Seed projectsKaupapa 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 69 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.
Automating automated testing
The growth of software in society has led to challenges and profound changes in the field of software engineering, such as the rise of agile methodologies that have revolutionised software engineering in the last 20 years. We propose to devise a novel method to automatically synthesise iteration tests to accurately describe faults from error stack traces and logs. Tests reproducing faults not only safeguard product releases, but also help developers to debug systems. If successful, the outcomes of this project will significantly increase the velocity and reliability of agile processes.
Domain adaptation to support Polynesian language technologies
Recent work has shown that just 20 languages account for 90% of all online language use. Without the support of language technologies, minority languages will never thrive in digital environments. Technologies such as information retrieval require increasingly large amounts of training data, but there is relatively little data available for Polynesian languages like Māori and Tongan. This project enables the development of language technologies for low-resource Polynesian languages by creating novel domain adaptation methods. Working with Professor Jeanette King from the University of Canterbury, Māori, non-Māori and Pacific linguists will contribute to the development of this project that will enable Māori and other Pacific language speakers to use their own language in more situations in a digital space. Domain adaptation is the only approach capable of bridging this gap to bring an inclusive multi-lingual digital environment to Aotearoa New Zealand and contribute to enhancing language experience for Māori and Pacific peoples with such technologies as grammar check, question answering systems, digital assistance and more.
Gait training using smart insoles and immersive reality technologies (XR)
Gait analysis and rehabilitation training are areas of healthcare which dramatically increase the quality of life of post-trauma patients, athletes, people with chronic conditions and many others. Traditionally these tasks have been done through movement observation by a medical doctor. More recently, the development of tracking technology and wearables such as smart insoles and easily accessible AR/VR devices have opened new opportunities for gait training and rehabilitation. This project aims to leverage state-of-the-art immersive reality (XR) and sensing technologies (Smart Insoles) to develop novel portable real-time tools and new knowledge to transform how gait training is currently performed for rehabilitation and physical recovery.
Ngā taonga o nehe rā me te heke mai: treasures of the past and future
The preservation, authentication and transfer of mātauranga and traditional knowledge for Māori and indigenous populations is an area in need of urgent innovation. Everything from languages, family histories and local narratives to traditional medicines, all are at some risk of being lost due to the modern day challenges of maintaining traditional practises of knowledge management. However, the current technical mechanisms for storing, managing and sharing data and information does not fit with how traditional communities protect and cultivate their knowledge. This project seeks to use and develop technologies that will mirror how Māori knowledge is best maintained. It has to be secure, to maintain data sovereignty; trusted to maintain authenticity; decentralised so that the community can express their own governance traditions in its management; and sharable, so that the community can use it to collaborate when they want to do so. Working with Māori experts from Āhau NZ Limited, and with technologies including, Blockchain and Tangles this project aims to create an open-source prototype tool that meets these aspects to allow communities to use technology to maintain and grow their Mātauranga.
This project was not funded by the Vision Mātauranga pool. However, we see that this project has strong Vision Mātauranga alignment working with Āhau NZ Ltd and SfTI will provide Māori expert mentorship throughout the project to further develop their Vision Mātauranga capability and widen their collaboration with Māori communities.
Novel approach to detect and predict tests with non-deterministic behaviour
Society relies on the proper functioning of software systems. These systems can be disrupted by software defects, resulting in catastrophic failures, for example the recent Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A350 bugs. One of the methods to ensure software quality and reduce defects is software testing. Developers rely on tests to expose defects early when they are relatively less expensive to fix. Ideally tests result in a pass or fail. Otherwise they are known as flaky tests which can undermine the usefulness of testing. Detecting flaky tests will help to intercept defects earlier and will improve the overall quality of software programs. In this project, we aim to understand the causes of flakiness, provide empirical evidence of new patterns of flaky tests and their classifications. We will then develop a novel technique that is able to identify and predict them with a high-level of accuracy and scalable to large programs.
Physical activity promotion chatbot for youth wellbeing
Being physically active is linked to increased wellbeing. This study will co-design a chatbot to help young people (11-19 years of age) to identify and persist with physical activity. The tool will be co-designed with Māori and Pasifika youth to develop a culturally relevant and effective digital mental and physical health tool using a holistic approach consistent with the Whare Tapa Whā model. The co-design process will be guided by the Community-Up Research Practices to ensure that rangatahi Māori voices are heard, that whānau can be partners and protected in the research. These processes will be guided by Māori research experts, including Tania Cargo (Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu, Ngāpuhi), a clinical psychologist and high performance sports coach who is a key member of our research team.
The work will be integrated with ‘Health Advances through Behavioural Intervention Technologies (HABITs), a programme developed from the ‘A Better Start - E Tipu E Rea’ National Science Challenge. The chatbot will include machine learning of dialog policy to identify user preferences and opportunities and provide tailored and appropriate physical activity recommendations; and sequence learning to provide naturalness in conversational responses. This will allow better personalisation and longer engagement than purely template-based methods.
