In late August, the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation the Hon. Megan Woods met with IRANZ members at the Beehive. The meeting was an opportunity for IRANZ Chair Dr John Bright to express IRANZ’s appreciation for the Government maintaining stability in the science funding system, and for the way the R&D Tax Incentive has been introduced to New Zealand’s science system.
Dr Woods said there would be no big surprises in the R&D Strategy, and that research excellence and impact would continue to be the big driver for future-funded projects. She said that Independent Research Organisations (IROs) were an important part of the science system, with a different voice to that of the universities and Crown Research Institutes. Typically, IROs were less encumbered by structure and represented a more agile approach to both team-formation and research delivery. The Minister also recognised the close connections IROs have to industry and the importance of these connections in underpinning research impact.
“This agility is good, but I’m also mindful that we need stability as well.”
HERA CEO Troy Coyle brings fresh thinking and progressive ideas about leadership to a metal industry-based association not previously seen as forward looking. #Timesarechanging.
"I am a big supporter of the Four Capitals Framework [human, financial, environmental and manufactured capital that must be in balance for a sustainable society]. I believe that all leaders should be evaluating business performance more broadly than simple profitability. Now is the most important time in history to look at environmental performance," says Troy Coyle.
Troy also says that leaders should resist the urge to focus on optimising business as usual and create a game plan for disruption. This may mean taking the risk of disrupting your own business.
Hamish Mackie from Mackie Research says that when people think of great street design it is never about traffic-clogged streets or even good parking, but about quality urban places which are safe and attractive for walking, cycling, and spending time and money. This means greenery or water, lighting, walkways, cycleways, art, cafes, and slow traffic. Spaces for people.
Mackie Research has been working with the NZ Transport Agency on a project called Innovating Streets for People, a project that aims to make street innovation projects around New Zealand easier to implement. The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport has signalled a shift in direction towards transport that is safer, more environmentally friendly, and gives communities better access to opportunities. As part of this, quality urban places are needed.
A national research programme looking into precast concrete floor performance in earthquakes is likely to result in revised guidelines for seismic assessment and retrofit of buildings with precast floors.
Concrete buildings represent over 80% of existing commercial buildings in New Zealand cities, and most have precast floors.
The partial collapse of precast concrete floors in Statistics House in Wellington during the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake sparked serious concerns about the seismic performance of precast floors. Various initial investigations concluded that urgent research into seismic assessments and retrofit guidance for existing buildings with precast floors was required. This led to a BRANZ project investigating the seismic performance of buildings with precast floors, which became a catalyst for an ongoing three-year national research programme called ReCast, led by Professor Ken Elwood from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland.
Aqualinc is assisting the Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project (KPRP) with drainage solutions on a number of farms around Kaikōura. The 2016 earthquake centred in Kaikōura caused extensive land damage, with land movements causing significant changes in local hydrological conditions. Many pastoral areas became waterlogged and unproductive as a result.
The team from Aqualinc, including Dr Helen Rutter, Ian McIndoe, Rose Edkins, Dan Farrow, and Justin Legg, have been assessing the likely sources of the water, determining water quality and flows, and developing drainage plans to remediate the land, with the aim of bringing it back into productive use again, while minimising impacts on existing local streams and rivers.
An NZ Internet of Things (IoT) Alliance arable farming technology trial at Lincoln University’s Kowhai farm has seen Lincoln Agritech partner up with three other tech companies to form the “Tru Track” consortium.
Blair Miller from Lincoln Agritech says that 16 sensors were deployed around the farm, each hooked up to the internet and providing data in real-time.
“Each sensor provides valuable data that supports the arable farming operation on site,” says Blair.
“The sensors monitor and generate important data such as weather conditions, plant health, soil moisture, and nitrate levels, which can then be used to support actions by the farmer [based on real-time useful data]."
An innovative handheld Pulse meter, developed by Tauranga company Bluelab in collaboration with Lincoln Agritech, is taking the horticultural industry by storm.
