Environment & Engineering

2020 KiwiNet Awards feature two Wellington UniVentures finalists

Published Aug 27, 2020

With an emphasis on celebrating those individuals and projects that create amazing commercial success for New Zealand, the annual KiwiNet Commercialisation Awards are an opportunity to recognise entrepreneurship from publicly funded research that creates genuine impact. The finalists for the 2020 KiwiNet Awards have been announced, and two of the twelve finalists were nominated by Wellington UniVentures.

Wellington UniVentures is a member of the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet), a consortium of 17 universities, Crown Research Institutes, an Independent Research Organisation and a Crown Entity, established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research by helping to transform scientific discoveries into new products and services.

Professor Jim Johnston, from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, is a finalist, recognising his career as a world-renowned inorganic and materials chemist focused on commercial outcomes.

Jim has been involved in numerous new ventures throughout his career, including spin-out companies Wetox, Noble Bond Limited and Inhibit Coatings. He is deeply experienced working at the interface of academia and industry, utilising applied chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology to take new high-value products and novel chemical process technologies to market. Jim also has a passion for developing undergraduate and postgraduate students, both academically and commercially, creating multiple opportunities for them as they move through their careers.

A great example of the opportunity Jim creates for his students is second Wellington UniVentures finalist, Dr Eldon Tate. The CEO and co-founder of Inhibit Coatings Limited, Eldon has developed antimicrobial coatings that keep people safe in the food and healthcare industries by removing the dangers associated with persistent bacterial contamination, increasing food safety and reducing requirements for cleaning and maintenance.

While studying for his PhD at Victoria University of Wellington, Eldon saw the potential for his discovery and with the support and encouragement of his supervisor, Professor Jim Johnston, Eldon co-founded Inhibit Coatings in 2016. The company has gone on to develop various products for a commercial market, including floor coatings which are being successfully trialed in New Zealand food processing plants, with ideas for applications across many other sectors. A successful $1.5m capital raise, led by Eldon in 2019, has meant diversification into new markets is now a reality for Inhibit Coatings.

Wellington UniVentures General Manager Commercialisation, Hamish Findlay is excited to see the range of finalists. “It’s a strong pool of finalists this year, reflecting the depth of talent in New Zealand research commercialisation,” says Hamish, who is particularly thrilled at how well the two Wellington UniVentures finalists complement each other. “To see teacher and student as finalists together, albeit in different categories, is a brilliant way to demonstrate the human side of the commercialisation journey.”

Judging for the Awards will be taking place on Thursday October 15 at the Aotea Centre, with the winners announced at the Awards Evening Reception on the same day.