2019 Seed projects

SfTI is funding a further 21 new Seed projects in 2019.

Environmental sensors, Dr Leonie Jones and Associate Professor Ashton Partridge, Digital Sensing Limited, $200,000

Developing novel water-sensing technologies combined with indigenous knowledge and principles to monitor the health of lakes and rivers. This transformative new approach will monitor freshwater at high frequency, high resolution, and in real time.


Artery heterograft development, Professor Chris Cunningham and Professor Richard Haverkamp, Massey University, $200,000

Uses arteries from sheep and cows of which all cells and DNA are removed, leaving only collagen structures that can be used like scaffolding in the human body to repair damaged arteries of any size. The project will test the structure and mechanical performance of the scaffolds to assess suitability for use in people.


Developing real-time lab-on-chip device and biosystems for personalised cancer medicine, Dr Maran Muthiah, University of Auckland, $200,000

Uses a lab-on a chip device to assess the toxicity level of chemotherapy medication on patients at a single cell level – information that can help clinicians understand optimum, personalised doses, avoid excess toxicity, and reduce healthcare costs.


A platform device for vision testing applications, Dr Jason Turuwhenua, University of Auckland, $200,000

Developing a new mobile device to improve vision testing measurements, in which eye movements are assessed independently of head movements. The new mobile technology will particularly improve vision testing of children and others who have difficulty describing their symptoms.


Consolidating Cordyline for green composites, Dr Nancy Garrity, Scion, $173,906

Exploring the viability of tī kōuka, an endemic species of cabbage tree, for use in natural fibre-reinforced composite materials – based on traditional knowledge of its strength, durability and water resistance. Experts in Mātauranga Māori will provide tikanga-led fibre collection and extraction techniques.


Deep sheep: facial recognition for tracking kinship in livestock, Dr Lech Szymanski, University of Otago, $199,804

Using facial image analysis to enable the cost-effective assigning of parentage to livestock, beginning with sheep. Accurate parentage information for livestock can assist farmers with calculating breeding value for each animal, leading to improvements in animal health and profitability.


De novo drug discovery for type 2 diabetes mellitus treatment using deep-learned generative models, Dr Binh Nguyen, Victoria University of Wellington, $200,000

Using machine-based deep learning approaches to generate new medications for use in Type II diabetes. These new drugs will be designed by combining the structures of currently known medications and herbal medicines. Three of the most promising compounds will be chemically synthesised and tested for efficacy.


Self-cleaning molecular sponges for chemical sequestration, Dr Angelique Greene, Scion, $198,888

A novel method of chemical separation by creating a molecular sponge, which uses electrically controlled mechanical motion to selectively trap waste products in one environment and release them cleanly for further processing without saturating the sponge.


Biological mimicry for medical diagnostics, Professor Kathryn Stowell, Massey University, $199,968

Developing a new-generation device reflecting the microarchitectures and function of living human muscle.  The device will mimic the cells in neuromuscular disorders to enable diagnosis and patient-specific treatment without painful biopsies.


Bringing biochemistry to new heights: development of protein crystallisation nanosatellites, Dr Sarah Kessans, University of Canterbury, $200,000

Developing a satellite-based space biology laboratory for crystallising proteins in low Earth orbit that are difficult to grow in Earth gravity. The proteins have uses from fundamental research to pharmaceutical development. This project aims to develop a lab payload that would be suitable for nanosatellites.


A new transistor exploiting electronic spin, Dr Simon Granville, Victoria University of Wellington, $200,000

Using rare-earth nitrides to develop a new kind of transistor at the heart of computer processing that depends on controlling the magnetic spin of electrons, rather than their charge. Rare earth nitrides have unique magnetic and electrical properties, and New Zealand leads international understanding of these.


Portable low-cost microwave brain scanner for stroke detection and recovery monitoring, Dr Yifan Chen, University of Waikato, $199,598

Developing a portable micro-wave based brain scanner that can detect strokes and monitor recovery, reducing the need for patients to travel to main centers for CT scans, and allowing faster initial treatment. Also includes development of the supporting imaging algorithm and a machine learning algorithm for stroke classification.


