Seed projects
Kaupapa kākano

Seed projects are funded 200k for up to two years. They are small and technically complex investigator-led projects. All Seed projects are relevant to NZ, and likely to make strong contribution, in the longer-term, to NZ's economic growth.

SfTI has funded 54 projects since 2016. If you are interested in learning more about these projects, you can contact the lead researcher by doing a web search for their name and organisation, or by following the 'Read more' link in some of the projects below.

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A new transistor exploiting electronic spin

Dr Simon Granville
Victoria University of Wellington
2019 ($200,000), 2018 ($100,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design / Data science and digital technologies

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.

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A platform device for vision testing applications

Dr Jason Turuwhenua
University of Auckland
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

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.

Agent-based building earthquake evacuation simulation – AB2E2S

Dr Vincente Gonzalez
University of Auckland
2019 ($196,706)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

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.

Artery heterograft development

Professor Chris Cunningham and Professor Richard Haverkamp
Massey University
2019 ($200,000), 2018 ($100,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design / Vision Mātauranga

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.

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Biological mimicry for medical diagnostics

Professor Kathryn Stowell
Massey University
2019 ($199,968)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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

Building a clinically validated AI classifier to assist the national Diabetic Eye Screening program

Dr Ehsan Vaghefi
University of Auckland
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

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.

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Cellulose-based surfactants – Enhancing manufacturing and product performance with minimal environmental impact

Dr Jack Chen
Auckland University of Technology
2019 ($199,543)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Consolidating Cordyline for Green Composites

Nancy Garrity
Scion
2019 ($173,906)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design / Vision Mātauranga

This research proposes ti kouka (C.australis) has a distinct advantage (e.g. strength, moisture resistance) over many plant fibres due to its chemical composition and morphological structure. We aim to provide the superior performance properties of C.australis fibres leveraging mātauranga Māori for bio-plastic composites while ensuring collaborative capacity.

De novo drug discovery for type 2 diabetes mellitus treatment using deep-learned generative models

Dr Binh Nguyen
Victoria University of Wellington
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

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.

Deep sheep – facial recognition for tracking kinship in livestock

Dr Lech Szymanski
University of Otago
2019 ($199,804)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

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.

Developing real-time lab-on-chip device and biosystems for personalised cancer medicine

Dr Maran Muthiah
University of Auckland
2019 ($200,000), 2018 ($100,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design / Vision Mātauranga

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.

Development of an innovative multidimensional manufacturing and intelligent fluid management

Dr Emilia Nowak
Massey University
2019 ($199,973)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Effective telediagnostic platform with rich communicational information in the sensitive situation

Dr Sungchul Jung
University of Canterbury
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

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.

Environmental sensors

Associate Professor Ashton Partridge and Dr Leonie Jones
Digital Sensing Limited
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Sensors, robotics and automation / Vision Mātauranga

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.

Hybrid organic / inorganic nanoparticles for luminescent solar concentrators

Dr Nate Davis
Victoria University of Wellington
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Molecular biosensors to detect and monitor toxins from harmful algal blooms

Dr Balam Jimenez
Victoria University of Wellington
2019 ($199,900)
Theme: Sensors, robotics and automation / Vision Mātauranga

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.

New approach to microwave processing for the production of bio-based chemicals

Dr Cameron Weber
University of Auckland
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Portable low-cost microwave brain scanner for stroke detection and recovery monitoring

Dr Yifan Chen
University of Waikato
2019 ($199,598)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Self-cleaning molecular sponges for chemical sequestration

Dr Angelique Greene
Scion
2019 ($198,888)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

Towards 3D printable polymers containing biologically active antimicrobial enzymes

Dr Kelly Wade
Scion
2019 ($200,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

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.

A light in dark places

Dr Steve Mills
University of Otago
2018 ($99,995)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Applying computer vision and surveying expertise to develop new approaches to building 3D models from images to form a shape of a scene, or an object from a series of images in dark places. This technology could be used in rescue robots for mining or collapsed buildings, or to assist surgeons during minimally invasive surgery where they look inside the body using endoscopes.

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Electricity demand flexibility on New Zealand farms

Dr Janet Stephenson
University of Otago
2018 ($98,601)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

With the growth in low-cost networked devices, there is a significant potential for farmers to engage in electricity demand response, which would provide additional farm income through the electricity aggregation market. Famers’ involvement in this growing market is so far minimal. This research takes a socio-technical approach to investigating why farmers are not getting involved, looking at both technical and human factors, and identifies social/technical solutions that will encourage uptake.

