INNOVATE December 2018

We are wrapping up for 2018! 

Read December's INNOVATE: the Science for Technological Innovation Challenge newsletter

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

From the Directors

We are wrapping up what has been a very busy year. Not only have all our of 285 researchers been working hard on their projects, but we have also been very successful in our mid-way review. The National Science Challenges were always intended to be a 10 year policy initiative. Even though all 11 challenges didn't start bang on July 1 2014, they have made significant progress so all have been approved for the full second tranche funding allocation. For SfTI this means we increase our investment to $72.7m for the 5 years, July 2019-June 2024.

This is a great vote of confidence in our ability to change the way collaborative research in the physical sciences and engineering is organised in New Zealand. We are proud of the way we have been 'experimenting' with the processes of forming best teams, including our mission labs, our capacity development initiatives, our relationships with major Māori groups keen to embrace technology, and our high-risk but very productive, mentored seed projects. We are now finding that many stakeholders are asking to get involved which is very gratifying.

In tranche 2 we have to make sure we deliver on the expectations many have of us. Unique to our challenge is our 'Building New Zealand's Innovation Capacity' team who are using SfTI research projects as 'lab-rats' to understand how we can better do collaborative research in NZ. Their insights are already changing the way we are organising our research, and we will soon share their insights more widely in the innovation community.


Following our successful Future Strategy roadshow in October and the Minister's announcement that funding has been approved for Tranche 2, SfTI is currently working through what the next 5 years will bring in terms of projects and priorities. This includes redesigning our KPI framework, increased integration of SfTI activities with NZ's innovation ecosystem (including a new commercialisation role in the SfTI programme office), and updated our contract templates to be more flexible. Our continuing spearhead projects are developing new detailed work programmes for tranche 2. We are developing new projects from our previous mission labs as well as working through a number of mission lab workshops to help determine the areas of research to focus on in Tranche 2. The Ātea project has been approved by the board and is underway. Forty-eight people expressed an interested in the personalised value chain project, and a small group has been put together to design and lead a researchers workshop early in 2019 to start defining the research project. The clean water tech mission lab was held on 29 November 2018 and we are writing up the great ideas that emerged, so we can invite researchers to define a project.

Mission labs in low carbon tech and medical tech are planning for 2019. Six 2018 Mission Lab concepts are being developed, with one, Biosecurity, hopefully ready to promote to researchers shortly. Veracity, Space and Spatial and Place-based Awareness are being refined by the management team. Two Māori data projects are being developed, one now by a small group of researchers. Soft Electronics and Smart Houses are on hold until there is more interest. A Rangatahi forum is in the planning stages, designed to enhance the voice of young people in SfTI.

There will be a seed project call announced shortly, and a number of requests for capability for researchers who would like to contribute to larger projects during the coming 5 years. Rather than bidding for "pet projects", this will be focused on researchers bringing their unique set of skills to the projects to form a new spearhead team.

For more information, please see the Second Tranche Forward Strategy on the SfTI website.


Distinguished Professor Geoffrey Chase, who sits on the SfTI Management Team, was awarded the Royal Society's prestigious MacDiarmid medal in October

With SfTI, Distinguished Professor Chase and his team are working on a low cost, pain-free diabetes device which eliminates the need for needle injections. You can read about it in more detail on the University of Canterbury's website here.

"This award is the modelling and personalised medicine foundation of the bio-engineering research I'm working on with SfTI linking this modelling with next-generation devices and systems, and I'm honoured to receive it," says Dist Prof Chase.

The MacDiarmid Medal is awarded annually to a person or team who, while in New Zealand, has undertaken outstanding scientific research that demonstrates the potential for application to human benefit, such as in the areas of health, environment and technology. 
RSNZ website.

You can read more about the medal and Professor Chase here.



Renee is one of our SfTI researchers. She grew up in rural Australia and moved to New Zealand in 2016 with her husband Rich, and her children Ella (6) and Evan (3).

1. What attracted you to a career in science? 
I went to high school in Port Augusta, South Australia. I would say that my science teacher definitely influenced my career direction. I moved to Adelaide and started my undergraduate study in 2004. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science with honours in 2008 from Flinders University.
I started my PhD in 2009 at the University of South Australia, where I made density gradients of nanoparticles to observe how small surface changes (at a nanoscale) influenced mammalian cell growth. I wrote my thesis whilst on maternity leave in 2013, graduating in March 2014. I had a post-doctoral position at Flinders University until I started a position with Prof Thomas Nann at the end of 2014 and I went on maternity leave in 2015.

