$48 million for MacDiarmid Institute as government recognises its research excellence for fourth time

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$48 million for MacDiarmid Institute as government recognises its research excellence for fourth time

9 October, 2020

The MacDiarmid Institute’s selection by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in the 2019/20 CoRE round means it will receive $48 million over seven-and-a-half years from July 2021 to December 2028.

MacDiarmid Institute Co-Directors Professor Justin Hodgkiss, from Victoria University of Wellington, and Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, from the University of Auckland, say the focus on sustainability is fertile ground for discovery and future enterprise where the MacDiarmid Institute can make a global impact.

The Institute’s research over the next funding cycle will include:

  • Building on the MacDiarmid Institute’s international leadership in both porous and photo- or electroactive materials to create new classes of materials that soak up carbon dioxide and convert it to valuable products—closing the carbon cycle
  • Building on the MacDiarmid Institute’s world-leading intellectual property in nanomaterial electronics and spintronics to develop materials that think like a brain, thereby shifting computation—whose carbon footprint surpasses air travel—towards a low-energy future while increasing the power to solve hard problems
  • Building on the MacDiarmid Institute’s highly interdisciplinary track record in soft materials to reimagine the use and reuse of materials themselves, from taonga 3D-printed from traditional Māori materials to creating a form of artificial cells that self-regulate and reconfigure for different functions.

Associate Professor Gaston said the institute was poised to meaningfully address some of the major issues of our time.

Materials science is inherently concerned with issues of sustainability — both in the design of materials for energy generation and conservation, but also in considering the sustainability of materials themselves, including how we make and recycle them. We are excited to be being supported to make a difference for Aotearoa New Zealand over the next eight years, on some of the biggest challenges of our society.

Associate Professor Nicola Gaston Co-Director MacDiarmid Institute

Professor Hodgkiss said materials science was about arranging atoms and molecules to create something with new properties.

“It could be a printed solar cell, a superconducting magnet for electric planes, or a biosensor.”

Associate Professor Gaston said the MacDiarmid Institute was creating more spinouts each year than the last — 19 so far.

“Our graduates are critical to New Zealand’s expanding high-tech work force, and academically we consistently rank alongside entire New Zealand universities in the Nature index for publication.”

Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says the University is proud to host the MacDiarmid Institute, with a shared commitment to ambitious, broad, interdisciplinary research, to mātauranga Māori research, and to sustainability and tackling climate change.

“The MacDiarmid Institute is an important factor in our position as New Zealand’s number one university for intensity of high-quality research, with all the benefits that brings to our students and staff, and to the social, environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand and the world beyond."

The Institute was founded in 2002 by Victoria University of Wellington’s Professor Sir Paul Callaghan to bring together the best teams in advanced materials and nanotechnology, and then expand their horizons beyond the lab bench, into the community, and into the tech industry.

Professor Hodgkiss said he was particularly pleased the referees who assessed it for the TEC didn’t only attest to the ambition, quality and relevance of the Institute's research, or that it is a ‘recipe for collaboration’.

“The reviewers also recognised the MacDiarmid Institute is now making the wider impact Sir Paul Callaghan always imagined. And the best is yet to come”.

MacDiarmid Institute Board Chair Paul Atkins said the Institute’s pedigree, international reputation and track record was all there. 

“The Institute’s ambition for the future, for our country, and its ability to deliver on this has never been greater.

“Materials science is crucial to many of the technologies we need for sustainability; new batteries, solar photovoltaics, energy efficient computing, and the clever materials to soak up CO2. The MacDiarmid Institute is uniquely placed to be able to make a significant contribution to answering some of the major questions posed by the IPCC and the Living Planet reports, and providing real technological solutions to the challenges we face.”

The MacDiarmid Institute is a partnership of seven institutions across New Zealand: five universities (Victoria University of Wellington, University of Auckland, Massey University, the University of Canterbury and the University of Otago), along with government innovation agency Callaghan Innovation and GNS Science.

For more information or an interview, contact MacDiarmid Institute Strategic Engagement Manager Vanessa Young, Vanessa.Young@vuw.ac.nz, +64 27 636 6501.

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MacDiarmid Institute Co-Directors Associate Professor Nicola Gaston and Professor Justin Hodgkiss