30 May, 2018
MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology Principal Investigator and University of Auckland Professor David Williams was today announced as a finalist for the KiwiNet Baldwins Researchers Entrepreneur Award. This award recognises an entrepreneurial researcher who has made outstanding contributions to business innovation or has created innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licensing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.
Reacting to the news, MacDiarmid Co-Director Associate Professor Nicola Gaston said that Professor Williams was an exceptional role model to the entrepreneurial scientists that the MacDiarmid Institute trained.
“Professor Williams is extraordinarily innovative in all areas – within his science but also in the commercialisation of this science. He’s also a mentor to many of our alumni who are developing their careers in high-tech, materials industries, and looking to do this in New Zealand.”
She said that Professor Williams, who is an Electrochemistry Professor at the University of Auckland and former deputy director of the MacDiarmid Institute, had started many hi-tech companies himself, three of which (Mote, Orbis Diagnostics and SpotCheck Technologies Ltd) had spun out of the MacDiarmid Institute, and that he had inspired many researchers to go on and develop their own commercial work.
“It’s the enthusiasm that David exudes, that has made the biggest difference to us all in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology — both in terms of our fundamental science and our industry engagement, but also our public, and in particular Māori engagement — so we’d like to just say: Ka rawe, David!”
One of Professor Williams’ earlier companies, Aeroqual Ltd, formed in 2002, specialises in instruments and systems to measure air quality (with a box the size of a ‘Harry Potter’ book, that can mount on a lamp-post, fence or on your house and measures the key pollutants ozone, nitrogen dioxide and small particles). It has been extensively tested in deployments in Auckland, Christchurch, Vancouver and Los Angeles. Aeroqual Ltd now employs 30 staff, most of whom are university graduates in the hi-tech science area and over four of whom have PhDs. All of its product is exported. Aeroqual Ltd won the NZ High-Tech award 2016 for most innovative hardware product.
Another of Professor Williams’ air sensor companies, Mote, established in 2013, employs eight people, all of whom are graduates, two of whom have PhDs.
Associate Professor Gaston said that Professor Williams’ career exemplified the mission of the MacDiarmid Institute as originally conceived by Sir Paul Callaghan, that is to create a thriving hi-tech sector in New Zealand and provide hi-tech savvy graduates to populate this sector.
“The spinning out of hi-tech science into hi-tech industry was at the core of Sir Paul’s vision for a thriving and wealthy New Zealand economy which retained its young educated graduates – a ‘place where talent wants to live’, as he would say. David has not only done this but he also inspires others to do the same – he really gives generously of his self and his ideas, and is relentlessly encouraging of and inspiring to early career researchers and PhD students.”
This award recognises an entrepreneurial researcher who has made outstanding contributions to business innovation or has created innovative businesses in New Zealand through technology licensing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation.
The challenges facing New Zealand and the world today – clean water, renewable energy, climate change – will be solved by tomorrow’s scientists and engineers, sitting in our classrooms right now, ready to be inspired. They’ll need new materials and the new technology based on those materials that hasn’t been discovered yet. That’s what the MacDiarmid Institute does. We’re New Zealand’s investment in our future – a team of New Zealand’s best scientists, engineers and educators unified for a common goal – to make, understand and use new materials to improve people’s lives.
Associate Professor Nicola Gaston 021 027 99624
Professor David Williams 021 022 73619
Aeroqual 09 623 3013
Vanessa Young (MacDiarmid Institute) 027 426 3453