By Kirsten Edgar
Callaghan Innovation recently led a group of twelve New Zealand companies1 on a mission to the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo in conjunction with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and Grow Wellington. The agencies and companies were represented at a New Zealand booth as part of the Innovation Showcase, and five of the companies were awarded Innovation Awards, having been identified as being in the top 20% of submitted technologies. The companies were afforded the opportunity to connect with potential international partners and funders in pitch sessions and one-on-one meetings, and at the same time connect with each other and New Zealand government agencies. I was privileged enough to be able to attend TechConnect as well. I was there in a support capacity for the companies and , from a National Technology Network perspective, on a mission to see what was new and emerging in the field of advanced materials as well as in technology and innovation more generally. There is not nearly enough space in this post to do justice to the incredible depth and breadth of insight in the presentations and panel discussions, plus the fantastic pre-commercial technologies I saw, so I am just going to list a few things that stood out to me from both categories in no particular order.
- Innovation isn’t always about the “shiny object”, but should be applied to processes, ways of thinking, and ways of connecting things that may already exist.
- Manufacturing will become more competitive and manufacturers will need to be highly efficient to survive on a global scale. Efficiencies could come from: organisation, labour, process, energy, or capital.
- Between-plane weakness in laminated composites could be addressed by using aligned carbon nanotube forests on the planar interfaces – nano-velcro!
- Integrated additive/subtractive manufacturing can provide great value to manufacturers.
- Researchers developing new materials should be thinking about how to “fail faster”. Speedier access to data in combination with modelling can significantly cut the time from initial development to final product (e.g. GE has cut their jet engine alloy development cycle from 15 to 9 years by using computational approaches).
- Naturally evolved structures can provide inspiration for technological advances. Have a problem with ion diffusion in a sodium ion battery? Researchers are now exploring the use of cellulose, a mesoporous hierarchical structure designed for ion transport in nature, in the battery anode.
- Companies need to expand their thinking beyond STEM to STEAM (or STEMD). The arts and design are integral to novel innovation pipelines – something noted by Lawrence Murphy, chief designer at GE Healthcare and the man behind this innovation which has significantly decreased the rates of sedation during paediatric CT and MRI scans.
If you are interested in having a chat about any of these ideas, feel free to get in touch via 0800 4 22552!
1. In alphabetical order: ArcActive, Avalia Immunotherapies, Boutiq Science, Heliase Genomics, Koti Technologies, Lifeonics, Ligar, Magritek, Nuenz, Photonic Innovations, Revolution Fibres, and Wetox.
Kirsten Edgar is Callaghan innovation’s National Technology Network Manager for Advanced Materials.