Award: (Judges vote combined with public vote)
Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble, University of Auckland for her pioneering drug discovery and development work.

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