The product led to Bluelab, a founding shareholder of the new Regional Research Institute PlantTech, being announced as a NZ Hi-Tech Awards finalist twice in 2019, and receiving recognition in the ‘Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product’ and ‘Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Solution’ categories. The Pulse meter later went on to receive the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ award at this year’s BoP Export NZ Awards.
Pulse is a handheld meter specifically designed for use in the hydroponics and horticultural industries. Measuring moisture levels, electrical conductivity and temperature in media, the sensor provides fast, accurate root zone measurements, sending data directly to mobile phones to better support growers with checking on crop health.
Following the Bragato Research Institute (BRI) announcement of its national Research Winery to be built in Blenheim, ground has now been broken at the site.
July saw the removal of vines from the site and the first step in site preparation for the build, with ground officially being broken just last month. "It has been two years in planning, so it was an exciting landmark when the official construction fences went up,” says MJ Loza, CEO of Bragato Research Institute.
With capacity for over 100 research fermenters, the facility will enable more of the industry’s research trials to extend to look at possible impacts on finished wines. The Research Winery will trial winery equipment and technologies, winemaking processes, and sustainable winemaking and winery operations.
What happens when we swirl and sniff our wine? What is the nose telling the brain? How does biology perceive chemistry? How does chemistry become joy?
When we are enjoying a nice glass of Sauv or Pinot, the olfactory neurons deep in our nose get activated by the different aroma compounds in the wine. These then relay a message to the brain cortex (the highest level of brain tissue) through electrical impulses. This happens in a series of two relay steps called a synapse, and it involves two neurons: the olfactory neuron (which perceived the smell), and a relay neuron called a mitral neuron, which then processes the information, and relays to the cortex.
Dr Matias Kinzurik writes about what our brain experiences when we sniff wine, and the importance of the wine's aroma. Dr Kinzurik is a Research Programme Manager at the Bragato Research Institute (BRI). He manages the Pinot noir Programme, a five-year wine research programme looking at further understanding Pinot noir wine quality, and how it can be produced at high yields.
Before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), a ‘normal’ rate of insolvencies in New Zealand involved about 13 businesses failing every year. Failures ranged from large corporates usurped by innovative upstarts to businesses whose product didn’t survive the test of the market.
“We know that periods of macroeconomic turbulence are difficult to navigate for businesses, but there is little research on how this affects firms in New Zealand,” says Dr John McDermott, Executive Director of Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
“It is my hope that our new research will help New Zealanders understand the dynamics of the macroeconomy. In particular, it could potentially be useful in identifying the probability of future recessions and identifying their severity early on.”
A new study from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research for the Building Better Homes, Towns, and Cities National Science Challenge uses a deep-dive analysis of census rent and wage data to look at whether people choose to move to locations with better quality of life or better quality of business.
Locations with a high quality of life attract migrants from other urban areas, but do not attract international migrants. Locations with a high quality of business do not attract domestic (urban or rural) migrants, but do attract international migrants.
“A one standard deviation increase in a location’s quality of business is estimated to increase international migration into that location by approximately one-third, while raising domestic residents’ migration out of that location by approximately one-fifth,” says programme leader Dr Arthur Grimes.
A new report by Anne Duncan and Michael Nuth at BRANZ examines the technical issues associated with medium-density housing (MDH) from the perspective of New Zealand's building and construction industry.
As New Zealand's population and appetite for buying houses has increased, in some metropolitan areas space for new detached housing developments has declined. Medium-density housing in existing urban areas is a potential solution to halt urban expansion, and it could also be a part-solution for housing supply and affordability issues.
But the researchers write that there are some technical issues that can be barriers to providing quality medium-density housing in New Zealand.
Some of the technical issues identified and considered in the report include fire safety, pre-build and design, structure, weathertightness, and acoustics and noise.
New findings from a ‘landmark’ New Zealand study have provided the compelling evidence needed to change how doctors treat the world’s most common respiratory illness.
Around 10-15% adults worldwide suffer from asthma – 1 in 6 New Zealanders (around 830,000) live with the disease daily. Now a new, fully independent study of nearly 900 New Zealand patients with mild to moderately severe asthma, conducted by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), has found that a simplified, combined inhaler treatment cuts the risk of severe asthma attacks by one third compared to other commonly prescribed treatments.