Practical solutions for outdoor localisation using acoustics in conservation
Monitoring New Zealand’s native species is particularly important for conservation. The primary aim of this project is to apply our previous work on sound localisation in natural environments into a useful tool for citizen-led conservation projects. The research will first establish a reliable algorithm for accurate sound source localisation in outdoor environments by extending the algorithms we developed in the previous SfTI project. This algorithm will then be applied to three different practical applications: estimation of bird abundance from their calls, localising incubation burrows of North Island brown kiwi, and localising Matuku/bitterns from the male booms. The research will ultimately lead to improved monitoring procedures of endangered NZ avian species.
This project builds and relies on previous relationships and collaboration with local iwi, the Māori arm of DOC and other Māori organisations. The potential here are the benefits to the health and wellbeing of taonga species and forests. Whereby this project not only estimates bird abundance and localisation but also explores the presence of predators by measuring non-bird related sounds in the forest.
Proofing code reuse: Detecting errors in publicly available software
Software developers are increasingly dependent on question and answer portals and blogs for coding solutions. While such interfaces provide useful information, there are concerns that code snippets hosted here are often of poor quality, which may result in software failures. The objective of this project is to develop an appropriate code quality model and build an exhaustive repository of popular code snippets from online portals and blogs, to help predict the quality of these snippets for software developers.
Sensitive soft robotic skin for handling delicate objects
Safe interaction between conventional hard robots and delicate objects remains a challenge. This limits the use of robotics in fields such as healthcare or mechanised fruit harvesting. We plan to develop a soft compressible sensing skin that will provide robotic manipulators with the ability to detect and control the amount of force they apply while also providing a compliant and deformable interface with the object they are manipulating. Current literature reports that sensing skins usually rely on a variety of stretchable electronic components and complex structuring of compliant materials, making them costly and difficult to implement. We will develop an ultra-soft capacitive touch sensitive sensor with a monolithic structure and a single pair of electrodes that can inform on both the location and magnitude of an applied force.
This project has been recognised as having Vision Mātauranga growth potential that would be beneficial to Māori business and thus contributing to the Māori economy.
Smart surgical planning and guidance system for anatomical ACL reconstruction
Approximately 40% of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) grafts are misplaced as a result of reconstructions performed by traditional arthroscopy. We plan to develop a smart preoperative planning software system for defining anatomically accurate graft tunnel locations in ACL reconstruction surgery using machine learning and musculoskeletal models; and to develop a multimodal 3D motion tracked intraoperative system to register and guide the surgeon’s tools to the correct location in the ruptured knee. This system will enable ACL reconstruction surgeries to be performed more reproducibly and accurately.
Stretchable and self-healable energy storage for epidermal and implantable bioelectronics
With the advent of epidermal and tissue-implantable bioelectronic devices, there is an urgent need to develop wearable energy storage solutions, especially for continuous health monitoring and medical devices. Supercapacitor-based energy storage systems are a promising technology with advantages such as high-power density, long cycle life and simple device fabrication. We plan to extend this technology to develop stretchable, self-healable and biocompatible conjugated polymer-based supercapacitors for use in medical devices and continuous health monitoring electronics.
Surrogate modelling with wearable sensors to estimate joint torques, muscle forces and beyond
The loss of mobility of the lower limb in patients with movement disorder can affect quality of life. Understanding human gait and its effect on the surrounding soft tissue is essential to assess and monitor abnormal human motion. Traditional optical motion capture methods collect gait data in a controlled environment that only provides small and restrictive snapshot of daily living. With the advent of wearable sensors and smartphones, we can collect human gait data outside of the clinic into the community. Our aim is to develop a novel machine learning workflow to create custom surrogate models that use wearable sensors to predict human gait properties in the real world.
Unlocking Mātauranga Māori in historic survey maps
Surveyors preparing early (1800’s) land survey maps in New Zealand relied on the assistance and mātauranga Māori of local expert guides, and often embedded significant information on cultural sites, place names and the environment within hand-drawn maps and notes. The mātauranga Māori embedded within historic maps is largely under-utilised as the data are ‘locked’ in machine unreadable formats and unavailable for analysis. We will develop computer vision and geospatial techniques to extract and geo-locate information in survey plans, unlocking and transforming this Māori knowledge into feature-rich, digital geospatial information. The project conception and co-creation is done with Māori geospatial practitioners from within Te Kahui Manu Hokai (Maori GIS Association) to meet the need to secure Māori access to and analysis of this data. Thus this has created a deeper understanding of management, use and needs of Māori geographical information, whilst ensuring that principles of data sovereignty are fulfilled as outlined in Te Mana Raraunga Brief. Mentorship from a senior Māori academic is a critical component of this project alongside the development of capability of all researchers involved as well as capacity development of Māori leadership through the mentoring of a Māori PhD student. The future potential use of this data spans a wide range of possibilities that can provide information on historical context on landscapes and land-use change, which has the potential to enhance Māori decision making surrounding economic and environmental development.
