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    Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved.
    Published 23 July 2015 Referencing Hub media

    Professor Stephen Sowerby, the director of the Applied Science programme at the University of Otago, has co-founded two companies based on his research in nanoparticle analysis and agricultural parasite diagnostics.

    In turn, his commercial experience has been important in promoting the value of commercially focused research to his university students who are interested in science innovation and enterprise.

    Professor Sowerby and David Christianson, the Commercialisation Manager at Otago Innovation Ltd, explain the importance of being able to provide students with an applied focus to their science research.


    Professor Sowerby from the University of Otago has co-founded two companies based on his research in nanoparticle analysis and agricultural parasite diagnostics.

    Professor Stephen Sowerby
    I was set an enormously attractive challenge to develop some technology that suits farmers. So what we’ve done is be able to really revolutionise the way in which parasitology has been done for 50 years, and we’ve changed that model, and it’s changed the business model as well.

    David Christensen
    Stephen has got a very strong track record of commercial application, so this applied science focus. And he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He wants to understand not only the problem but the context that that solution is going to be working in.

    Professor Stephen Sowerby
    I think the science behind the discovery is profoundly simple and elegant, and it’s robust in its utility. We’ve got some international buy-in, and we’ve got some support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to try and apply it to human applications in the developing world. So with the Techion story, previously they were running a service where they would analyse samples in laboratory, but what they can do now is they can beam those sample images back from anywhere in the world to the laboratory based in Dunedin and do the processing by digital analysis.

    David Christensen
    It’s really essentially a game-changer for them – the way they’re able to deliver their offering to the world.

    Professor Sowerby has a passion for imparting commercially focused research to tomorrow’s entrepreneurial researchers.

    Professor Stephen Sowerby
    For students who are interested in science innovation and enterprise, to be able to make those connections between what they’re taught in the classroom and what happens in the commercial sector.

    David Christensen
    A vast majority of these students are not going to be academics. They’re going to go into industry, and having this applied focus to their science is going to set them up incredibly well. Commercialisation, it’s a tough pathway for academics to follow, and having people like Stephen so passionate and enthusiastic about it is really incredibly valuable for us.

    Professor Stephen Sowerby
    From a really simple idea, in terms of trying to assist a local business, we’ve really changed the way something is happening on a global stage.

    Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    © Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2015