The study was fully-funded by New Zealand’s Health Research Council (HRC) and published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal.
Newsroom science reporter Farah Hancock reports on a Malaghan Institute of Medical Research medical trial looking at how hookworms affect healthy people. The approach could pave the way for hookworm prescriptions to help or prevent conditions from Crohn’s disease to cancer.
Amazingly, the trial received more than enough volunteers just days after it was announced in late July. A possible reason for the trial’s popularity, despite trialists acting as a parasite host, is the theory of beneficial worms has been around for awhile and flourishing on social media.
“There is a significant unregulated industry for helminth therapy, involving people self-medicating for serious allergic and autoimmune conditions. We want to do the groundwork to ensure the safety and effectiveness of this type of treatment,” says Malaghan's Head of Laboratories Mali Camberis.
Dr Vivian Fu, a student at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ) recently presented her exciting PhD research “Taking Charge after Stroke“ at the European Stroke Organisation Conference. Her research is on a simple but effective intervention, which improves patient quality of life, ability to live independently, and to perform activities of daily living.
Traditionally stroke research has focussed on the hyper-acute management, in the belief that intervention early on makes the most difference to stroke outcomes. Many rehabilitation programmes have been developed in the past 10 years, but none have demonstrated improvements to independence or quality of life.
On 16 July, Dr Fu had her PhD accepted in full by Victoria University of Wellington.
Global problems require global solutions. When it comes to global health issues, international medical research networks are vital. These cross-border collaborations and relationships between scientists, laboratories, and research organisations are essential for sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources to advance understanding and find cures for the most pressing diseases of our time.
Malaghan's upcoming CAR T-cell cancer therapy clinical trial is a partnership between the Malaghan Institute and the Chinese Hunan Zhaotai Medical Group. The trial combines cutting-edge CAR T-cell technology, developed in China, with Malaghan's expertise and capability in cell-based immunotherapy and experience with clinical trials. The collaboration will not only give New Zealanders early access to this revolutionary new treatment, but may ultimately improve the effectiveness of CAR T-cell technology for patients worldwide.
The New Zealand Herald has featured a research project to sample remote lakes, north of Kaitaia, which is being co-led by Dr Susie Wood from the Cawthron Institute. Susie says Northland has more than 400 dune lakes, and some of the rarest and most threatened aquatic habitats in the world.
The sampling is part of a nationwide project, Lakes380: Our lakes' health — past, present, future, aimed at determining the health and history of 10 per cent of New Zealand's 3800 lakes.
The Northland lakes project also involves New Zealand’s most northern iwi, Ngāti Kuri, and researchers from GNS Science. The project will use a range of new methods, such as environmental DNA and scanning techniques, to measure the current and past biodiversity of these globally distinct lakes.
A team led by senior scientist Dr Moritz Lehmann at Xerra and the University of Waikato has published an analysis of 18-year trends in lake water clarity in the Rotorua lakes. Water clarity is an important indicator of water quality where better clarity typically indicates fewer contaminants.
What makes this study special is that it combines human observations, taken from a boat, with observations from 700 km above the Earth’s surface by satellites. This combination of data sources allowed the researchers to assemble a data record from 1999 to 2017 for 23 lakes, a data volume far greater than available using traditional ground-based methods.
"We found that water clarity significantly improved in nine lakes over the 18-year study period,” said Dr Lehmann, “Most trends in the other lakes were also found to be positive, but not statistically significant."
Cawthron Institute Taxonomist Fiona Gower represented her team's research at a conference with a difference in early August. Fiona attended the 13th International Polychaete Conference on board The Queen Mary Ship, Long Beach, California, where she presented a poster, made in collaboration with researchers at NIWA New Zealand, about the arrival of an alien species of Polychaete in New Zealand.
Fiona writes that the new alien nereidid worm has progressively established itself in New Zealand waters since it was first detected in 2017.
