A Scion project leader is among the 12 finalists for the fifth annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, designed to celebrate commercialisation success within New Zealand's universities and Crown Research Institutes.

Dr Sadakat (Saad) Hussain is a project leader (packaging and biomaterials) at Scion in Rotorua.

Originally from Canada, Dr Hussain has a PhD in chemical engineering, with a focus on the mechanics of materials. He is embracing the opportunity to transform his cutting edge science into significant potential for driving business innovation and producing economic returns for New Zealand.

Dr Hussain is helping Scion grow the forest-based bioeconomy with a project to improve the lifetime of corrugated packaging in supply chains. Creep deformation is an issue for every box in the supply chain and it costs multiple industries billions of dollars. Food can be packaged in boxes for a long time - some fruit is stored for up to a year, and frozen food for up to two years. In that time, many boxes will fail. Based on this need, Dr Hussain has established a solid revenue stream at Scion for testing commercial packaging for international companies, helping to solve the creep problem.

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Scion's White (Weight, Humidity Intervals, Temperature and Experimentation) Room testing facility is the largest independent box testing facility in the world.

Dr Hussain is also working on the mechanics of foam properties - how strong they are, and how they feel - with funding from the Biopolymer Network Ltd.

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 16 universities, Crown Research Institutes and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research.

Chief executive James Hutchinson said: "We've uncovered another stellar group of innovation game changers from across New Zealand. These researchers are showing how innovative Kiwi science is driving prosperity, adding value to our economy and taking our technology to the world."

The 2017 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:
Norman F. B. Barry Foundation Emerging Innovator Award
• Dr Saad Hussain, Scion: Growing New Zealand's forest-based bioeconomy with packaging innovations
• Dr Geoff Rodgers, University of Canterbury: Seismic damping for buildings and joint implant diagnostics
• Dr Daniel Xu, University of Auckland and Spark 64: UVLens® personal UV management tool

Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award
• Prof Richard Furneaux, Victoria University of Wellington: Carbohydrate chemistry innovations
• Prof Steve Henry, Auckland University of Technology and Kode Biotech: Bioactive paint - Kode™ Technology
• Dr Mark Sagar, University of Auckland and Soul Machines: Emotionally intelligent avatars

MinterEllisonRuddWatts Research and Business Partnership Award
• Defence Technology Agency and MetOcean Solutions: SurfZoneView - a software safety tool for beach landings
• The Malaghan Institute (MIMR) and the Hunan Zhaotai Medical Group (HZMG): Trialling CAR-T cell immunotherapies for cancer
• University of Auckland, Orion Health and Waitemata District Health Board: Precision Driven Health

PwC Commercial Deal Award
• ESR: STRmix™ - Unravelling DNA mixtures to solve crime
• Viclink: Licensing medical drug compounds from Victoria University of Wellington to Biocryst
• UniServices: Soul Machines - humanising the interface between man and machines

The BNZ Supreme Award is awarded to the category winner with overall excellence in all core areas of research commercialisation.

The KiwiNet Awards judging panel comprises: Dr Andrew Kelly, executive director at BioPacific Partners, Helen Robinson, executive chair at Organic Initiative, Rob Heebink, R&D executive at Gallagher Group, and Bridget Coates, co-founder of Kura and chair of White Cloud Dairy Innovation Ltd.

"The quality of entries rises every year and applicants are really demonstrating how savvy they are. What's particularly encouraging is that we're seeing the commercial focus getting sharper. We're also seeing the benefit of previous research commercialisation success stories, and some failures, and people are learning from those," Dr Kelly said.

Winners of the KiwiNet Awards 2017 will be announced on July 13.