Wearable physiological sensors for head mounted displays
This project will develop Electroencephalography (EEG), Electromyography (EMG) and Electrooculography (EOG) sensors based on conductive fabric that will be more comfortable to wear over long periods of time, in comparison to existing technology. We will also push the boundaries to integrate multiple sensors in head mounted displays (HMDs) that will create a more accurate understanding of user behaviour and intention. Our work targets physiotherapy and facial stroke rehabilitation, however, we anticipate this technology extend to a range of industry and research applications.
Weaving Maori culture into natural fibre reinforced composites
Cultivars of Harakeke (Phormium tenax and Phormium colensoi) or New Zealand flax, are woven by Māori weavers into patterns often unique to the individual weaver, region and iwi in the form of tukutuku, kete, and fishing nets. These patterns have emerged as a combination of art, spirituality and functionality. Modern composites using natural fibres are attractive alternatives to non-sustainable composites, but a lack of suitable woven textiles has been identified as a major barrier for the use of natural fibres in high performance composites. This project involves a multidisciplinary approach and co-design with Māori weavers and experts. Our team including a key Māori expert weaver will analyse Māori weaving patterns and the traditionally used Harakeke cultivars to identify weave patterns and Harakeke cultivars likely to provide high strength/stiffness in a composite. This work is done collaboratively with iwi and contributes to Māori academic success through capacity development and the design and implementation of Māori educational resource design for pāngarau (mathematics) using ethnomathematics.
A new transistor exploiting electronic spin
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.Read More
A platform device for vision testing applications
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
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
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.Read More
Biological mimicry for medical diagnostics
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.Read More
Bringing biochemistry to new heights – development of protein crystallisation nanosatellites
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
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.Read More
Cellulose-based surfactants – Enhancing manufacturing and product performance with minimal environmental impact
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.Read More
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
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
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.Read More
New approach to microwave processing for the production of bio-based chemicals
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
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
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.Read More
Towards 3D printable polymers containing biologically active antimicrobial enzymes
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
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.Read More
Electricity demand flexibility on New Zealand farms
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.Read More
Acoustic vector network analyser
Improving the measurement of object acoustic properties eg the acoustic permeability of pasture as a function of its dry matter yield.Read More
Closing the gaps in static program analysis
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.Read More
Computational Glasses – Head- mounted displays for the visually impaired
Developing prototypes for computational glasses that analyse the environment and change it to compensate for user impairment.Read More
Data analytics to enable wide-area monitoring of electricity distribution lines
Using new, automated data-analytics and modelling to extract information from 3-dimensional solid-state magnetic field sensor measurements.
Deployable nanosatellite synthetic aperture radar
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.Read More
Distance and direction estimation for acoustic bird monitoring
Estimating population densities by locating bird calls using mathematical and statistical methods.Read More
Executable heart-on-chip for validating cardiac devices against drug effects
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.Read More
In-Vehicle touchscreens – improving human performance and reducing attentional demands
Collaborating with Airbus to develop a new understanding of touchscreen interaction during vibration, as well as improving interaction with touchscreens in vibrating environments.Read More
Landscape-scale augmented reality: enhancing public understanding of our cultural heritage
Developing a method to identify the horizon in 360-degree photographs, and prototype software for overlaying computer-generated data onto real 360-degree photographs.Read More
Machine learning based on rat brains
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.Read More
Mechanochemical conversion of biomass into commodity chemicals
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
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
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
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.Read More
Underground wireless data acquisition network using Low Power Wide Area Network
Investigating and designing a persistent wireless underground data acquisition network with long operating life and reliable data communication, targeting agriculture applications.Read More
Visual recommender technology for exploratory analytics: predicting forests futures
Exploring the potential to use visual recommender technology to analyse complex spatiotemporal data sets.
Wearable sensors for gait assessment
Taking a novel approach to address limitations of current ‘best practice’ rehabilitation for gait disorders by exploiting advances in wearable sensors and computational modelling.Read More
Womb with a view
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.Read More
A giant leap for small displacements
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).Read More
Algae-derived food supplement
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.Read More
Controlling spray drops in flight
Developing electrostatic spraying technologies, combined with crop scanning sensors, which will greatly reduce wastage of pesticides sprayer on crops.Read More
Enabling sustainable economic development with advanced additive manufacturing of wood
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
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
Developing Magnetic Silver Clusters as contrast agents to potentially provide a less toxic more effective alternative to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).Read More
Mechanically induced drug release
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.Read More
Nitrate sensor arrays
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.Read More
Self-Healing silicon anode
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.Read More
Te Tāhū o te Pātaka Whakairinga Kōrero: Next generation indigenous knowledge
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).