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Acoustic vector network analyser

Professor Jonathan Scott
Waikato University
2017 ($143,953)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Improving the measurement of object acoustic properties eg the acoustic permeability of pasture as a function of its dry matter yield.

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Closing the gaps in static program analysis

Dr Jens Dietrich
Massey University
2017 ($197,329)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Poor software quality and vulnerabilities can be exploited for malicious activities. Static Program Analysis was the focus of this project ­- where bugs and vulnerabilities are detected by models extracted from code without executing the program.

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Computational Glasses – Head- mounted displays for the visually impaired

Dr Tobias Langlotz
Otago University
2017 ($199,999)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

Developing prototypes for computational glasses that analyse the environment and change it to compensate for user impairment.

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Data analytics to enable wide-area monitoring of electricity distribution lines

Dr Fiona Stevens-McFadden
Victoria University of Wellington
2017 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Using new, automated data-analytics and modelling to extract information from 3-dimensional solid-state magnetic field sensor measurements.

Deployable nanosatellite synthetic aperture radar

Dr John Cater
University of Auckland
2017 ($198,704)
Theme: Sensors, robotics and automation

Developing deployable Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems suitable for deployment from small (nano) satellite platforms for monitoring New Zealand's exclusive economic zone for marine traffic.

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Distance and direction estimation for acoustic bird monitoring

Professor Stephen Marsland
Massey University
2017 ($200,011)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

Estimating population densities by locating bird calls using mathematical and statistical methods.

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Executable heart-on-chip for validating cardiac devices against drug effects

Dr Avinash Malik
University of Auckland
2017 ($189,281)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Developing technological innovation for pacemaker certification that accommodates drug- induced effects. The overall objective of the project was to develop a heart model capturing the effect of disease and medications, which can be used to validate cardiac devices during design/manufacturing.

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In-Vehicle touchscreens – improving human performance and reducing attentional demands

Professor Andy Cockburn
University of Canterbury
2017 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Collaborating with Airbus to develop a new understanding of touchscreen interaction during vibration, as well as improving interaction with touchscreens in vibrating environments.

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Landscape-scale augmented reality: enhancing public understanding of our cultural heritage

Professor Neil Dodgson
Victoria University of Wellington
2017 ($199,586)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

Developing a method to identify the horizon in 360-degree photographs, and prototype software for overlaying computer-generated data onto real 360-degree photographs.

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Machine learning based on rat brains

Dr Will Browne
Victoria University of Wellington
2017 ($198,756)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Using the neuroscience of rat-brains to model lateral connections within a learning system in order to join up knowledge and functionality. This enabled the novel AI system to learn from small amounts of data as learnt knowledge can be reused, i.e. the concept of whiskers can be used to differentiate between different types of animals.

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Mechanochemical conversion of biomass into commodity chemicals

Dr Jonathan Sperry
University of Auckland
2017 ($81,917)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Investigating ways to convert suberic acid, a compound present in cork and castor oil, into phthalates, and to transform cyclopentanone, a compound attainable from agricultural waste and forest residues, into adipic acid.

Modelling and improving emissions /energy efficiency in NZ’s transport systems

Dr Andrea Raith
University of Auckland
2017 ($199,471)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Researching model vehicle emissions in strategic transport modelling tools. The modelling tools developed from this project will assist in impact testing of various incentives to encourage electric vehicle uptake, designing transport on-demand systems, and identifying traffic patterns with lower fuel consumption or emission.

Novel approaches for impaired speech recognition

Professor Ruili Wang
Massey University
2017 ($200,000)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Sensors, robotics and automation

Seeking to develop adaptive- personalised speech systems recognising individual impaired speech and generate intelligible speech. The systems are based on a unique music retrieval technique and could be used on mobile devices, like smart phones, tablets and PCs, such as human to robot interactions.

Secure, shared and collaborative: treasure in the block chain

Professor Steve Reeves
University of Waikato
2017 ($198,860)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

Distributed ledger technology known as ‘Blockchain’ shows considerable promise for use in secure, distributed systems of collections of information across traditional boundaries. This project developed the technology to allow users to store, display and check data files (pictures, audio, text etc.) in such a way that the data is totally secure from tampering, but still available for public viewing.

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Underground wireless data acquisition network using Low Power Wide Area Network

Dr Kevin Wang
University of Auckland
2017 ($196,448)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Sensors, robotics and automation

Investigating and designing a persistent wireless underground data acquisition network with long operating life and reliable data communication, targeting agriculture applications.