In 2016, I started a post-doctoral fellow position at Victoria University of Wellington and in 2018, I accepted a lecturing position. My research group synthesises and characterised nanomaterials but we also have an interest for scrutinising natures's own nanomaterials, named extracellular vesicles.

I find my research in nanotechnology "my drug of choice", finding new concepts or materials is very exciting for me.

2. What's your role with SfTI? 
I am a primary investigator for a seed project which looks at development of new magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents that are less toxic. I started this project in 2016, and it is set to finish in 2019.

3. What do you find exciting about SfTI? 
The fact that SfTI is open to applications that at risky and innovative is appealing. Blue sky research is where high impact and revolutionising ideas comes from. Also, the grant applications are open to emerging researchers (like me) with mentors that travel with you throughout your project.

4. If you could give a mark out of ten to New Zealand science, what number would you choose, and why? 
9/10. New Zealand has a small but accessible research community. The fact that we can travel anywhere in New Zealand within a couple of hours opens collaborative partnerships with all Universities. The major hurdle is for start-up companies but there is a big push to change this and I believe we will see the benefits soon.

5. In your view, what is the role of Vision Mātauranga in SfTI? 
To me it's about integrating knowledge from scientists, funders and research users and the Māori community. It is not only important to invest in our researchers but from the knowledge from the local indigenous people.

6. What have you learnt from being part of SfTI that you may not have learnt otherwise? 
Thinking about the future of your project can really help develop it. It has been suggested throughout my SfTI journey that engaging with end-users at the early stages can be very helpful. Most funding agencies have a more hands-off approach, but I really appreciate the mentor approach and the research development opportunities that are provided by SfTI.

7. How has SfTI added value to you as a researcher and to your research? 
As mentioned, SfTI have many opportunities to go to research and professional development workshops throughout each year. This has really helped me to grow as an emerging researcher and a leader in my field. At this stage in my career, I have found the leadership and development workshop instrumental to be growth of my research community.


From left, Anaru Smiler COO of FOMA; Mr Rawson Wright FOMA Enterprise Advisor, CAIR; Mr Te Horipo Kairaitina CAIR; Prof Juliet Gerrard, PM's Chief Science Advisor; Ms Traci Houpapa, Chair FOMA; Prof Sally Davenport -SfTI Director; Prof Stephen MacDonell, CAIR Technical Adviser & Member of SfTI Management Team. (Yet to be appointed, CAIR Rangatahi Advisor.)

In partnership with FOMA, SfTI understands the importance of building capability in science, technology, engineering and mathematics within the Māori economy. SfTI is co-investing in the role of Chief Advisor Innovation and Research, which is a key role to help FOMA members and other Māori enterprises understand and navigate the science and innovation ecosystem.

FOMA knows that science, innovation and technology are critical to the future diversification and development of their assets, including their people.
They want to continue to be a thought leader in the science and hi-tech space.

The Pou Whakatāmore Hangarau - Chief Advisor Innovation & Research will support the FOMA membership to navigate the New Zealand science system, provide strategic advice to the FOMA Executive on science and innovation, and provide advice and support to the FOMA membership to identify mutually beneficial partnerships.

Mr Te Horipo Kairaitiana 
Pou Whakatāmore Hangarau - Chief Advisor Innovation & Research 

Prof Stephen MacDonnell 
Technical Advisor
Office of the Federation of Māori Authorities
Pou Whakatāmore Hangarau - Chief Advisor Innovation & Research 

Mr Rawson Wright 
Enterprise Advisor
Office of the Federation of Māori Authorities
Pou Whakatāmore Hangarau - Chief Advisor Innovation & Research 

Yet to be appointed 
Rangatahi Advisor
Office of the Federation of Māori Authorities
Pou Whakatāmore Hangarau - Chief Advisor Innovation & Research 



Working together to apply AI for social good 
Digital Suitcase: Unpacking the Digital Age 
Science, PR and dirty tactics: Q&A with Nicky Hager 
What's In a Name? The Long and Short History of Virtual Reality 
Seequent named Supreme Winner

"We're delighted that Seequent has obtained this well-deserved recognition, and that I appreciate Seequent's input and assistance to the Inverting Electromagnetics spearhead, and look forward to continued engagement."

- Dr Ian Woodhead 


Congratulations to all recipients of the Royal Society Marsden Fund Awards, particularly our SfTI people!

Jonathan Sperry
Peng Cao
John Cater
Tobias Langlotz
Merata Kawharu 

You can view the full list of recipients here.

Date posted: 18/12/2018