Recognising award winning research

Each year UniServices celebrates the impact of world-leading research on society by awarding the Commercialisation Medal to individual researchers and teams who have consistently excelled at delivering the societal and/or economic benefits of research in some tangible way.  Overall, the University of Auckland excels at impact and we have been recognised for that impact in the inaugural Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, where our University was ranked number one.

Recognizing award winning research
From Left to right: University Chancellor Scott St John, Professor Simon Malpas, Professor Pierre Quenneville, Professor Bruce MacDonald, (absent Associate Professor David Budgett), Dr. Andy Shenk

At UniServices, our role is to help nurture the researchers and visionaries at the University of Auckland who create the opportunity for great things and then to help them turn those opportunities into reality.  For more than 30 years we have been here to work alongside researchers, inventors and founders helping to deliver the impact of their research in our community, in New Zealand and in the rest of the world.  You can find out more about us and our history in the 30thanniversary magazine on display here tonight.

The purpose of the Vice Chancellor’s Sponsored Research and Commercialisation Medals is to reward and recognise the impact of sponsored research and commercialisation activities and their contribution, beyond academia, to either industry or the broader society.

2019 Nominees

As always, the pool of nominees for 2019 represent the great depth and breadth of excellence across New Zealand’s world-ranked University.

The terms of the Vice Chancellor’s Medal allow for up to three recipients each year.  For 2019 we are pleased to recognise two individual medallists and one team of medallists whose track record of sustained excellence and impact exemplifies the contribution that high-quality research makes to the good of society.

Our first recipient is Professor Bruce MacDonald

Bruce is the founder and driving force behind the University of Auckland’s Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science.  His work covers an incredibly diverse range of fields of application from horticultural technologies to robotic companions for healthcare and elder care.  He works with researchers across the University and other research organisations, industry bodies, government agencies and private companies.  All these groups have universally commended and valued Bruce for his commitment to collaboration and his ability to bring together and lead large, multidisciplinary teams.  In the last 7 years alone, Bruce has established strong industry partnerships in the health, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, attracting more than $28m in research funding and generating publications that have been cited more than 4,000 times.  He is recognised as a trusted and inclusive leader in his field, attracting accolades from both academia and industry.

Our second recipient is Professor Pierre Quenneville

Pierre is a member of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the founder and CEO of Tectonus Ltd.  His work has led to several million dollars in research revenues, numerous publications, and new patented technologies to make buildings safer in earthquakes.

The first commercial application of the Tectonus technology is to be found in the new passenger terminal at Nelson airport, where the company’s slip-joints are used quite visibly throughout the building.  To have a first commercial project of such scale, and in such a public location, speaks volumes about the innovation and the creativity behind the idea.  Their next projects will be in Lower Hutt and in the headquarters of a global engineering company in Vancouver. 

Our third recipient is the team of Professor Simon Malpas and Associate Professor David Budgett

Simon and David have had a long and productive collaboration in the development of new, innovative medical devices for use in a wide variety of indications.  One of their early projects in commercialisation was based on telemetry and wireless power, a world-first combination.  This led to the formation of Telemetry Research Ltd which became part of a US company for a number of years.  The application of the telemetry technology in the life sciences now forms part of a new start-up, Kaha Sciences, back in New Zealand.

In addition to their commercial activities, the team have consistently produced high-quality publications in top journals and attracted more than $10m in industry research contracts and grants with leading funders.  They regularly present their new ideas to Return on Science and University of Auckland Inventors Fund and we look forward to seeing what they develop next.

We congratulate all our nominees on their commercial and societal successes.