Some of New Zealand's smartest minds and innovations are again being showcased in the annual KiwiNet Awards, to be held in August. The Herald looks at five of the 12 finalists, announced today.
Making buildings quake-safe
Auckland scientists have designed a system that allows a building to withstand a large earthquake and its aftershocks, without any repairs needed afterward.
While most such systems are one-offs, and often still leave a building needing repair work at a time it's exposed to aftershocks, Tectonus is built for lasting protection.
It fits into any structure, new or existing, and acts like a spring – absorbing the earthquake forces with the added advantage of self-centring.
After each earthquake or aftershock, the Tectonus will self-centre itself and the structure following shaking; always ready to protect for any future trembles.
It's been tested in full-scale demonstrations, and has already been fitted in the new Nelson Airport Terminal, with more installations here and overseas to follow.
The system was pioneered by Professor Pierre Quenneville and Dr Pouyan Zarnani, of the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology respectively, with backing from commercial arms UniServices and AUT Ventures.
Tectonus is nominated in the PwC Commercial Impact category.
Robot expert recognised
One of New Zealand's foremost experts in robotics, Professor Bruce MacDonald of the University of Auckland, is nominated for his work here and overseas.
An early enduring fascination with science fiction as a child led MacDonald to dedicate his life to building robots to help people.
He's since worked tirelessly in robotics, sensors and automation, founding the university's Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science.
MacDonald has also launched major research programmes with industry partners in the agritech sector, who were now taking the technology to the marketplace.
One example was a robot capable of picking and pollinating kiwifruit and flowers.
Elsewhere, his team was helping bring robots to the aged-care sector, and have overseen the use of helper bots in rest homes, where they can measure residents' heart rates, blood pressure and temperature.
MacDonald is nominated Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur category.
Tech muscle for mussel industry
You'd struggle to think of something we farm that doesn't rely on the benefits of selective breeding – but mussels are a global exception.
Despite our $300m industry being the mainstay of Kiwi aquaculture, mussel farming has relied entirely upon unimproved, wild-caught juveniles or "spat".
That situation has now changed thanks to Cawthron, Sanford and SPATnz's development of selective breeding and large scale spat production for one of our most valuable seafood exports, the endemic Greenshell mussel.
While the opportunity for selective breeding of Greenshell mussels was recognised in the 1990s, producing spat in a hatchery at scale has been a barrier for over 40 years.
A concerted research effort by Cawthron and industry partners met this challenge.
With support from the Ministry for Primary Industries Primary Growth Partnership, New Zealand's first commercial mussel hatchery was developed by SPATnz at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park in Nelson, and now spawns over two billion eggs each month.
Cawthron's MBIE-funded Cultured Shellfish programme developed the fundamentals of the selective breeding programme in anticipation of hatchery spat production.
Sanford seized the opportunity, creating its subsidiary SPATnz, and partnering with Cawthron to form BreedCo Ltd.
Under the partnership, the breeding programme has gone from strength to strength, and was now having a dramatic impact on New Zealand mussel farming and processing.
Selectively bred spat almost halved the growing time of wild mussels and are more efficient to process.
Breeds specialised for anti-inflammatory activity and other new traits represented a massive future opportunity.
The industry was no longer completely reliant on variable wild spat for its production and has a powerful new tool to manage future risks.
The innovation is nominated in the PwC Commercial Impact category.
Chemist's ground-breaking science
A pioneer in drug discovery in New Zealand, Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble has discovered a treatment for Rett Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome and autism disorders.
Trofinetide, currently entering phase III human clinical trials, is the first drug successfully developed by a New Zealand spin-out company and one of very few discovered in an academic laboratory.
Dame Margaret is also founder of start-up biotech company SapVax, which is developing "first-in-class" cancer vaccines based on a novel peptide platform technology and funded by US accelerator BioMotiv.
Last year, this work was awarded the George and Christine Sosnovsky Award for Cancer Therapy from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The same year, she became the first New Zealand woman to be elected a fellow to the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific academy, the Royal Society of London.
Her research has recently resulted in two series of lipopeptide compounds being licenced to Living Cell Technologies for the treatment of obesity and migraine.
An inventor on more than 50 patents, she holds several high positions, including chair of organic chemistry and director of medicinal chemistry at the University of Auckland.
She was a passionate advocate for female scientists and regularly spoke to groups of young women to encourage them to consider science as a career.
"It's nice, especially for my students, as it shows we can actually achieve these things if we put our mind to it - but it doesn't come quickly, and it's a long, slow process," Dame Margaret, nominated in the Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur category, earlier told the Herald.
Fruit tech makes the grade
Ensuring fresh produce looks, as well as tastes, good is key to the horticulture industry maintaining a supply of premium produce.
Efficient sorting of fruit allows marketers of fruit and vegetables to grade produce effectively and efficiently, ensuring consumers aren't disappointed by the quality of their food.
Compac Sorting Equipment's technologies have revolutionised the sorting of fruit and vegetables, enabling the fresh produce industries to meet customer expectation for consistent blemish-free produce.
Plant & Food Research and Compac - nominated in the PwC Commercial Impact Category - have worked together to develop and enhance these technologies, ensuring new concepts and developments target industry needs.
This seamless collaborative research approach allowed continual improvements to Compac's technologies, and proved critical to the development of Spectrim and Inspectra2, which were released onto the market in late 2016.
The Spectrim system was an optical and visual sorting platform, while Inspectra used near-infrared light to determine the internal characteristics of produce to enable efficient, automatic grading.
It could pick up defects in 10 to 15 fruit per second as it moves along the grader.
Both innovations have allowed marketers to reduce manual handling of fruit and vegetables, while increasing the volume of produce graded as premium.
The Compac technologies' success has exceeded expectations in the two years since their release, with sales in 50 countries, and ramped-up production at Compac's Auckland factory.
• For the full list of finalists, visit www.kiwinet.org.nz