Industry speed-dating – video and media coverage

Industry speed-dating – video and media coverage

The Interface Industry Challenge is a new joint initiative conceived by the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre, under which scientists from two Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) tackle real world problems faced by New Zealand companies.
“We wanted to extend our partnerships with industry. Asking industry to set problems for the Dodd-Walls Centre and the MacDiarmid Institute has really got everybody excited. The companies are excited about tapping into top research minds, and the scientists are excited about working with and making a contribution to these companies.”
Under the ‘Interface Industry Challenge’, the Dodd-Walls Centre and the MacDiarmid Institute put out a call to New Zealand companies to come up with problems needing a hi-tech science solution. Seven New Zealand companies have posed problems.


Watch the video here.


MacDiarmid Deputy Director Justin Hodgkiss on RadioNZ Business News on 10 May


MacDiarmid Deputy Director Justin Hodgkiss on Nine to Noon this morning 23 May


The NBR interviewed one of our industry partners, Dr Andrew West, about the Interface Industry Challenge – the podcast is on the NBR site


(Transcript from NBR site)


It’s a bit like speed dating except there are high-tech manufacturers and scientific boffins involved rather than swinging singles.


Two Crown research institutes, the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre, wanted to connect their top scientists with some of New Zealand’s most innovative companies and showcase what they could do for them.


So they launched an Interface Industry Challenge late last year asking companies to come up with commercial problems they couldn’t solve within their own technological capability, which the CREs will help solve for free.


The centres of research excellence are virtual institutions that draw on the talent of top scientists from anywhere in the country in a particular research area. The Dodd Walls Centre specialises in photonic and quantum technologies while the MacDiarmid Institute focuses on materials science and nanotechnology.


Following the signing of a mountain of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with companies keen to protect their intellectual property, the two CREs are working on proofs of concept to solve problems for seven companies they’ve matched to various scientists. The scientists are now starting to produce some solutions the companies can use as a competitive advantage, and in some cases may even lead to new intellectual property.


Justin Hodgkiss, MacDiarmid’s deputy director for commercialisation and industry engagement, says what they didn’t realise in the inaugural challenge was the legal hassles the NDAs would cause.


Because the CRES are not legal entities, the NDAs had to be signed by nearly all the country’s universities whose scientists are involved, which was something of a logistical nightmare. The process has been streamlined for next time, Mr Hodgkiss says.


The Minister of Science and Innovation is officially launching the challenge today as part of TechWeek.


Benefits work both ways
The directors of both institutes — MacDiarmid’s Professor Thomas Nann and Professor Chris Hutchinson from the Dodd-Walls Centre — say New Zealand industry needs to keep innovating to stay ahead.


The challenge was a fun way of letting companies know what scientific help they could tap into, they say, and both CREs hope funding the initial research now will benefit them with longer-term research partnerships.


The seven companies involved range from larger companies such as Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Buckley Systems to startups Avertana, Lanaco, Aquafortus Technologies and Invisi Shield.


Andy West, a director on the boards of Aquafortus and Lanaco, says it is unusual to get free research from CREs and that’s helpful for both companies he’s helping govern which are still at the stage of “burning capital and are yet to enter full revenue profitability,” though Lanaco is close.


Lanaco is a materials science company that uses fine wood blended with synthetic fibres to produce what it dubs as the world’s most breathable air filter, while Aquafortus Technologies is developing water extraction technology involving organic chemistry which could potentially extract water from liquid waste materials and help desalination.


“We have access to some extremely clever people across a range of universities as CREs are not normally in just one site – they draw the best people from around the country in any given field. And we have access to really expensive scientific equipment we couldn’t afford ourselves, “ Dr West says.”