Best and brightest recognised for science and innovation in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty

Hamilton City Council Young Scientists category finalists (from left): Dr. Anica Klockars, Dr. Megan Grainger (winner), Dr. Terry Issons. Photo / Barker Photography

The best and brightest scientists from the Greater Waikato Region and the Bay of Plenty were recognized at the 15th Kudos Awards Showcase.

With last year’s awards being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organizers – the Kudos Science Trust – celebrated the 2021 finalists at the Claudelands Event Center earlier this month.

The event also inaugurated a Hall of Fame recognizing past Kudos scholars whose work has propelled the region and New Zealand onto the international stage. The first recruit was Dr. Patrick Shannon QSM who was posthumously recognized for his work with the Newstead-based livestock improvement and agricultural technology cooperative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC). For over 64 years he led the science that improved the genetics of New Zealand dairy cows and increased the productivity and profitability of the dairy sector.

Soteria Ieremia, CEO of the Kudos Science Trust, says: “These awards are not just a recognition of talent, but an important incubator for creative research discoveries and cutting-edge technology.

“When you look at some of New Zealand’s best performing sectors, the science is what underpins these breakthrough innovations and the pioneering work of Dr Patrick Shannon QSM is a testament to that.”

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This year’s winners included the Scion/AgriSea team, who recently received a $750,000 loan from the government’s Regional Strategic Partnership Fund to support the world’s first commercial algal nanocellulose plant in Paeroa.

dr Stefan Hill, Scion’s portfolio manager for high-value biorefineries, said it was really special to be present with the team and AgriSea’s Managing Director, Clare Bradley.

dr  Jonno Hill from Hill Laboratories (right) presented the award to Scion and AgriSea.  From left: Rob Whitton, Yi Chen, Marie-Joo Le Guen, Clare Bradley, CEO of AgriSea, and Stefan Hill.  Photo / Included
dr Jonno Hill from Hill Laboratories (right) presented the award to Scion and AgriSea. From left: Rob Whitton, Yi Chen, Marie-Joo Le Guen, Clare Bradley, CEO of AgriSea, and Stefan Hill. Photo / Included

Seaweed nanocellulose has unique properties not found in tree-based nanocellulose. The technology has been licensed to AgriSea to continue development of hydrogels.

Paeroa will host the world’s first commercial algal nanocellulose plant at AgriSea, with the $1.5 million project creating nine new full-time jobs. Scion created a concept design for the biorefinery and is now working with Callaghan Innovation to develop the final design before construction.

Once operational, the company will diversify and produce commercial quantities of nanocellulose hydrogel using leftovers from the manufacture of its algae-based agricultural and horticultural products – to ensure maximum value is extracted from this sustainable resource.

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There is a stable market for hydrogel products including high performance biocomposites, cosmetics, wound care and tissue engineering in New Zealand and offshore.

The world’s leading robotic asparagus harvesting technology from co-winner Dr. Shen Him Lim has also attracted large investments, and research by Dr. Megan Grainger supports New Zealand’s multi-million dollar Manuka honey industry.

Educator Chris Duggan was recognized for her bilingual science kits for elementary schools, while Dr. Charles Lee won the environmental award for his expertise in terrestrial ecology and Antarctic climate change.

Professor Kura Paul-Burke was recognized for her work connecting Western scholarship with Mātauranga Māori to help coastal communities cope with marine taonga, while Associate Professor Bridgette Masters-Awatere received her award for sharing Mātauranga Māori knowledge uses to inform best medical practices.

Professor Alan Hogg received this year’s Kudos Lifetime Achievement Award. Professor Hogg has been Director of the University of Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory since 1985 and is an international authority on radiocarbon tree ring dating whose research has determined the timing of Māori arrival and impact in New Zealand.

Past scientists who made a difference and were recognized at the awards include Drs. Martin Stiles, Professor Johan Verbeek and ESP Medical.

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Ieremia says the caliber of the winners is world-class and their work is vital to the continued growth of science and innovation in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty and beyond.

“These amazing thinkers combine cutting-edge science with innovative thinking to tackle real-world problems. We applaud them for their talent and hard work and hope they receive not only praise but continued investment and support to commercialize and expand the value and impact of their work.”

Kudos Awards Winners:

● Inaugural Hall of Fame: Dr. Patrick Shannon QSM, awarded posthumously.
● The Kudos Lifetime Achievement Award: Prof. Alan Hogg, UoW.
● WINTEC Secondary Science Teacher/Trainer Award: Chris Duggan.
● Hamilton City Council Emerging Scientist Award: Dr. Megan Grainger.
● Datamars Engineering Science Award: Dr. Shen Hin Lim.
● Waikato Regional Council Environmental Award: Dr. Charles Lee
● Te Whatu Ora Waikato Medical Science Award: Assoc Prof Bridgette Masters-Awatere
● Hill Laboratories Primary Industry Award: Scion/AgriSea Nanocellulose by the Seaweed Team
● University of Waikato Vision Mātauranga Science Award: Prof. Kura Paul-Burke