University spinouts dominate innovation award finalists

Three start-ups based on Te Herenga Waka research are in the running at the Wellington Gold Awards to honour business talent and community-builders.

A company whose technology can kill 99.9 percent of human coronavirus in two hours is among three start-ups based on Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington research that dominate the finalists in the Innovation Gold Category of this year’s Wellington Gold Awards.

Inhibit Coatings was founded in 2016 by Dr Eldon Tate, who studied in the University’s Te Wānanga Matū—School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, and uses a broad-spectrum silver antimicrobial agent effective at killing more than 650 types of microorganisms, also including Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., Influenza A (H1N1), Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter spp.

The technology’s effectiveness against human coronavirus is the company’s latest discovery, with the agent able to be applied to textiles, filters on face masks, and surfaces inside vehicles such as planes or buses.

Dr Tate won the Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award in last year’s KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.

The annual Wellington Gold Awards honour the region’s business talent and pay tribute to people and organisations building the Wellington community.

Three of the five finalists in the innovation category— X-Frame and Marama Labs as well as Inhibit Coatings—are Te Herenga Waka spinouts that have been supported by Te Paewai—Wellington UniVentures, the team that helps translate the University’s research into real-life, problem-solving applications.

“We supported these researchers during their early stages of development, so it’s fantastic to see their work grow and for their businesses to be acknowledged by the wider Wellington community,” says Hamish Findlay, Wellington UniVentures’ General Manager Commercialisation.

“There is a lot of great work coming out of the University and we’re proud to provide a platform for researchers to apply their work for real-life impact.”

X-Frame was founded by Ged Finch in 2018 when he was a Master’s student in Te Kura Waihanga—Wellington School of Architecture and developed a solution to revolutionise the way the building and construction industry deals with waste.

The industry in Aotearoa New Zealand currently contributes 1.6 million tonnes of waste a year—that’s about half the country’s waste.

The X-Frame system is a series of prefabricated, self-braced, interlocking pieces of wood, designed to simply clip together like flatpack furniture. Every component of the system is designed to be disassembled and reused.

Marama Labs is a 2016 start-up spun out of Dr Brendan Darby’s PhD research in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences.

It is a sensor and data analytics company that allows winemakers to accurately monitor their wine production and make smart decisions to better respond to consumer behaviour and preferences.

Marama Labs’ technology is based around its Cloudspec product, which analyses liquids using light. The Cloudspec is the next generation spectroscopy instrument that significantly simplifies conventional absorption spectroscopy methods and enables cloudy or opaque liquids to be analysed more quickly and accurately. The data is generated live and shared with winemakers via an app, enabling them to tailor the production process and improve the quality of their products.

Award winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 29 July.

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