Scientists at Nelson's Cawthron Institute are trail blazing new thinking in how farming in the open ocean might be possible. They call it the "new frontier" in aquaculture, where large areas of consented space were available but farming was challenging in exposed and dynamic waters.
Read this Radio New Zealand article by reporter Tracy Neal which covers Jim Sinner's talk at the Open Oceans Aquaculture Symposium in Nelson this month. Jim is a senior scientist in the coastal and freshwater group, and also a science leader for social science at the Cawthron. His talk covers how the move to open ocean farming might be perceived by iwi, environmental groups, and others who treasured the open ocean.
In February this year, the Critical Pathways Programme (CPP) team, including researchers from Lincoln Agritech and Aqualinc Research, introduced the world-leading SkyTEM system for airborne electromagnetic surveys to New Zealand.
The electromagnetic surveys captured at high spatial resolution characteristics of the subsurface environment so that researchers can study the flow of water, and contaminants transported by it, from a parcel of land to a surface water body.
Specifically targeting the relatively shallow and short transfer pathways operating at the sub-catchment scale (tens of km2) will allow researchers to create models capable of describing water flow and contaminant transfer at this important scale.
What is Earth observation? And why is it important to New Zealand? Listen to Xerra Earth Observation Institute's Dr Moritz Lehmann, with Jesse Mulligan on RNZ Afternoons, talk about Earth observation (EO), and the value it brings to New Zealand and the world.
This year's biennial IULTCS International Congress in Dresden saw a team of four scientists from New Zealand's LASRA presenting their leather research to 450 delegates from 35 countries. This year’s programme highlighted advancements in leather science and technology, industry, material testing, performance and applications, and sustainability. The theme of the Congress was ‘Benign by Design’ – a principle in many green chemistry and sustainability initiatives.
LASRA scientists gave three oral presentations and one poster presentation. The oral presentations were: "Biotechnology for environment-friendly leather production"; "Towards a molecular level understanding of chrome tanning"; and "Strong skin, not always thick: Comparative structural and molecular analysis of deer skin and cow hide".
Further details of the papers are available on the LASRA website.
More than 80 students from Innovative Young Minds toured WSP Opus’s Research centre in Petone, going behind the scenes to learn more about the experimental research that is carried out at WSP Opus.
Innovative Young Minds is a pioneering initiative by Hutt City Council and Rotary Hutt City to encourage more young women to explore careers in science and technology.
One of the students, Trinity Whyte, was amazed at the range of work carried out at WSP Opus’s Research facility.
“We felt very privileged to be able to visit the centre and see a handful of the thousands of jobs carried out there. Getting to talk to the engineers and scientists was incredible, they were all lovely people, and each of them said no two days are alike; something I want in my future career.”
Neil Jamieson, WSP Opus Research Leader Road/Vehicle Interaction, explains to the students from the Innovative Young Minds programme how a model of Wellington is used to demonstrate the effects of wind on various building clusters. Photo: WSP Opus.
MRINZ Director Prof Richard Beasley shares fantastic news about a recent MRINZ asthma study with Carly Flynn on her Weekend Life Show on Magic Talk Radio.
Transforming mussel aquaculture through hatchery technology and selective breeding
The Cawthron Institute , along with industry partners Sanford and SPATnz, are finalists in the 2019 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards PWC Commercial Impact Category, for their research into transforming mussel aquaculture through hatchery technology and selective breeding.
Transforming mussel aquaculture through hatchery technology and selective breeding: Cawthron senior scientist, Dr Nick King, discusses the challenges of using selective breeding in a marine environment, compared to on land.
IRANZ is an association of independent research organisations. Its members undertake scientific research, development or technology transfer. Members include Aqualinc Research Ltd, Bragato Research Institute, BRANZ, Cawthron Institute, CRL Energy Ltd, Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA), Leather & Shoe Research Association (LASRA), Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Mackie Research, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand Institute of Minerals to Materials Research, PlantTech Research Institute, Titanium Industry Development Association Ltd (TiDA Ltd), Transport Engineering Research NZ Ltd (TERNZ), WSP Opus Research, and Xerra Earth Observation Institute.