5 July, 2016
The Directors of the two Centres of Research Excellence, the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre, today both congratulated Associate Professor Cather Simpson on winning the Supreme Award at the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards last night.
Associate Professor Simpson is a Principal Investigator with both Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs). She also won her section at the KiwiNet awards last night – the Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award.
Professor Nann said the win was a huge compliment for Associate Professor Simpson’s work in both materials science and photonics and an example of two Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) each contributing from different angles to enable a researcher to create a totally new technology.
“Associate Professor Simpson’s work in materials science and photonics are quite separate but it is in the coming together of these two aspects of her research, each supported by a different CoRE, that this achievement has been made.”
He congratulated Cather on her win and said that it showed how pure research supported by the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre can lead to huge commercial potential.
“Professor Simpson’s win at KiwiNet shows the success of the Centres of Research Excellence (CORE) model within New Zealand science. We are now seeing dynamic and innovative research being translated into high commercial value. Professor Simpson’s work in this area is an exemplar for the whole of the hi-tech science and commercialisation area.”
The Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre, Professor David Hutchinson noted that this follows Professor Simpson’s win earlier this month in the AgTech section of the World Cup Tech Challenge, the first win in that forum by an Australasian company. “These are significant achievements and wonderful news for the New Zealand technology start-up sector.”
MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology Director Professor Thomas Nann said he was pleased to see MacDiarmid research again being used for commercial applications in the dairy industry.
“This technology gives dairy farmers a low cost way to control the composition of their herd, and provides much better outcomes than the existing technology.”
He said that Associate Professor Simpson’s work related to the materials science focus of the MacDiarmid Institute.
“Associate Professor Simpson has developed an entirely new high-tech process to sort sperm into male and female. She does this by manipulating materials to create tiny channels in order to develop an entirely new ‘microfluidic’ device.”
Dodd-Walls Centre Director Professor David Hutchinson said that Associate Professor Simpson’s research also related to the focus of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies.
“Once she has created these tiny channels, she uses light pulses to sort the sperm and direct them down the appropriate channels.”
Both Director’s acknowledged the support of the University of Auckland for Associate Professor Simpson’s work at the Photon Factory at Auckland University. Associate Professor Simpson had been nominated for the award jointly with the University of Auckland.
Associate Professor Simpson said that smart dairy farmers wanted to control the composition of their herd and at the top of their list is the sex of their offspring.
“There’s only one solution currently available for dairy sex selection and it’s expensive and doesn’t work very well, so farmers are frustrated. Engender is using novel microfluidics and laser photonics to sort sperm with X or Y chromosomes using the same physics that NASA uses to propel solar cells in space, but applied to single cells.”
She indicates that the business opportunities are huge. “The AI market for agriculture is US$2.4 billion. Dairy is New Zealand’s biggest export earner and when Engender succeeds, it is projected to raise New Zealand’s GDP by 0.2%”