Cellulose-based surfactants: Enhancing manufacturing and product performance with minimal environmental impact, Dr Jack Chen, Auckland University of Technology, $199,543

Developing a new class of sustainable surfactant particles that are biodegradable, low leaching and recoverable from industrial waste streams, and allow for futureproofing against environmental legislation. The proposed particles are based on cellulose and are significantly larger than conventional surfactants enabling improved emulsifier efficiency, reduced leaching and easier recovery.


Building a clinically validated AI classifier to assist the national Diabetic Eye Screening program, Dr Ehsan Vaghefi, University of Auckland, $200,000

Developing an AI-enabled diabetes screening protocol, combined with a low-cost interior eye surface (fundus) camera to reach people with diabetes who may not be taking advantage of the public Diabetic Eye Screening program.


Effective telediagnostic platform with rich communicational information in the sensitive situation, Dr Sungchul Jung, University of Canterbury, $200,000

Developing an immersive, virtual reality-based option to safely allow sensitive communications, such as between a person suffering mental disorder and their psychiatrist, or a prisoner and a lawyer. The headset wearer sees the service provider in virtual space as if meeting in real world, real time. The service provider also sees additional detailed data, such as body and eye movements through a monitor.


Molecular biosensors to detect and monitor toxins from harmful algal blooms, Dr Balam Jimenez, $199,900

Developing an aptamer-based sensor that can act as an early warning system for dangerous concentrations of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins in seawater to assist the aquaculture industry. The research aims to help prevent human poisoning and reduce aquaculture losses by giving Iwi, industry and communities a monitoring tool that doesn’t require a laboratory or expensive assessment tools.


Hybrid organic / inorganic nanoparticles for luminescent solar concentrators, Dr Nate Davis, Victoria University of Wellington, $200,000

Developing luminescent solar concentrators to allow for more efficient solar energy generation, using technologies that mimic processes for harvesting of solar radiation found in nature. The approach aims to resolve a key problem found in current solar concentrators – that of heavy reabsorption losses.


Agent-based building earthquake evacuation simulation: AB2E2S, Dr Vicente Gonzalez, University of Auckland, $196,706

Developing a simulation framework that considers how people behave during post-earthquake evacuations. It will consider human behaviours such as decision making and psychological/social patterns. The project aims to have a more human-centred design of buildings, where not only the mechanical and functional properties of a building matter in the design process, but also human behaviour. Ultimately, the simulation framework is used to predict how an evacuation will go when the building design is modified using human behaviour as input and can be improved before a building is constructed and occupied.

Towards 3D printable polymers containing biologically active antimicrobial enzymes, Dr Kelly Wade, Scion, $200,000

Developing 3D printable medical devices, such as catheters and orthopaedic implants that contain anti-bacterial enzymes, reducing the need for antibiotics while maintaining sterile conditions on the devices. The research will combine recently identified enzymes that remain stable at elevated temperatures with lower temperature 3D printing techniques.


Development of an innovative multidimensional manufacturing and intelligent fluid management, Dr Emilia Nowak, Massey University, $199,973

Developing a new way of 3D printing that is non-mechanical and contactless to improve speed and energy consumption. The approach relies on focused natural sunlight to cause autonomous, multidimensional movement of the drops and has other potential applications such as micro-readers, targeted chemical transport and fluidic diagnostic platforms.


New approach to microwave processing for the production of bio-based chemicals, Dr Cameron Weber, University of Auckland, $200,000

Developing a new method of extracting useful molecules from plants as alternatives to petrochemical sources. The currently known processes require harsh conditions including high temperatures, pressures and corrosive catalysts. This project aims to develop a less severe process by combining novel microwave heating approaches with an emerging class of solvents known as ionic liquids.

Latest news and updates

Innovate – August 2019

Welcome to INNOVATE for your SfTI update for August 2019, catch up on the latest news here. 

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The 2019 Kiwinet Awards – you’ve always got our vote Bruce!

The Kiwinet Awards celebrate heroes in research commercialisation. SfTI Deputy Director, Professor Bruce MacDonald of University of Auckland was a finalist for the Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award.

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