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  • In this article, you can read about the winners and finalists in each 2015 KiwiNet Awards category.

    What the finalists had to do

    On the day prior to the awards evening, each finalist gives a short presentation about their work - telling the story behind their development or innovation, explaining their collaboration with others, and describing their progress on the path to commercialising a product. Following their presentation, the panel of judges was able to further question the team.

    This year, the judging panel included Helen Robinson (founding CEO of TZ1), Dr Ray Thomson (professional director and Chairman of MacDiarmid Institute), Rob Heebink (R&D Executive at Gallagher) and Sir Ray Avery (CEO, Medicine Mondiale).

    The master of ceremonies for the day was well known scientist and science communicator Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl).

    Researcher Entrepreneur Award

    This award celebrates an entrepreneurial researcher who has either created an innovative business or contributed strongly to business innovation through technology licensing, start-up creation or by providing expertise.


    The winner of the award was Professor Andy Buchanan, University of Canterbury. Andy and his team have initiated a step-change in the perception of timber as a structural and sustainable material for large-span and multi-storey buildings. This is allowing the design of buildings not previously possible when using traditional concrete and steel structures.

    Other finalists in this category

    • Dr Ron Beatson, Plant & Food Research – Ron is responsible for many new hops cultivars. His research has transformed the supply of hops to New Zealand-based brewers, from a cottage industry to a sophisticated export product.
    • Professor Phil Butler, University of Canterbury – Phil has commercialised a colour CT scanner. The scanners, built in New Zealand, are enabling better diagnosis for human health.
    • Dr Stephen J Sowerby, University of Otago – Stephen is recognised for his work as a entrepreneurial researcher and in turn is promoting the value of commercially focused research to his university students.

    PWC Commercial Deal Award

    The website explains that the PWC Commercial Deal Award, “celebrates excellence in research commercialisation delivering outstanding innovation performance and the potential for generating significant economic impact for New Zealand”.


    Plant & Food Research (PFR) was the winner in this award category. With their new raspberry cultivar Wakefield, PFR have revolutionised plant variety commercialisation in collaboration with US partner Northwest Plant Company LLC (NWPCO).

    Early on, they could see that traditional royalties based on plant sales would not justify a plant-breeding programme, no matter how successful the new cultivars proved to be. The solution was to implement a new pricing model based on an annual grower licence fee for use of variety.

    Learn about Commercialising a new apple variety and explore the related research on Breeding red-fleshed apples — and introduction.

    Other finalists in this category

    • Cawthron Institute have entered into a lucrative deal to supply a range of purified marine toxins to international company Sigma-Aldrich.
    • ESR, in collaboration with Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA), has designed and commercialised STRmix™ – an expert system for the interpreting of forensic DNA profiles that will have positive impacts for the criminal justice system.
    • 11Ants Analytics is a spin-out company from WaikatoLink that created and commercialised 11Ants RAP – a cloud-based customer science platform for the retail sector that transforms customer data into customer insights.

    Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research and Business Partnership Award

    With this award, KiwiNet recognises that robust connections and working relationships between research organisations and businesses can be of significant commercial value to New Zealand.


    The winners of the award were Comvita, who, along with the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology at the University of Auckland and Comvita Innovation Limited (CIL), accelerated innovation in commercial research through a triple helix model of university, industry and government collaboration. Comvita New Zealand Limited’s Innovation team is physically co-located at the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology at The University of Auckland and has been collaborating on various research projects with the different departments at the university for the past five years.

    Learn more about Comvita in Mānuka plantation research for medical grade honey,Hunting for honey's healing power, From bees to bandages and Processing Mānuka honey.

    Other finalists in this category

    • The Biopolymer Network (BPN) and Barnes Plastics – this collaboration has resulted in ZealaFoam™, which is a sustainable alternative to polystyrene.
    • Plant & Food Research and Zespri – together, they were able to offer a rapid and combined science and industry response to a Psa outbreak, which limited the impacts of the disease.

    People’s Choice Award

    Attendees at the KiwiNet Awards vote for the People’s Choice Award. The award allows the audience to vote for the presentation and research that most inspired them and ultimately recognises overall excellence in research commercialisation.


    The winner of the People’s Choice Award was Professor Andy Buchanan (University of Canterbury) and his team for their research into timber as a structural and sustainable material for large buildings.

    BNZ Supreme Award

    The BNZ Supreme Award is decided by the KiwiNet Awards’ judging panel. It recognises overall excellence in all core areas of research commercialisation.


    In 2015, the BNZ Supreme Award was won by Professor Andy Buchanan (University of Canterbury). Andy also won the Researcher Entrepreneur Award and the People’s Choice Award.

    Activity idea

    The KiwiNet Awards celebrate successful innovation in New Zealand. To explore the concept of innovation further in a New Zealand context, students could use this activity on unpacking innovation.

    Related content

    Take a look at some of the other winners of the Kiwinet Awards in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

    Useful links

    Check out the KiwiNet website and their YouTube channel to view videos of the winners and finalists, information about the award categories, biographies of the judges and more.

    Read about the BNZ Supreme Award winner Professor Andy Buchanan in this news story.

    Listen to nominee Dr Ron Beatson on RNZ in the Our Changing World programme.

      Published 18 June 2015, Updated 10 May 2019 Referencing Hub articles
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