Infinitely rechargeable batteries, wearable smart soft sensors and receptors based on those of insects have been singled out in this year's KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.

The awards, now in their sixth year, celebrate science from New Zealand's universities and Crown research institutes that have been brought to market.

One of the just-announced finalists was University of Canterbury chemistry expert Dr Deborah Crittenden, who has been pioneering infinitely rechargeable batteries and real-time nitrate sensors.

Crittenden was now working on designing new energy storage liquids for use in redox flow batteries, and a novel nitrate sensor system based upon laser-induced photochemistry coupled to simple, low-cost detection methods.

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She was also developing a new platform technology for predicting how drug molecules bind to their targets on a very large scale.

Last year, a spin-out company, Flow Holdings, was established to develop Dr Crittenden's molecular design work of a prototype redox flow battery.

Another finalist, Plant and Food Research scientist Dr Andrew Kralicek, was nominated for his research on harnessing insects' receptors for commercial sensing.

His technological breakthrough led to the development of a proof-of-principle prototype showing that insect odorant receptors could be used for the detection of miniscule amounts of volatile compounds.

Its possible commercial applications ranged from human health, pest and disease detection, food quality and defence technologies.

Fellow Plant and Food Research scientists Dr Philip Elmer was also nominated for his work on biological tools to control plant disease and reduce pesticides.

His tools address a range of diseases including botrytis, a major disease affecting many crops, particularly wine grapes.

Elmer has introduced the GrapeFutures programme that created tools used by 75 per cent of New Zealand wine growers to enhance sustainable disease control practices.

He has also led the development of a new bio-bactericide for Psa control, due to be released to kiwifruit growers in time for spring.

"Yet again, we've found amazing teams from around the country who are creating commercial potential from their highly innovative science," KiwiNet chief executive James Hutchinson said.

"These research projects and new technologies have the power to help solve global problems and kick-start valuable new companies, which will help enable a higher achieving New Zealand."

The 2018 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:

Norman F. B. Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator Award

• Dr Andrew Kralicek, Plant & Food Research: Harnessing insects' receptors for commercial sensing.

• Dr Deborah Crittenden, University of Canterbury: Infinitely rechargeable batteries; real-time nitrate sensors.

• Dr Vlatko Materic, Hot Lime Labs: "Hot Lime" to increase greenhouse crop yields and help feed the world.

Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award

• Professor David Williams, University of Auckland and MacDiarmid Institute: Air Quality Measurement for Everyone: Sensors, systems and networks.

• Dr Philip Elmer, Plant & Food Research: Biological tools to control plant disease and reduce pesticides.

• Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee, Victoria University of Wellington: Taking New Zealand's virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to the world.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts Research & Business Partnership Award

• AUT and the NZ SKA Alliance: Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope (SKA) – NZ is a member of its first ever global mega-science project jointly undertaking research and design behind the world's largest radio telescope.

• Victoria University's Robinson Research Institute and Chinese partners: Revolutionising high speed train travel.

• StretchSense and Auckland UniServices: StretchSense - next generation smart soft sensors for wearables.

PwC Commercial Impact Award

• Callaghan Innovation: C-Prize Competition - Transforming NZ's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sector.

• Plant and Food Research: Amarasate Extract – 100 per cent plant-based, world-first weight management extract.

• University of Waikato and WaikatoLink: MRI-Safe human-implantable electrodes – licensing deal with Saluda.

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