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Visual recommender technology for exploratory analytics: predicting forests futures

Dr Ralf Gommers
Scion
2017 ($199,614)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Exploring the potential to use visual recommender technology to analyse complex spatiotemporal data sets.

Wearable sensors for gait assessment

Dr Julie Choisne
University of Auckland
2017 ($199,999)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies

Taking a novel approach to address limitations of current ‘best practice’ rehabilitation for gait disorders by exploiting advances in wearable sensors and computational modelling.

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Womb with a view

Dr Harvey Ho
University of Auckland
2017 ($199,921)
Theme: Data science and digital technologies / Vision Mātauranga

Encouraging pregnant women to quit smoking, this project developed a 3D model for web pages and mobile devices that demonstrate how smoking impacts their own, and their unborn children’s, circulatory systems.

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A giant leap for small displacements

Dr Amir Haji Rassouliha
University of Auckland
2016 ($139,355)
Theme: Sensors, robotics and automation / Data science and digital technologies

Accelerating the development of a patent-pending platform machine vision technology to more accurately determine shape, motion, surface and volume changes. Initially focusing on applications in industrial maintenance (e.g. wind turbine blade inspection), healthcare (new cardiovascular diagnostics), and agriculture (improved fruit sorting).

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Algae-derived food supplement

Dr Phil Novis
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, University of Canterbury
2016 ($295,000)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design / Vision Mātauranga

Manipulating the spectral composition of light to create a commercially viable way to boost the production of Eicosapentaenoic acid or (EPA), a high-value omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, in algae. To provide a sustainable and vegetarian friendly alternative to fish oil.

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Controlling spray drops in flight

Dr Scott Post
Lincoln Agritech
2016 ($146,250)
Theme: Sensors, robotics and automation

Developing electrostatic spraying technologies, combined with crop scanning sensors, which will greatly reduce wastage of pesticides sprayer on crops.

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Enabling sustainable economic development with advanced additive manufacturing of wood

Associate Professor David Leung
University of Canterbury
2016 ($64,250)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Investigating the use of live wood-forming cells of eucalyptus trees as an advanced manufacturing material in 3D printing, known as bioprinting. With the aim of manufacturing wood products without cutting down trees.

Golden polymer for enriching biogas to biomethane

Dr Jianyong Jin
University of Auckland
2016 ($41,667)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Developing ‘golden’ (yellow in colour) polymers to filter CO2 from biogas, created through a breakdown of organic waste, leaving biomethane. Which has more commercial potential as it can be used more effectively in homes and as transport fuel.

Magnetic silver clusters

Dr Renee Goreham
Victoria University of Wellington
2016 ($146,250)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Developing Magnetic Silver Clusters as contrast agents to potentially provide a less toxic more effective alternative to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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Mechanically induced drug release

Associate Professor Stephen Moratti and Dr Eng Wui Tan
University of Otago
2016 ($81,309)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Developing a new technology for controlled drug release based on mechanically-sensitive soft materials or gels. The gels will contain nanoscale drug capsules that can be broken to induce long term repeated release. If successful, this kind of drug delivery has a wide range of clinical applications including epilepsy, cancer, pain relief and heart arrhythmias.

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Nitrate sensor arrays

Dr Leonie Jones
Digital Sensing Limited
2016 ($295,000)
Theme: Vision Mātauranga / Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Developing a fit-for-purpose device to diagnose the chemical health of our rivers at high frequency and in real time. The device is designed to remain in the field for up to 6 months and measures nitrate level, conductivity and temperature, uploading results wirelessly and instantly to the cloud.

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Self-Healing silicon anode

Dr Peng Cao
University of Auckland
2016 ($146,250)
Theme: Materials, manufacturing technology and design

Developing the use of a self healing silicon polymer to provide an alternative material to form battery anodes. The self-healing aspect of this makes silicon a viable material for rechargable batteries and in theory could increase battery capacity by up to 1000 percent.

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Te Tāhū o te Pātaka Whakairinga Kōrero: Next generation indigenous knowledge

Dr Hēmi Whaanga
University of Waikato
2016 ($106,250)
Theme: Vision Mātauranga / Data science and digital technologies

Creating a digital platform to manage and distribute Indigenous Knowledge (IK) utilizing spatial hypermedia, incorporating kaupapa Māori protocols, iterative design processes and participatory design. In consultation with Vision Mātauranga (VM) teams and across the National Science Challenges (NSC).