INNOVATE - March 2019

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From the Directors

As well as all the forward thinking, planning and design that involves, comes a lot of celebration as we recognise the impressive successes of our tranche one Seed researchers, whose work is drawing to a close midway through 2019.

We’re making a big effort to speak to each one and do some great write-ups on how their risky ideas are turning out. Keep an eye on our website for those and follow us on Twitter @SfTIchallenge so you don’t miss any of these fun reads.

If you’ve been sitting on a far-out idea that might have some legs, it’s not too late to apply for Seed funding in the 2019 call for proposals. If $200,000 over two years could get your idea off the ground, check out the details here. We’re also trying something new for this round – introducing the concept of the ‘free pivot’ and building it into the Seed contracts. That’s to free you up if things don’t seem to be working out exactly as planned and you think with a change in direction you might have better results. The free pivot’s not an opportunity for a completely new project, but if you want to do something related, but different – that’s OK by us. We hope this will encourage you to think more freely and take some ‘intelligently calculated risks’.

The other big push at our end is the design process for the tranche two larger Spearhead projects, and the review of our existing ones as they are assessed to move into tranche two. Many of you will have been involved in this design work and will be keen to take part in the new research. I warmly encourage you to get involved and experience working in a cross-discipline SfTI way. There’s more on the Spearhead design process in this newsletter. Watch our web site and your email for ways to get involved.

Lastly, keep in mind our all of researchers’ workshop on May 7&8 in Auckland. This is a fantastic chance for all SfTI researchers to get together, learn about each other’s disciplines, develop their ‘soft skills’, network and dream up the next big thing. We're looking forward to a stimulating couple of days.

Nga mihi

Sally Davenport, Director and Bruce Macdonald, Deputy Director

SfTI Chair honoured

Our board chair John Bongard was honoured by Auckland University this month with a Distinguished Alumni Award at the University’s annual Bright Lights event. The Distinguished Alumni awards are made to select alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their profession, community, nation and beyond.

John was made SfTI Chair in 2016. He is a former CEO and Managing Director of Fisher & Paykel Appliances, and has continued many roles in business and governance since retiring in 2009. Among this work, John chairs The Rising Foundation, committed to supporting youth in the communities of South Auckland where he grew up.

Designing a new $3 million SfTI Spearhead

Setting the direction for the large-scale SfTI projects we call Spearheads follows an approach that’s not typical in science research.

Rather than posing a problem and asking researcher teams to compete for the funding to solve it, we bring varied researchers together, see what their capabilities are, and build new cross-discipline and multi-organisation teams of people with complementary skills to solve science problems that have been identified jointly.
At the end of February, SfTI hosted such a gathering to allow researchers to explore ideas under the theme of Exchange in the Digital Age. SfTI Data Science & Digital Technologies theme leader Professor Stephen MacDonell says building a SfTI Spearhead is different to the way funding usually works in science. 
“It’s not a dragon’s den scenario, where people come in and fight for funding for their personal project. It’s an exercise where people are encouraged to work with others in new ways to develop something far richer,” Stephen says.
“Lawyers, economists, industry people, consumer behaviour experts, and computer scientists mixing and mingling across the perspectives help shape up projects that have legs and should be funded under the new Spearhead.”
Stephen says the Exchange in the Digital Age Spearhead concept formed from discussions with industry about problems New Zealand faced that science could potentially solve. The work will be centred on finding new ways to create trusted relationships between those involved in exchange transactions and interactions – beyond EFTPOS.
“How do we build technology that lets the provision of both goods and services be done in a way that evenly distributes power between the provider and the purchaser?”
Stephen says the science could be in the development of new digital platforms, or components of these. Another research focus could be on the element of trust in a transaction.
“Taking a Vision Mātauranga perspective may bring a different dimension to that.” 

The next stage of the Spearhead development will be for a small working group to take the outcomes of the workshop and build a draft research agenda for discussion with the wider group. From there, the team will work up a full research proposal for review by the SfTI board, and the cross-organisation research teams will be set up.
The Spearhead is part of the second tranche of investments managed by SfTI, which begins in mid-2019. It will likely operate for three years to a maximum of $3 million.

Visiting our billion-dollar neighbour CSIRO

A SfTI team headed to Sydney and Canberra this month at the invitation of Australia’s national research agency CSIRO, whose leaders were keen to learn more about our approach to indigenous inclusivity.

Last year CSIRO’s Executive Director Anita Hill led the mid-way review of SfTI, and during that process, she saw synergies between the way we are embedding Vision Mātauranga into everything we do, and CSIRO’s own recent work scoping an indigenous-led programme aimed at tackling challenges that have been prioritised by First Nations Australians, identifying new science opportunities, and supporting cutting edge science by and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“CSIRO was honoured and excited to host and learn from the SfTI team,” Anita says.

“We believe we have a lot to learn from SfTI about how they are integrating western science with Mātauranga Māori.”

CSIRO business development management lead Stephanie von Gavel says the agency was enthusiastic about starting the journey of co-development with Australia’s indigenous people.

“It was fantastic to hear from the SfTI team about how they see the process of turning an intentional approach like Vision Mātauranga into practical steps.”

The SfTI team included our theme leader Vision Mātauranga Katharina Ruckstuhl who described the value for New Zealand science in embracing Māori knowledge and relationships. Later in the sessions, she described for CSIRO what a successful indigenous future science program could look like.

SfTI Director Sally Davenport says the visit was also very successful as an information exchange and has helped build relationships.

“I think we’ve planted the seeds of future collaboration with CSIRO that will bring benefits to our SfTI research community.

“We have opened the door for some potentially exciting indigenous to indigenous collaboration and we can now better support our researchers in finding connections within CSIRO. Having a foot in the door at CSIRO gives us access to huge economies of scale that New Zealand can’t boast. With over 5000 employees, a billion-dollar annual budget and a whole lot of cool tech – they’re good friends to have.”

Stephanie von Gavel says the potential goes both ways.

“We’re really interested in future collaboration potential, from indigenous intellectual property to commercialisation, entrepreneurship and capability development.”

Funding available for new Seed projects

It's not too late to get your proposals in fpr the 2019 round of SfTI seed funding. We are looking to fund up to 25 more brillint research ideas for a maximum of two years at $200,000 each.

Applications close on 21 March 2019.

Read more on the Seeds page.

- Don Cleland

Meet Seed researcher Peng Cao

Battery technology is a science hot-spot around the world. SfTI researcher Peng Cao is contributing to next-gen batteries with a new kind of battery anode using Silicon.

Read more

Meet the researchers bringing tech to aquaculture

The Cawthron Institute's Chris Cornelisen is leading a SfTI Spearhead project to create a future world where kiwi aquaculture farmers can rely on cost-effective sensors to interpret changes in their farms without getting in a boat and heading onto the water. 

Read more

Meet Seed researcher Avinash Mailk

SfTI seed project researcher Avinash Malik has been working on a computer modelling solution to the problem of fine tuning pacemakers without painful and invasive surgery.

Read more

Date posted: 10/05/2019

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